Hal and I were in the office. He was working with Abby, our receptionist slash file clerk, going over paid accounts and those that still owed us money. Aside from pro bono cases like the Tomasinos, we do a brisk trade in following cheating spouses, catching employee theft, and finding missing people. We also do bodyguard work, and occasionally run off stalkers.
I was staring out the window, down onto Cermak Road. It was raining. My mind was drifting.
I’d been here at the Dempster Agency for three years, ever since I stopped a vampire from killing Hal.
What? A vampire? C’mon, you didn’t think I was the only strange thing walking around, did you?
Hal was working a missing girl case that was part of a wider missing girls case. One of the girls from the club I was bouncing disappeared out the back with one of the johns. I pursued his car to a house in Barrington. Hal was already inside, being thrown around by the bloodsucker. I could Hal saying “yer mother hit’s harder than that.” I knocked out his daylighter and freed Connie, the girl from the club. I handed her my phone and told her to call the cops, then I went thru the door like Sherman thru Georgia. That broke up the party. Everything froze in place, Hal on the floor looking up, the fanger staring at me. Then time kicked in again.
“Frankenstein…” it hissed. That was the first time anything called me that in public. Then the lights went out. Not all, but certainly a lot of vampires can do a blackout. It’s a supernatural ability that knocks out electricity and snuffs flames. Not that it mattered. My vision automatically adjusted. It rushed me, clawing with both hands. Lightning fast. It’s claws cut me across my forearms. It stopped, as if it was amazed I had my guard up. Then, just as fast as it, I caught it with a left uppercut and a right hammer punch to the chest, knocking it across the room to imbed in the wall. Plaster, sheet rock, and lathing flew everywhere. The vampire recovered and rocketed at me, outstretched claws aiming for my throat. Time slowed down. I sidestepped him. It’s eyes bugged out in amazement and confusion. I wrapped my right arm around his neck and bulldogged it to the floor putting all my considerable weight on where the spine connects to the skull. It swung it’s left arm back at me, but I caught it and broke it behind his back. It could recover from these injuries in time, which I wasn’t going to give it. I gripped it’s head in both hands and twisted. Not slowly, fast and violently.
“How? You… you aren’t supposed to…” Its question was cut short by the snapping of bone and ripping of flesh as its head came off. Now here’s a handy tip for all you perspective vampire hunters out there. Removing the head takes all the fight out of them. But unless you have super human strength, you might want to try a bone saw, in daylight, when they can’t move. The bloodsucker seemed as if he was put off his game by me moving so fast and knowing how to fight. I would run into that reaction more than a few times. The previous occupant of this body must have been a real uncoordinated imbecile.
Anyway, the Barrington cops arrived in time to watch the vampire’s body turn to dust. I gave ’em a good look at the head and told them it needed to be burned. They demanded my ID, which checked out. The bodies of three girls were in the basement. The girl Hal was paid to find was upstairs, still alive, locked in a room. The cops, well, for them, seeing was believing. We needed a cover story, so we decided to name Jeff Sloane, the daylighter. No one would his Renfield-like ravings, so the truth was protected, two potential victims were saved, the families of the three dead girls got closure, a lunatic was off the street, and a monster was destroyed. Hal and I were given credit for cracking the case. Hal thought it would be interesting and maybe useful to have someone like me s an agency operative. So I took the exams and became a licensed private eye and bodyguard.
We worked several more cases, mundane stuff mostly. Some divorce cases, stuff like that. But the thing about the shadows is once you’re in, you’ll never be out. Nearest I can figure is there’s a hidden world out there of things that go bump in the night. Some of them have issues with my body’s previous owner, some with the Frankenstein family, some just looking to make a name for themselves. Michael Og Flynn was one of the last type. Mikey was a revenant, which is an undead being that cannot rest for whatever reason. They’re physical, unlike ghosts, and they develop great strength and speed. Kinda like me, but without the charm. Anyway, Mikey haunted Chicago because in life he did a lot of things to help the city but never got the credit that instead went to Burnham, and McCormick, and others. He had learned that “the Frankenstein Monster” was in his city, right out in the open, and figured if he could take me out, he’d at least get the credit he craved from the dark world. After haunting the neighborhood around the office for a few weeks with no luck, he decided to force the issue and picked a day with a big thunderstorm to kidnap Abby. Hal and I tracked him, which was fairly easy since he wanted me to find him. On top of the Hancock building.
