Ed Danvers Case Files #2:
Sins of the Father
Give Me a Hand
May 21st, 1987
It’s always when I’m laid up in the hospital when I think, ‘I shouldn’t have taken this case.' It’s never ten minutes before I get jumped by the very mooks I’m trailing. Sure, I’m getting sloppy. I’m getting old, too. There’s not much to say about the case. It’s your standard philandering. Pretty straightforward. The ones that send you to hospital always are.
The only two who bother visiting me are Cal and his wife, and Vicksy. Laurel drops by too. So I guess that’s ...four? I know more people than I thought I did. I had Vicksy smuggle me in some stuff from the office. Not much, just a few files. Something I can stuff under the pillow when the doctor comes in. He doesn't want me thinking about work right now. The guy also told me to lay off the hooch. Some things are just not going to happen.
I leafed through the manila file folder and noticed Vicksy grabbed the one marked ‘pending.’ That wasn’t the one I asked for. I browsed the files. Laurel’s handwriting is even worse than mine. I hired Laurel after her psychic business went under. I always wonder why psychic entrepreneurs never see it coming? Her old man ran out and she has her little girl, Sophia, to take care of, so I couldn’t just let her wander off into the cold and I had a few shekels to spare a week. Besides, she lives right over my office and I got to annex her old shop, next door. There’s a lot more room and I got a psychic on staff. The cases were humdrum. Remember what I said about humdrum? And then, I suddenly knew why the doc didn’t want me looking at cases. Turns out Gabe, the M.E. dropped by and gave Laurel some pictures and mimeographed reports. He said it would be up my alley. The infuriating thing is, I know he was being a smart ass. And it’s exactly the sort of thing I can’t stay away from. Weird shit is worse than horse, with me. No matter how much I kick, I wind up crossing tracks with the ghost of a mad scientist or a wizard jewel thief. Worst part is, I think the P.D. knows that keeping me strung out means they don’t have to do the spooky stuff. Speaking of horse, since they don’t let you drink in here, I keep plugging away at the happy button. On-demand morphine. One of the perks of getting shot in all the right places.
This case involved a lot of torsos. Picture after picture of dismembered torsos. Ritualistic, going by the symbols and shapes carved into them. The news was trying to pin this on their in-vogue whipping boys, the Satanists. The symbols weren’t Satanic, they were Enochian, but I guess six of one is a half dozen of the other, as far as the talking heads were concerned. The carvings were haphazard; there was no discernable pattern to them whatsoever. These weren’t ritualistic. This was John Dee having a stroke with a crayon. Laurel included it in the ‘pending’ file when a group made of the families of the victims pooled their greenbacks to hire a PI. Gabe sent them my way. Now you’re just pulling my heart strings, Gabe. Dirty pool.
“Hey, Eddie,” Vicks chirped, poking his head in the door. “I brought you more flowers. It feels weird walking into a hospital without them.”
“Vicksy, they're not supposed to be plastic.”
“Why not?” he rapped the flowers on the nightstand. “They’ll last forever. Everyone else's are wilted already. Mine still look brand new.”
“That’s the idea. It’s the ephemeral nature, the transient beauty that only lasts an immeasurable moment in the endless span of the universe.”
“They got you on the morphine, Eddie?” Vicks chuckled.
“Doesn’t help the pain,” I coughed.
“In the future, Eddie? They’ll just lop that useless meat right off and fit you with a new bio-mechanical leg. Replace your whole body. You’ll be out there with the body of a teenager and the wisdom of a whole life. Unstoppable, Eddie.”
“You want to turn yourself into a robot?”
“‘Cyborg’ is the term.”
“Like Fred Culver? He’s a brain in a jar, right now.”
“People will live forever, Eddie. Someday.”
“Hopefully I'll be gone by then. Sounds like it will get real crowded real quick.”
Vicksy laughed and stuffed the plastic flowers into a vase he filled with water.
“Since you brought up lopping legs off,” I said. “You heard about the mutilations on the news?”
“Geez, Eddie. If you wanted to change the subject, just say so.”
“The families of the victims pooled their resources to hire me. I’m taking the case. However, I’m stuck here for awhile.”
“You want me to do some leg work for ya?”
“I was gonna ask you to keep your eyes and ears open at the bar, but if you’re offering...”
“I gotta learn to let you ask what you want first.”
“Relax. It’s just research. You ain’t scared of the library, are ya?”
“Only one thing scares me, Eddie. And your line of work is chock full of it.”
“I don’t think the librarian will try to kill you. See if you can find anything similar to these mutilations in the old newspapers. If it seems even slightly significant, write it down. Here’s the contact information for the families of the victims. I’ll need you to interview them. I need to know more about the victims.”
“Sure, Eddie,” Vicksy sighed, moving toward the door. “Sure thing.”
“Thanks a lot, Vicksy.” I gave him a lazy salute.
“No problem.” He left the room mumbling to himself.
“I’m always sticking my foot in my mouth,” I mumbled to myself. “Eddie’s always getting me like that. I always open too high.”
The nurse was giving me odd looks, but she’d probably be doing that anyway, whether I was mumbling or not. Where the heck do I start? What would Eddie do? It’s ten in the morning.
By the time I got to my bar, the day shift was lined up and waiting. I greeted them one by one as I unlocked the gate and they filed in. They sped through their morning chit chat then got to work on nursing a beer for an hour. I flipped the television to that insipid ‘no whammies’ show, but it seems to keep the guys docile. I wondered if the government wasn’t piggybacking some kind of subliminal signal that soothes edgy Vietnam vets. No, as shady as that would be, it has the slight hint of admitting a mistake, with just a touch of compassion. It was those infuriating whammies, after all.
