Another Day At The Office

This is from my free ebook Parts of the Whole, available on Smashwords at Enjoy!

I’m sitting down for dinner with my wife tonight. It’s meatloaf, with potatoes and green beans. Some would call this a boring meal, something bland that you’d see on some television show on a family channel. Dinah is, however, a cooking show addict, and a graduate of a highly-prestigious culinary school, and the meatloaf she makes is quite possibly as close to perfect as anyone can get in life. It certainly puts my mother’s to shame, which had me in the doghouse for awhile until my mom actually had it.
Dinah takes care of me, because she knows I have a tough job. She’s the reason I keep getting top scores in my performance reviews, and the reason that I keep coming home. I love her more and more every day, and I know I’m a lucky man to have her. Dinah keeps me believing that there is a bright side to the world, and even after twelve years on the force, first as a flatfoot beat cop, then up to my current rank of detective in the homicide division, I still have a smile on my face when I come home. No one understands my happiness, and I suspect that’s why I’ve gotten popped for urinalysis so often. I don’t need drugs; I have my Dinah.
We’ve been married for over a decade, and I can say I have never lied to her. I know from listening to my fellow cops that I’m a bit of an anomaly. The closest I ever got to lying to her was faking that I forgot our anniversary and surprising her with a diamond necklace. I have never lied to her. I have always told her the truth.
The last few years, though, I just haven’t told her the entire truth.
“So, Jim, how was your day?” she asks as she ladles gravy onto my potatoes. I have a high metabolism, which helps because her cooking is so good. “Anything exciting?”
“Okay, Mac,” Tom said, his breathing slow and easy. I don’t know how he does it, but he is one of the coolest customers I’ve ever seen before, during or after a firefight. “You ready for this?” he asked with a smile.
I was leaning against the wall of a warehouse in possibly the most deserted place in Newport News, the corrugated metal cold even through my vest and jacket. It was the only thing I had against the weather since my suit coat was back in the car, and my tie was at that moment being used for tying up a suspect. It didn’t help there was a nice drizzle, the mist of droplets plastering my lighter hair to my head, darkening it and making everything sticky and the cold chilling me to the bone. I was glad for the checkered grips of the shotgun, and even more glad for the gloves I wore. The grip I had on the weapon kept my hands from shaking, which they wanted to do like a palsy. Tommy was dressed as he always was: a t-shirt, jeans, a bulletproof vest, and he was wearing that stupid long coat again. It was stupid because I knew he was warm and dry underneath that. “You had me use my second-favorite necktie to restrain some psycho, and you ask me if I’m ready for this?” I hissed. “I don’t even know what we’re supposed to be doing!”
Tommy silently chuckled. “The psycho has a few friends who’ve been doing abductions from across the state, mostly tourists from India.” He checked the load on his shotgun, which was about as close to illegal as it could be and still not get him arrested. “They made a mistake in grabbing the son of someone important, and the father of that particular someone has no desire for their son to have his heart torn out.” Tom sighed. “They watched too many frigging movies. Idiots.”
“Say what?” I did a double-take. “You were serious?”
“’Real’ Thuggee cultists just strangled people. These chuckleheads watched too many stupid movies and get high on hallucinogens and opium. Just follow my lead. We’re going to have to go fast and hit hard. No prisoners, or they’ll kill him.” Tom took a long deep breath, and let it out slowly.
“Wait, what about the guy we caught earlier?”
“He probably already chewed his own tongue off and swallowed it.” At my disgusted look, he shrugged. “Dude, they aren’t called a ‘death-cult’ because they like flowers and rainbows and ponies.” Then, with no warning, he spun, faced the door, and blew it open with one shotgun blast. He dived through, and because he was my friend and I promised my help, I followed him.
“Oh, just hung out with Tom for awhile,” I answer neutrally.
“Really?” She brightens up a bit. Dinah knows how long Tom and I have been friends, and she thinks the world of him. “How’s he doing?”
“You know him, honey: Never a dull moment.” I take a bite of meatloaf, the gravy smooth and complementing perfectly. “I was helping him out with a case.”
