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“Obstruction of Justice? This is a joke, right?”
“Do I look like I’m laughing?”
Detective Amy Lang wasn’t laughing. Her face seemed set in a permanent scowl. She stood across from Silas in the interrogation room. Her silky, black hair was pulled into a tight ponytail. With her overcoat and blazer removed, Silas noticed her lean figure in white buttoned shirt and pants. The gun at her hip looked heavy enough to tip her over. He assumed she walked with a limp when no one was looking.
“You have a lot of explaining to do, Mr. Black,” she said.
“Comes with the job,” he said. “But first I’d like to know why I’m being charged with such an absurd crime.”
“You took evidence from a crime scene.”
The police detective reached into the valise on her chair and pulled out an evidence bag. Inside was the fetish.
“How did you get that?” Silas asked.
“We recovered it from your apartment,” Lang said.
“You broke into my place?”
“Of course not, your landlady was happy to let us in,” she said. “She even told us where we would find you.”
Silas leaned back in his chair. “Sounds about right.”
“I’d like to know why you thought it appropriate to take key evidence from the scene of a kidnapping.”
“I’m on the case,” Silas said. “I’ve worked on countless cases for the NYPD. Just look it up.”
“I did.” She moved the valise and sat down. Taking out a large file, she dropped it onto the table. Lang deliberately opened the file and leafed through the documents inside.
“In the short time I had getting acquainted with you,” she said, “I’ve discovered a disturbing history of you interfering in NYPD cases. Your file goes back years.”
“Interfering?” Silas allowed himself a laugh. “I’m a consultant, sister.”
“What kind of consultant are you?” she asked. “From what I can see, you have no credentials that make you an asset. You’re a private detective.”
“I’ll enlighten you. I’m an Oxford graduate with degrees in History, Mythology, and Anthropology.”
“That’s very impressive,” Detective Lang said. “And if the NYPD hired you for that expertise, that’d be fine. But all I’m seeing are vague references to ‘extraordinary circumstances.’ Care to explain?”
“I investigate paranormal phenomena,” he said. “If an NYPD case smacks of the Otherworld, they call me.”
“So, how many ghosts have you arrested?”
“Very funny,” Silas said. “But statistically, ghosts are unlikely to commit crimes.”
“Why were you given remarkable access to crime scenes, evidence, even witnesses?” Lang asked. “Normal consultants don’t have that kind of privilege.”
“It’s necessary for my work,” he said. “I need to see everything.”
“Then there’s the damage to private property,” Lang said. “Multiple disruptions to city services. A blackout. All of which were results of your work with the NYPD.”
“You’ve failed to mention the seventeen murderers I helped put away,” Silas said. “Or the ten missing persons I found. How about my commendations? I’m not one to toot my own horn, but those should be mentioned.”
“You still haven’t explained why you took this piece of evidence from Ms. Lisbon’s apartment,” Lang said.
Silas tried to gesture, but it was difficult to do with the handcuffs.
“I needed to study it,” Silas said. “There was the possibility that it matched a picture in one of my books, all of which were at my apartment.”
“You couldn’t have taken a picture?” she said.
“I also wanted to weigh and measure it.”
“And did you find a match?” Lang asked.
He reluctantly answered. “No.”
“So, you haven’t provided anything of value to this case.”
“I’ve been on it for a day,” he said. “Give me some time–“
“I’m afraid your time is up, Mr. Black,” Lang said. “You’re off this case.”
“You can’t do that. Detective McClelland–“
“Is no longer taking point,” she said. “I’ve taken over. And I’ve decided we don’t need outside help.”
“I’m just trying to keep this city safe, detective,” Silas said. “Like you.”
“Do not compare yourself to me.” The look she gave him could’ve frozen alcohol.
“Suit yourself,” he said. “There’s plenty of work out there for all of us. If you’d be so kind as to uncuff me, I’ll be on my way.”
“Do you not understand how this works? You’re not going anywhere.”