I sat most of the morning wrestling with Weltschmerz over how I was going to approach the families of recently murdered victims. I came to the conclusion that the direct approach was the most logical. They came to Eddie. They have to expect some sort of interview at some point.
I left the boys in charge of the bar, and gave them the run of the place. Some of those guys are missing body parts for no good reason. They earned it. The first visit on my list was to Mr. and Mrs. Patterson. Their daughter was murdered while home between semesters from my old Alma Mater M.I.T. Subconsciously, it was probably the reason I shuffled the Pattersons to the top of the list.
I arrived at the Patterson residence and knocked on the door. The door creaked open as my knuckles struck the wood. Great, this is exactly the sort of thing that puts Eddie in the hospital... and it’s only the first house.
“Mr. and Mrs. Patterson?” I called into the opened doorway.
Magazines and TV dinner trays featuring Alf and the Dukes of Hazzard were scattered about the living room. I flipped over the TV Guide with my pencil. The crossword was in a half-finished state, in ink. Ink is the sign of the serious crossword enthusiast. Never trust someone who does the crosswords in pencil. This person had been in the middle of answering 43 down: 'Stanley Lieber’s famous catchphrase.'
I rubbed the wood of the pencil over the unfinished word and left behind some streaks of ink. It was still fresh. Simon, what are you doing? Get out of here.
“Is there something I can help you with, child?” a voice said above me.
I looked up and saw gaunt man in a priest's collar. His eyes looked like he had eaten about fifteen tab high octane, Green Dragon blotter, all gaping pupils and that acid shine.I was older than him by at least twenty years, so I’m not certain as to what that ‘child’ bit was about.
“I’m looking for the Pattersons,” I stood. I was taller than him too. “Their door was open.”
“The Pattersons have atoned for their sins.”
“Do you have anything less ominous you can tell me?”
“The Pattersons were sinners.”
“No? Okay. I guess I’ll be moving on to the...” I glanced at my notebook. “... The Bartlebys.”
“The Bartlebys are sinners too.”
“Oh. Yeah. Okay, have they atoned yet?”
“Why were they sinners?”
“Their daughter was a sinner.”
“So it’s contagious?”
“The Bartleby’s son was a sinner.”
“They must have caught it at school.”
“Exact...that was just a joke, wasn’t it?”
“Well you’re right. They met at school. I caught the two engaging in carnal pleasures.”
“Sounds like teenager stuff.”
“What were you doing as a teenager?”
“Praying,” he bellowed.
“That’s where you may have been left behind.”
“I caught them and I smote them for the Lord. Then their parents appear on TV and bear false witness. Decrying me wicked, in league with Satan, and declaring their children’s innocence. I am a tool of God.”
“You should drink some milk, get a thorazine shot. You gotta smooth the edge off that bummer trip your looped into.
“You mock me, sinner?”
“I’m a sinner now? Nuts.”
The police found me by the trail of blood I was leaving everywhere. They said I was a little over a pint low and still charging at speeds only achievable when one is possessed, overpowered and overruled by the amygdala. I was also down one paw, the right. I’m a lefty so the hassle is somewhat mitigated. I asked the hospital to put me up right next to Eddie so I could rub it in his face, what a good friend I was. They didn’t and released me two days later with a translucent plastic hand. It felt like the type of plastic one only encounters around Halloween. I could do better than this with one hand tied in a bag in a bio-medical waste dump.
For chrissake, I’m going nuts, in here. If I have to read this issue of Life one more time I’m gonna go ape on the next person that walks in this room. The doc took my files. He saw them poking out from under my pillow and confiscated them. It's been a month a least. A month lying I this bed talking to myself and abusing the morphine drip until it no longer worked. What day is it? The calendar says Thursday and I I've been here for three days. The calendar is damn liar. In the meantime the torso murderer is going after the families of victims. Vicksy ID'd the perp to the police, but they still always seem two steps behind.
Vicksy was released from the hospital yesterday. Today he dropped and laid a nice, thick guilt trip on me.
“Hey, Eddie,” he waved his plastic hand at me. Here we go.
“How ya doin, Vicksy,” I grumbled, “Sorry about the hand. New one looks...new.”
“Oh this?” Vicksy was entirely too cheery for a recent amputee. He pulled the hand off and another plastic bouquet slipped from his sleeve attached to his prosthetic. He put it on the night stand. Cute, “Don't worry your pretty little buzz cut about it.”
He pulled up his sleeve and a something like a cross between an skeleton hand and an Erector set emerged from his cuff. The fingers hummed and whirred as they wiggled.
“It's actually the best thing that ever happened to me, Eddie.”
I shook my morphine drip, “You sure you don't want any of this? I think you're still in shock.”
“I’m right as rain, Eddie boy. I finally have proof of concept. I didn't expect to get it so suddenly and painfully, but it was worth it.”
“Define ‘worth it’? You're missing a hand.”
“Missing nothing. Watch this.”
He picked up a glass and crushed it with his spindly metal fingers of his new hand, grinning like he was trying to sell me one.
“I'm impressed. The hospital probably won't be.”
“Oh,” he looked down at the shattered glass on the floor, “Yeah. I should probably clean that up.”
“But this is just the beginning. A prototype. And it doesn't have to stop at limbs. Eyes, lungs, the brain.”
“You want I should send you out to get those things cut off too?”
“You laugh, Eddie. But Father Crazy hasn't seen the last of Simon Vicks.”
He clenched his metal fist and gave a look over his glasses that I think was supposed to be menacing. Metal hand or not, Vicksy can't do menacing, God bless ‘im.