After the phrase banged around his head for a moment, Xavien chuckled; “Were-pigeons, eh? Was that the best you could come up with?”
She grinned again, causing the wrinkles to ripple across her face once again; “I thought it clever.”
“Well, I just kinda gave you a lot of information, so I couldn’t expect comic gold” He deadpanned.
“Hey, child, I’m an old woman but I am still pretty sharp! You’re the unwilling member of a vast familial network that operates in werewolf and human society. Additionally, you’re going to inherit a fortune that you may not be able to really tap into unless you find this mysterious benefactor, all the while dodging malefactors that keep your family alive so that they, too, can locate this benefactor. Additionally, you’ve gotta learn a ton of magic spells or some such, dodge through the worst kind of departmental politics… all the while chasing down what could be a supernatural super-villain that knows more about you than you do, which could also coincidentally be the father of your brand new partner; also some sort of supernatural thing that is also undetermined as of yet. Then you’ve also got to make sure you protect your family from all of the above, myself included…if you please…” She cackled with a hint of sincerity.
That made Xavien pause; “There’s more… I left out some details that… occurred since I last saw you. I didn’t want to trouble you until I figured it out… but it looks like that will be a moot point, now.”
“What’s up, Honeychild?” She asked quietly as she sensed the gravity in his tone.
“Clara canceled our plane tickets for our Hawaiian vacation the day after I got them… but I decided to take the leave anyway, since I’d made a big deal about it to the captain. Well, then she springs on me that she wants a divorce, and she wouldn’t be shaken…”
Myrna held up an indignant finger; “On what cause? You loved her and Scott and worked so hard? What an ungrateful tramp!! Sorry, Honeychild, I know you love her but that’s just—just…”
“She cheated on you, too?” Myrna jumped in.
“Myrna… please… let me finish. Clara and Scott were… killed by the ‘Immaculate-Artist’… that was the case I was describing… but had to get through all of the other stuff before I focused on that… because… there’s just more to it than I’ve been able to figure out…” Xavien’s voice quavered uncharacteristically.
“Oh my word…” Myrna brought her right hand to her mouth and reached out to hug him with her left.
He collected her as she collapsed in grief. Xavien fought—and lost the battle to prevent the tears. After about ten minutes that were a mix of tears and silence, Myrna picked up her head; “My poor Scottie… Damn you, Xavien… if you’d just have… oh damn you… If you’d only been less stubborn you could have saved them…”
These words stung Xavien enough that he contemplated the most violent way to eject her off of him. But, he’d seen enough females in grief through his line of work to know that it was just a matter of course.
“You may be right, but there is nothing for me to do now except to bring him to justice. I know what he looks like, and I have political support from the chief… I did mention that he wants this bastard caught, already…” Xavien offered.
“I’m sorry honey… I know it was unfair of me to say it like that and I know how much you must be hurting… but poor thing was only a baby… to die that young is just not right… I’ll admit I do place some of the blame on you for his death… But, hate that this world may have killed him before he was even born.” Myrna said, with her face flushed and eyes reddened from the sobs.
Xavien nodded ruefully.
“Nothing you can do now, though, you’re right darlin’. You’ve always said that the dead don’t care about justice. So, if you believe that… then the only thing you are really gunnin’ for is revenge. Are ya sure ya really wanna go down that road?” She looked up at him, with the hope that he would give her an appropriate response.
“I said justice, Myrna. He doesn’t deserve the sweet sensation of death. I’m thinking that he should rot in jail for the rest of his days. I don’t want him to have an end to the pain. Revenge? No… but to deny a personal stake in the mission at hand is to deny that I have a functioning emotional core, often misrepresented as a heart.” Xavien reasoned aloud.
“Oh, Xavien… I don’t know if I can help you any more… Much like I ran out of traditional education to provide you… This world you’re now confronted with… is far, far beyond what I am capable of processing…”
“Myrna… You know that I’ve only ever thought of my primal nature as amplified humanity. It’s all the same damn thing as human society, just with extra layers of bullshit. So, what if there just happens to be inexplicable magic-like crap going on… Even after all of this, I think everything is completely the same, just that there’s more of it.”