She takes a bite of her potatoes. “That was nice of you. What kind of case was it?”
“Missing person,” I answer automatically. “Not too big a deal, though. Thankfully, we were able to find out where the victim was taken.”
“What happened after you got there?”
I threw the empty shotgun at a charging cultist, having already put the six shells to good use. The butt of the weapon smashed into his face, the high-impact plastic stock splintering his nose, blood flying everywhere. He dropped like a stone, flat on his back. I barely noticed the blood flowing from the back of his head as I pulled my service pistol out, my thumb flicking off the safety. I fired twice, missing both times, but getting a trio of cultists to take cover.
Just as I was starting to feel good about myself, I heard a blood-curdling scream coming from behind me. I tried to turn and face my attacker, but I knew I would be just too slow. I could just see him, my gun hand not moving fast enough. He was huge, with his clothing straining against his muscles. The turban he wore had to be a hundred feet long to cover a head as big as his, and his bushy beard hid most of his features, but I could see he was about as Hindu as I was Italian. It didn’t change the fact he was probably stoned to the gills on whatever these idiots had on hand, and he looked in a kill-state. His eyes were wide, pupils fully dilated, and his lips were pulled back from his teeth in a snarl of sheer hatred. In his hand was a wavy dagger that looked more like a short sword than a knife, and he was bringing it down in a stabbing motion. I felt like a certain archaeologist who just wasn’t quick enough of the draw, and I knew I was going to die. It was hypnotic, in a way, but I still kept trying to bring my weapon to bear.
There was a crashing boom from nearby, and the thug’s left knee vanished a fine red mist just a he brought his left foot down. Gravity and inertia kept him going, the splintered bone in his calf shredding muscle and flesh. I threw myself out of his path, and never once did his face betray any pain. No pain at all, just anger at my escape. His eyes were round, his face sweating, and I brought my gun to his face and pulled the trigger, more to erase that look of the damned from my sight.
Tom reached out his hand to pull me to my feet, released me, then fired three times to his left, almost casually. Three bodies hit the floor, the same three I had fired at to keep their heads down. Forehead, throat, then head again. I hated how good he was whenever we would shoot at the range for money, but I was thankful as he put the shotgun in his coat and brought out his pistol. “What the hell took you so long?” I said, trying to both lighten the mood and cover my own fear.
“We gotta get moving,” Tom said as he pulled back the slide. “This is just round one.”
“We went in and looked for the missing boy,” I answer, taking a sip of tea. There’s no shake in my hand as I set the glass back down, and I’m proud of my control. “Tommy had an idea of where he was.”
Dinah eats some green beans, chewing thoughtfully. “So then what happened? It sounds like a really easy time.”
My fist drove forward, crunching into the thug’s jaw. I needed a breather to reload my pistol, and this guy was not giving me that time. I drew my other hand back, the one with the empty gun, and smashed the metal into his face. He crumpled to the ground, probably lifeless, but I didn’t care at that point. These were not humans; they were creatures of some kind, perverting some belief so they could take part in some insane ritual that, according to Tommy, wouldn’t accomplish a damned thing anyway. It was murder for the sheer fun of it, and it offended me like nothing else ever had.
We had made it further into the warehouse, which had been divided into several different large areas. The floor was still dirt, and the walls were little more than plywood dividers decorated with reddish-brown stains and ideograms of a brighter red. There were rugs and pictures of some blue six-armed woman given some pride of place everywhere. Bodies which had been dead for days littered the ground, their bodies torn to pieces. I kept thinking of them as just scenery from a movie, that they weren’t real, that they were just plastic dummies with red syrup-covered ground sausage spilling out of them. It wasn’t easy, but the fact that there seemed to be an endless stream of rag-clad killers helped keep my mind off the carnage.
I ejected the magazine and slapped another in, the slide moving forward and putting a round in the chamber. I fired a few bullets into the mass of thugs heading our way, dropping several, but not enough. Tom had moved to my left, his gun firing in a steady rhythm, each shot making a kill. No drug around could outdo a bullet to the brainpan.