He screamed over the thunder “This is MY city, Frankenstein! You’re not welcome here! “
“Release Abby, chuckles, and then let’s you and me talk.”
“There’s nothing to talk about, Frankenstein!’ I knew he must have read the papers about the case in Barrington, otherwise how would he know where to find me. The story that ran with our pictures had my real name. Why wasn’t he using that?
“Obviously sarcasm’s lost on you. When I say let’s talk, I mean let’s fight. Look, chimp. You got a problem with me, than I’m your huckleberry. But only a pussy hides behind a woman!”
He pushed Abby aside and advanced on me. Hal had come up behind him thru a service hatch, and they went back down the same way. By this point, the local channels’ news copters were braving the storm to broadcast this. Their spotlights lit up the roof top. Their cameras and microphones were picking it all up, including this ape calling me “Frankenstein” every other sentence. Great. An eight foot tall white skinned corpse looking guy in black long coat and hat drags a screaming woman into the elevators of the Hancock building. Followed by a seven and a half foot tall grey skinned butt ugly behemoth. Nope. No way to spin this one.
“Hey idiot, looks like you lost your bargaining chip. Asshole!”
He jerked around, his hat flying off in the wind. No Abby. No hostage. Just me. He turned back and charged.
He was fast. And strong. Faster and stronger than the vampire was. He was able to tag me. I would smack him in return. So we settled into head hunting, trading punches, trying to knock the other out. He couldn’t bleed, but his face would crack like ice over snow. Any damage I suffered was easily handled by the nannites. It was time to get serious.
I caught his right arm, stepped under it and twisted the shoulder, dislocating it. He began jabbing with his left. I decided to show him why we have four limbs not just two. I shot down into a crouch and my left leg swept him off his feet. No one ever taught him how to fall. Mikey landed hard on his back, smacking the back of his head against the roof. Quickly, I wrapped myself around his left arm, putting it in the kimura. I threw in into overdrive, and the stone-like bones in his arm shattered. His scream echoed thru the building tops, mixing with the thunder.
I did a tip up back to my feet. If anyone else with issues was watching this, that ought to let ’em know there’s a new Frankenstein in town.
“Well”, I yelled, “you gonna fight or just lay there and get rained on?” He struggled to his feet, and tried to pivot his right shoulder back into position.
“You can’t do this!” he yelled back. “I helped build this city! It’s my city! I will have the respect I deserve!” He was screaming now. “You will fall and I will rise, Frankenstein!”
“You want Frankenstein? I’ll give ya goddam Frankenstein!” I yelled back.
With one jump, I closed the gap, and unloaded. Full strength, full speed. Superman punch. Uppercut. Heart punch. Throat punch. Groin shot. Rabbit punch. Backhand. The damage began to pile up. Flail chest. LaForge Four fascia trauma. Shattered mandible. Finally, he collapsed.
I took a deep breath. I didn’t know what to do with this guy. Do I rip his head off? He’s undead, but would that get rid of him? It’s not that I’d be killing him, he’s already dead. I became aware of the sound of helicopter blades. Great. WGN, WLS, and the rest of the channels in town broadcast pretty much the whole fight. By now CNN and the others have picked up the feed. Well, Hal thought I’d be good for publicity…
I heard hard soled shoes walking towards me. I turned, expecting to see Chicago PD. There were several people in black suits with narrow ties approaching. Judging by the ear pieces and the board up their ass walking style, these were the spooks. Not the FBI. The MIB’s. The guys and girls that make things and people disappear.
“Hello children.” I said in a passing impersonation of Isaac Hayes. “How’s it hanging? How are things with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones?”
“Mister Garrett.” The lead spook began, sounding for all the world he worked for the Matrix. “It’s unfortunate this occurred in such a public arena. It’s also unfortunate Doctor Goldman didn’t allow you to expire as we requested. We’d like you to accompany us so we can work things out.”
“Y’know, it’s really rude to ask favors of people without introducing yourselves. Bad form,”
They stood looking at me with no visible emotion. I stood smiling at them. I’ve seen me smiling in the mirror. It’s unnerving. Minutes past. Some of the spooks began to get uncomfortable. One cleared his throat. Lead spook gave him a dirty look. Finally, the female spook stepped forward. Could be Italian or Greek. Black hair in a severe bun. Dark glasses, black skirt, black suit top, white shirt, black tie, black pumps. Nice legs. Would probably be real pretty if she was a normal human being.
