Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Blink of an eye

In the photograph, the one who named himself Eddis Dalton did a better job of passing than deGracy; his glamour seduced the celluloid into showing a decently dressed middle-aged man with two eyes and a facial scar. Jamie knew the left eye was an illusion and the scar sealed the lid where it should have been. It would be bad if the fey knew he could see them unglamoured so he was careful not to stare. He wanted to go home to his wife.
deGracy had the the lean build and lucent eyes of a hellhound. He either couldn’t hide them or didn’t bother. Menace rolled off him in a palpable wave that kept the hair at Jaime’s nape pricked uncomfortably. He didn’t blink enough. He didn’t talk much either, leaving that to Dalton. He took deep breaths through his nose and exhaled over his tongue. It would have looked ridiculous if Jaime hadn’t known what was happening; the hellhound had a scent and was keeping it on his palate. He was hunting.
    “Our papers are in order,” the one who called himself Dalton suggested. A dim golden haze expanded from him, like the nimbus around a saint. Jamie kept his head down and waited. How would Detective Vance, a bull-terrier of a man at the best of times, respond to concentrated faery wiles?
    “Oh aye! But we’ve got three dead boys, gents. That means even when papers are in order we stick our noses in. And we’ll keep stickin’em in until we catch this sick bastard what’s killin’ our little ones.”
So much for faery wiles. Jamie carried a blessed cluster of oak, ash and thorn that his mother swore could fend off the bright folk. If he used it to protect Vance and himself, the fey would leave but they would come back later, in secret and in force, to deal with him in the shadows. Painfully. Jamie resolved not to let that stop him if harm seemed imminent. The dead boys deserved any justice he could get for them and Vance was the one heading the investigation.
George O’Flannery, 7, had worked as a shoe-shine boy at the Bay Ridge station. His mangled body was found in the subway tunnel there on March 25th. Teodor ‘Ted’ Slazik, 10, had hawked newspapers down on Broadway. His torso and head were found on the upper deck of the Myrtle Avenue station just after midnight on April 24th. On the evening of May 23rd, Marko Yevgenyevich, 5, had been snatched from his mother’s arms when the lights in their subway car went out. She gave the alarm and roused the car but though witnesses remembered the child, they could not find him. Once the train reached the Atlantic Avenue terminus, it was searched, as was the tunnel leading back to the main line. A horse patrol in Central Park found the boy tied into a ball and hung from the limb of an oak within sight of the Bethesda fountain the next morning.
March 25, April 24, May 23. Every one a full moon. The next was just two days away and the papers were full of headlines about  the killer they called the Subway Slasher and how the police were ‘incompetent’ and ‘baffled’. A bum sleeping near the O’Flannery dump site was bludgeoned to death by an angry mob after the news about little Marko hit. The press mourned the fall of civilization itself. The city was turning ugly and it would only get worse as the heat and humidity of summer set in. The fey must have thought so too because the haze around Dalton thickened and brightened till he looked like a sunspot caught in a coronal flare. Vance staggered under the force of it, knees buckling and Jamie made sure to follow suit.
“Tell us to be on our way and no more of your young need die.” His voice resonated like a deep tolling bell. It rattled in Jamie’s bones, pried at his sense. He, despite clutching furtively at his cluster, desperately wanted to do as Dalton commanded.
“Ruddy....bastard...did it?” Vance gasped out, head hanging like a winded dog and Jamie cringed at his side. Give in, you stupid frog, he wanted to say, they’ll gut us like fish if you keep on!  deGracy rose from his seat and knelt next to the fallen detective. He sniffed the man’s head and growled something. Dalton laughed abruptly.
