30 November 2013

Survivor: Chapter Six

On Monday, I was sitting at my desk when Sanchez came in. As usual, she was dressed in lace and frills and looked liked a grandmother from a Mexican soap opera. I don’t know why she dresses that way. Sanchez isn’t in the least bit grandmotherly. She swears like a sailor and is the very definition of a no nonsense cop. Best I can figure, she must wear those clothes to confuse supernaturals and get them to underestimate her. It might even work with the ones from out of town, but everyone in Lexington knows better. The Captain makes bureaucratic decisions and shuffles paperwork. Sanchez goes out on the street and hammers on supernatural problems until they are fixed. Everyone in the city knows this. And yet, today I was here to ask her about a mundane.

“Sanchez, why did a big mook out of Clark County attack me at the football game and then drive away in a truck registered to your friend Beatrice on Friday?”

She grinned. “Well, at a guess, you were either rooting against the Cardinals or he thinks you insulted one of the family.”

“What family?”

“Ducky, Bea's a fate. That means she can't have a man or bear children. Don't know why; she just keeps telling me 'them's the rules.' Anyway, she compensates by taking in foster children. Never seems to have fewer than four of the monsters. And I do mean monsters. She takes the worst kids the foster service has and a lot of those are abandoned supernatural kids. They become her family. She looks after them and puts them on the straight and narrow. Always suspected she was cheating, but hadn't caught her at it until the thing at Wheelers. Didn't really try all that hard, 'cuz I figured she was doing good.”

“You’re probably talking about Charley. He’s the only one of them I know of living in Clark County and he fits your description. He’s also extremely loyal to his 'sister', Maggie, and just ornery enough to take a poke at you because he thinks you snubbed her.”

“Wait, are you telling me that he jumped me at the football game because I didn’t ask the ogre out? Is he an ogre too?”

“Nope, he’s mundane. He’s just really attached to Maggie. Loyal to the entire family as a matter of fact, but Maggie’s his favorite little sister. He was taken in by Bea when he was thirteen and Maggie was about nine when she arrived a year later. He protected her from that point on and he keeps right on doing it.”

“But, she’s an ogre.”

“Charley doesn’t care. All he sees is his little sister who needs his protection.”

“I've seen ogres in their full form, Sanchez. There's no way this guy can think that he's protecting her better than she can herself.”

“Well, you got three things going against you there, Ducky. First, Charley ain't all that bright. Second, he knows that Maggie doesn't like to transform into her ogre form. Third, you are on the wrong end of Bea's prediction. If making a stupid decision will push you in the direction of the prediction people will make stupid decisions.”

“So, what do I do about this guy?”

“Don’t know Ducky. Not here to be your relationship counselor. I’m here to keep the law. Although,” a grin crossed Sanchez’s face, “You could always give in and go hook up with Maggie.”

I gave her an even look. “You didn’t give in to your prediction, why should I give into mine?”

She laughed at me. “I avoided committing murder. You’re avoiding . . . I think the words were something like ‘love, mutual support, and marriage.’ Not exactly the same thing.”

Suddenly Sanchez’s eyes widened and then her mouth curved down into a frown. “Shit. She’s got me acting as her bitch. Ducky, you’re on your own with all this. Looks like anything I say is going to be affected by Bea’s prediction. Still, you could do far worse than . . .”

Sanchez closed her mouth suddenly and pursed her lips. Then she stood and walked away. As she did I could hear her mumbling something angry under her breath in . . . Latin? Strange.

And I still didn’t have a solution for the problems in my life. Maybe if I just stayed out of Clark County everything would be all right. Maybe.

29 November 2013

Survivor: Chapter Five

[NOTE: I switched to first person perspective here and am reworking the first four chapters to follow the same fashion. In my opinion, it makes the story flow better. I'll post the first four when I get them fixed.]

The next few months went by in a blur. I quickly realized that Harry and Marcus were looked up to by every supernatural on the Northside and went out of my way to be friendly with them. It wasn’t hard; they were genuinely good people. However, I just as quickly realized that no matter what I did Sherry was going to be unhappy with me. She filed a mountain of complaints with the Captain and was especially incensed by my "religious insensitivity", which boiled down to the fact that I always took my supernatural prisoners to a Catholic church to turn them over to the Michaels.

I tried it her way the first night, only to have a Michael come out the front doors of North View Baptist and roar at my vehicle. There was overwhelming disapproval in the tone and the words were driven into my head like a spike. "Corporal Tavish Danger Dixon, these people do not believe in Purgatory and we shall not act in contradiction to their belief. Anyone delivered to us here will spend their punishment time in Hell. Go away." It took over thirty minutes to recover my senses and I immediately drove to the Cathedral because it was the only Catholic church I knew how to get to. The next day I used MapQuest to track down all the Catholic churches anywhere near the Northside. If it came to a choice of whom I was more afraid, Sherry wasn't even in the same league as a Michael.