“Humor this old woman however you will… as long as you love me the same and keep visiting when you are able… I’ll keep listenin and try to help as best I can…” Myrna gave a wan smile to punctuate her statement. She was worn out and upset by the latest tidbit of information. She truly adored Clara, but only as far as Clara’s utility to Xavien. It was obvious that she remained guarded about the effect on him, should he lose her. It was his little boy, Scott, that had been her truest joy. It would be a perpetual wound for her, as well.
After several sighs, Myrna spoke again; “You get out there. Fuck it. Kill that bastard. Go for revenge.”
Xavien was loathe to hear those words from Myrna’s proper-southern-lady mouth. He wasn’t surprised that she wanted revenge; this was quite common; “Why should he be allowed to die?”
“Because you won’t catch him, lock him up in your basement so that you and I can beat him and torture him every day… so then the world should just be rid of him so that there is no doubt.” Myrna spat out quietly, but with unbridled hatred.
He was uncomfortable with this hatred from her, as she’d always been so even-keel. Then again, nothing about his life was going to be comfortable ever again.
“I’m going to go, Myrna. I’m going to go to this meeting that the chief has set up. I’m not going to take any bereavement leave. You’ve seen how fast of a study I can be… but I’ve never been motivated until now, and you know it.” He asserted with confidence, in hope that she would feel some comfort.
“That is one good thing… but I suggest you find that benefactor before that one family, what’s their name?”
“Right—that’s the one. Before the Taggert family finds them. I have the feeling, as I’m sure you do as well… that this benefactor can teach you a lot, probably give you even more. Someone who has a desire for a society of palla-whatever-boy scouts… Couldn’t be the worst place for you to end up. You’ve always leaned more toward law and order anyhow.” Myrna mused before adding; “Now g’wan, git. I may cry my damn self to sleep every night, but I ain’t dyin until someone makes me.”
She made the hand motion to ‘shoo’ him away, even as teardrops formed in her eyes again.
He nodded, kissed her on the cheek, helped her back to her chair and left without another word. She didn’t provide any help whatsoever, beyond a little comic relief and confirmation of what he already knew. Perhaps she was right… she couldn’t provide much more guidance. Maybe she never had provided him any guidance, perhaps it had all just been comfort. It was no large matter, she was the only person left that could comfort him. For that, she was infinitely adored.
Xavien checked his phone for the time; it had just turned 7:30am. He had more than enough time to get to the meeting. No traffic laws would need to be compromised.
He navigated rush-hour traffic with ease and made it to the parking garage with seven minutes to spare. He exited the car and made his way into and through the building until he made it to the press room, which was often used for important meetings. Everyone labored through these meetings because of the free food, fresh coffee and comfortable chairs. Xavien spotted some steak and egg wraps, which had already begun to go quickly. He had not eaten in almost a day, so he quickly swiped up a few. It wasn’t polite to take more than one, but he was less than worried about social convention at this juncture.
His new partner, Andrew Masterson, was already seated at the glossy, giant cherry table. Xavien knew enough to have heard that he often brought prodigious amounts of food for lunch, which he consumed at a ravenous pace. There were many people in the building who ate the same amount, but none of those wasteful gluttons possessed the physique that demanded these extra calories.
Xavien plopped down next to Andrew who cast him a look of silent condolence.
Xavien nodded in appreciation; he felt the slow, steady build of excitement for the new world that awaited him. This was the first time in his life that he was truly doubted and challenged. He’d never had to prove himself before, but he was sure that he was up for it.
The rest of the chairs filled up, which left the rest of the officers to stand. The chief entered at 8am and he addressed the room by naming each of the victims that had been linked to the ‘Immaculate-Artist’. He did not pause or slow when he got to the names of Xavien’s family or his partner. There had been twenty victims in all. After the names, he told one of the officers to turn the lights off in the room.
