Monday, May 14, 2012

Monsters: A Capetales Preview

Good morning, gentle readers.
Today, instead of rambling on about writing, I'm going to share one of the stories from my collection of super-heroic fiction, Capetales
Capetales is available for FREE at .  Simply follow the link at the top of the page to my Smashwords Author Page if you'd like to download the entire collection.
* * * * *
            The body on the slab was headless, the flesh gray beneath the harsh lights of the examination room.  Jack Lotus stood with his back against the wall, watching the specialist from the Lodge bend over the body.  Germain St. Greer was drop-dead gorgeous, with an amazing ass.  Lotus was pretty sure he could stand there and watch it all day.  Sadly, that wasn’t going to happen.
St. Greer straightened and turned.  She had the most devastating green eyes that Jack had ever seen.  “How many others have there been?”
She wasn’t talking to him, but to the other man in the room.  The guy’s face looked like someone had used a cheese grater on it.  The left side was a mess of puckered, white scar tissue.  The right side of his mouth twitched.
“Three,” said Sheriff Kevorkian.
The Lodge woman turned her attention to Lotus and there was nothing warm in her gaze. “And you jerkoffs are just calling us in now?”
Despite himself, Lotus flinched.  “We thought they were just regular murders.”
“They’re not,” snapped St. Greer.  She glanced at the corpse.  “Congratulations, gentlemen. You’ve got a vampire problem.”
* * * * *
Terrorville wasn’t an easy town to find, tucked away in the back of beyond, and the residents preferred it that way.  Jack Lotus couldn’t blame them.
Driving down Main Street, the town looked like a slice of early 20th Century Americana. The kind of place that Norman Rockwell might have immortalized.  The town park had a bandstand that was still used.
Yeah, thought Jack.  Rockwell would have loved this place, as long as he never met the locals.  Jack, himself, was grateful for his car’s tinted windows. He’d seen a lot of weird shit in his life, but nothing could really prepare you for Terrorville.
It was midday now, and the town was quiet.  A lot of the stores along Main Street were closed.  They wouldn’t open until after sundown.  Terrorville and its residents were largely nocturnal.
Still, as Jack cruised past, the door to a bank opened and one of the townsfolk stepped into the sunlight.  The woman was fat and pale, with skin like white cheese.  Wisps of gray hair clung to her skull.  She turned, to glance at the car, and Jack saw the gray tumors, erupting from the flesh of her face and neck.  Her eyes were white as chalk.
“Fuck,” murmured Jack.
The Lodge woman glanced at him.  “You okay?”
“Doesn’t this place get to you?”
She looked at him, and said, flatly, “I’ve been to worse.”
“I don’t think I want to know,” said Jack.
“Then you’re smarter than you look,” said St. Greer.  “You can drop me off at the hotel, then get out of town.”
Jack frowned.  “I was told . . . ”
“I don’t care what you were told,” said St. Greer.  “This is a Lodge operation now, Agent Lotus.”  Her voice was cold, crisp.  “Go back to Virginia and tell your director to get ready for a ream job, because you people really dropped the ball on this one.”
“Christ, lady!” snapped Jack.  “You want to ease off on the attitude?”
“No,” said St. Greer.  “Have you ever faced a vampire, Agent Lotus?”
“No, but. . . .”
“They’re evil in a way you can’t possibly conceive,” said the Lodge woman.  “Forget everything you think you know about them.  They aren’t effete, they aren’t romantic, and they don’t sparkle.  They’re the most dangerous things in the world.  Omega-level predators.  Can you understand that?”
Jack snorted.  “They don’t sound any different from some of the supervillains I’ve met.”
“They are.  Killjoy may be a psychopathic murderer, but he’s still human.  Adrian Lute may want to take over the world, but he doesn’t plan on killing everyone.”
“And vampires do?”
“Every vampire in the world, Agent Lotus, is an extinction-level event just waiting to happen.”
“If that was the case, lady, wouldn’t we all be dead by now?” asked Jack.
“We’ve been lucky,” said St. Greer. 
They had reached the hotel, a Gothic bed & breakfast a few blocks over from Main Street.  Jack parked the car and turned to St. Greer. 
“So, if these things are as bad as you say, what’s the worst case scenario for this mission?”