Still, in general everything was starting to work out pretty well. I was getting to know the populace. On the Northside it seemed like one in every couple hundred or so were supernaturals and it wasn't all that hard to figure out who they were. If I walked into a room and someone got really nervous, that person was the supernatural. Between talking to the other officers in CIS and my own observations, I came to realize that the Northside was the place where the looked down upon supernaturals were herded. If a supernatural lacked in power, looks, or popularity he ended up eventually going North. Some, like Harry, embraced their banishment. Others, like Marcus, chafed at it. Sherry, thank goodness, was the only one who reacted by becoming a crusader.

I was also getting to know the rules, which were definitely different than the laws of men. For instance, underage supernaturals who cheated on tests or sports were sent to the Michaels. Most of them never had to go back, except for the Urayuli kid (I learned quickly that “Sasquatch” was considered insulting and “Big Foot” could about get your head ripped off) who thought he was special because he was the star center for the Bryan Station High School football team. The kid was being looked at by college recruiters from top five programs and he was more than a little cocky. I’d already run him in four times, and none of the violations were supernatural in nature. The kid liked to chop block and every time he did it in a game his coach, also a Urayuli, turned him in. Coach Vincent had already told me exactly how he expected this to play out. The Michaels would only take the kid five times at a Catholic church; the sixth time Dixon would have to turn him over somewhere Protestant. “It'll only be a two day sentence, but he'll be straight after that.” The coach had frowned and squeezed his eyes shut, obviously fighting off an unpleasant memory of his own. “It happens to a most of our young males.”

The roads to the Saint Peter Claver, Saint Peter, and Saint Paul churches were all burnt into my head. For the first three months, I was handing a supernatural over to the Michaels almost every night - and many nights two or three. Some of these were normal enforcement, but the vast majority were supernaturals who tried to take me out. At first, I was extremely paranoid about this. After a while it became routine and I realized the Captain was right. I really was the Road Runner and these yahoos couldn't lay a hand on me no matter how hard they tried.

Some of the failures were spectacular. There were the two trolls who knocked each other out while they were fighting over who should try to kill me first. There was the invisible sigben who tried to suck my blood out through my shadow and got hit by a UPS truck rolling down the street. Finally, there was the owl-man who dove on me, collided with Sherry in mid-air, and impaled himself on an iron fence. Sherry had filed yet another complaint on that one, claiming I was somehow responsible for the fact she was flying overhead spying when the attack came.

Anymore, I really didn’t pay attention unless an attack caused damage or hurt someone. Mostly, I just picked up the latest supernatural after he had somehow knocked himself out and delivered him to the Michaels. Word got around pretty quickly that if the attack damaged property the Michaels kept the supernatural two years and if anyone was hurt the supernatural involved got somewhere between five to ten. However, if the attack took place in an isolated area the Michaels only kept the supernatural six months. Consequently, most of his challengers only tried to face me in quiet, out of the way places and I avoided those places like the plague. After a while, the pace of attacks slowed down, but at least once a week somebody would try his luck.

Tonight I was at the Bryan Station football game. The Defenders were playing the Clark County Cardinals and in the greater scheme of things the game was meaningless since neither team had a winning record. Still, the place was packed with parents, kids, and alumni. It was my night off and I’d decided to spend it at homecoming, hoping against hope that Station would keep the Cardinals out of the end zone at least once tonight. Station’s offense was amazing this year, but its defense was correspondingly terrible. At the half the score was thirty-one to twenty-eight after Clark County kicked a fifteen yard field goal at the last second.

I was in line at the concession stand when a voice came from behind me.

“Well, if it isn’t Danger Dixon, the cop who stood up my little sister.”

I turned around to see a muscular man who was at least six and a half feet tall and almost as wide. I didn’t know what this brick wall was talking about, but the middle of a crowd was a terrible place for a showdown with yet another supernatural.

“Look, its my day off. You people have got to understand that there are times this stuff can’t happen. Look around, you can’t hit me but there are a lot of people who could get . . .”

A giant fist slammed into my face and I found myself on the concrete. My God, he hit me. One of them has figured out how to hit me! I reached for the Glock in my back holster; its magazine was filled with the incredibly expensive silver, steel, and hand carved oak bullets that Sanchez swore would stop anything supernatural. Just before I could get the pistol cleared, Marcus stepped out of the crowd and stood in the line of fire, facing the giant.

“Son, you’ve said what you needed to say. It’s time for you to leave.”

“I ain’t afraid of you, cur. We know how to take care of your kind out on the farm.”

Marcus tensed and a murmur went through the crowd as a lot of people read an entirely different meaning into the words of the big, white, country boy wearing Cardinal red. The big man looked around and seemed to realize that more than half the people in the crowd were black. He blanched. “I didn’t mean that. It’s not because he’s black. He’s a . . .” His words trailed off as clearly he realized what he was about to say wouldn’t make sense to most of the people. Then he turned and pushed his way through the crowd, walking quickly back toward the Clark County bleachers.

Marcus turned around and extended his hand. I reholstered my pistol and reached up to take the helping hand. Once I was back on my feet a young woman wearing a green and gold cheerleader’s outfit handed me a cup filled with gatorade. Then Marcus and the cheerleader walked me toward the Bryan Station bleachers.

About halfway there Marcus waved the girl on her way and she dashed off to a group of cheerleaders who were lining up to welcome the football team back onto the field.

I pointed over to her. “One of yours?”

“No, she’s Anna, the panther you met at Castlewood.”