“Now… just take a moment to think of these victims. Think of their families. Forget that we lost two of our own and think of them as people that could just as well have been related to you. We see a lot of death every day… and as a long time active member of the force, I’ll admit that I just did not give a damn after awhile. It’s easy to care if it hits close to home… But what if it never does? What if we were to sit here and never witness another linked to this sicko? Would that diminish the loss of these people? Would we eventually file this away in the unsolved cases?” The chief paused for dramatic effect. He was good at speeches and it was commonly believed that he wrote them all himself.
“Probably. To be quite honest with you, I have even been guilty of this! I admit it, but I’m only human. I have things to worry about such as—the squeakiest wheel, the biggest threat currently. If someone stops killing, which almost never happens… then we focus on finding the ones that remain a threat. This is a product of our society just as much as it is our fault for… damnit… just failing to do our fucking jobs.”
Pause. Dramatic sigh.
“Fuckit… You assholes are already asleep! Turn the lights back on, I swear that I am going to punch anyone who snores… It’s about time we change the culture of law enforcement in this community and in this state. It’s not just this case that has got me bent out of shape, it’s not just the fact that our own lazy police work allowed Lieutenant Vincent Paguirillo to die mere weeks before his retirement… it’s not even that our department just fucking dropped the ball on the Wesley Landau case… It’s that I went home and tried to tell my wife what happened. You know what? I couldn’t. I could not speak to my wife of fifty years about any of this, because I feared—feared… that she would question how long … if ever … we would catch this motherfucker. Not because of any other reason than how it would look during my country-club time with the governor. It’s not any obvious wrong doing on my part. I don’t truly believe that any of you committed crimes of negligence… but I do believe that all of us are responsible for not caring enough.”
Xavien knew that most officers would tune out at this point… even he would… but everything took a new meaning now. He was also looking for subtext and watching Charles extraordinarily closely.
The room was illuminated once again, the perfect segue to the next part of his speech. Charles Baskerville took a moment to breathe heavily and look at every member in the room, as if to scan for accountability in each member. He then cleared his throat; “And as much as it pains me to move on this so quickly on the heels of his death… we’re in a position where an example needs to be made. We all knew and loved… Pags… around here. He was well respected and did many things well… but the one thing you all did not do, is follow his example. He had a quiet way of leadership, and even though he ducked out of many political entanglements, he impressed many people higher up the food chain. I don’t want to steal the governor’s thunder, so I will leave it at that.”
Another pause for dramatic effect…
“However, it doesn’t seem like his style of leadership rubbed off on you. Maybe he was too subtle… maybe you were just too deaf and blind. Maybe it seemed like he went with the flow too much for your tastes… Whatever the case may be… That’s about to change. I’m going to tell you something… There is an officer in this room that is absolutely better than you in every way. He is what you should strive to be. He surpassed all of my records at the academy for the skill training, some by large margin. I ignored it when he was coming up, because upstarts don’t often pan out. When he pushed and pushed against the grain to get the job done, I dismissed him as a glory-hound that was searching for personal gain. When he solved the case of his mother’s murder and absolutely made my department look like a bunch of imbeciles… I was fucking pissed. But you know what… It was that moment that I learned to take notice of him. So, you know what I’ve done the past three weeks? Read up on everything about him. Apparently… he’s been running this department and making unseen contributions everywhere, without notice, and at great personal expense.”
Many in the room suppressed their eye-rolls. A few did not, and this provided the incentive the chief needed to make a scene. He slammed both hands on the speakerphone and yanked it off of the cord and threw it against the table, which dented the table and shattered the phone into many pieces.
“THIS is what I am talking about. Fuck it. I don’t want to deal with these children and I see no point in further build up. Effective immediately, Sergeant Xavien Va---- Brady… has accepted a promotion to Lieutenant. He will be working closely with Captain Crane to run early performance reviews and make necessary cuts in force. The Lieutenant may be the first to tell you that he isn’t comfortable with this, but right now… I would put a fresh-faced rookie in place of any one of you, if you’ve become dead-weight. They may not be as tough or experienced, but at least they seem to care. Additionally, Brady has been cleaning up your messes for the longest time, so he can very quickly identify the poorest performances. I don’t expect you to congratulate him, but I will… and I suggest you pay attention to the governor’s address later to see what else he has to say on the subject. Do I have your attention, now?”