The thing was, there had to be a small army in this warehouse, and they all wanted our blood.
“Oh screw this,” I muttered, reaching into my jacket. “Tom, down!” I pulled the pin on the flashbang grenade and let it fly. The cylinder was aimed over the two ranks of foot soldiers and I ducked and covered my ears while squeezing my eyes shut.
When the grenade went off, the shockwave rebounded off the walls, amplifying the effect. I counted to two and brought my gun back up. The close quarters had made the flashbang have devastating effects, with about two dozen of these bastards on the ground bleeding from ruptured eardrums. Some were rolling around screaming in pain while others were just unconscious. I put my gun away and pulled some zipties from my pack. They were down, and I couldn’t just arbitrarily execute them. If they wanted to gnaw their own tongue off and bleed to death, that was their choice. I’m a cop. Killing in a gunfight, I could justify. Killing the helpless, no matter what, was not what I was about.
Tom came up to me as I was hogtying the idiots, shaking his head and trying to get his bearings back. He didn’t look too happy with what I was doing, but he understood, and even helped me secure the prisoners. We didn’t need any words; when one of them woke up while I was securing him, Tom reached over and bashed him in the back of the head with his gun without my asking. It took about five minutes, but we got them taken care of.
“That takes care of most of them, I think,” I said.
“Oh yeah,” Tom laughed. “We’ve got most of them. Still gotta find the kid, though.”
I closed my eyes and sighed. “Christ.” I glanced at the next and last closed-off section of this crazy hellhole of a warehouse. “It’s going to get worse through there, isn’t it?”
Tom didn’t even hesitate. “It’s going to be a godsdamned nightmare in there.” He reloaded his pistol and his shotgun, while I put my last full magazine into my own weapon. “Ready?”
I smile at Dinah. “Oh yeah, it was a piece of cake.” The meal has been eaten, and we are at the kitchen sink, washing dishes. The warmth of the food radiates through my body, restoring my equilibrium and my sense of normalcy and place in reality. My hands are wet and soapy up to the elbows, and I’m reminded of when I came home, and the water I used.
And how red it was…
“So did you find the missing boy?” Dinah asks, drying the dish I had used just a few minutes ago.
I nod as I hand her a cup. “Yeah, we found him.” For a wonder, I don’t drop the glass.
“This is bad,” Tom whispered.
We had decided, rightly, as it turned out, not to just barge in with guns blazing. We snuck in, careful not to be seen, which was easy thanks to the candles all over the place, dimly lighting small areas around this huge room. The chamber resembled, for all intents and purposes, the set of the second Indiana Jones movie, though the stench of cooked flesh and spilled blood and rotting innards was nearly unbearable. There was even a decrepit six-armed statue that looked ancient looming over everything and everyone. Ghastly light seeped out of the eye sockets, while sickly smoke flowed from the gap-toothed grin of the stone edifice. Each hand held some kind of wicked stone implement of destruction.
Standing in front of the statue was a man stripped to the waist, his upper torso drenched in entrails. He was bald with red horns painted on his head, and his eyes… there was nothing but madness in them. He seemed to be a high priest to the remaining dozen or so who bowed deeply in rhythm, chanting some nonsense that I couldn’t understand. The priest seemed to be waving one of those wavy knives above his head, describing shapes over the bound form of a small boy, spread-eagled on what looked like a stone altar.
“Gods, these jokers actually went and did it.” Tom’s voice dripped with disgust. “Stupid. So godsdamned stupid.”
“That guy pretending to be Mola Ram is full of shit.” Tom took careful aim with his pistol. “He knows this won’t do a thing, but it keeps his base under his thrall.”
“Well, he is a cultist,” I said. Tom rolled his eyes and half-smiled. “Can you hit him from here?”
“Yeah,” he said, “but that knife could hit the kid on the way down, and I don’t want to chance it.” Tom looked at me. “Got another one of those grenades?”
“I wish.”
“Note to self: Always have two grenades.” Tom sighed. “Okay. Cover me.”
And with that, he stepped out from cover and walked directly towards the group of cultists and killers. There was no fear in his voice, only disgust and derision. When subtlety was handed out, Tom skipped his share and went for more guts.
