FIC: Pulp Faith (6/?)
Providence, Rhode Island
Faith cricked her neck to peer up at the gothic-style building before them. “That is one creepy building.”
“Yeah,” Xander agreed. “No wonder Lovecraft could turn out the stories he did, living in a place like this.”
“Yeah, his cthulhu mythos shit was just messed up.” Faith grinned at Xander’s surprised look. “Remember that summer you got me into Robert E. Howard? After I finished Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane, and Bran Mak Morn, I tried to get into Lovecraft, but he was too out there for me. Weird though, how he almost got stuff like Illyria right but not quite.”
“Yeah,” Xander glanced left and right before starting up the six steps leading to the front door and crouching before it, gaze fixing on the thick door’s lock. In seconds the one-eyed man had jimmied the lock, the door creaking ominously open.
“Me first.” Faith grabbed Xander’s shoulder and pulled him back, snaking in before him. Faith’s nose wrinkled at the musty smell coming from the dank corridor. Satisfied there was no immediate threat, she glanced over her shoulder and nodded at Xander, allowing her grumbling buddy to enter. “Oh shut up,” she scolded in a hiss ‘fore Harris could start, way she saw it, she was the one with superpowers, it was her job to look after him.
‘Sides, she owed him.
Forcing her mind away from the regretted past, or was it the future now, before her mood darkened, she spoke. “How did Lovecraft die?”
“According to Doc, his corpse was found in his office. It looked like a robbery.”
Faith stopped and turned to Xander. “No broken windows.” Xander stared blankly back at her. “How did the thief get in?”
“Huh.” Xander pursed his lips. “Maybe the thief was someone Lovecraft knew. Maybe they climbed in through an open window or got access through the back.”
“Maybe,” Faith grimaced, she was liking this situation less and less. “Stick close.”
Xander grinned and winked. “Like glue.”
“Not that close,” she chuckled before leading Xander through to the back, eyes narrowing as she noted the house’s general state of neglect. It was clean, but most of the rooms looked like they’d hardly been used. Maybe the guy was a workalcoholic, and only spent time in his office.
“Jesus.” Faith took an instinctive step back as she opened the door at the house’s rear to find a slaughterhouse. Quelling her distaste, Faith stepped over the threshold and into the office, her dark eyes scanning everywhere.
Blood soaked the walls and drenched the carpet. What had probably been a scrupulously tidy office had been utterly wrecked, book cases and filing cabinets over-turned, their contents strewn haphazardly across the floor. “Well,” Xander grunted, “it’ll be impossible to find what if anything went missing from here.”
“You give in far too easily.”
The Shadow concealed a smile as the duo spun to face him, the female’s movement like a leopard he’d once seen prowling around the African grasslands. “What the hell are you’se doin’ here?”
The dark-haired beauty had a strong Boston accent and a forthrightness to her manner that was unusual in women. She also moved with an uncanny grace and poise, while her companion moved like many of the veterans of the world war he’d met, like a man used to violence.
The Shadow peered down at the two, taking a second before deigning to answer the beauty’s question. “Lovecraft was a member of his network who phoned me the night before last saying he was in fear for his life. Unfortunately I was out on a mission and didn’t receive the messages until this morning, far too late. I was inspecting the scene when I heard you make your entry and hid until I was satisfied who it was.”
The intruding duo exchanged looks before looking back at him. “You said you knew what was missing?”
The Shadow produced and displayed a photograph of Lovecraft sat behind the desk he’d found amongst the rubble. “If you note there’s a strange bracelet in a presentation case on Lovecraft’s desk. I could find no sign of either the bracelet or the case throughout the office, or indeed the house. The only question is what exactly the object is or was?”
“Oh boy,” the one-eyed man let out a most unmanly squeak. “I can answer that question.” Realising that both he and his full-bodied companion were staring expectantly at him, the man coloured and continued. “There was this dawn of time vampire who’d been an occultist and alchemist before he was turned, called Amara. He invented a load of objects for vampires, Amara’s Key, that allowed a vampire to walk into any building without an invitation, The Gem of Amara which allowed a vampire to walk in the sunlight, and Amara’s Mask, a bracelet,” the man pointed at the photo, “that if worn by an ancient vampire could hide its age and allow it to pass for human-.”