“Unhandy! Imagine finding a cousin here, so far from home. Well, well, abide.” The hellhound moved back to allow his partner room. Dalton seated himself next to Vance and crossed his legs tailor fashion. He pulled a wish of a knife from thin air, though Jamie had searched them for weapons when they were taken up. The short thin blade was curious, grey, translucent, possibly some sort of glass. Dalton drew it across the palm of his hand, then cupped his fingers to contain the blood that welled there. “Needs must, cousin. As you’re in the way of family, I’ll try to be gentle.”
His voice rose and fell and Jamie swallowed bile as the throb in his bones grew worse. The words wanted to remake him, they wanted to meld him into some other shape, a round one, smooth, with no awareness of fey things. Dalton forced Vance to drink his blood, chanting all the while, and after the impromptu cup was empty, the detective sank back on his haunches, his expression blank.
“Now then, tell me what you know, good kin.”
“What is your name?”
“Olivier... Vance.”
“And what do you know of these deaths?”
“No one... notices the... bodies...even though they are... plain...sight...til after. ” Vance sucked in a deep shuddering breath. “Victims...partially eaten...We...have two days...left.”
“That’s more than I expected,”Dalton remarked.”I will share this with you, since we have bloodties in common. I and my friend here,” the hellhound snorted and Jamie had the sense that he didn’t appreciate being classed as a friend, “are sent to catch your childkiller. We have his scent, we know what he is, and we know when he is. Do you feel that you can leave the resolution in our hands?”
Vance hesitated for a long moment and Jamie wondered if the fey would decide it was easier all around to kill them both. The detective nodded slowly. “Catch...him...kill.”
Dalton clicked his tongue. “Matters become complex. Fey are damnably hard to kill, you know. I can arrange a very long incarceration. And I can strip our killer of his pouvier so that he can’t hunt your city ever again. Would that suit you?”
“suits,” he gasped.
“Excellent! And may I say it was delightful to find family despite such dreadful circumstances. I must remember to tell mother.” He rose to his feet with a boneless grace that didn’t match his glamoured frame. “Once you’re feeling better, would you have your man escort us from the building? We need no more misunderstandings.”
Vance shuddered for a moment, then braced his fists on the stained concrete and lurched upright. He took a deep breath, tugged his coat straight, and bellowed, “Reade! See these gentlemen out!”
Jamie gained his feet clumsily, as if he too were waking from the glamour. He felt the burning stare of the hellhound as a tangible force and forced himself not to react. A glamoured man wouldn’t. He cleared his throat and rocked back on his heels.
“Yes...yessir.” He ducked his head and gestured to the door. “If you’ll... come with me, I’ll check you out with the desk sergeant.”
He held the door for them, darting quick glances as they passed him. The hellhound plainly didn’t like having him at his back but Jamie couldn’t figure a way to move himself ahead of them now. He comforted himself with the fact that it wouldn’t last long. A hall, two flights of stairs, and a vestibule. Two minutes, easy. He checked them out with Kendrick at the main desk and, following the letter of Vance’s directions, escorted them to the wide leaded glass doors of the precinct’s front entrance.
Dalton nearly danced down the steps, resettling his hat at a jaunty angle. Jamie turned to go back in when a hard hand on his wrist pulled him back. He glanced up and was locked in deGracy’s gaze. Jamie stiffened.
“Hellhounds smell the truth, boyo.” His growl was perfectly intelligible of a sudden. He wanted to be understood. ”We smell lies too. Keep our secrets and I won’t have to return here.”
Jamie licked his lips and forced himself to ask, “How will we know when the killer’s caught? The trouble in town won’t go away without someone to take the blame.” Those eyes regarded him coldly, then blinked assent.
“You’ll know. We’ll see to it.” deGracy cuffed him on the back of the head and followed his partner into the gloaming.


  1. Great story! Just visiting for the first time so I'm not sure the background about why you wrote it and etc. But I wanted to let you know I did read it and enjoyed it. --Anthony

  2. Hey Anthony,
    You take your prompts where you find'em. I happened along a series of mug shots from the 1920's from a Justice and Police Museum and found the way deGracy's eyes caught the light riveting.
    Thanks for your input!