“Hey, chucklefuck,” Tom said, his voice cutting through the chanting like a laser. “You know you’ve got this completely wrong, right?”
I shook my head and took a bead on the high priest, which I immediately lost as the crowd stood as one and massed around Tom. They were dirty, and looked like they hadn’t bathed in weeks, and they grabbed my friend and looked to be ready to tear him apart. I switched to the nearest target, aiming carefully.
The mass was about to begin dismembering my friend when a loud barked command rang out from the high priest. They moved to Tom’s side, two of the bigger ones holding Tom’s arms tightly. The priest moved forward to stand in front of Tom, his knife a copper gleam in the candlelight. “So, you are the one who killed my followers.” The voice was lyrical, almost musical in intonation.
Tom spat in his face. “You can drop the bullshit accent, jerkweed. I saw the same movie you did.”
The priest wiped the spittle from his eyes and looked at it as it dripped from his fingers to the floor. “You doubt the power of Kali?”
“Man, I know Kali, and she’s ultra-pissed at you.” Tom didn’t flinch as the copper blade traced his chin. I could see the disgust from where I hid. “I’m giving you one chance, and one chance only: let the kid go, turn yourselves in, and maybe I won’t call her here to fuck your world sideways.”
There was a moment of stunned silence, and the priest lowered the knife. I again took careful aim at the high priest, the sights centered directly in between the red horns on his head. My aim shook a bit as first the priest, then his lackeys, started laughing, the kind of mad laughter when someone has absolutely no inkling of sanity. I took another deep breath.
“How will you talk when you have no life with which to draw breath?” the priest cackled as he brought the blade up above his head and his underlings held Tom fast. I had no more time.
I fired.
The bullet tore through the priest’s hand, sending the dagger into the darkness. He screamed in pain, and I knew it was pain; his drug of choice was apparently bloodshed. I shifted my aim and double-tapped the guy on Tom’s right. The bullets made horrific exit wounds, splattering blood and bone onto the priest.
Tom didn’t waste time as he took his free hand and punched his remaining captor in the throat, effecting his release. He ducked under a wild punch from another cultist, who I shot through the back, and grabbed up his shotgun. The crowd had finally figured out where I was, but froze since Tom was right there. I took that opportunity to send two more to hell. With three giant booms, Tom ended the lives of three more cultists, disintegrating them from near-point-blank range. That left four cultists and the Big Bad.
Or just the Big Bad, as the cultists, apparently figuring out they were screwed, took off running. I was tempted to go after them, but I had more important things to worry about.
Namely the high priest making his way over to the boy, who was now stirring from whatever drugged slumber he had been under, and was starting to figure out he wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
Tom almost took the shot, then realized he was too close and the shot would hit the kid. He reversed the weapon and went to club the priest. The shotgun took him on the side of the head, but it didn’t seem to stop him; in fact, it only seemed to make the priest angry as he turned to face my friend. I couldn’t get a good shot either, so I made my way towards the two men. I stopped as the priest jumped back, another knife appearing in his non-ruined hand. Tom held back as well.
“You think you can just come in here and fuck up my gig?” All trace of a lilting accent was gone. There was only anger and madness and deep Midwestern in that voice. “Who the fuck do you think you are?”
“We’re the ones who’ve taken you down.” Tom didn’t bother with his gun, and I wasn’t sure why. I stood a bit to Tom’s right and behind him. My gun was aimed in the priest’s direction. “This is your final warning. Kali is not known for lenience.”
The laughter was as derisive as it was raucous. “Asshole, you don’t know me! I built this shit from nothin. I own this, and you and some bullshit six-armed bitch ain’t got nothing. I run this motherfucker!”
Tom shook his head. “I gave you your chance. You run jack shit.”
I was about to take aim again when I saw something I couldn’t quite believe. I came up short and just stared at the stone arm, or what I took to be a stone arm, bend down behind this punk with its stone sword. My gun lowered, not out of fear of hitting anyone but because I knew I was before a force that could blast me out of existence with the thought a dog would give a flea.
