Ed Danvers Case Files:
Sins of the Father
There Are No Strings On Me
Laurel had given me the skinny on her research into the families being targeted by Reverend Wendell. The families were a circle of friends that included the Wendells. They apparently had large sums of money pooled into a bunch of investments and were making a killing. That explains the mansion in the boonies. Their portfolio was managed by a hedge fund manager only identified as Zyxyn. Now that sounds more like devil work, paperwork and contracts. About a month before the attack on Karen Wendell they severed their relationship with Zyxyn. Is this all over a breach of contract? This all seems very personal. Zyxyn is getting his hands awful dirty over a simple breach of contract.
“A devil’s gotta be pretty pissed off not to outsource the possession work…” I mused aloud, downing a shot of something brown.
“Isn’t that pretty much what they do?” Vyx asked from behind the bar, pointing his metal hand at the TV, flipping the channels.
“Demons possess. Devils make deals. Possession is low work for the rabble.”
“Your world has a lot of weird rules.”
“It’s not my world, I just work there.”
“Devils and demons. Ghouls and ghosts,” he planted his hands on his hips and shook his head with a big grin. That thing he does when he thinks I’m slipping into madness.
“Vicksy, we just saw a girl with a goat head standing in a ring of fire and you’re still going to give me that shit-eating grin?”
“She was surrounded by weirdos who seemed very happy to get theatrical. They put an animatronic goat head on her. Gas nozzles under the floorboards. Someone watching from a control room, in the Econoline, orchestrating the whole thing. You saw that spread they hang out in. They got the bread to pull it off.”
“Don’t believe in demons, do ya? So what do you believe in, Vicksy?”
“The Laws of Physics, Eddie. Everything else is just a byproduct.”
“Which isn’t to say I don’t have great fondness for some of my fellow byproducts. Look, I’d believe there was an alien with a gonzo mind control ray hiding in the van before I’d leap to a conclusion like demons and devils.”
“Potayto, potahto. Devil, alien or just an asshole, this Zyxyn is manipulating that girl and her grief addled dad.”
“Speaking of…” Vicks was gawking at the television.
The news rattled in on urgent tones about how Wendell had taken hostages in a Center City bank lobby and spray painted the windows black. No one knew what was going on in the hour and a half before police decided to sneak a team in the back door. When they finally got in, they found all thirty-two hostages hanging by their feet with their throats cut, bled out. They were stripped and their skin was carved up with Enochian gibberish. Were these people part of the contract? As for Wendell, he was long gone.
“Looks like he’s casting a wider net, now,” Vicks said.
“I was going to wait for nightfall to hit the van, but we need to find Zyxyn, now. This has to end.”
We got to the van, Vicksy picked the locks and we threw open the back doors to find absolutely nothing. The inside was bare and clean save for a few greasy footprints on the floor of the bare white metal interior. Vicks hopped in and gave it a once-over. The things he found were the registration and insurance in the glove box. It was registered to Wendell, no surprises there. A devil isn’t going to register a car under his name. He’ll have lackeys do it and leave them holding the bag when he’s done.
I made sure my pistol was loaded, hiked my pants and limped toward Wendell’s house.
“How many shots is the new arm good for?” I asked over my shoulder.
“Could go all day,” Vicks replied. “What’s your plan, Eddie?”
“I need to make a call.”
The grounds of the mansion weren’t being patrolled like they were the other night. It looks like they hadn’t refilled their ranks, yet. What little resistance we got was handled by Vicksy. One shot from the ray gun and they’d scurry off. An electrical current took care of the ones with a little more backbone. When we got to Karen’s room, two big guys were standing at either side of her door. I had a bullet ready for one. The other, Vicksy grabbed by the neck and hurled him into the wall, like he was pitching a fastball. His arm was hissing and coughing.
“That’s hydraulics at work, Eddie,” he said, flexing with a goofy grin.
I kicked in the door to Karen’s room and held the gun between her trapezoid pupil eyes. She flew from her rocking chair and hovered, pointing and screaming.
“Sit down and start talking, Zyxyn,” I growled.
Karen added bobbing around in the air to her routine.
“Start talking or I’ll plug your host.”
“You’d do that, Detective?” Karen bleated, settling to the floor.
“An exorcism would be pretty unpleasant for both of us so just answer me. The families make sense in a perverted way, but the people in the bank?”
