Officer Blake Hornsby
rapped on the door of apartment 4D with his baton, once. Shifted
his gut out of the way and prepped himself for forced entry.
His partner, Trevor Norris, cupped the handle of his gun still
resting in its holster, not so quick to abandon a vocal summons.
For the second time, he requested the resident of 4D to receive
“Kenneth Rant, this
is the sheriff’s department! We have a warrant for search and
seizure, open the door!”
Blake signaled his
actions with an eager eye; for a man of his girth, he was better
conditioned for physical challenges than some might think. He
was even quite successful in foot pursuits, incomprehensible
to both fellow officers and fleeing criminals.
But now Trevor cautioned
with a patient hand. He did not expect that forced entry would
be necessary in the case of Kenneth Rant, confirmed droner and
delinquent-vamp. Growing curiosity from neighboring tenants was
an unwanted issue, too. The less excitement the better. And never
mind that dusk had crept up on them too quickly, either. Staring
eyes did not yet reveal any devil-red glares, but the danger
of territorial vamps could never be discounted down here.
Trevor certainly wanted
this arrest to go swift and without incident or the use of force.
Ken was there, he knew, and given that he was not unconscious,
tranced out or dead, he would eventually oblige the two officers.
As their shameless
audience gathered to either end of the second floor breezeway,
Blake became antsy. “You all go back inside, this is police business!
Go on! Get!” The people flinched at his orders but hardly abided.
“Kenneth Rant! Sheriff’s
department! Answer the door now! Final warning or we’re coming
The clamor of disorder
echoed from within, like a resurrecting automobile in a junkyard.
The two officers looked at each other, anticipating anything
like they were trained to do. Kenneth had never been known as
a violent offender but these gutter vamps were so easily corrupted
by their primitive allures that who could chance familiarity?
Unlatching locks and
the dramatized finagling with the door knob indicated either
hesitance or disorientation. As the door finally exhaled open,
all of Trevor’s senses drew upon the metaphor of an exhumed casket:
the chill, the stench, the sight. Kenneth appeared less and less
like the garden variety high school hoodlum of four years prior.
So blue and emaciated, Trevor doubted very seriously that Ken
had even the strength to hurl a football, presently. Gone were
his young developed biceps and chiseled good looks. The skin
clung to protruding bones in his face and his shoulders and all
of him, in make-shift form.
led Trevor to believe that Kenneth’s memory had finally detached.
Even though they’d had many dealings with him, he viewed the
officers as something new and unimportant. Then a glimmer of
bored familiarity unearthed itself and Kenneth admitted the two
Blake grabbed Ken’s
left wrist and twisted it around his back; then grabbed the other
hand and brought it in place to be cuffed. “Kenneth, you haven’t
been to your parole meetings in three weeks. Why not?”
“My parole? What?” he
tried, at first pleading ignorance. Or maybe he was just ignorant
at the moment.
“You don’t look so
good, Ken,” said officer Norris. “What have you been up to?”
Ken shook his head,
oblivious of Trevor’s meaning, light on his legs and ready to
sag in Blake’s firm grip.
“We’ll be checking
your apartment, Ken. Anything we’re going to find?” Trevor took
hold of Ken’s other arm and nodded for Blake to begin quick investigation.
“Get the hell outta
here!” Blake had to yell first at the sneaking heads, peaking
through the open doorway. Trevor shuddered at the red eyes that
were now taking interest in the proceedings. Vamps had random
propensity for acts of loyalty. Especially these gutter vamps
who may be hostile first and analytical second (if at all). Otherwise,
they’d just as soon eat each other alive as not, which only intensified
the officers’ hazard now that dusk was fully upon them.
Blake rummaged through
Ken’s belongings, calling out items of paraphernalia: silver-fanged
mouthpiece, nail-studded fingerlets. He didn’t find any syringes
or strong narcotics that vamps used to subdue their live-drones
while they fed sparingly; they wanted to keep their drone alive
but submissive. But anything could be overlooked in the slum
of his apartment. And this wasn’t the kind of drone-head that
Kenneth was known as, anyway.
“Bingo!” cried Blake. “Damn
big one, too!” He took two steps back as the towering zombie
lumbered forward from the bathroom. Totally naked, vacant expression,
a giant surgical scar up the sternum and across the chest.
Trevor started at
the size of this particular one. “How in the world did you get
him here, Ken,” he said amazed. “You didn’t drag him here, did
Ken only gaped and
stared around with red bobble eyes.
“Stinks like hell,” said
Blake and covered his mouth and nose.
“No time for that,
Hornsby. Pop it and scan it.”
Blake drew his pistol,
aimed slowly and fired center-head. Ken jumped to the instant
disconnect of psychic link; stared away unbelieving. The drone
toppled backward like dumped furniture. Holstering his weapon,
Blake then produced a scan piece, hunkered down beside the dead
weight and aimed it at a barcode seared into the flesh of its
inner thigh. Reading the message prompting from the opposite
side, he said, “Malcolm McCarthy. Reported missing from Gateway
Hospital yesterday evening.”
Trevor turned back
to Ken with disapproving eyes. “How many times, Ken? Huh? The
blood’s not even safe to drink, for crying out loud. Look at
Ken was still in disbelief.
The stark reality of managing his own thoughts was overwhelming.
Missing pieces of memory was the result of chronic droning. Replacing
these missing pieces was the motivation to continue droning.
Recovery was rare.
“Let’s get him in
Blake snatched one
of Ken’s arms and hoisted him upon his feet. But Ken was struck
with disabling apathy at the moment. If Blake wanted not to have
to carry him to the patrol car like luggage, he could only hope
that mindless motor skills would take over the vamp’s body.
A combination of the
two, it seemed, walking and dragging him. Blake barked all the
while at their irreverent audience.
“This is a damn crime
scene, everybody! If you don’t get out of here now, I’ll have
you all hauled off for interfering with police business!” Which
was a lie. He could do no such thing, so long as they didn’t
interfere. But the threat seemed to loosen their throng and many
disappeared into their apartments or away into the night.
He packed Ken in the
back seat of the patrol car and hurried around to the trunk,
where he produced a camera.
“I’ll call in for
body retrieval, Hornsby. Let’s take the shots, lock up and get
out of here.”
“The sooner the better.
Last time we were here, we arrested the Thomson twins.”
“Vowed us dead as
“Don’t remind me.”
“Back on the streets
now, Hornsby. I suppose that needs reminding. You just get back
up there, do a second-over.”
To that Hornsby was
away, growling at onlookers in passing. Trevor notified Gateway
of Malcolm McCarthy’s body and requested a fast retrieval, which
might be within a half-hour. Response time for body retrieval
was slow, naturally; no emergency.
He looked up. The
night sky had foregone its early salmon glow of dusk and was
now leaving the final plum hue of evening for the black of night.
Soon, Highland Avenue would be blooming with gutter vamps. Hornsby
was right; the sooner they got out of there, the better.
It was difficult not
to feel some resentment for this drone-head, lumped in the back
seat of his patrol car. Placing Blake and him in danger once
again. He’d tried to help Kenneth too many times. Futile efforts,
every one. Frustration at the loss made him flush red. One more
chance, Ken, is all you get. If that. We’ll let state decide
Quickly enough, this
anger made way for caution. Red eyes flashed in the dark. Not
a mob of them. There weren’t that many vamps in the city. But
every one could be unpredictable, unreasonable and deadly. So,
he waited outside the car, hand against his holster and every
bit of his professionalism weighted against a ready trigger finger.
Complete story available in the
print edition of Big Pulp Winter 2010