Played Your Eyes 2: Tracking Shot

‘So, Banks, do you wake up every morning looking like you tried to fuck a porcupine?’
‘Did I invite you in? I seriously doubt it – I gave up on poisonous cunts the day I dropped out of my mother and she walked away from me.’
‘You know you have an appointment today, yes? With the head of ARMY?’
‘Yeah, I’d heard something along those lines. Some stuck up bint gave me a phone call and told me I need to get myself detoxed.’
‘So you – ‘
‘So I went and got seriously fucked up, yes. Why? Because I haven’t written anything of worth in a long time and I was hoping that if I took enough drugs you all just might evaporate. But of course I am still held by the rules of some arcane contract that dredges me up out of the shitter every time they need some dispensible turd to go and stir up the other shit that floats around the bowl they call England.’
‘Yeah – okay – so how much detox juice am I going to have to pump you full of before you approach being somewhat more human?’
‘Are you sure you want to do that? I’m a bastard when I’m intoxicated, but I am way worse when I have sobered up – especially if you enforce rapid cold turkey.’
She looked at him – seriously, was this some kind of joke? A puke covered addict who according to the column inches he had managed to rack up since his spectacular implosion had barely been given the time of day by a single editor on even the smallest newspaper. She had to babysit this narcissistic no-mark prick while he jacked every known narcotic in the book into his veins? Was this just some kind of colossal fuck you to ARMY? It seemed kind of pathetic and low that this was all they could muster – here’s your big story so we’re sending you the worst journalist in the country to cover it. What did it say about what they thought of her? Asa Blumen one time hope of female journalists in the industry having to mollycoddle this fuckwit.
Banks leaned himself just close enough to the edge of the bed so he could puke on the floor. He began scrabbling inside the bag that was next to him on the bed and fished out a handful of ampoules of some dark scarlet drug.
‘Are you not worried you’ll OD?’
‘No, I have the constitution of cornfed cheerleader, and all that after I’ve been more fucked up than a funk band and an after party.’
Asa hit the speed-dial for Hunt Parser her editor.
‘Hunt – this is Asa Blumen; I have a question for you, sir, with all due respect, is this assignment some kind of fucking joke?’
‘Oh yes, Asa, of course it is. But the thing is you aren’t in on the joke, and you won’t be. You’re there to do a job – except if you ever call me again and use the tone you just used you’ll be writing the obituaries of diseased parrots and three-legged dogs from now until you retire. I can find some pimply intern who will be more than happy to shepherd our resident junky fuck-up around for minimum wage. Yes, you’re a babysitter, but you’re a very expensive one – so please quit your whining and do what you have to do to het him ready.’

Else City – Part 2: Grave Talk

He wasn’t exactly sure what he was expecting the doctor to do in order to revive the body but the implement he produced looked simultaneously arcane and futuristic. He brandished it with a flourish and a grin that nearly skinned O’Halligan. Too bloody theatrical — that, he thought, was his problem with the whole bloody place: full of drama queens and amateur dramatics enthusiasts. He was not going to fit in here and that pained him because God knew how long he was going to have to spend here. These dimensions had weird rules about death and the existence you spent here.

‘And that is?’

‘The Lazarus Redial.’

‘Jesus, give me a fucking break.’

‘What?’ said Forbes’Let him have his fun. You try doing what he does on a daily basis and not feeling the need to spice it up by giving things crackpot names. The Doc is one of the more normal people you’re going to meet so you should savour this while you can.’

The doctor turned that manic grin on him again and spinning the the device around his fingers, paused briefy, then like lightning pushed the needle that sprang from it’s end into the flesh of the corpse.

There was a loud farting noise and a sigh.

‘What was that?’ asked O’Halligan.

‘The body on the slab just farted.’

‘Oh.’

‘Excuse me,’ said the body sitting up ‘Didn’t expect to find myself back here, what’s going on? Goddamn, it hurts.’