“I fail and Terrorville gets cauterized.”
She looked into his eyes and said, “The Lodge comes in and burns the place and everyone in it down to ashes.”
Jack blinked.  St. Greer opened her door and slid out of the car. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
She looked at him with something like pity.  “No.  Get out of town, Agent Lotus.”
With that, she shut the door, turned and vanished inside the hostel.
* * * * *
Sunset arrived and Terrorville came to life.  Germain St. Greer stood at her window and watched childlike things burst out of the house across the street.  They were pale and twisted, with bristly orange hair and hooting voices.  The children rampaged joyously across the front lawn, joined by others from the surrounding houses.  Germain turned away from the window, to her case. 
It was time to get to work.
* * * * *
Sheriff Kevorkian was waiting for her in the foyer.  He had spent the time, chatting amiably with the bed and breakfast’s owner, a woman who would have been pretty if not for the second mouth, fanged and gaping, in her throat. 
Germain had decided not to take the subtle approach with this mission.  When she walked into the foyer, she was wearing a matt black skinsuit that was almost indecently tight. Over this, she wore a black jacket with several pockets.  A gunbelt hung on her narrow waist.
Kevorkian took a breath and noted a curious scent coming from the government woman.  A sort of musky odor that made all the fine hairs on his neck stand on end.
“Miss St. Greer?”
“We should go,” she said.  “Moonlight’s burning.”
Kevorkian said his goodbyes to Miss Calhoun, and hurried after her.  The mouth in Miss Calhoun’s throat growled its disapproval.
* * * * *
St. Greer was seated in his squad car when Kevorkian got there.  The government woman had a PVA in one gloved hand.  Kevorkian slid behind the wheel.
“Where to?”
He tried to ignore the perfume she was wearing, but in the confines of the car it was difficult.
“Before we go anywhere, sheriff, I should tell you something.”
“Terrorville has been sealed,” said St. Greer.
Kevorkian frowned.  “What do you mean, sealed?”
“I mean that nothing is getting in or out of this town until my investigation is complete.”
“How are you . . .  ?”
“That doesn’t matter,” said St. Greer.  “All that matters is finding the vampire and destroying it. Do you understand?”
“I guess, but. . . .”
“No,” she interrupted him.  “This is a yes or no proposition, sheriff.  When we find this thing, we aren’t going to arrest it or reason with it.  I’m going to kill it.  Do you understand?”
“Yes, but. . . .”
“And,” continued St. Greer, “I will kill anyone who gets in the way.”
Kevorkian swallowed.  “I understand.”
“Good,” said St. Greer.  “Let’s go.”
* * * * *
Even a place like Terrorville had its bad parts, areas where respectable residents wouldn’t go willingly.  The Hester Sumner Community Housing Projects was the bad part of Terrorville.  It was government subsidized housing, a series of low-cost apartments built near the fetid waters of Lake Dante.  The Projects were home to the lowest of the low, junkies and criminals, chronic alcoholics and the unemployable. 
“Parasites,” growled Sheriff Kevorkian, as he guided his cruiser down Laurel Avenue.  There were no street lights here, the only illumination provided by moonlight and what light escaped from the dark confines of the Projects.  Most of that was the flickering light of television screens.
At the corner, stood a trio of youths wearing identical red hoodies.  They gave the police car baleful stares as it slid past.  One of the teenagers pulled out a cell phone and started dialing.
“Stop the car,” said St. Greer.
No sooner had Kevorkian touched the brakes, than St. Greer had her door open and was out of the vehicle.  She crossed the distance between the car and the three teenagers at a flat run.  Her appearance seemed to render the teenager speechless with shock.  She slapped the cell phone out of the one kid’s hand and wrapped her hand around his throat.
Up close, the kid had a face like a  Dali painting.  The features weren’t in their normal places and the bones under the parchment-like skin seemed half melted. 
One of the other kids, tall and gangly, too sharp bones breaking through his skin here and there, threw himself at St. Greer.  She kicked him in the balls. Hard.  The kid folded up, clutching his privates.
The third kid turned and ran.
“Shoot him,” St. Greer told Kevorkian.
“Are you nuts?” said the sheriff.
