Crescent City Creeps #4

Children of the Revolution

Randal charged toward Shelby and Delareux swinging an immense boulder of a fist. The chain he was leashed to snapped taut and yanked Randal back. His fist passed in front of Delareux’s face, hitting him with a foul smelling breeze. A goblin leapt, grabbed onto Randal and scaled his torso. It began fiddling with the latch that restrained the beast. Randal grabbed the goblin and flung its crumpled corpse into the frenzied crowd. Randal roared. The combination of powerful lungs and a diminutive head made his roar sound like a foghorn. The low, gurgling undertone vibrated the wooden supports. Delareux saw the glare of the torchlights in the windows swaying in rhythm. The whole building shook.

“Time for you to use that heater, Mr. Delareux,” Shelby quavered.

“I could empty it into him and it would just tick him off,” Delareux grumbled.

Another goblin inched toward Randal with an unbent clothes hanger and jabbed at the latch. Randal grabbed the clothes hanger and skewered his would be liberator. Randal howled, the warehouse rattled.

“This could take all night,” Delareux muttered. “Kid, snatch the torch from the little one.”

Shelby grabbed a torch from a juvenile goblin cheering at the edge of the crowd. She handed it to Delareux, with the tenacious whelp still dangling. Delareux took the torch and the goblin skipped up his arm, onto his head and began chewing on his hat. Shelby grabbed it and lobbed it into the mob. Delareux took out a flask and emptied the contents onto a wooden ceiling support. He produced another flask and handed it to Shelby who did the same to another.

“Take a few steps toward the door. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of the cave in,” Delareux held the torch to the beam and it flared up and took hold. He did the same to the support Shelby had soaked. The goblins seemed to take delight as a rolling roar of approval rippled through the mob. “In a few seconds it’s gonna be every goblin for itself, so just run for it and we’ll be fine. Mr. Palazzo’s office is right across the street. Got his name plastered all over it. Can’t miss it.”

Shelby nodded and grinned, “If only somebody would pay me to do this.”

“Tell me about it,” Delareux drew his pistol and fired at Randal. The first shot hit a goblin who had just about opened the latch on Randal’s leash. The next shot hit Randal on his bloated belly. The bullet struck and sounded like slapping one’s hand in a barrel of fish. It caused a ripple like a pebble in a pond, but otherwise left him unharmed. While Randal paused to cogitate what was happening, another bullet struck him on the shoulder, to similar effect. Randal put all the pieces together and let out a harrowing bellow that could be felt in the floor. The now blackened support beams were crackling and dotted with embers and glowing splinters. The vibrations from Randal’s tantrum caused the beams to start compressing where they were burning, shooting black splinters. They began to buckle and the low whine of rubbing metal overpowered the clamouring of the rabble. They hushed and the whine was heard again as half the warehouse began to tumble in on itself, pulling the other half along.

Delareux and Shelby ran as a mass of goblins stampeded toward the door. In the front office Delareux grabbed a crate of Grigori’s Ichor. As they ran through the warehouse yard a soft rumble was heard and the ground felt like it was beating. The rumble became a roar and the beating became a pummeling. Shelby looked back and saw a tidal wave of sprinting goblins.

“Just keep running,” Delareux shouted back, “They’re in survival mode. Too scared to notice or care.”

The wave of goblins overtook and broke around them. The goblins scattered into the shadows. Shelby and Delareux slowed to a trot and headed to Toli’s office. They could hear the phone ringing. Shelby picked the lock and Delareux entered and answered the phone.

“This is Delareux.”

“Delareux,” said the voice of Toli, “Where are you?”

“I’m in your office.”

“I didn’t call my office.”

“No, you called me and I’m in your office.”

“Okay, just listen. I spoke with Danvers and he gave me some pretty useful information.”

“I have some useful information as well and it comes with a nice helping of I-told-you-so.”

“Delareux, how did you get in? I thought I locked…” Toli entered and saw Shelby, “Of course. And now a fourth grade cat burglar has inexplicably woven itself into my life. Delareux, what’s with the I-told-you-so?”

“Goblins. I told you you had a goblin infestation, but you weren’t listening.”

“We were almost trampled by a herd of them,” Shelby added.

“You said you had useful information,” said Toli glaring at Delareux.

Delareux pointed at the crate sitting on Toli’s desk. Toli read the note.

“Grigori,” Toli softened, “Now that is interesting. Detective Danvers told me a story about an old case involving a Russian fellow named ‘Mad Grigori’ who passed through with a wandering caravan of performers. He was hawking some sort of snake oil. Thing was, it made people berserk. An angry mob drowned him in the swamp and left his body to the alligators. Not long after that, Andronikov shows up.”