“How’s that? I thought panthers were from Appalachian families?”

“Are you saying there are no black people in the Appalachians?”

“Pretty much. Back when I was a student here I used to go to Hazard, Whitesburg, and Paintsville on the wrestling team. I don’t remember seeing anybody who wasn’t lily white.”

Marcus sighed. “Sorry Tavish. That kind of reaction seems baked into me anymore. I think it’s from arguing with Sherry so much.” He nodded his head toward the cheerleader. “Anna comes from a pack family. However, she was unusually stubborn and told her parents she was not going to become a coyote. We get that once in a while and my standing orders are to wait until the person wants to join the pack. But, her parents pushed. They set up the ceremony for her sixteenth birthday and told her that she was going to join the pack whether she wanted to or not. Instead, she went out and found a young panther - a geeky kid who was dumbfounded by a cheerleader taking interest in him - and talked him into biting her the day before the ceremony. It caused a big scandal and some bad blood at the time; the geeky kid ended up leaving to go live with relatives in Pennsylvania. Harry, of course, thinks it’s hilarious and he took Anna under his wing. That was two years back. Everybody’s pretty much over it now.”

“And speaking of bad blood,” Marcus said, “What was that back there?”

“Don’t ask me. I was just going to get a hot dog and this man-mountain appeared behind me accusing me of treating his sister badly. Then he hit me. What kind of supernatural is he Marcus? I thought none of you could hurt me?”

“He wasn’t one of us. Heck, he wasn’t even sent by one of us. Anyone we send as an agent has the same problems we do. He was a mundane, operating on his own. There’s only one explanation for it - you must have dumped his sister.”

“It’s a good theory, except for the fact that I haven’t been out on a date for about eighteen months. The last girl who even showed interest was that succubus who tried to kill me about three months back, and I don’t really count that.”

- - - - - -

I left the game early, but pulled my car up near the exit where I could watch the gate with my binoculars. The big man came out in the middle of a bunch Clark County supporters, celebrating their win. They walked to the same row in the parking lot, climbed into their vehicles, and left in a convoy. I’d been toying with the idea of following my attacker and trying to talk to him alone, but there was no way that was going to work now. Instead, I got the license plate off the beat up little pickup truck and watched as the man-mountain drove away.

26 November 2013

Survivor: Chapter Four

 Dixon was sitting in the dugout of a baseball field in the middle of Castlewood Park. He was still trying to sort which supernaturals were where in the Northside. Lieutenant Meiers turned out to be less than useful in that regard. He was old school CIS, which meant he'd been assigned to the squad because someone thought he was useless. After speaking to him, Dixon was inclined to think they were right. His main pieces of advice were that the Burger & Shake gave a fifty percent discount if you showed your badge and an officer could get a free room at the Bryan Station Inn, should he need someplace to go during his shift. When Dixon asked for his list of supernatural community leaders Meiers dug into his desk and came up with a sheet of paper with some phone numbers and notes like “cats-Castlewood”, “dogs-Winburn” scribbled on it When Dixon asked what they meant, Meiers just shrugged. “Hell if know kid. I got that list from Anderson when I got stuck on the Northside. I ain't never been stupid enough to call any of them.” Of course, Anderson was one of the officers who died in the attack on the station twelve months prior.

So, Dixon started calling the numbers. Half of them were disconnected. When they weren’t he identified himself as part of the CIS and tried to find out if the person on the other end of the line was a supernatural. It was tricky because he couldn’t come right out with a straight forward question like “Hey, you wouldn’t happen to be Frankenstein’s monster or a werewolf, would you?” Most people were unaware of the supernatural aspects of the world and both the Captain and Sergeant Sanchez had made it clear to him that part of his job was to make sure they remained ignorant. In the end only two people admitted they were supernaturals and they insisted on meeting at Castlewood Park because it was considered neutral territory. Dixon had arrived an hour earlier, at two in the morning, and turned the lights of the baseball field on. From his spot in the dugout he had a brick wall to his back, a roof over his head, and a clear view of anyone walking toward him. He hoped this meeting would be polite, but he would have some warning if things went the other way.

The first to arrive was a pack of coyotes. They walked up cautiously, sniffing the air and looking in every direction before they loped through the open gate onto the infield. Then a single, huge black panther jumped over the outfield fence and all the coyotes save the biggest turned and yipped nervously. The big one kept his eyes trained on Dixon.

The panther walked toward the infield and as it did, it somehow transformed into a pudgy white guy of about sixty, with an old Hawaiian shirt on over honest-to-goodness corduroy pants. After the panther transformed, the big coyote changed into a skinny black man who looked to be about the same age. He said something to the other coyotes and they all ran back out the gate back into the darkness. He was dressed from head to toe in a bright blue nehru jacket and bell-bottomed pants, both covered with white paisley swirls. The men walked together to about ten feet in front of the dugout.

The black man spoke first. “We apologize for the terrible clothes. This was the height of fashion back when I agreed to get bit and join the pack and Harry over there got bit while he was mowing his lawn somewhere in deepest, darkest Appalachia.”