“Detective McClelland handed that evidence over to me willingly,” he said. “It was in his purview to do so.”
“His superiors do not agree,” Lang said.
“Be that as it may, I did nothing wrong,” Silas said. “So, unless you want me to call my army of lawyers, I suggest you uncuff me.” He raised his hands. It was a bluff, of course. Silas only knew one lawyer.
“I think I’ll hold onto you for a little while,” Lang said. A shadow of a smile crossed her face. “That’s in my purview.”
Hannah was sitting on the most uncomfortable bench on the planet. After just a few hours, her butt was pretty much numb. She tried sitting up, slouching, and crossing her legs. Nothing was an improvement. The fact that she was handcuffed to the armrest only made it worse.
At one point, she tried to sleep. She was thwarted by the chorus of ringing telephones. The sound mingled with a buzz of conversation, radios, and the constant march of people going in and out the front doors. A busy New York precinct felt like a Russian train platform.
It had begun to rain soon after they had brought Silas and her in. The storm continued for hours until Hannah lost track of time. She occasionally glanced at the officer guarding the door to the interrogation room. He opened it only once, for the woman who earlier that day announced herself as Detective Lang and arrested them. Even the burly guard looked scared of her.
Hannah wondered about her predicament. Will this arrest go on her record? Did she even have a record? How will this impact her career? Could she blog about the experience? At least in a police station, she told herself, she’d be safe from whatever had broken into her apartment.
Thunder boomed against the building. The station lights actually dimmed. In the dark, something plopped down beside her. When the lights returned, she discovered someone else on the bench.
“Hell of a night.”
Hannah looked over with the corner of her eye. She wasn’t sure what she saw. A heap of wet newspapers, garbage bags, and clothes were formed in the shape of a man. It took her a minute to realize he was homeless and those were his clothes. A web of gray hair covered most of his face. The stench of sewage wafted from him like waves of heat. He was staring at her, apparently waiting for a response.
“Is it nighttime already?” she said, unsure if she should be engaging him.
The man nodded. His head moved around loosely, like a bobblehead toy.
“Never liked the rain,” he said. “Makes the city bleed like an oil painting. Know what I mean?”
Hannah was convinced she shouldn’t have engaged him. She nodded noncommittally and looked away. The man settled back on the bench. He seemed to lose interest in her. Hannah started to retreat into her thoughts when she heard him stir. The man’s breathing slowed down. He sniffed the air in a long, deliberate gasp. She had heard that sound before.
Hannah squeezed herself into her corner of the bench. “No, it’s not.”
“He’s been looking for you,” the homeless man said. Gurgling filled his throat until the words were almost lost. “He’s been looking!”
Hannah reached into her shirt and touched the necklace. She looked at the homeless man. His eyes were pools of black. From beneath his clothes appeared a sticky, throbbing hand. Hannah squeezed the talisman. She felt a rush of heat move through her arm. The man’s eyes cleared. He seemed confused as he looked around.
“Get away from her, prick.”
A rolled-up magazine smacked the man’s face. He lurched back, eyeing Detective McClelland fearfully. The cop uncuffed Hannah from the bench and motioned for her to get up. She rubbed her wrist as she stood from the bench. McClelland walked back to his desk and she assumed he wanted her to follow. She gave the bench one last glance. The homeless man was snoring contently.
McClelland nodded to a fellow cop, thumbing back over his shoulder. “Lewis, throw that joker in the drunk tank.” He reached a battered metal box that was his desk and sat down. Kicking over a chair, he looked at Hannah and pointed at it.
She complied. “What’s this all about, Rick? Am I really in trouble?”
“No, you’re fine,” he said.
“Then why was I handcuffed to a bench all day?”
“Sorry, it’s like Dresden around here,” McClelland said. “We kind of forgot about you.”
“Wonderful. Can I go?”
“You can, but I’d like to ask you a few questions.”
Hannah sighed as she rubbed her temples. “Like what?”
“Oh, I dunno, let’s start with why we found you palling around with Silas Black?” he asked.