“Wait, are you saying Dr. Andronikov is behind this?” Shelby protested, “He’s always been there for us. Helping.”

“Of course,” Toli replied, “To show what a gracious man he was to all the community. But mostly to ingratiate himself into the high society circles he’s wormed himself into. They love a good heartwarmer; elderly doctor treats the orphans out of the kindness of his heart. Add to that a bit of a reputation as a miracle worker. He can brew this stuff up, who knows what else he can mix up. Conveniently makes himself available to examine not only Mad Grigori’s concoction, but also this one.”

“But why?” asked Shelby.

“I haven’t the foggiest,” Toli sighed.

“Says it’s a test batch,” Delareux added, “Up this point it’s been an experiment.”

“Why experiment on us?” Shelby asked.

“What better test subjects than trusting orphans?” Toli replied.

“Crazy. This is crazy,” Shelby said, shaking her head.

“A lot of pieces fit, kid,” Delareux muttered.

“Except motive,” Toli added, “ And we don’t know this Mad Grigori and Andronikov are even related. We need more info.”

“What do ya wanna do?” Delareux muttered, “Break into his house?”

Toli stared at the floor and rubbed his chin, “I can’t believe I’m entertaining this suggestion. Trespassing. Possible larceny. Any evidence we found would be inadmissible.”

“Build a lead backward. Or me and Shelby can put our ears to the street. But it would take time we might not have. I don’t know how it all fits, the junk that turns people into berserkers or Mad Grigori and Andronikov. Not to mention a goblin infestation that’s forming political factions handing out said murder hooch. But that’s a lot of bad things tangling together.”

Toli dragged out a quiet sigh, “Tomorrow night. When Andronikov is at Fanny’s,” he looked at Shelby, “Maybe we can put your dubious skills to a constructive purpose.”

“You want me to help you break into the doc’s house?” Shelby asked, “Why should I?”

“Because, if this is all a misunderstanding you’ll have vindicated your beloved doctor.” Toli replied, “But if it’s true, do you really want him tending to your friends and giving them that drug?”

Shelby glowered at Toli and Delareux, “Okay, but only because I’m going to prove both you guys wrong.”

The following night they met in front of Andronikov’s house. It was Autumn and the street and house were dark. Andronikov was out taking his nightly constitutional. They slipped into the shadows of the trees that lined the side of his house. Shelby jumped into a tree, sprung onto a vine-strangled trellis and scampered to a second floor window sill. She slid open the sash and slipped in.

“The top windows are always unlocked even if there’s lots of stuff around them to climb,” Shelby called poking her head out the window.

“We don’t need a dissertation on the tricks of the trade, just run down and open the back door,” Toli replied in a raspy whisper.

Once inside they searched the house from ground floor to attic and found nothing that a strange, old doctor wouldn’t have. There were trinkets everywhere, relics from tsarist Russia. They found nothing that implicated him in being anything more than a dull fellow who tended to swamp himself in nostalgia.

Delareux lit a match and held it to his cigarette. The flame wobbled and flapped, then it was out. He put his hand up and waved it around. He could feel a breeze rushing through a seam in the wall paneling. He tapped the wall around the seam until the hollow thumping of wood paneling attached to a frame changed to no thump at all, just his finger hitting the surface. He pressed his palms on the panel and pushed up and down, side to side. The panel came loose and behind it was a steel door with a lever along side.

“Come take a look at this,” Delareux called.

“Looks like something from a Flash Gordon short,” Shelby said.

Delareux pulled the lever and the door slid open with a deep hum and the hiss of steel brushing against rubber. A iron staircase spiraled downward.

The bottom emptied into a small room crammed with tables and benches covered in devices of twisted brass and glass. Flasks and beakers lined the shelves that covered every wall except one. On that were hung two portraits, full length paintings of people, a man on the left and woman on the right, dressed in royal finery, painted in an Edwardian style.

“Tzar Nicholas the second,” Toli said examining the paintings, “And Alexandra.”

“You know who they are?” asked Shelby.

“I remember them from the newspapers when I was younger. The February Revolution. It was compelling reading. I see which side our Andronikov backed.”

Delareux found a small box on one of the tables. Inside were volumes of letters. All were either to or from, Tsar Nicholas or Alexandra in correspondence with a man named Grigori.

“Good lord,” Toli gasped.

“Andronikov is Grigori,” Delareux said, “I think that settles that thread.”

“But this fellow Grigori, corresponding with Nicholas and Alexandra. You don’t think that’s…”

“Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin,” a voice rumbled from behind them.

Toli and Delareux turned around and saw the erstwhile Andronikov pointing a gun.

“At your service,” Rasputin said, tipping his head.