parts 3 & 4
“Ghostbusters?” Kate repeated, suddenly glad that she was already sitting down. “As in, people who hunt ghosts? Professionally? People actually… I mean…”
“Yeah, people who hunt ghosts. Someone calls and says they’ve got a ghost, something leaving slime and vapor in the hallway, they call those guys. They go out, zap the ghosts with their fancy equipment, trap them and take them away. And they get paid for it,” O’Rourke shook his head. “I don’t know how much they get paid, if it’s per ghost or by the hour, but they seem to be doing quite well.”
“And nobody’s called them about Tashir,” Kate mumbled, rubbing at her temples. “Nobody’s called because he’s still a cop, ghost or not, or nobody’s called because of budget issues?”
“Lockley, we don’t even get to put in requests for budgeting things unless it’s a problem we can’t work around. One of our own who happens to be a ghost doesn’t rate, though there are some people that hope he gets the hint and moves on. I thought everybody’d heard about them by now, they’re on all the talk shows. They’ve even been on Letterman twice,” O’Rourke wiped at the coffee.
“I worked nights, and didn’t get to watch Letterman. Too many of the other talk shows are all about people getting sex changes after sleeping with their cousins, or marriages breaking up on television because the guy’s gay or crap like that,” her headache was definitely getting worse. “I’ve dealt with some weird shit, but not ghosts.”
“No? What have you dealt with then?” O’Rourke was looking smug, arms folded across his chest. “How weird could it have been?”
“There was the horde of zombies,” Kate raised a finger as she counted each incident. “The serial killer who turned out to be a Puritan vampire. The demented stalker who could send his body parts elsewhere on missions. The demons that broke into a store and ate all the potato chips. A crazy guy with a trunk with a hundred little feet on the bottom that may have eaten a mugger. That horrible touchy-feely councilor.”
“You had a crazy guy that might have eaten a mugger? A vampire? Zombies? What was going on where you were?” O’Rourke was staring.
“No, if the mugger was eaten, it was the trunk, not the guy in the pointy hat who called himself a wizard,” Kate shook her head, remembering the mess of paperwork that one had caused. At least he hadn’t gotten tangled up with Angel. Not that she had any idea where he’d gone after they’d let him go.
“The trunk?” O’Rourke sighed, taking a long swallow of his coffee. “On second thought, I don’t want to know.”
“There are days that I don’t want to know,” Kate shook her head. “I’ve seen a lot of strange things. Just most of them were pretty solid.”
“There was a time when I would have started asking if you’d been drinking when you mentioned zombies and a vampire. Now, I’m not going to be too hasty about that,” O’Rourke sighed. “I miss the good old days when everyone knew there was no such thing as ghosts.”
Kate remembered her own certainty that there were no such things as zombies, vampires or magic talking sticks and sighed, “Yeah, things were simpler then. But what has been learned can’t be forgotten, especially not after some of the nightmares it left behind, so…”
“Sometimes the learning is too painful to forget,” O’Rourke finished trying to mop away the droplets of coffee, dropping the fraying napkin into the trash. “And sometimes you just about got killed learning, so it cost too much to just let it go.”
Kate could only nod. Hoping to keep things from getting any deeper into uncomfortably emotional territory, she tried to change the subject, “So, what can you tell me about those Ghostbusters?”
It turned out that O’Rourke could tell her quite a few things. Stories about university studies and student scandals. About clashes between scientists and politicians. And about a giant marshmallow man walking down the street before exploding.
End part 3.
Kate reported to the station for work the next evening, still trying to shake away the last wisps of strange dreams. Brahim Tashir had been translucent. O’Rourke, who reminded her so very much of Angel, had kept flashing to a vampire’s face when she turned her back. They’d been investigating a robbery at a liquor store, with bottles of layered drinks and cups with paper umbrellas and spears of fruit lining the shelves, and the perpetrator had been a zombie. They’d simply followed the trail of bits of rotting flesh to find him, where he’d ducked into an alley. The hand that held the bag of money from the cash register had fallen away from his wrist, landing on the pavement beside his feet. And for reasons that she couldn’t figure out, there had been a large beetle with a microphone following and narrating the whole thing. Strange, strange dreams.
Sipping at a cup of coffee Kate sighed. From what she’d already heard, New York had a generous helping of the weird stuff. She suspected that she’d see more than she really wanted, just like before. Hopefully more ghosts and less vampires, but she wasn’t about to hold her breath on that one. O’Rourke was also sipping at a cup of the coffee, which was… well, it was hot and available, even if it was rather bitter. Tashir was scowling and muttering over a stack of papers, and Kate was certain that he was swearing in three maybe four languages, none of them English.
Time to stop delaying. Swallowing another bitter mouthful, Kate asked, “What’s on tonight’s agenda?”
“The messy one’s a warehouse. There’s been suspicion of smuggling, but the owner’s been giving us the run around for a few months. Captain suspects that he was waiting to get everything cleared out before the permissions and paperwork got through. We also have to do a follow-up on some domestic violence. Ross and Mercer also stuck us with interviewing a guy at a store who said there were strange noises at the back room, and if it just turns out to be the register clerk and a girlfriend getting up to things on break then so help me, but Mercer’s going to get the next Firehouse run,” O’Rourke snarled.