“Is that a crime?” she said.
“Dammit, Rhodes, just answer the question. Are you still bothering him for a story?”
Hannah considered telling McClelland the truth. But her faith in the NYPD had diminished over the last few hours. What McClelland had offered sounded like a reasonable lie, so she went with it.
“I thought a day-in-the-life approach would be better for the piece,” she said. “Get a full picture of what Silas really does.”
“I’m amazed he let you follow him around,” McClelland said. “How’d you swing that?”
“I convinced him it was good PR.”
The police detective watched her for a moment. “Sure, whatever. So, what were you guys doing at the bookstore?”
“Silas was following up on the case,” she said. “The store owner was, like, an expert on antique stuff.”
“And what did he have to say?”
“I have a few questions of my own, Rick, like why the hell you arrested your friend?”
“I didn’t arrest Silas. Lang did,” he said.
“You were right there with her.”
“It wasn’t my decision,” McClelland said. “Lang has some clout with City Hall and forced her way onto the case. She got wind of the fetish and demanded to see it. I had to come clean. She blew the whistle and got me in trouble with my captain.”
“How bad is it?” Hannah asked.
“All depends on how this case turns out,” he said. “If Silas’s involvement hurts our chances, then I’m in for it.”
“Hurt your chances?” she said. “But he’s helped you before, you said it yourself. You were the one who called him.”
“Lang doesn’t see it that way,” McClelland said. “She thinks his work with the NYPD is suspicious. Was able to convince my superiors likewise.”
“What’s she got against Silas?” she asked. “Other than his personality?”
McClelland snorted a laugh. “She’s just made detective and feels she has to prove herself. My bet, she doesn’t want an outsider to show her up.”
“And I’m guessing she doesn’t buy the paranormal stuff,” Hannah said.
“Few people do,” he said. “So, as you can see, the faster we put this case to bed the better. Anything you heard at the bookstore can help. I doubt Silas will be very forthcoming after this.”
“Isn’t he working with you?” she asked.
“Hannah, we just arrested him for taking evidence. Of course not. Lang dropped him from the case immediately.”
“Oh. All I can tell you is that we–Silas–thinks the fetish is a burial token. Some kind of religious thing. He was trying to find out specifics.”
“Burial token? How does that help us?”
“You’ll have to ask him,” she said. “If he’s willing to talk.”
The police detective let out a heavy groan. “Peaches.”
“Tell me something, Rick,” Hannah said, “is he really a big help?”
“More than I’m willing to admit,” he said.
“You’ve had cases with ghosts and goblins?”
“I’ve never seen any goblins,” McClelland said. “But I’ve seen too much in this line of work to doubt anything. I can’t explain it all, but I know that kid’s helped me save lives. That’s all I care about.”
A buzzing noise came from Hannah’s bag. She rifled through it until she found her phone. McClelland nodded and she got up and walked into an empty, much quieter, breakroom. The caller ID said: NYPD. Confused, she answered it.
“It’s me,” Silas said.
“Where are you?”
“I’m still at the station,” he said. “This is my one phone call.”
“Why are you calling me?” she asked. “I’m still here.”
“In a breakroom.” She looked through the door into the main office area. Silas, gripping the receiver of a payphone. She waved to him.
“Crap, I wasted my call.”
“How did you get my number?” she asked.
“I rummaged through your phone when you were asleep this morning,” he confessed. “A lot of pictures of sunsets. Too many.”
“So, there’s no such thing as a code of privacy with detectives?” she said.
“Of course, not.”
“What do you need?” she asked.
“They might be keeping me for a while,” Silas said.
“Are they pressing charges?” Hannah asked.
“They got nothing. But they’ll keep me through the night, just to ruffle my feathers. Buzz Mrs. Plonka to get into my apartment. Apparently, she has no trouble doing that.”
“Are you gonna be okay in here?”
“I’ll be fine,” he said. “Not the first time I slept in a holding cell. Just hope it has Pay-per-View.”