“Yeah,” Harry chipped in, grinning “being a bitten changer gives you a long life and great health, but every time you change back you have the same stupid clothes on that you did when you were first bit. At least I've got an excuse.” He hooked a thumb at thumb at the other man. “Marcus chose that.”

The two men grinned, obviously friends. Dixon stepped forward and shook their hands.

“I want to thank you gentlemen for coming to speak to me. I was given fifteen numbers to contact supernatural community leaders and your numbers were the only ones that were actually right. You're the only members of your community who I could get to meet with me.”

“Oh, I wouldn't say that.” Marcus smiled amiably. “My pack spotted at least twenty other people out there in the dark.” He leaned over to Harry. “By the way, we spotted Anna. You might want to talk to her. I had to snap pretty hard at a couple of the younger members of the pack to keep them from chasing.”

“Yeah, the young ones are always stupid. Like as not she was baiting them; she still feels invincible. Of all people, you’d think she would already understand the concept of a ‘pack.’ I’ll have a word with her, but we both know mine aren't as easy to keep in line as yours.” Both men nodded and their semi-private conversation ended.

“Anyway, Marcus and I,” Harry waved his hand at the darkness, “and all those good people out there, wanted to see Danger Dixon, the Survivor for ourselves.”

“I don't know who this Survivor guy is. I'm Corporal Dixon, assigned to patrol the Northside for the CIS. I just want to do my job and as far as I can tell I don't have any magical abilities outside of the things CIS has given me.”

Harry and Marcus exchanged a look and then Marcus spoke. “Corporal Dixon, we've all been watching you for the entire time you've been in the Park. From the moment you got here you've had a mazikeen trying to prank you. He's tried to trip you several times and he even tried to make the switch shock you when you turned on the lights. Every time, he's failed. He's tripped over his wings a couple times, flat out missed a couple more, and you saw the sparks on the line when you turned on the lights?” Dixon nodded. “Well, that was him shocking himself silly.”

Harry spoke up. “Marcus, he can't see the little booger.”

“Yeah, well, I can fix that. Demon, Spirit, whatever ye be, I call on ye to let us see. Three times I say it. Three times you hear. Appear. Appear. Appear.

“Alright. Alright. He can see me now.” A four foot tall man with wings on his back and wearing a toga appeared.  He spoke with one of those weird New York accents. “You two are spoilsports. All I wanted to do was one little thing. Something I could brag about back in Queens.”

“Wow.” Marcus said. “You came a long way to get yourself in serious trouble.”

“Trouble? For a little prank? I didn't do anything which would hurt him permanent.”

“This,” both men intoned at the same time, “is neutral territory.”

“Crap!” The little man was in the air in an instant and halfway through the outfield before a huge half-woman, half-vulture swooped down at him. He avoided her, but crashed into the ground doing it. Then a panther jumped over the back fence and coyotes started flooding through the gates. The little winged man jumped up and sprinted back toward Dixon.

“I surrender! I surrender! Take me to Purgatory.”

The Panther stopped at the edge of the infield and the bird-lady landed beside it. The coyotes pursued the man right up to pitcher's mound, when Marcus turned around and yelled at them to stop. They yipped a lot and one of the smaller ones started to come forward until a larger one nipped its tail. The winged man stood there and held his hands out in a way that indicated he wanted to be cuffed.

They all stared at Dixon for a minute and then the bird-lady cackled – actually cackled – and spoke in a screechy voice. “Unbelievable. Marcus, you were right. They assigned the Northside another incompetent. He doesn't even know the rules yet.”

Marcus kept facing his pack and motioned to Harry.

“Right, introductions all around then. The harpy is Sherry. The young panther is Anna. I can't really keep track of everybody in the pack, but I know the lady who snapped the young one back in line is Marcus' wife Eva.”

“The particular rule Sherry is talking about is that violation of neutral territory ends one of two ways. Either the transgressor goes to the Michaels or gets hunted until he is killed. You are the only one here who can take him to the Michaels. It's your choice.”

“Um, I'm pretty sure my boss wouldn't be happy if I let somebody get killed on my first week on the job. Murder is kind of considered a bad thing.” He motioned the man over and cuffed him. “Where's the nearest Catholic Church?”

Marcus waved at his pack and they trotted back out the gate into the dark. The panther took a couple quick steps and made a long jump back over the fence. The harpy transformed into a lady in her mid-forties in a gray power suit, who looked like she spent a lot of time keeping herself fit. She walked over to the others.

“I particularly liked the point where you two yahoos spoke in a menacing chorus telling this twit what he'd done.”

She turned to Dixon. “Is your name actually 'Danger' or is that something the fate stuck you with?”

“It's something my parents stuck me with. I'm Tavish Danger Dixon, but I go by Tavish, not Danger.”

“Okay, Danger it is then. You were stuck with it from the moment that prig Beatrice hung it on you. I just wanted to know if it was really your name or not. I'm Sherry Selliers and I guess you could say I run the Northside for our people – as much as anybody can.”

“Our people?”

“Our people are all those who are not mundanes between Winchester Road, I-75, Old Franklin Pike, and into downtown to about 4th Street – just short of Transylvania College. We're the most ignored part of the city and your predecessor never made a single arrest. You planning to be much different?”

Dixon pointed to the man in handcuffs.