“Pass for human?” the Shadow queried. He was aware of and had indeed killed several vampires, but all looked human unless showing their face.
“If a vampire lives long enough, we’re talking half a dozen centuries at least,” the woman explained, “the evil they do starts to morph and twist their faces into somethin’ bestial.”
The Shadow absorbed that for a second. “So such an object would have great value but only to a vampire?”
The man shrugged. “I guess, but there’s also a number of occult collectors who’d pay handsomely for the item, but really it only has magical use for a vampire.”
“The thief had to be a human though,” mused the Shadow, “the robber broke in during the day, and unless they had the Gem -.” He raised an eyebrow at the man’s knowing headshake. “Then in that case he must have stolen it to sell to either a collector or a vampire.”
“There’s only a few vampires in the entire world old enough to have an use for this,” the brunette’s dark eyes widened as if having a horrifying thought before finishing her sentence, “and they’re really not guys you’d wanna trust a deal to.
The Shadow allowed that to sink in before continuing. “Then we must make the tracking down of this thief a priority.”
“And how do we do that without at least a description?” the raven-tressed beauty demanded.
“I have one,” the Shadow replied, “my agents,” actually himself in one of his civilian disguises, “questioned the neighbours and several reported a tall, thick-set man with wild grey eyes and a bushy black beard with hideous facial scars and a Russian accent watching Lovecraft’s house.”
The woman raised an eyebrow. “That’s one distinctive sob.”
Wondering what a sob was but agreeing with the rest, the Shadow nodded. “I have contacts in the city’s Russian community, I intend to speak to them and see if they’ve heard of this stranger.”
“Sounds like a case of striking when the iron is hot,” the one-eyed man commented. “But first the important matter of eating.”
The brunette nodded approvingly. “Good point, speakin’ of which, dude,” the beauty stared at him, “how do you eat with that damn thing hanging over your mouth?”
The Shadow sighed. He guessed this pair were an highly acquired taste. “To business then?”
Felix Vagin let out an involuntary shiver as he locked the front door of his antiques shop. It wasn’t cold for the time of year, in fact some said it was unseasonally warm, and yet a chill had settled on his belly days ago that hasn’t shifted. It seemed as if he currently lived in a world filled with foreboding and dread.
He stiffened, his stomach twisting and blood freezing at the voice lashed out of the surrounding smog, striking like a whip. “I….is it y…you, master?” Felix felt his legs almost buckle beneath him.
Felix’s heart thundered until his ears threatened to burst when an all-too familiar figure clad in a wide-brimmed black fedora and crimson scarf obscuring the bottom half of his face, a pair of searing eyes peering out from above. “T…the S…Shadow.” Finally his knees gave way beneath him, dropping him to his knees as he peered up fearfully up at the notorious terror before him.
“Enough of that,” a huge hand reached out, grasped him around his collar and pulled him upright, “did I not give you the monies to start out in business? Have I ever mistreated you?” Felix shook his head. “There then,” the Shadow’s head bobbed in a rough approximation of a nod. “All I expect for my efforts on your behalf is some information, is that too much to ask?” Again Felix shook his head, still muted by fear. “Then answer me this, do you know of a recently-arrived Russian, tall and thick-set with a thick beard, scarred features, and intense grey eyes?”
Felix felt his bladder almost loosen as he heard and recognised the description. “No,” he shook his head as the words fell from his lips, “no I dare not. He is the devil!”
“Many have said the same about me.” A hoarse chuckle escaped from deep within the mystery man’s chest. “Perhaps you should consider the wisdom of respecting the devil far from here, while disdaining the devil beside you.”
The threat implicit in the Shadow’s speech prompted words to burst out of him like water breaching a long-secure dam. “He is the one that so many of us fled Tsar Russia to escape. My parents smuggled me out of the homeland three decades ago, before his fall and supposed death.” Felix wriggled and tried to escape his captor’s grip but it was like iron, finally giving up, he let out a squeal. “Very well, he is Rasputin, he is the Mad Monk resurrected and re-born!”