“I doubt it.”
“That was a joke, Groucho. Have you talked to anyone here?”
“Just McClelland,” she said.
“Big help he’s been,” Silas said. “Get out of here as soon as you can. These guys aren’t on our side.”
“We’re still after the same bad guy,” Hannah said.
“That’s not what I mean,” he said. “This Lang’s got it out for me. She’ll pounce on anything. Watch what you say.”
Hannah put her phone away and returned to McClelland.
“Are we done, Rick?” she asked. “I want to get out of here.”
“Yeah, we’re good.” He looked at her for a long minute before speaking again. “You know you can tell me if anything’s wrong.”
“What are you talking about?” Hannah said.
“I know we only have a professional relationship, barely one at that. You kind of annoy me, Rhodes.”
“Are you getting to the point?” she asked.
“If you’re ever in trouble, don’t hesitate to come to me,” he said. “I am an officer of the law. I care about helping people.”
“Why are you telling me this, Rick?”
“Whatever you’re really doing with Silas, just be careful.”
All in all, the holding cell could have been better. It was spacious, sure. Silas didn’t have to share it with anyone else. The floor was clean and he had unlimited access to running water. There was even a toilet. But, in the end, it was still jail. The cops were kind enough to let him keep his greatcoat, seeing as how it was in the low Fifties. The pockets, however, had been emptied. Silas laughed, thinking how much paperwork the desk clerk had to fill out for his belongings.
The door to the holding cells swung open. Silas listened to the rhythm of feet as they clomped down the hall towards him. Doc Martin loafers. Wingtips, if he had to guess. He even knew who was wearing them. Silas wasn’t surprised to see McClelland standing in front of his cell door.
“Come to bust me out, copper?”
McClelland shook his head. “No dice.”
Silas sat up on the slab of metal that served as his bed. Three sides of the cell were solid brick, with the fourth being iron bars. He stared at McClelland.
“Then why are you here?” he asked. “Come to gloat?”
“Why would I gloat, Silas?”
“Oh, I dunno. I always assumed, deep down inside, you wanted to see me in one of these.”
“I’m not petty,” McClelland said. “I always valued your help.”
“And yet, here we are. Or, better put, here I am.”
“Silas, let it go,” he said. “You know as well as I do you’ll be out by morning. Sooner, if you bothered to call a lawyer.”
“Then I assume you’re fishing for information about the case,” Silas said.
“Maybe. There anything to fish up?”
“Sorry to disappoint,” he said, “but I got nothing solid.”
McClelland sighed. “You’re not saying that because you’re in there?”
“You think I’d spoil a case out of spite?”
The police detective stared at Silas, trying to make up his mind. “No, I don’t think so.”
“At least your brain’s still working.”
McClelland rapped his knuckles against the bars. He looked up and down the hall.
“Was there something else, detective?” Silas asked.
He shrugged. “Just wondering how your caseload’s been lately. Staying busy?”
“Things have a way of finding me,” Silas said. “I’m sure I’ll find something to do.”
McClelland nodded. “That’s good to hear. So, you’d probably be busy with other work, once you get out?”
Silas leaned forward. “I can be. But then again, I can always keep my schedule open. Why are you so concerned?”
“I’m not,” McClelland said. “I got plenty to worry about, myself. Especially this Emily Lisbon case. In fact, the sooner I can put it away the better.”
“I know I’d feel better, knowing there were other people out there looking for her,” the cop said.
“Just… keep your ear to the ground.”
“It’s in the dirt,” Silas said. “Got anything for me?”
Reaching into his coat, McClelland pulled out a sheave of paper. “We dug up everything we could on Lisbon. No family in the Tri-State area. Closest relative’s a great aunt in Arizona.”
“Dead ends, then.”
“We talked with her coworkers and friends,” McClelland said. “She spent most of the time at the diner; didn’t go out much. Another waitress mentioned she went on a date a week or so ago, but it doesn’t sound promising.”
“Was she religious?” Silas asked.