“Yeah. Well, we'll see, You didn't have much choice today. And I know the reason you were sent here. They don't want the Southside being mussed up when people start taking potshots at you. Who cares if the North gets blown to bits as long as the Southside stays pristine?”

“And what's all this about taking this idiot off to a Catholic church. You a Jesuit, or something? Most everybody you arrest around here's a Protestant. Why should they be handed over at a Catholic church? It's discrimination and I'll have none of it.” She pointed at Marcus. “Take him for example. Marcus, where does your family go to church?”

“Four members of my pack go to Saint Peter Claver, and I resent your assumption that because we're Black, we couldn't possibly be Catholics. Furthermore, young lady . . .”

Harry rolled his eyes at Dixon and motioned him off to the side. “Marcus is about the only one who'll argue with Sherry anymore. They can go on for hours. If you want to get out of here any time soon you'd best break in.”

By this time, Sherry was loudly talking about community synergy and Marcus was just as loudly telling her his people could get along without her limousine liberal meddling. They were standing face to face and neither showed the slightest inclination of backing away.

Dixon put on his best concerned cop face and walked over. “Maybe you two should separate a little and cool off.” The two looked at him and embarrassment crossed Marcus' face as he stepped back. Sherry's face started with a look of disdain and slowly composed itself into a blank expression. “That's better. I'm going to run this guy in and I guess I'll take him to North View Baptist, since it's a sensitive issue.” He took hold of the little man's arm and started to lead him away.

Sherry looked in his direction and leapt into the air, transforming mid-leap into her harpy form. “Next time, Danger, don't waste our time like this. Some of us have to be at work in a few hours.” Then she was gone.

From behind him Dixon heard Marcus utter, “Bitch” and Harry agreeing with him.

25 November 2013

Scratch Esquire: Chapter 5

I was in the middle of preparing for an embezzlement trial when I was interrupted by a summons to the Chief Deputy’s office. Qasim Jackson was sitting behind his desk and a middle aged, bespectacled guy in a brown tweed suit was sitting in a chair in front of it.

“Mike,” Qasim waved me to a chair as he started speaking in warm tones, “Sam here tells me that you have a grand jury issuing subpoenas to a bunch of his clients. He wants to know what’s going on. They’re calling him and he doesn’t know what to tell them.”

I gave the man sitting a couple feet from me a close look. His suit was worn and a little rumpled. The gray tie didn’t match his brown suit and his hair looked like it was supposed to be parted on the left side, but since it obviously hadn’t seen a comb all day it was hard to tell. Topping off the effect were large, circular wire rimmed glasses. All-in-all, he looked like a slightly befuddled English professor.

The man held out his hand and spoke in a soft, cultured voice. “Hello, the name is Sam Scratch. We’ve not met previously, but I’ve watched you in court a couple times.”

I shook the hand and glanced at Qasim. The bastard knew exactly what position he was putting me in and he clearly expected me to violate the law and fill Scratch in about the grand jury. Everyone knew Qasim planned to challenge for the top job in next year’s elections and doing this for Scratch must be one of the favors he was trading like a madman in order to get support and position himself for his run. He also held grudges and if I didn’t play ball today he would look for a way to punish me. Still, there are some lines you don’t cross.

“Good to meet you. I’m Mike Benedict. Unfortunately, as I’m sure Qasim has explained to you, I’m forbidden from disclosing anything any grand jury might be doing. So, I doubt I’m going to be much help to you.”

“That’s okay Mike.” Qasim leaned back in his chair. “We’re all legal professionals here. We can discuss cases in order to bring them to a mutually satisfactory conclusion.”

“No, we can’t.” I said. “I’m not sure I can talk about any grand jury without permission from the grand jury or judge and I definitely won’t unless Leon tells me to.”

Qasim leaned forward again. “Look, we talk about cases all the time without running them past him. The office couldn’t function if the Commonwealth Attorney himself had to deal with every charge - or even every grand jury. I’m telling you . . .”

“One second, Qasim.” We both turned as Scratch spoke. “If the man is uncomfortable discussing this matter we should not press it upon him. The grand jury clearly exists or he would not have reacted as he did and everyone in this room knows whom the grand jury is targeting. I shall deal with the situation as I have in the past.”

With that he stood, thanked us for meeting with him, and left me alone in the room with Qasim.

“Close the door.”

He waited until the door was closed and I’d sat back down.

“Sam may know what you and Leon are doing, but I don’t and you need to understand something Mike. That’s a friend of mine. Don’t ever be rude like that to him again.”

“Qasim . . .”

He waved his hand at me. “Don’t want to hear your excuses. Go on back to what you were doing. Just don’t let it happen again.”


Back in my office, I sat staring at my computer screen. In two days I had a major jury trial on an embezzlement from GrantBank and I couldn’t concentrate because of all the stupid politics I’d gotten drawn into. The boss was unhappy with me; the grand jury was out of control; Qasim was mad because I wasn’t helping him increase his chances at knocking the boss out of office next year. There were times that I absolutely hated working in a political office and this one probably ranked at the top of the list. All I wanted to do was be a competent, professional prosecutor and politics kept dragging me through the mud.