“Mister Garrett, I’m agent Perelli” Italian! Can I call ’em? “Mister Garrett, by now you know there’s a lot of strange things in this country, let alone the world, yourself included. The reason the government closed the hospital that Doctor Goldman… saved you at was because they underestimated the problem. Anomalous mutants and atavisms were just the tip of the iceberg.”
“No kidding? I fought a vampire a couple of months ago. He recognized the new me from the previous user. Now, something tells me there’s a whole lot of things out there that do too. So, at least I’ll never be lonely. What’s your first name?
“What’s your first name, agent Perelli? I mean, you know mine, the least you can do is tell me yours.”
That caught her off guard. She looked up at me in confusion, then back at Lead spook in frustration. He remained impassive. She turned back to me.
“See? That wasn’t so hard. Glad to meet you, Carla.” I said.
“Jim. Call me Jim.”
“Jim, we’d like you to come with us. We need to find a way to make all this go away. With you out here in full view of the public, we believe other beings might step out of the shadows. It could seriously undermine the public’s confidence in their government.”
“Carla, you’d all want to take me out of my new body and put a soldier in here, now that you’ve seen what it can do. My brain gets flushed, but that doesn’t mean anything to you. After all, I’m supposed to be dead because of a government accident. But see that?’ I motioned to the helicopters. “The horse is out of the barn. It’s too late to cover this up. Now, the public believes that chemical spill mutated me into this. It’s a lot easier for them to believe than Frankenstein. Thanks to ol’ Mikey over there, the public’s heard him call me Frankenstein all night. I figure you can pass off Mikey as another mutant and flush him down a deep hole. But I bet you guys have some sort of facility to hold freaks and monsters now, dontcha?”
“I could not necessarily confirm that.”
“Yeah, anyway Mikey is another mutant like me, and Frankenstein is a… a stage name! Like Hulk Hogan. Something catchy. Jimmy Frankenstein? No, too awkward, doesn’t roll off the mouth.” I thought for a minute. “Johnny! Johnny goes with everything! Johnny Quick, Johnny Reb, Johnny Steel. Johnny Frankenstein! There, Carla, I just solved your problem for you.”
Agent Perelli stared at me for a few minutes, trying to read my face. Finally, she said “OK” and waved up her team to take custody of broken Mikey. While they were boxing him for delivery, she began walking back to Lead spook. I called out to her.
“What?” she asked, turning towards me.
“What do you like to do for fun?
“Yeah, you know, fun. You free for dinner some time? We could do Lowry’s, catch Book of Mormon.”
And for just a second, she smiled. Granted it was that smirk smile when something’s funny and you can’t laugh because your boss is there. But a smile is a smile.
“I don’t think so, Jim.”
“Well, maybe some other time? Take the walking tour of Groom Lake?”
That got her. She tried to stifle it, but a chuckle escaped. Lead spook looked at her disapprovingly. The MIBs turned and left, taking Mikey with them.
I walked to the edge of the roof and looked down. A long way down. The blue and red lights from dozens of cop cars flashed down below, along with the red lights from firetrucks and ambulances. I could make out news vans and the flashes of cameras. People swarmed around the building.
“What the hell.” I whispered to myself. I waved the WGN copter over. They hovered closer. I took off at a dead run, hit the edge of the building, and jumped. I sailed thru the air, and caught the right side landing skid. Pulling myself up, I knocked on the window. The reporter in the passenger seat sat in amazement, while the camera man behind her dutifully kept sending the signal.
“What? What do you want? The reporter asked, her voice muffled from being inside a closed cockpit.
“Take us down! Down!” I yelled, signaling down with my thumb. The pilot gave me the OK sign and down we went, me standing on the skid holding on to the copter one handed. When we were 20 feet from the ground, I jumped down to the street. The President doesn’t make that good an entrance.
And the crowd went wild. I really didn’t think Doctor Goldman factored in this reaction.
And that was the beginning of Johnny Frankenstein. Over the years, I established my “look”. Superheroes wear costumes but Action heroes have “looks”. Black T shirt, black tactical vest, low rise tight jeans like guys wore in the 80’s, black Tony Lama boots with a built in steel toe. All custom made because I’m hard to fit. My signature Smith and Wesson .50 caliber revolver, my trench knife, and the Monster. My car. A heavily modified 1976 Cadillac Herse. 501 cubic inch engine modified with racing parts and a blower, heavy duty suspension, run flat steel belted tires, bullet proof glass, and Kevlar lining round the driver and passenger compartment. And a winged skull hood ornament. I have really got to get theme music.