“The coffee’s not that bad,” Kate grumbled, wondering just what was really behind the anger in O’Rourke’s voice.
“No, sorry. It’s not you, not… mostly not this. Most of it’s personal,” he shook his head, suggesting that the matter be dropped and that he didn’t want to talk about it.
“As long as your ‘personal’ isn’t likely to get us shot, okay.” Kate tugged at the pages, looking at the top report. God knew she didn’t want to go sharing all of her personal details with people, so why should she expect her brand new partner to spill everything that was upsetting him? “This one’s the store with the noises, right? I’m new to the city, what sort of store is it? Does it have a history of disturbances?”
“Not like this. It’s mostly alcohol and tobacco, with a bit of soda, chips, and mixers. The sort of place people go to pick up their weekend booze for college parties. Mostly they get a couple attempted robberies, maybe a successful one, and plenty of people trying to buy underage. The guy who called – Jack – is normally level headed and keeps his calm.”
“If it were likely to be a couple in the backroom, Mercer would be more willing to go,” Tashir shook his head. “There must be some reason why this got passed to us.”
“Whatever the reason, waiting here and drinking coffee won’t change it. We might as well get started,” Kate stood up, looking at the pages again. “So do we start with the domestic or the weird noises at the liquor store?”
“Domestic. The husband got two months after he landed her in the hospital, I find it a bit hard to believe that he’s come out all reformed and law abiding. The noises can wait,” O’Rourke wasn’t laughing, but at least he wasn’t growling at her anymore.
“Fair enough,” Kate just hoped that it wouldn’t get too bad. Domestic violence was never pretty, but… would it be too much to hope that it was just moderate human anger and poor control, with bruises and scrapes, not broken bones, torture, homicide, or the weird supernatural? Or at least that there were no kids… It was always worse if there were kids. “Will they be expecting us?”
“Not exactly. They were told that they might get a couple pass by checks once he was released, but not when or who. That reduces the chance of someone scheduling their abuse to avoid discovery,” Tashir’s words were quiet.
Kate shuddered, not bothering to argue that people wouldn’t do that – she’d seen that in her time. She’d seen far worse, though not often. As she followed them to the car, she thought yet again that she hated domestic violence cases.
O’Rourke drove the cruiser to an apartment building. There were several people milling about, with stunned faces and making the helpless and frustrated gestures that said something was wrong. She didn’t know yet if it was related to their case, or if someone’s daughter had turned up pregnant, or if someone had uncovered an affair, but her instincts were certain that there was something bad going on here.
A woman with a faded robe wrapped around herself and bare feet with chipped pink nail polish on her toes spoke, gesturing towards the building with one hand while the other hovered near her throat. “The police! You have to do something… apartment…”
“Apartment 209,” O’Rourke finished, his expression grim.
As the gathered people nodded, O’Rourke motioned for Kate and Tashir to follow him. They moved towards the stairwell, lit by a flickering bulb. Tashir leaned towards Kate, and offered a single chilling comment – “That’s the apartment we were headed for already.”
They emerged from the stairs and Kate tensed. The scent of blood hung in the air – blood, stale cigarette smoke and aging, wet carpet. She didn’t know the details yet, but she knew that somehow, “things got messy.”
There were bloody footprints further down the hall, emerging from one of the apartments, with a door left ajar, and heading towards the large window at the end of the hall, which had been opened. Kate suspected that there might be a fire escape outside the window.
The footprints were slightly smaller than Kate’s feet, suggesting that they had been left by a woman. The fact that they were from someone walking through blood suggested that they really wouldn’t like what was inside the apartment.
“We have to see how bad it is,” she was almost pleased that her voice didn’t shake.
There was a dead man pinned to the wall with what looked like a set of steak knives. Kate suspected that the wall had started out the same off white that most of the other walls remained, though it was almost all red, as was the carpet. His clothing had been slashed, the cuts going deep enough in some places that bone showed. Whoever he was, his eyelids had been torn, leaving his eyes wide and forever open. There was another dead man on the sofa, his body crumpled in a way that suggested multiple breaks to his arms and legs. The carpet had that over saturated look that convinced them that near the wall, their footsteps would cause a squelching noise as the blood welled up.
Most disturbing to Kate was the way that she could see from the doorway that the man on the sofa had his throat torn open.
Kate wondered if someone had offered the battered wife a way to get revenge, a way not to need to worry about her husband being stronger… and neglected to mention the part where it would turn her into a bloodsucking monster. “Is either of these guys the husband?”
“On the sofa,” Tashir’s voice was muffled.
O’Rourke looked pale, and shook his head, “This… oh God… This is…”
“This looks like a vampire’s work,” Kate let the words out slowly, trying not to get the scent of blood stuck in the back of her throat. “I ran into a few of those cases back in LA.”
Tashir called for the crime scene experts while O’Rourke went to start questioning the people below. Kate just hoped things wouldn’t keep getting worse from here.
End part 4.