A loud buzz filled the air and interrupted my thoughts. I looked up at the clock on my wall. 1:35 p.m. The afternoon docket had started and someone had just told his client that she was going to jail. In turn, she got the bright idea to pull the fire alarm, because nobody could be sentenced to jail if court wasn’t in session. It happened often enough that I, and everyone else in the office, just ignored the buzzing alarm and kept right on working.

“Out! Out! Out!” The new receptionist (Shabarbra?) was almost running through the hall and a deputy was walking behind her looking stern. Someone in the office past mine asked what was happening and the breathless secretary kept moving and yelled something about a bomb threat. The deputy stopped for a second. “Someone said a bomb’s in the Commonwealth Attorney’s office. We have to treat it seriously because he described several things inside the office. Things you can’t see from outside. You need to clear the area.”

Within ten minutes everyone was standing on the sidewalk outside the courthouse. Then a couple deputies came out and herded us all across the street to the parking lot. We settled in and most of us were standing around chatting or texting when the explosions went off.

They weren’t even large explosions, It was just a series of pops. Behind us. In the back section of the parking lot where our cars were parked. I didn't realize what was happening and I barely turned in time to see a little dust in the air. There wasn’t even any smoke. Some people started to walk toward the cars, but deputies ran past yelling at us to stay back and police showed up within a couple minutes to back them up. We couldn't get within fifty feet our cars.

An hour later, I was sitting in a conference room at the police building next to the courthouse, along with my boss and a couple other senior members of the prosecutor’s office. The chief of police and several of Ridland’s senior police officers were there as well. Lieutenant Charley Tyler, head of the bomb squad, stood at the front end of the table wearing a navy blue tactical uniform and a kevlar vest. A black helmet was tucked under his left arm.

“There is no bomb in the office and we found no further bombs in the parking lot. We’re not sure exactly what kind of explosive devices were used. However, they were small and they were placed at the base of each car’s front windshield. They do not appear to have been directional and actually only broke completely through the windshields in about forty percent of the cars, although each windshield had massive cracking.”

One of the police officers raised his hand and asked if the bombs were meant to kill someone while he was driving. Lieutenant Tyler shook his head.

“No way. These things were taped on with duct tape. Anyone getting into his car would have to be blind to miss ‘em. And I don’t think they were meant to cause anyone removing them harm either. Nothing indicates they were rigged to blow on contact or to be blown remotely. They appear to have all been wired to this.”

He held up a plastic evidence bag with something green inside it. He looked back at the attorneys. “For those of us who have no military experience, this is a clacker. It’s what is used to fire claymore mines. A wire ran from this through each of the bombs and when he pushed down on the handle it set them all off.”

Something about that sounded wrong. I’d been out of the Army for about ten years, but I thought there had to be a power source for a clacker to work. Still, it wasn’t my job to figure out the forensics. That was for the bomb squad and the state lab. I decided not to ask a dumb question. Of course, that didn’t keep another attorney from asking an even dumber one.

“Are you telling us that someone set off mines on our cars?” There were several swallowed chuckles around the table as the woman who was head of Juvenile Prosecutions spoke. She looked embarrassed and the Lieutenant looked like he was searching for a way to answer without telling her she was an idiot.

I spoke first. “Fay, if those had been mines they would have at least torn the top of the cars off.”

Tyler nodded and addressed his comment to me. “Yes sir. It would have done more than that. At that range it would have shredded the entire car.”

The Chief looked over at me and then back at his officer. “Get back on point Charley. Leon and I have a press conference in less than an hour.”

“Yes sir. Moving on, there was only one casualty. Qasim Jackson was less than twenty feet from his car when the bombs went off. He got glass in his eyes. We don't know what his status currently is, but his injuries were not life threatening."

"Charley," the Chief interrupted, "you know the first question they're going to ask me is who did it. What can I tell them?"

"No one credible has claimed responsibility at this time. A couple militia groups and a few other whackos have called in, but they're just the normal morons this kind of thing draws. The only anomaly we have is that every single car of every single person working in the Commonwealth Attorney's office was attacked except Mr. Benedict's."

Most of the people in the room turned to look at me, but the Chief stayed focused on the Lieutenant. "Do we know why?"

"No idea, sir. His car was parked I'm his reserved slot, between two other cars which were bombed. The bomber just bypassed it."

Now it was my turn. The Chief of Police looked at my boss and Leon pointed at me. The Chief looked me over and asked the obvious question. "Well, Mr. Benedict, is there any reason you know that our bomber would choose to spare your car?"

"Not that I can think of Chief. I prosecute frauds and embezzlement. I don't usually have much to do with the types who blow up cars. Lieutenant Tyler and I are going to go through my cases and see if we can discover anything, but I doubt we'll find much."

The Chief grunted and turned back to Lieutenant Tyler. "Okay, Charley tell me about the people who are trying to take responsibility.”

"Yes sir. The first call came from Tennessee . . ."

20 November 2013

Survivor: Chapter Three (Urban Fantasy)

When they got back to the station, Sanchez walked Dixon straight into the Captain's office. Captain Long was sitting at his table working through a pile of papers when she shoved open the door.

“We got problems, Arnie. Beatrice predicted this kid to be 'the Survivor.'”

