Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Shadow and Void: A Death Marshals Story-Prologue

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep…And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good,” – Genesis Chapter 1 Verse 1-4.

“Trouble is, God forgot to ask the Darkness for permission first…” Death Marshall Burns

                He didn’t see me when he stepped into the office. The remainders of the rain ran in rivulets from the wide brim of his hat, dribbling down his duster to pool on the smooth knotwood floor. He pulled the gloves from his gnarled old hands one-by-one, tossing them carelessly at on the floor beneath his coat rack. It wasn’t until he’d finished removing his soaked garments and turned, probably already tasting the amber whiskey waiting in the flask hidden in his desk, that he caught sight of me in the orange beam of light streaming in through the window.
                “Christ, Burns!” he shouted, his back slamming back against the doorframe as he reached for the gun at his belt, “What do you think you’re playing at? You’re lucky I didn’t put a hole in your…” he drifted off as I leaned forward into the light, letting it fall on the maimed remains of my face. “Holy…what happened to you?’
                I smirked, or at least I tried. I suddenly became acutely aware of how many muscles it requires to create that facial expression, and how many of them I was now missing. The right side of my face angrily grimaced at him, the bottom row of teeth showing clearly through the ripped away portion of my lip and cheek. “I found the Butcher, Tom,” I replied, the hard B slurring slightly. “He didn’t go quietly.”
                His eyes widened, working through this new information. He ran a hand through the thin, gray hair on top of his head before finally scratching at the sandpaper stubble on his cheek. “Shouldn’t you be in a surgeon’s office?” he finally said.
“I suppose,” I answered, “But I’ve already been and went. There ain’t much they can do for me. The wound’s torn so bad that, even if I had the missing bits, the docs wouldn’t be able to sew ‘em back on. Besides,” I chuckled, “I didn’t feel like digging in the bastard’s belly to get them back.”
“Well, hell,” he finally answered, nimbly stepping past that particular mental image, “If you killed the bastard, then it sounds like reason to celebrate to me. You’ve been on his trail for, what, two years now?”
                “Three,” I growled, “He dropped fourteen bodies in all, that we know. Fifteen, now, I suppose.”
                Tom crossed the room, pulling open the drawer to his desk. He pulled out the amber bottle and two glasses, laying them out on the table and pouring us both a finger’s worth. He slid one across to me and we held them up into the beam of gaslight. “Well, they can rest easier now,” he said, “Well done. How’d you find him?”
                “The bastard really was a butcher, if you can believe it,” I replied, “The most recent victim, a girl from Ridley, had a receipt in her pocket from his shop.” I tossed back the drink, wiping away the trickle that leaked down my right jaw in irritation. “I showed up at his place near the Howling Slums last night and took him down.” My voice drifted off for a moment, remembering the horrors I’d found in that butcher shop, but I shook my head to scatter them. “Kind of hard to believe it would end that way, after all this time, with just some stupid screw-up.”
                Tom shrugged. “Sometimes we just get lucky,” he said, “Though in my experience, a lot of the time, these rippers want to be caught so the truth of their story can get out. Nothing makes them crazier than when the newsbills get the details wrong, you know. Why, I interviewed a man once who spent twenty minutes haranguing me for the amateurish way his crime scenes were photographed. Did I ever tell you about the Howling Slums Strangler?”
He stood up, pouring himself a second glass and swirling it thoughtfully as he started to pace towards the door. I could see the telltale signs of one of his lectures coming, and I moved to interject. “That’s the peculiar thing, Tom. They didn’t get any of the details wrong with the Butcher. Just this morning, the Tattler published a story speculating that the Butcher was taking the girls’ meat for use in food, based on the style of the cuts. Sure enough, there was hamburger in the cold rooms of this guy’s shop that…well it wasn’t beef. Thing is, we never released those details regarding the state of the victims’ bodies. How did they figure that out, do you suppose?”
                Tom shrugged again. “Who can say? That bloody Cochrane woman has a lot of fingers in a lot of pies. Maybe she heard something, or found some clue we missed?”
                “Or maybe she had a source,” I answered, voice turning to ice, “A source who knew who and what the Butcher was all along.”
                Tom’s footfalls suddenly stopped, his back stiffening. His free hand dropped down next to his holster before the ugly click of the hammer of my Peacebringer echoed in the silence.
                “How long, Marshall Vinton?” I growled, “How long have you been a goddamned Resurrectionist?”
                Tom craned his neck back, the fingers of his gun hand relaxing as he scanned the water stained ceiling for elusive answers. “Sometimes it seems like only a few weeks,” he finally responded, his voice haunted. He lifted the glass, taking one last pull of the liquor, and then gave a dry, raspy chuckle.

                “Sometimes it feels like all my life.” 

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