‘You were killed by something and we were wondering if you might be able to provide us with some information as to what exactly did it.’

‘And you are?’

‘Detective Forbes, Else City Police Department, Homicide Division. Your name please, for the record.’

‘Langston Through. I worked in real estate — I was showing a house — you’ll forgive me but I can’t recall where but it should be in my diary — anyw-a-a-y we distu-u-u-rbed a ne-e-s-t.’

The corpse’s eyes rolled back in its skull and it slumped back onto the slab.

‘Well, that was interesting,’ said O’Halligan sparking up ‘A nest? So we just call the exterminators, eh?’

‘He’s funny, eh, Forbes?’

‘Rib-crackingly hilarious, Doctor. We’ll run a check on Langston Through — shouldn’t be hard to find; real estate isn’t big business out here. If you can k-print him and snap me some aura pics that would be a big help.’

‘No problem. Good luck, O’Halligan.’

‘Thanks.’

Else City – Part 1: Scar Tissue

It wasn’t exactly sleep, more like throwing a switch and laying in a darkened room. Un-life – weirder than the fucking Bardo by anybody’s standards. His scars were itchy as fuck – damn, shouldn’t they stop itching once you had expired? He was not looking forward to work; part of him couldn’t believe he had died out of a nine to five routine to be forced into one yet again. The bummer was that he had been marked up as a suicide when someone had killed him and made it look like that. Thank christ they hadn’t forced him to take a residence on the top floor with the useless cases and their lemming impulses. It was only his place on the force that had got him some lenience on that score. Well, either that or the fact that despite him being called a suicide they knew well and good that he was a murder victim.

Most of the food was shit here. Didn’t seem anyone was bothered about doing anything nice for themselves anymore. You would have thought that a continued existence would have been some kind of motivator, but then you were expecting people who were bad at life to somehow get better. He wanted some small comforts and there had to be some way of securing them – you just had to know the right people.

The phone rang. Two rings and then it cut off. His mobile phone started to cheep – literally to cheep; and it seemed that one of the rules of his time here that it was going to be impossible to change that ring tone.

‘Yeah? Who is it?’

‘O’Halligan, nice phone manner. You need to get yourself here pronto. Your partner says she has a lead on the case you’ve been assigned.’

‘Oh.’

‘Oh, indeed. I understand you haven’t been here very long but you’ll settle in nicely. You don’t have much choice. Do you?’

‘I suppose not. I’ll be there asap.’

The place seemed to have a sense of humour – the taxi service was provided by hearses. They were fairly speedy and it took no time at all to get to the station. He booked in at the front desk and got directions to the morgue where he was told his partner was waiting for him.

The body was on the slab and it looked a right mess – a mess in the way that Jack The Ripper’s handiwork looked. Well, not exactly though – there was no finesse to this at all. He had to admit that he was slightly shocked to see a dead body here. A dead body? How exactly did you describe it?

‘I know what you’re thinking, O’Halligan, and the term we use for bodies in this realm is extinguished. We think of the life-force as an energy burning to run an engine.’

‘Seems a bit weird.’

‘Always does at first. You won’t feel like a rookie for long – you learn fast here; it’s unavoidable. ‘

‘So you’re my partner, Forbes?’

‘Yeah, nice to meet you.’

‘Nice to meet you. So how exactly does forensics work here?’

‘Energy fields, kirlian photographs, karmic fingerprints – a lot of esoteric bullshit is how it seems at first but it works.’

‘OK.’

‘So what have you discovered?’

‘That this wasn’t just something that has been going on for a short time. That this person was tortured for months. Their body, or rather their skin, is pretty much criss-crossed with scar tissue all over. I hate to think how long it took, how it felt; and I hate to think what kind of creature was capable of doing this to them.’

‘When you say creature, do you mean … creature?’

‘Maybe, you got to expect some weird shit out here. This isn’t Kansas after all, Dorothy.’