The Captain stood and his face started to cloud with anger. “You took Corporal Dixon to Beatrice for a prediction?”

“No. Hell no. I took the kid to Wheeler's Pharmacy for lunch. You know I eat there. I'd already shown him the siren, dwarves, elves, and that goofy sorcerer at U.K. Figured I'd kill two birds with one stone and get lunch while showing him a fate and ogre. When Beatrice met him she just went nuts and predicted him to be the Survivor. Woulda never let him within ten miles of her if I thought something like that might happen. Had to turn her over to the Michaels. Probation violation.”

“I couldn't care less about your friend getting locked back up, Sergeant. Does anyone know she's predicted him?”

“Pretty sure it's out, Captain.” Sanchez pointed and they all looked through the glass window in the Captain's door. Someone had drawn a Superman “S” over top of Dixon's name on his whiteboard. Someone else had written in “Danger Will Robinson! Danger!”

“Great, Just great.” The Captain sat back down. “That looks like Meiers' handwriting and if that idiot has already found out then every troll, demon, and minor league sorcerer in Lexington knows. It'll be all over Kentucky in a week. God help us when the news gets to Louisville. We've managed to keep that group of miscreants bottled up there for decades, but there'll be all sorts of supernaturals who will feel the need to come down and take their shot.”

“Dixon, has Sergeant Sanchez told you what's going on yet?”

“No, sir. We spent the morning doing so many things and I haven't been able to compute it all. She didn't need to pile more on me.”

“Good instincts Corporal. It's good to see someone covering his partner's back,” the Captain gave Sanchez a withering look, “even when she's screwed up royally.”

“Corporal, there are certain people who come through supernatural encounters better than others. We don't know if they are magical or blessed or just a joke of fate. We do know they've been around forever. After you got the drop on and killed three ghouls, without even knowing what you were facing, we were pretty sure that you were a survivor. Now, we know.”

“Supernaturals tend to at least be wary of survivors. Survivors are the evil characters in the fairy tales they tell their young. Of course, in their version the survivor always gets it in the end.” The Captain smiled. “My research tells a different story. Every survivor I've been able to identify has given the supernaturals fits and dies of old age or natural causes. We think there are three in Lexington PD; you were the only one I was able to get transferred to CIS. Nobody fights too hard for an out of shape officer who sits at a desk - even after he's just done something accidentally heroic.”

“Anyway, there's a myth they all know about 'The Survivor.' Supposedly, once every generation or so, just before a major supernatural catastrophe, The Survivor appears. Sometimes he stops the catastrophe; sometimes he mitigates it; in any event, he kills a bunch of supernaturals. They don't like that. Beatrice made you public enemy number one for every supernatural this side of that walking disaster zone in Chicago. Every supernatural thug who wants to make a name for himself will take a run at you.”

“Captain, are you saying I'm Buffy?”

You wish. You don't get any special abilities. You won't be any faster, stronger, or instantly have a black belt. You're just you and everything they try to do to hurt you will fail or backfire. Picture yourself more as the Roadrunner and all the supernaturals as a whole bunch of Wile E. Coyoties.”

The Captain cocked his head in thought. “Aaand, I can't let anything like that kind of mayhem and destruction happen on the Southside. Looks like you're getting our Northside patrol Corporal Dixon.”

Dixon was a little surprised at how blatant that was. “Okay, Captain. I grew up in Rookwood and that's where I was stationed before. I know the area pretty good. Am I still partnered with Sergeant Sanchez?”

“No. The Northside patrol is a solo. You'll replace Lieutenant Meiers and he'll brief you on any activity he's been keeping an eye on. He should have a list of the names and numbers of local supernatural community leaders. You'll start tomorrow.”

With that, the Captain dismissed them from his office. As they walked out, Dixon's head was spinning. Fairy tale monsters were real and they were his beat. He sat at his desk and stared off into space until he noticed Sanchez was sitting across from him with a huge grin on her face. He looked a confused question at her.

“Ducky, wouldn't you like to know who the ogre was?”

18 November 2013

Scratch Esquire: Chapter 4

My first meeting with the grand jury was a week later. Seven people were sitting around a long table when I walked into the jury room. There were four African-American men, a white woman, one man who looked to be of Asian ancestry, and at the head of the table sat Cassandra Potts.

I'd put more than a little thought into how I was going to handle this. I still hadn't come up with any crime I could suggest charging Sammael Scratch with, so I'd decided that I would steer the jury in the direction of some sort of finding that would praise the wonders of American religious freedoms. God bless the First Amendment - especially if it could get me out of this stupidity.

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Michael Benedict and Mister Blackmon has appointed me as special counsel for this grand jury investigation. I’ve looked over the documents in question and I must say that I’m not sure there is any crime that can . . .”

“What about fraud in the inducement?”

The question came from the black man sitting on Cassandra Potts’ left hand side. Before I could say anything he went on.

“My brother works at CallahanScott and when I asked him about this he said it was fraud in the inducement.”

Great. Legal advice from a civil attorney about a criminal matter. That was always ever so helpful. And, of course, advice from the brother would trump anything I said. I had to nip that in the bud as quickly as possible.