Apparently, the chief’s speech had elicited an ’oh shit’ from over half of the occupants at the table and almost all of the ones who were standing at the back of the room. It was evident in their eyes, as well as their varied expressions; they ranged from anger to fear and worry.
Xavien sighed. He relished the concept of dropping the axe on the deadwood on this force. It wouldn’t take but a five-minute conversation.
“Good. Additionally, Xavien has assured me that he has his ‘A’ game with him, and will be able to work through the pain of his considerable losses… I will personally be working with the task force that he assembles to strategize our next point of attack on this so-called ‘Immaculate-Artist’. I had some more shit to say, but I’m so fucking disgusted now that I will just wait for the results of the performance reviews and address who is left. There will be a follow up meeting on Friday at 0800 and, I guarantee you there will be fewer familiar faces. Dismissed.”
Xavien was in no way prepared to like anything about the chief, but he did enjoy the effect that it had on the rest of the men in the room. His partner looked at him; “Happy Sunday! Did you get done what you needed?”
Xavien shrugged and wobbled his head a little as if to say, ‘as much as I could’.
“It’ll be an honor working with you… Lieutenant.” Andrew said with a mock flourish. He wasn’t thoroughly disrespectful, but seemed to be pleased that the chief had shut his mouth.
Xavien smiled warmly; “I’m sure the feeling will be mutual, once I get past the fact that I went from the frying pan into the seventh gate of hell.”
“Apropos metaphor…” Andrew remarked.
“Indeed.” Xavien nodded.
The two men rose from their chairs at the same time and exited the conference room. The chief called to Xavien, but he pretended not to hear and continued down the hallway. Then the chief’s voice seemed to ring quietly in his ears, above the hubbub in the room outside and surprised Xavien somewhat.
“Come back here and speak to me.” The chief remarked.
Xavien looked at Andrew; “Did you hear that?”
Andrew looked somewhat lost; “Hear what? I thought the chief said ‘Lieutenant’ as you left but I figured… well, anyway…”
“No, no… you didn’t hear anything else, right?”
“Nope, sorry.” Andrew shrugged.
That was good for Xavien. Perhaps Charles Baskerville hadn’t heard him loudly enough before. His magic tricks and werewolf society weren’t to intrude on Xavien’s life; it didn’t matter if the chief played God in his spare time.
A smile spread slowly across Xavien’s face as he felt challenged in this new way. He was intentionally against the grain in this instance. Andrew was silent, but largely observational. Victor had always been silent due to the fact that he was oblivious to everything.
“What’s the plan, then, Detective?” Xavien looked at Andrew as they entered Xavien’s office.
“Plan? What, for locating evidence that would link my father to the crime? You’re not going to find it. Look, I could smell the substance at your—the crime scene… but it wasn’t a substance made by man or beast. You know what that scent was?” Andrew paused for a split second; “Corruption. Believe it or not, it has a supernatural odor about it. I only pretended that I didn’t smell it so the Captain wouldn’t feel singled out, but… it was there… but how the hell do you explain that to a jury?”
“I get this overwhelming sensation that you’re not going to be helpful, and may only get in my way. Not that I won’t appreciate the information that I learn from you or the insight into—whatever you are… but… so far? You’ve not actually provided a benefit.” Xavien mused in a gentle tone that softened his harsh words somewhat.
“You may find that the knowledge that I have to offer is nowhere near the utility that I will provide whilst in the field. I am going to level with you. Physically and mentally, I am better than you. You have some experience in differing areas, and I do not wish to take away from your accomplishments… but that is just the way things are sometimes. I’m not an upstart, nor do I particularly care too much about looking better than anyone. I am just informing you that my alliance comes with good intentions and a kind spirit. In this world that you are slowly acclimating to, you would do well to collect others like yourself.”