‘That’s for sure. So how long have you been here?’

‘Well, now that would be telling, wouldn’t it?’

‘Erm, yeah, that’s why I asked – so you’d tell.’

A spindly looking guy with big spectacles stepped into the room. He smelt the same way that all morticians smelt – like he had been preserved in aspic. O’Halligan always found them unnerving people to be around, and having no idea what in the hell passed for forensic science around here, especially given what Forbes had just talked of, this guy made him doubly wary.

‘So what are you going to do?’

‘Talk to the corpse.’

‘Talk to the corpse?’

‘Yes, talk to the corpse.

‘It has moved on from this realm but we can drag it back for the purpose of the investigation. Once you get to these levels death is a strange beast for sure.’

‘If it’s all a matter of perspective then how does it constitute a crime?’

‘Is that not obvious? If you force someone somewhere they don’t want to go then that is what makes it a crime. We’re here to police causality – if a cause is anything other than natural then it’s our business.’

‘Oh.’

‘Did you not get the handbook?’

‘Erm, people actually read that stuff?’

‘Yeah, it’s kind of a survival manual. Once the disbelief wears off and you actually realise where you are then having some kind of clue how to deal with the things that inhabit this place can come in handy. Not to say that they usually wait for you to become a believer before they’ll have a go at you.’

‘Forbes, is he on the level?’

‘Afraid so – you tend to find that everything here runs counter to expectations. The weirder someone is and the less likely it seems to be that they are telling the truth – it probably means they are as honest as the day is long. Days are longer here by the way.’

‘Yeah, and the nights.’

‘It doesn’t have anything to do with any sun either – that burning orb in the sky is the relic of some god that plucked out their eye because it offended them. It sleeps. It was fashionable – the moon belonged to his twin apparently.’

‘Oh-Kay.’

‘Anyway, to business …’

Grit 2

Grimoire had been expecting him. He knew Grit’s reputation – knew he wouldn’t run from what he had done; that wasn’t his way. Grit was one of the few old school gangsters still out there – one of those that you could rely on. If he had done Slight in then the guy had probably deserved it. That was all fine, but Grimoire had a target that had now gone to ground – one that would not be easy to flush out into the open.

‘I hope you don’t expect to get paid for that cock up?’

‘Course not. I came here to see what you needed me to do to set this straight.’

‘Hunt down and kill the fucking turd I sent you out there to kill.’

‘OK.’

‘Need I say that if you fuck up this time then our business will only be concluded when you have a bullet through your skull?’

‘Goes without saying.’

Grit made his way to the door. One of the goons had moved to block him. With a slight turn of the head he noticed Grimoire raise his hand and the door ape stepped aside.

‘Oh, Mr Grit, I just thought it would be sporting to let you know that Slight’s family and some of his old crew want your head on a plate. They’ll know you’ve been here – they probably have us staked out, unwise as that kind of thing is.’

‘No surprises there then.’

Grit got outside and his eyes drilled the angles with a sniper’s vision. Nothing. Perhaps they were scared. If they didn’t attack right out then he had to be careful of sneak attacks. He checked under his car before he got in it. He started it up and was just pulling out when a loud crack was followed by the side window showering him in glass.

‘You wait until I’m in my car, you dumb cunt?’

Grit drove straight at him and the idiot just stood there like he was the immoveable object. His head cracked the windscreen and he hit the roof like a sack of spuds. Grit watched him hit the ground and guessed his wrists probably shattered with the impact. Hmm, he thought, broken wrists are the least of your problems. Grit drove a volvo – it was like a fucking tank; he didn’t need any fancy shit to get him around. It worked a treat in this case – crunch, and there was one less dumb fucker from the Slight clan to trouble the world. Grit didn’t care who the fuck it was – he had things to do; he had to track down this guy for Grimoire and he had to end his life.

He had to watch Grimoire though, that much was definite. A warning that close to an attempt on his life seem too much of a coincidence.