Scowling, St. Greer pulled her gun free of its holster.  Still gripping the one kid by the throat, she turned, aimed, fired at the one fleeing.  The gun made no noise, but the runner squealed like a stuck pig and hit the ground, twitching.
“Jesus H. Christ!” Kevorkian had his gun out now, staring at St. Greer.  “Are you crazy, lady? You can’t go around shooting people!”
“I can and I will,” said St. Greer.  She glanced at Kevorkian and sighed, hefted her gun.  “Stun rounds.”
The sheriff swore and hurried over to the gunshot kid.  St. Greer turned back to the one she was holding.  Lifting her gun, she pressed it against his temple.
“Who were you warning?”
The Dali-faced kid went pale.  The air suddenly smelt strongly of urine.
“I won’t ask again,” said St. Greer.
“If I tell you, he’ll kill me,” said the kid.
“If you don’t, I’ll kill you,” said St. Greer.
The kid’s eyes widened and slid from side to side, desperately looking for a way out.  His gaze fell on the sheriff who had returned.
“Sheriff! You gotta do something! This lady’s crazy!”
“Tell her what she wants to know, Adrian,” said Kevorkian. 
“But . . . ”
St. Greer lifted him off the ground, one-handed.  The kid flailed his arms and legs.  He gasped for air around the woman’s fingers.
“Talk,” said St. Greer, dumping the kid back on the ground.
He looked up, tears and snot running down his face.  He was flushed, his throat bruised. Frightened eyes appealed to Kevorkian, but the sheriff just shook his head.   Adrian hung his head.
“Satchmo?” said St. Greer.
The kid nodded.
“Where can I find him?”
“The big house on Harbert,” said the kid.
“Thank you,” said St. Greer, then lifted her gun and shot the kid in the chest.
Kevorkian stared.
“It’s for his own good,” said St. Greer.  “And ours.  This way, he won’t be able to warn Satchmo that we’re coming.”
“Did it occur to you that Satchmo could just be a dealer?”
“No,” said St. Greer.  She fired a round into the third kid, the who was still clutching his nuts.  “Let’s go.”
* * * * *
Kevorkian parked the squad car a block from their destination.  He scratched the scarred half of his face.  In the passenger seat, St. Greer had her PVA open. Her face was green in the glow from the handheld’s screen.
“What?” asked Kevorkian.
“The property is owned by a man named Abraham Milan.”
“Milan’s records stop five years ago.”
“He’s a fake?” asked the sheriff.
“It looks that way,” said St. Greer.  “You should stay here.”
“If Satchmo or Milan or whoever is the vampire, I won’t need the distraction.”
She climbed out of the car.  Kevorkian followed her.
“I could help,” he said.
St. Greer had pulled out a small, black aerosol can from her jacket.  She popped the top and began to spray her body.  Kevorkian inhaled a scent like musk and rotten flowers.  He reared back, gagging.
“What the hell is that?”
“Concentrated sex pheremones,” said St. Greer.  “Extracted from a female vampire.”
“And you’re covering yourself with it because?”
“I’m making myself irresistible,” said St. Greer.  She tossed the empty can aside.  “Wait for me here.  Hopefully this won’t take long.”
* * * * *
Harber Avenue was dark and quiet.  St. Greer noted the lack of street lights.  She turned and saw the center of Terrorville, glowing by gaslight.  The streets immediately around the downtown area were also illuminated, but the farther one got from the center of Terrorville, the darker the streets became.
The house she was approaching was the largest on the street.  It was a monstrous Queen Ann with a wraparound porch.  The front lawn was immaculate and populated with statues of merry lawn gnomes.  St. Greer walked up the steps to the front door and knocked.  No one answered.  After a few moments, she tried the knob.  The door swung open on noiseless hinges.  Inside, the house seemed darker than the street.
Curtains over the windows, assumed St. Greer. 
She drew her gun and stepped inside. 
There was no furniture in the living room.  The space was open, unadorned, cavernous.  Heavy drapes covered the windows.  St. Greer tore them down.  Moonlight washed across faux wood paneling.
“Well, who might you be?”
St. Greer turned, leveled her gun and fired.  She had a vague impression of movement, then laughter.