“No sir, I’m afraid that fraud in the inducement isn’t a part of Virginia’s criminal law. It has something to do with trying to get out of a contract. We do have fraud crimes, but those require that we show someone has lied about a fact. Outside of the last page, these are standard attorney-client contracts. Nothing fraudulent about them.”

The man didn’t look happy, but a voice from the other side of the table interrupted our conversation. “Hold on, are you honestly trying to tell us that it’s legal to sell your soul in Virginia?”

I turned to look at the white woman sitting there. “Ma’am, I did a search of our statutes and I didn’t find the word ‘soul’ anywhere in them. I don’t think there are any laws about the soul.”

“Isn’t Virginia common law? Can’t we make the law by acclamation?”

“No Ma’am. We can’t just make up the law the way we want it to be. We have to follow the law in the books as it was set up by the General Assembly or judges.”

The woman grunted and rolled her eyes. I went on quickly, trying get the situation back under control.

“As I said, I don’t know of any law this violates. You have a right to investigate, but I don’t think anything illegal will show up. It isn’t nice, but that doesn’t make it illegal. Personally, I’d suggest you write a report to the judge about how this is immoral and unethical, but not forbidden because of the religious freedoms in the constitutions of Virginia and the U.S.”

The white woman and the black guy sitting at the end of the table next Cassandra Potts looked like I had just fed them a bushel of lemons. The three black guys sitting on my end of the table were looking down at the table in front of them and the Asian guy sitting across from them just kept watching everything as though he was mildly interested. Then Cassandra Potts entered the conversation.

“Don’t you think we should investigate a man claiming to be Satan?”

I stood there for a couple seconds, trying to come up with an appropriate answer. Before I could say anything, she pressed on.

“You do realize that this man is claiming to be Satan, don’t you?”

“Well, Ma’am, I realize that in the stories it’s always a demon or devil who is trying to buy . . .”

“This isn’t a story, Mister Benedict. This is a real man telling people he’s the Devil. You don’t think you might be able to convince a secular court that that’s a lie? After all, how many secular judges actually believe anyway?”

“Ms. Potts . . .”

“It’s Missus. Don’t denigrate my marriage with that word.”

“Um, okay. Mrs. Potts. He never claims to be Satan. The detective investigating the case knows this attorney. His name is actually Scratch. And,” I raised my hand to forestall any more argument about the name, “even if he was lying to his clients about who he is, we have to show that he has relied on that lie to cheat them. He gives them a discount if they sign that last page. So, he’s not getting anything extra - even if he leads them to believe that he is a devil.”

“That’s not right.” It was the man to Mrs. Potts’ left. “My brother says that if they hired him because he claimed to be the Devil it’s fraud in the inducement. He’s cheating them. It’s a crime.”

I tried to read the man’s name tag, but he had clipped it on his right side and the angle was wrong. “Sir, it’s not fraud in the inducement and it’s a typical attorney-client contract except for that last page. There’s nothing to show he is cheating anyone. He has got to get money or something else based on a lie for fraud to occur.”

“A person’s soul is something.” The white woman chimed in.

“Yes Ma’am. But it’s not a tangible thing. The law deals with tangible things.” I raised both my hands in a stopping motion before they could start arguing that point. “Even if it were, the contract isn’t for a soul. It’s for legal representation. The stuff about the soul only kicks in if the client violates the contract by not paying.”

“You’re missing the forest for the trees, Mr. Benedict.” This time Cassandra Potts held up a finger to stop me before going on. “You are focused on the minutiae of the contract. We are talking about why these people hire this man as their attorney.”

“They hire this man, Mr. Benedict, because he is either telling them that he is Satan or leading them to believe it. And who would be better as your attorney in a corrupt, worldly courtroom than the Devil? They are entering into a contract with a man claiming to be Satan because they think that Satan can get them better results in the courtroom. And that’s what we need to investigate.”

I stood there, trying to think as quickly as I could. I mean, how do you answer something like that?

Cassandra Potts must have sensed my confusion, because she swooped in for the kill. “I call for a vote. All those in favor of questioning the people who signed these contracts and Sammael Scratch raise their hands.”

She raised her hand and the other people sitting on her end of the table raised theirs as well. That left the three black men and the Asian sitting on my end of the table. Mrs. Potts looked at the oldest of the black men. “Charles?”

The man looked back at her levelly. “We’ve already had this argument Cassandra.” Nodding to the other two black men sitting to his right he continued. “The three of us are not going to follow you into this insanity. We have jobs to go to and families to support. We don’t have the time to waste on this.”

She didn’t fight with him. She just turned to the Asian man. “Professor Trinh, it looks like you are the tie-breaker again.”

The man looked from her to me and spoke with a slight British accent. “Mr. Benedict, as a sociology professor, I find all of this terribly fascinating and, as most likely the only person in this room who wasn’t raised Christian, I think I bring a less clouded view to the situation. I think that Cassandra is correct in stating that these people may be hiring Sammael Scratch because of the mystique surrounding the Satan myth in Christian cultures. If so, they are doing so in an expectation of better results. I think we need to do a statistical study comparing his results with similar attorneys for at least the last five years. We definitely need to investigate this matter further.”

He raised his hand.