“The people in the what now?”
“The people your hatchet man killed in the bank.”
Karen stared at me in silence.
“Could you hang on?” Karen’s voice seemed to fade away at the end. Multiple voices could be heard coming from her goat’s mouth, as if from a distance.
“What’s this about a bank?” the Karen’s voice said.
Another voice could be heard whispering a reply, just barely audible. Then silence.
“Could you give me a minute,” the voice returned to full volume, but faded again, “Why didn’t anybody tell me? Alright, let me take care of these guys,” Karen began floating again and flames leapt up throughout the room. Her voice boomed, “Detective Danvers…and friend. You will finally meet your doom.”
I caught sight of Vicksy crouched under Karen looking up her dress, “Tell me you’re not doing what it looks like you’re doing.”
“There’s cables running up there, Eddie.”
Vicks zapped the bundle of cables, severing them. Karen dropped to the floor. Her glowing eyes dimmed and her face became still and quiet. Vicks put his hand under her chin and lifted off the goat head. A bald man with a bushy, black beard looked sheepishly back. I could feel Vicksy smiling at me.
“You're gonna gloat, aren’t you?” I grumbled.
“I’ll take a raincheck, Eddie. Looks like now we’re down one Miss Karen Wendell.”
I looked at the imposter Karen and he widened his eyes.
“Well, you heard him. Where is she?” I said.
“Look man, all I know is they pay me a lot to wear some chick’s dress and put on that stinking ass goat head and scare the shit out of those monk dudes.” The man regarded Vicksy and me. “Hey you guys were here the night everything blew up. Weren’t they supposed to kill you guys? How’d that go?”
Vicks held up his arm.
The next morning I found myself hobbling around a ritzy neighborhood, looking for addresses on houses you couldn’t see from the street. I expected a cop to swing by and tell me to get back on my side of the Boulevard. I found the spot. The home of Kwento Babatunde, one of the only survivors of Reverend Gilligan Wendell’s righteous fury.
I knocked on the thick wooden door and a cavernous echo replied. After a small eternity the door cracked and Kwento looked through.
“Hello, Detective,” he peeped through the crack.
“Mr. Babatunde,” I took my hat off. “I hate to bother you at a time like this, but I need to ask some questions about the case.”
“What can you tell me about a man named Zyxyn?”
The door snapped shut. I hung my head and grumbled.
“Mr. Babatunde,” I knocked. “I don’t have time for this. People are dying, Mr. Babatunde.”
After about a minute or so of my appeals, the door swung wide and Kwento stood, his eyes red and fixed in a hundred yard stare.
“Come in,” he said without a voice, his lip quivering.
Kwento took me about six miles northeast to his living room. He sat and just looked ahead, like he was watching an intense news story unfold on a television I couldn’t see, grinding his palms together in his lap.
“I will tell you, Detective,” he wheezed. “But you will not believe me.”
“Zyxyn is a devil,” he looked hard at me.
“Yeah, I got that much. Skip ahead to the part where he was managing your portfolio.”
Kwento gazed at the floor, “Last month it was revealed that Zyxyn and Karen’s mother, Denise had an affair. Karen was conceived during that affair.”
“That’s something. Where is Karen’s mother now?”
“Cancer. Three years ago.”
“So you cut ties with Zyxyn after the bomb dropped?”
“He cut ties with us, Detective.”
“So, it’s not about a breach of contract,” I mumbled into the fireplace, “Then what’s his axe to grind? This is nothing more than a waste of time and resources. What was Wendell like after hearing about the affair?”
“Distraught, but certainly not homicidal. That came after Karen was assaulted.”
“Now that doesn’t make sense. How do good friends turn around and do that to one of their own?”
“She was no longer one of their own, Detective. She’s part devil. Even Gill rejected her. She is devil spawn. I would not have gone about it like the kids did, but she must be smote.”
“You had no problem trusting your portfolio to one.”
“Wealth has strange charms, Detective,” he cast a blank stare into the space just in front of his nose. He had shut down, but I had heard enough, “Thank you for your time.”
As I closed the door and made my way down the porch steps, I heard the familiar, dense pop of gunpowder exploding in a steel tube. My eyes locked onto the crisscross stripes left by the mower on the front lawn. After a spell and long sigh, I made my way back to the car.
