Ed Danvers Case Files:
Sins of the Father
Brothers in Arms
Predators and opportunists are everywhere, and always on the prowl for someone who’s been weakened, compromised, or laid vulnerable. They suck out what they want and discard a broken husk behind to weather the aftermath and then it’s off to attach itself to another host. In nature, parasites are often smaller, less powerful creatures than the host though no less detrimental for it. Up here in the grand, old, gilded tower we call civilization, there’s nothing we don’t like to amp up to eleven. Out here in the cold, cruel world the leeches are often bigger and more powerful than their marks and this is what allows them to thrive. Through their influence, they gather to themselves a network of potential patsies and scapegoats. Yes-men and fall guys; muscle and money. And they're everywhere, from the pimps across 110th to the big shots who work in the pictures, to cult leaders, astral pimp gurus, teachers, your boss. They could be crawling through the gutter or have their feet up on the desk in the oval office. Christ, you kidding me, these scavenger kings are right at home in politics.
Demons are no exception. Karen would have been left broken, empty, and desperate for peace and normalcy after the kind of ordeal she suffered through. The perfect vessel for easy, effortless, no fuss-no muss possession. Good old fashion, right there, 'live in your living room' demon possession. So along comes… I pulled my little notebook out of my breast pocket and hung my reading glasses on my nose.
“Let’s see,” I grumbled, looking down my nose, through the glasses and at my blurry notebook, “...Malthus?”
Karen stopped bleating and stared at me for moment. “Malthus?”
“What the fuck? Barbas?” It let out a staccato goat’s laugh, “Oh, you think I’m Goetic. Old school, grandpa, very old school. Nobody joins the union anymore. Why don’t you catch up with the rest of us here in the ‘80s.”
“So you’re a scab?”
“Entrepreneur. Unions are socialist claptrap. It’s dog eat dog, every demon for himself.”
“I’m assuming you didn’t submit the proper clearance forms for this possession.”
“Since when do demons fill out forms? Leave the paperwork to the devils. They’re still using carbon paper.”
A small, timid friar poked his tonsure ringed head in the door to Karen’s room.
“Um, sir,” the friar squeaked. “Is this a bad time?”
“What is it?” Karen made a noise I assumed was what a goat sounds like when it sighs.
“I’m just dropping off my vacation request form. Am I too late?”
“No, Kevin. Just drop it in the ‘In’ box.”
Kevin floated over and placed the form in the box, aggressively avoiding eye contact with anyone in the room as he floated back out.
“Thanks, Kevin,” Karen said. “Close the door?”
“That was awfully bureaucratic,” I said and Karen snapped her head in my direction, her little goat beard waving.
“Take them out by the pool house,” Karen barked to her minions. “Procedure A14. Dig their own graves, execution style, you know the routine.”
The friars grabbed Vicksy and me and shoved us out the door and back through the long hallways and stairwells, back down to the dungeon and back out the door we came in. They dragged us out into the yard, pushed us to the ground and threw us each a shovel. Judging by the swells in the ground that pockmarked the lawn, we were not the first.
“I didn’t think I go out this way, Eddie,” Vicks whispered. “Done by a demon.”
“It’s not a demon,” I replied. “It’s a devil.”
“Jeez, The Devil. I guess I should feel privileged.”
“Not the devil. A devil. Saying ‘the devil’ is like saying ‘the dog’ or ‘the person’.”
“The devil, a devil, I won’t have to worry about it much longer.”
“Think your hand could handle another blast?”
“Doubtful, Eddie. Then again, as soon as I’m done digging this hole I’m a dead man. What’s a lost arm at that point? Just say the word.”
There were several monks standing on a second floor balcony catching a smoke. Our captors had congregated on the patio underneath, shooting the shit. They only threw occasional glances our way, but they’d notice if we just made a break for it and they'd simply open fire. With my hip, I‘d be full of holes before I reached the driveway. The porch was cantilevered and there were signs of dry rot where the supports slotted into the main structure. Maybe a good shot right where the boards were splitting would bring the balcony down. That’s about fifteen birds with one stone. I gave Vicksy his target.
He pointed his palm at the balcony. His spindly metal fingers curled and pointed to his mark. His fingers started crackling like a sweater left in the dryer. The static arced between his fingers. At the center of his hand, about an inch off his palm, it started to really get cooking, glowing and crackling. I started to get the distinct whiff of ozone. The sizzling knot of electricity burst forth and a bolt of energy flew toward the balcony; at the same time, an explosion knocked us both on our asses. Time slows when you’ve taken a hit that knocks you off your feet. The brief moment I was airborne, I was treated to a cacophony of screaming, cracking, crashing, gunfire and Vicksy howling in agony. After that moment, all I was treated to was a thunderous, blinding pain, as my hip contacted with the ground. Me and Vicksy sang a little excruciating duet of pain. I reached over and grabbed him by the elbow. It was sopping with blood. Despite my hip, I rolled on my side to see what kind of shape the blast left him in. In my hand was just an arm. Well,most of one anyway. The wrist was a blossom of burnt muscle and cleaved bone. At the shoulder was spear of bone, snapped off at the shoulder by the force of the blast. Vicksy himself was crawling several yards away, clawing at the slick, blood blackened turf, shouting over and over ‘where is it?’ like a mother who just lost their child at the mall. Christ Vicksy, some days I bet you wish you never met me.