The statue’s other arms began to move, and the priest finally figured out we weren’t staying back because of the knife, at least not the one in his hand. He spun around just in time to get a six-foot-long stone sword rammed through his chest. The sword burst from his back, and impaled on the tip was his heart, somehow still connected to his body through the elasticity of veins and arteries. The scream tore out of his throat so loudly I thought he head would explode. His heart kept beating until it shredded itself on the stone.
It was then I accepted that the statue of a goddess of destruction, as Tom had described Kali, had come to life and taken some kind of horrible vengeance on this blasphemer. The blood flowed down the stone sword in a seemingly never-ending torrent as the statue shrank to a more human size. Even when the rock had melted away to blue flesh clothed in cashmere, and the craggy face had softened into loveliness, I was stock still. This was a goddess before me, and she still had the man stuck on her sword, now a silvery metal one, and he still bled, sobbing pitifully. The gushing had tapered to a slight flow, but it was obvious that more blood than had ever been in any fifty people had already doused his killer.
And she apparently didn’t mind.
“Keeper.” Her voice was like her face and form: beautiful, lyrical and complexly mysterious. Her other five arms performed different duties, two dedicated to keeping the priest in hand. The other three were flowing with a musical sense, moving to a rhythm not for my mortal ears. “You have done me a service. I have been looking for this creature for quite some time.” She smiled at me. “Tell your friend that I’m flattered, but he isn’t my type.”
I caught myself staring and began stammering. “I’m sorry,” I managed after a few seconds. “I’ve just never seen—”
“One of my clients,” Tom finished. “It’s his first time. You going to take care of this thing?”
A silky murmur came from her lips. “Oh, with pleasure.” She caressed the priest’s body, her very touch creating runnels of flesh and blood dripping off him. He tried to scream, but I think his throat had broken. “Come now, little one. Let me show you what real destruction truly is.”
“Oh shit. Mac, we gotta move. I told you she was pissed!” Tom grabbed my arm, pulling me back to reality. He nodded his head to the boy, who couldn’t have been more than eight years old. We untied him and at Tom’s urging hurried through the warehouse to the outside.
The screams followed us, which was bad, but the gurgling was worse. So much worse. I felt tremors in the floor as the three of us ran as quickly as we could, Tom and I sharing the load. There was crunching that got blessedly quieter as we made our way outside into the wet rain. The drizzling rain of Newport News had never felt better.
“We got him back to his family,” I tell Dinah after I finish brushing my teeth. “They were some rich tourists. You might have heard of them.” I say the name as best I can, and she lights up in recognition.
“They’re some of Asia’s biggest real estate moguls!” She seems impressed.
I shrug as I climb into bed with my wife, and I know I will always be thankful for her. “They’re really nice people, actually. We’re invited down to their spread in Florida if we like.”
Dinah smiles and leans over to kiss me on the cheek. I accept the kiss, then turn over to turn off the light. Darkness falls in the bedroom, like the darkness in the warehouse, where men in rags scream and yell and kill and destroy for sheer happiness. Dinah is laying on my chest, and she feels the shudder go through me. “How bad was it, baby?” she asks. I couldn’t fool her if I wanted to.
“It was bad,” I admit.
“It’s over now,” she says, her breath warm on my bare chest, her arm draped over me. “It’s over and you’re safe.”
Not Tom, I think but don’t say. He has to do this every day. I don’t know how he does it, or if being able to withstand such things is part of what he is. I do know that he is my friend, and that’s all that really matters. I relax a bit more.
“Okay, honey,” I say, closing my eyes and feeling her cuddle closer. “Sleep tight.”
I feel her chuckle against my skin, then sit up a bit with a start as my phone buzzes. “Damn it, it’s late!” she complains as I reach over.
The phone shows a text message from Tom, stating he could use a hand in Hampton finding someone or other. I’m trying to read the name, but all I can really see are the words “No rush. Tomorrow I need to find…”. Good. I will be able to sleep tonight, knowing that tomorrow is just another day at the office.

~ by Walker on January 19, 2013.

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