There are things, that as an adult, we have to take responsibility for. We have homes, we have jobs, we have families or spouses or friends or acquaintances that we look out for. Life marches on, we walk forward, keep our eyes up, and hope we don't trip. Except what was I doing right now? Tripping up stairs, to the rooftop, where I had gone over face first by wandering around with Rick Hatter. First, it was The Revolver Saint, now this. I got one person I was responsible for killed. Another person I chose to stick up for was a split personality murderer. Keen detective senses there Morgan.
I huffed and puffed my way up the stairs. I could already hear the screams. They weren't human. I hadn't expected them to be. I just hoped he wasn't making too big a mess with whatever he had taken from my stash back in the apartment. What had he stashed away anyhow? Stakes, holy water, garlic spray, mirrors, silver cutlery? What a damned mess.
I grabbed the handrail and continued pulling myself up the bare concrete stairwell. They hadn't started painting this area yet. That was just as well. It should be gray. Gray like my mood, gray like the sky, gray like ash.
As I rounded the last flight of stairs, the metal door at the top burst open and a screaming vampire came rolling through. He had a wooden stake in either shoulder and was convulsing wildly. Its drawn tight skin was unnaturally flush with exertion.
“Yeah. I'm the last one though. Watch yourself. He looked all gangly but the bastard moves pretty quick.”
“He break any of the jars yet?”
“No, he seemed more preoccupied with breaking us apart.”
“Don't worry. Go ahead and rest. Get downstairs when you can.”
“What are you going to do? You're just a human.”
“Yeah, but human's something I never can seem to plan for. He took my toys for dealing with your kind. He won't any edges with me."
The vampire (I can only guess it was Hugh?) watched me curiously as I finished climbing the stairs and walked through the doorway without hesitation.
“Morgan! So nice of you to come to my party! I was holding it here just for you. After how kind you were to my weaker personality, I couldn't help but think that you deserved an invitation.”
I cracked my neck and sighed. Rick had thrown his hat off into the graveyard surrounding the building and was standing there grinning broadly, hands dripping with black blood. Those vampires that had not been as lucky as Hugh had been ripped apart after being staked or otherwise incapacitated.
“So, what's the party about? Happy you got out? Happy I helped? What is it Rick? Or should I say, Mr. Madd. That's what they claimed you were calling yourself. Ridiculous.”
The face that had been so malleable and questioning curled into a sneer as he wiped the oozy blood on his pants.
“Are you of all people calling me ridiculous? The detective that's all torn apart by his wife's death and so takes all the worst assignments just so he can feel better about letting her die? Please. That bores me Rue. That bores me greatly. No, see, the part of you I'm interested in is the part that fought with Johnson. I'm interested in the part of you that went one on one with a werewolf and came out ahead. I've already killed plenty big boy. I've not been impressed. Most people just go splat on the walls like Rick's family did and that's that. You on the other hand... You could be a lot of fun. What do you say?”
“You want a fist fight?”
“Then come here.”
I took a basic boxer's stance. It seemed to satisfy him and he started hopping back and forth on his stringy legs, waving his fists around like some sort of coked up kung fu wannabe.
“Alright, hit me Morgan.”
He snarled at that like they always did and lunged forward with a nice, simple, power-packed front kick. I moved to the side by less than a foot, grabbed his leg, and tipped him over. Rick landed on the ground with a thump, sucking in a load of air. Before he could finish pulling it in, I gave his leg a twist and felt his knee shatter.
He screamed. It didn't take long for him to stop screaming though. Not with three steps and my right foot on his throat. That seemed to upset him, but not as badly as I had feared. He flailed uselessly at my leg, those jabbing garlic coated fingers useless on a perfectly normal human.
“... can't... mayor... I'm... be the...”
“I know Rick. I know. Just sleep for a little while and it'll all be over.”
And just like that, it was. Well, not just like that. But close enough I suppose. How do you end the person you've helped kill for that easily? How do you just crush the life (unlife?) out of the gangly embarrassed fellow that had shown up at my door asking for assistance? I pressed down with my foot and listened to the bones pop, his throat collapsing, little sloppy gurgles bubbling out from between his lips.
It was pathetic.
Not him. Well, maybe him. But that was a different kind of pathetic. No, what was pathetic was the way it didn't matter. Save a nice guy, free a lunatic. It was so stupid. Why did any of the mystery matter? Why did any of it make any difference at all?
When he stopped moving, I leaned down and picked him up by the limp piece of meat that once passed for his neck.
"You disgust me. By helping you in the first place, all that has happened is death. By helping you, plenty of horrible things have died. For what? What good does that do me? I'm just a cop trying to help keep this cesspool clean. The best you can do is take up a crappy serial killer name and start randomly slashing people after you're broken. For what?"
A knee drove itself into my stomach. I didn't care, I just squeezed harder on the floppy rag doll neck.
"Stop bothering to hit me. Just stop. If you can't tell me who made you, you're just trash to clean up."
I turned and adjusted myself to carry the body like those old cartoons show. One hand on his belt, one on his neck. I trotted downstairs, carrying my mess with ease. It snarled and gurgled at me, flailing wildly. Down to the table I went. I flipped him over, slamming him onto the table, strapping him down tightly. He got in a left hook before I could tie down that arm. Didn't matter. Even as the bruise spread, I didn't care.
"Cut him up doc."
"Mr. Chadwick, are you alright?"
"No. But I'm going to be fixing that soon."
Cassie was drifting around in the background behind the dog-headed god. The perfect portrait of ethereal elegance. I was sick of being tired and sick of working to rebuild nothing. It was time for a change, time to stop playing by all the wrong rules.
"Once he's done with, I'm heading back home. Cassie, first thing on getting back, we need to open the lock box. I need my letter and our savings."
Her eyes dilated into dinner plates.
"You mean it?"
"I mean it. Time to open up the office."
Anubis looked up at me from the incision he was making.
"Office? Just what do you have in mind Mr. Chadwick?"
I just smiled. It was the first time I ever saw a god shudder. Somewhere, deep inside, I hoped it wouldn't be the last.