The friars who weren’t crushed or pinned under the debris had scattered, probably thinking Vicksy had another round for them. One was hanging impaled by one of the ornamental wrought iron railheads that decorated the balcony guardrail. He was still alive and coughing up his own guts. I hoisted myself to my feet and went over to have a little chat.
“Who’s taken control of Karen Wendell?” I grabbed him by what little hair he had and pulled his head back. He spit a chunk of lung at me. I slammed him on the bridge of his nose with the butt of my pistol. Blood and god knows what else streamed down his face and off his chin. “Answer me and maybe I’ll put you out your misery.”
“The demon Zyxyn,” he coughed.
“I never heard of Zyxyn. Try again.”
“That’s all I know. Zyxyn.”
“There is no demon named Zyxyn,” I shouted into his viscera caked face.
“What, do you know them all?”
“Unfortunately, I do. Comes with the job.”
“Zyxyn. That’s all I know. Please just kill me.”
“Eddie?” Vicksy wailed. “Eddie, help.”
“Shoot me in the head,” the friar begged.
“Fat chance, friend,” I said and lugged me and my hip over to Vicksy. He was losing blood fast so I pulled off my tie and wrapped it tight in around what was left of his shoulder.
I threw my blazer over him and lifted him to his feet, but he was too weak. He slumped down against my side, leaving a crimson streak on my white shirt.
“C’mon, hip,” I growled. “Can you just shut up long enough to get Vicksy to the car?”
The hundred or so yards from the backyard to car took about ten minutes and felt like a century. Between the pain and Vicksy going ragdoll on me, it took tremendous will not to give up, collapse on the front lawn and hope the cops heard the explosions. I slumped Vicksy in the back and dumped myself behind the wheel. My chest felt tight.
“Here comes the big one,” I thought.
As I lolled my head on the headrest, I cracked my eyes and saw the license plate on the plain, white Econoline that was parked in front of me. The license plate read ‘Zyxyn’. I rummaged in the glove box looking for that little camera I picked up after my good one was smashed by a drunken suspect for asking too many questions. I wanted to check the van, but had to put the detective away. Vicksy needed evac fast.
It was just a few days before Vicksy was released from the hospital and back behind his bar, with some crazy new contraption stuck to him. You’d figure that’d be where he’d want to stay, but I hadn’t taken my regular stool at the bar for two minutes before he started jawing about the case.
“Zyxyn, huh?” Vicks hummed.
“He seems to have a problem with vowels,” I chuckled.
“And sometimes ‘Y’,” he started to giggle. “What if I started spelling my name like that?”
“What? Like you’re going for the high score in Scrabble?”
“You do that and I’ll have you committed.”
“I think it’s pretty neato. Simon Vyx,” he spread his hands in the air.
“And you’re a just neato kinda guy, aren’t you?” I gave him a shit eating grin and slugged my shot.
“You laugh now, Eddie, but one day you’re gonna be looking up at the world's tallest skyscraper topped with a V-Y-X.”
“When’er you gonna start building that?”
“Oh, ye of little faith.”
“Oh, me of little booze. Fill’er up.”
“Speaking of faith, has the Reverend popped up while I was out?” He poured me another shot of Dewars.
“Nothing,” I downed it and pointed to the empty shot glass.
“Maybe he bugged out.” He poured another and said, “We made a pretty big mess.”
“I don’t know. That van hasn’t moved since the night of.”
“Did you get a look inside?”
“Nope. Windows are blacked out and it’s locked up tight.”
“Did you try to pick the locks?”
“I never learned to pick a lock. I can usually just break a window.”
Vicks held up his latest hand and a pick slid out of the forefinger.
“Are you looking to replace some more parts?” I chuckled.
“Eventually,” Vicks said flatly.
“Jesus, you’re going to be like those guys down at Venice Beach with all the piercings and tats. It becomes an addiction, and they go overboard.”
“This is much more functional,” he said, caught in some sort of revery, gazing at his arm, then looked at me with a maniac’s smile. “When are we going?”
“Hold your horses,” I grumbled. “I have to take care of things at the office, first. I’ll call.”
I got to my office, swung the door and the bell tinkled. I’m still not used to that damn thing. Laurel hung it up. As for Laurel, I could hear the hesitant tempo of her typing from her desk. We chit chatted, talked about the kid, then I retired to my office and shut the door. I sat and stared at the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet. That’s where I kept my Grandmother’s repurposed jewelry box. If she knew what I had repurposed it for, she would roll in her grave or just outright haunt me.
Zyxyn wasn’t the first devil I'd ever danced with. He isn’t even the worst. That honor goes to the devil that rode in on a white horse. I opened the jewelry box and all my old friends were there to greet me. The rubber tourny, the spoon, the syringe and the smack. I had managed to stay off the White Lady’s dance card for about 18 months. I had no intentions of going back, but this hip... This pain, like a constant red light pulsating in my side. Booze doesn’t work, Vicksy's grass stopped working. My hope was to take her out again. Wrapped the tourny hard, smacked the crook of my elbow, jabbed the spike in and felt the sweet, golden glory spreading down my arm. My hip still hurt, but it was distant, like it was someone else’s hip and someone else’s pain and I was powerless not to empathize to the point of bringing on my own phantom pain. This is closest I’ll ever get to peace.