“Just wondering if she was involved in any pre-Christian cults,” he said.
“Not that I’m aware of,” McClelland said.
“Aside from her social life, there’s nothing of note?”
The cop shook his head. “She was a regular, working-class gal. About a million of them in the city.”
“That’s what worries me.” Silas took the papers McClelland stuck through the bars. “I’ll give ’em a once over. Twice, seeing as how it’s all I got to read.”
He laid back down on the slab.
“So, what’s the deal with Rhodes?” McClelland asked. “She doing a story on you?”
“Of course, not,” Silas said. “I don’t photograph well.”
“Then why is she following you around?”
“Helping out on the case,” Silas said as he flipped through the report.
“Out of the goodness of her heart?” the cop asked.
“Looks that way.”
“Listen, Black. Rhodes’s a good kid. She can be annoying, but she’s just trying to do the right thing.”
“How do you know her?” Silas asked.
“She showed up a few months ago,” McClelland said. “Sniffing around for stories. But I’ll tell ya, Hannah’s tenacious. She’ll go the extra mile for a cause.”
“Maybe she’s doing it for her ego,” Silas said.
“Just give Rhodes a break,” McClelland said. “Give her what she needs and let her go.”
“Let her go?” Silas asked. “What does that mean?”
“I know you, Black. Few people can handle your world. Hannah might not come out of it unscathed.”
“She’s a big girl, Rick.”
“Listen, you and I can handle trouble,” McClelland said. “We’re used to the chaos. She isn’t.”
“You sound surprisingly paternal,” the detective said.
The cop shrugged. “I’ve seen too many dead kids.”
“I’ll file your comments under advisement,” Silas said.
“Like everything else I tell you.”
“She’s not the first person I’ve worked with,” Silas said.
“That’s why I’m so worried.”
Silas put down the papers. His expression wasn’t friendly.
“Are we done?” he asked.
McClelland nodded and slowly left the holding cells. Silas listened to the door close behind him before going back to the report. However, his reading time was cut short as the lights went out. Silas threw down the papers and ran to the cell door.
“Lights out already?” he said to no one in particular. “What is this, Summer camp?”
Silas felt his way to the slab and sat down. He contemplated going to bed, but he normally fell asleep sometime after 2 AM. Stretching his legs out, he leaned his head against the wall. A noise from the next cell drew his attention. At first, he thought it was the usual labored breathing of someone sleeping it off. But the rhythm was aggressive. He could make out the low rumble of a voice. Someone was chanting.
Quietly, Silas moved to the wall and listened. Whoever it was speaking in a garbled mixture of English, Latin, and a little bit of German. Silas made out words like “eternal,” “master,” and “black fire.” The chanting abruptly stopped. The stranger laughed.
“You okay in there?” Silas asked.
He took a sharp intake of breath. It sounded wet with saliva. “Who speaks?”
“Just another inmate,” Silas said. “What they got you on?”
“I did nothing wrong,” said the voice. “I only slumber until the coming dawn.”
“So, what were you chanting?” Silas asked.
“I speak the words of the ancient land,” he said.
“Sounded like English to me.”
“A harvest is blooming in the Black Year,” the stranger said.
“Oh, the harvest,” Silas said. “Sure.”
“The harvest comes when the heads are ripe. In the Black Year, all will be found, all will be lost.”
Silas grew worried. The stranger was making too much sense. “Who told you about this harvest, buddy?”
He heard the stranger run at the wall. Silas took a step back.
“Across the void of the Otherworld he speaks. The Weeping Eye will know him. And the Master rides to victory.”
“Who’s the master?”
Slowly the stranger receded to the back of his cell. “All that is needed is the vessel.”
Silas tried to get more out of the man. But there was no response. He moved back to his slab and sat down. He felt strange as if there was a heaviness in the air. The detective tried closing his eyes, but he sensed someone watching him every time. Holding his breath he listened for the stranger. Not even his breathing was audible. Silas didn’t sleep that night.
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