Your average deal with a devil is not as bad as all the newspapers and folklore would have you believe. The thing you have to know going in, is they are sticklers for a contract and will follow it to the letter and expect you to do the same. Penalties for breaching a contract are negotiated up front. The most you have to worry about is the occasional jerk who will try and get you on some clever, ironic interpretation of your deal, but bring a competent lawyer and you’ll be fine. It’s when they allow themselves one little, harmless transgression, that things can get raw for everyone involved. Just a tiny indulgence, like conceiving a child with a married client. When you enter in an arrangement with a devil, it’s not keeping your ps and qs in order you have to worry about. It’s them keeping theirs in line. You’ll see that behavior a lot in the younger ones. The older ones know better.
“Check the news, Eddie,” Vicks’ voice came through the phone. “Wendell’s back. He’s holding a drug store captive.”
I poked at the remote, half zonked from the horse. “What station?”
“All of them.”
“How fast can you meet me?”
“It’s right around the corner.”
“I’ll see you in ten. Be ready. If Karen is there, it might get hairy.”
“I’ll be there in ten,” I dropped the receiver.
The area around the drug store was a circus of media and police; perfect. It’s easier to sneak around in a crowd. We slipped into the back door of the adjoining store. It was one of those fancy, high-end boutiques that sells a bunch of stuff that would be deemed scandalous in mixed company. Vicks used his ray gun to cut a hole through the drywall and timber into the stockroom of the pharmacy. We squeezed through the hole and crawled out behind the pharmacist’s counter.
The lobby of the store had several people dangling from the ceiling, some alive and whispering, some dying and moaning, all baring Enochian carvings.
“Daddy, stop this,” a young woman sobbed. “You’re going too far. You have to stop. Please, daddy.”
“She’s here,” I whispered to Vicks.
“I’m doing what you asked,” Wendell protested. “I’m cleansing the wicked and the unjust.”
“Mm mm mm,” she hummed, putting away the teary act. “It’s dangerous to interpret my edicts, daddy.”
“I thought you’d be pleased, honey.”
“No. I’m not. You’re a rabid dog and a liability. It hurts to have to do this, daddy.”
“We’re on,” I tapped Vicksy on the leg.
“Wait a minute. What the heck are we doing?” he hissed.
“Just wing it,” I stood up and trained my gun on Karen. “Back away from your father, Karen.”
Karen was standing with one hand on her father’s shoulder and her finger pressed against his chest.
“Karen,” Wendell begged. “I’m your father, please.”
“You’re not my real father,” she smiled and drove her finger into his chest, puncturing his heart.
“Karen,” Wendell gasped and choked on the thick, rusty pool that flooded his mouth and spilled down his chin.
“My name is Zyxyn,” she whispered in his ear.
“Karen,” I said, holstering my gun and holding my hands out, “I know people that can help you. People who know about these kinds of things.”
“This isn’t the best way to process grief, Karen,” Vicks’ voice rose from the floor behind the pharmacist’s counter.
“My name is Zyxyn,” she growled.
“There’s already a Zyxyn,” I said.
“I took over the family name,” she waved a black dagger.
“What did you do, Karen?” My head dropped and I leaned hard on my cane.
“How many people get to commit double patricide?”
I sighed and shook my head. A few resigned chuckles escaped.
“Detective, I’d love to stand here and eat platefuls of your pity, but I have things to do,” she tapped a silver bracelet, opening a portal. “If it’s worth anything to you, I’m sorry about the people in the bank and the ones here who won’t survive. Daddy went off the reservation. The others had it coming. There’s a whole universe of people out there who have it coming.”
“Can’t wait to read your manifesto.”
“Goodbye, Detective. Remember my name. You’ll be hearing it again sometime.”
She slipped through the portal and blew a kiss. The portal contracted into a pinpoint and vanished. Vicksy was already at work cutting people down. Three of the captives hadn’t been hung up and were huddled, naked by the window. They stared at me with wide, shaking eyes, pupils tight and narrow, waiting for me to tell them what to do. The hell if I know.
“Just stay put,” I said as I hobbled out the front door waving my old PD badge.
Taking this as their all-clear, cops and EMTs swarmed the store. Vicksy probably ducked out the way we came in. I used the chaos as a screen to slip out or waddle away, as the case may be. I was far too tired and in far too much pain to deal with the questions. If they want me they can leave a message with Laurel. I just might get back to them.