Xavien shook his head; “I don’t operate well alongside others. This is why I enjoyed my last partner; he managed to stay out of my way so that I was able to do my job. At any rate, I played my abilities halfway and ran circles around this department. Even if you are superior physically and mentally, as you say, isn’t that overkill?”
Andrew smiled; “Lieutenant… perhaps you missed my subtext… I’m not here for the human element of our job; not even a little bit. Do I care about humans? Sure, they are the template for many of us in whatever capacity. But I can’t serve a greater purpose with blinders on. I’m not pretending to be any sort of paladin or boy scout… But I do think that the mortal world, with their shroud of ignorance, needs to be preserved. At the same time, there are more criminals than good guys on the other side of the looking glass. I’m one of the few that is driven to destroy their false sense of security. A few more like myself, and perhaps a real difference is made.”
Xavien rolled his eyes and shook his head; “And here I had the impression that this was going to be a good partnership… Honestly, I’m less and less focused on… as you said… mortal law, and more focused on handling one villain at a time. I intentionally avoided this life to do just that. If I wanted to be a member of some fuzzy-mutant-super-friends network, I would have joined that geeks club in that comic shop; the one where they dress up in animal suits and super hero costumes.”
“I dislike furries. I also dislike those who dress as masked vigilantes with delusions of grandeur. I’ve always wanted people to be what they were born to be; coincidentally the exact point father made, despite his horrific execution, if you’ll pardon my phrasing. At any rate… let’s make a bargain. I do my super-good-guy-boy-scout thing, and tag along to help you with this ‘Immaculate-Artist’… and if you want to part ways afterward, we’ll make that happen.
“As it appears that I have no choice in the matter, due to circumstances beyond my control and the elevated level of difficulty related to this particular murderer…” He did not finish that thought pattern. Instead, Xavien refocused on the task at hand; “Does your father have any valuables, assets, hideouts, getaways or loved ones that may provide him shelter?”
“His wife Katija and my step-brother Nick. However, my step-mother isn’t exactly trustworthy, and hasn’t given any feedback yet. Nicky? He’s just a kid who never gets to see his dad. There is something else worthy of mentioning. My step-mother is very sweet to most people, but has a particular obsession with Nick. She makes helicopter parents seem neglectful. To a point… it’s quite unhealthy. She used to pre-chew his food, for example.”
“Relevance?” Xavien asked.
“Even if we get some sort of information, we can’t trust her motives, nor can we trust her mental state.” Andrew stated plainly, before he continued; “Beyond the family home just outside the city, my father has artwork in many major cities and countries. His dark perspective is welcomed across the globe, and has a large following… even outside of the mortal scope.”
“I don’t get the impression you’re like me. May I have some insight into how your talents manifest?” Xavien queried.
“You’ll know when you see it. Beyond that, I do not wish to draw attention to myself. I will say that my talents work on a different plane than yours. There aren’t many of my kind, yet… but that could change very soon. Your scope is more primal and connected to the… wild. Mine is decidedly focused on… just being more human than human. I don’t truly wish to divulge more, as you know the walls have ears, eyes, noses and a wicked sense of smell.”
“So, to answer my question… you have no clue about your father’s whereabouts. The one person that may, will likely lie or prove unreliable. Great. So, we’re truly at square one… especially since you cannot prove that it is your eccentric artist father, regardless of similarity.” Xavien grumbled, discontentedly.
“Pretty much. But, together we should be able to get somewhere.” Andrew offered.
He had some doubts about this; “Sure, whatever. It’s unlike me to feel overwhelmed, but I assume that this feeling will pass. So, I suppose our first order of business is to head to your father’s house and get something more than nothing. It’s more than I had before… If they want to assemble a task force, they can go right ahead. I refuse to get hung up in progress meetings. I’m just going to get this thing solved and hand them the killer.”
“If I may provide a mild correction… We will hand them the killer.” Andrew interjected.
Xavien drew in the left corner of his mouth as he raised his right eyebrow; “Yes. Of course. We.”
He felt the increase in his desire to express his frustration violently.