“Hmm.  Shoot first and ask questions later.  You’re Lodge, aren’t you?”
Turning, St. Greer saw the speaker, standing against the far wall.  The man was smallish, dark complected, with neat black hair.  He wore a black track suit with red piping.  His sneakers were old and worn.
“Satchmo, I presume,” said St. Greer.
“And you must be the infamous Germain St. Greer.  I was wondering if we would ever meet.”
She aimed and fired, but Satchmo vanished in a blur.  Powerful hands gripped her upper arms and heaved her across the room.  St. Greer slammed, face first, into the faux wood paneling.
“I thought you’d be taller,” said Satchmo.
St. Greer climbed to her feet and turned to face the vampire. “Sorry to disappoint.  Why Satchmo?”
“I used to be a jazz musician.”
Amateur, thought St. Greer.  She slapped a concealed patch on the wrist of her skinsuit.  The fabric flared, star bright, temporarily turning the interior of the Queen Ann as bright as noon.  Satchmo howled and covered his eyes.  St. Greer tackled him.
Vampire and vampire hunter went down in a tangle of limbs.  Satchmo quickly climbed on top and slammed St. Greer’s head against the faux wood flooring.  His eyes were red and bleeding.
“Tricky bitch!”  He opened his mouth, extending the fangs concealed behind his primary teeth. “I’m going to rip you open and fuck your heart!”
I guess the sex pheremones are working, thought St. Greer.  She reached up, grabbed the vampire’s head with both hands, and twisted.  Satchmo jerked as she broke his neck, flecks of caustic saliva hitting her face.  She ignored the sizzle of her flesh, and rolled, pinning the vampire to the floor.
His eyes were rolling, his jaw clicking as he tried, vainly, to bite her.  She drew back her arm and punched her fist through his skull.  Instantly, the vampire grew still.  St. Greer removed her fist from his brain and wiped her hand on the vampire’s track suit.
Turning, St. Greer saw Sheriff Kevorkian standing in the doorway.  He had his weapon drawn and looked as if he were going to be sick.
“I told you to wait outside, sheriff.”
“I didn’t hear anything for a while, so thought. . . .”
St. Greer nodded and stood.  “It’s all right.  It’s done.”
He hesitated.  “Are you sure?”
* * * * *
“How can you be sure?” asked Jack Lotus.
He’d picked St. Greer up at the bed and breakfast that morning and was driving her back to Virginia.
“Vampires work alone,” said St. Greer.  “That’s one of the few advantages we have over them. They’re extremely territorial and extremely competitive.  The only time you’ll get two vampires in the same room is if they’re mating.”
“Mating? I thought they were undead.”
“Remember what I said?  Forget everything you think you know about them. Most of it is myth or misinformation deliberately spread by the vampires themselves.  Besides, where do you think child vampires come from?”
Lotus let that one slide.  He glanced in the rearview mirror.  “Well, at least Terrorville is behind us.”  He shook his head.  “That place is just . . . wrong.”
“Why? Don’t you have eyes?  All those freaks.  They just give me the willies.”
“I think I understand, now, why Satchmo chose to set up his nest there.”
“Most people wouldn’t care what happened to the residents of Terrorville.  After all, they’re all viewed as monsters and freaks anyway.  Correct?  They were the perfect victims.  No wonder your colleagues hesitated to pass on Sheriff Kevorkian’s reports on the deaths.  They just didn’t care what happened to the people there.”
Jack frowned.  “It was a simple administrative error.”
“I find that hard to believe,” said St. Greer.  “Sanction has a 94 percent success rate, identifying and taking steps to neutralize supercriminal activity, and they have almost exclusive federal jurisdiction in Terrorville.  Your agency should have been all over this from the very first murder, Agent Lotus.”
“That’s. . . .”
“Did you know that before the recent deaths there hadn’t been a homicide in Terrorville in almost ten years?”
He frowned and gripped the steering wheel. “No, I didn’t.”
“Something to think about.”
“Can we change the subject? Please?”
“Of course,” said St. Greer.  “What would you like to talk about?”
Jack glanced at her, out of the corner of his eye.  “Tell me about you, Agent St. Greer.  What’s your story?”
She glanced at him.  “I could tell you, Agent Lotus, but then I’d have to kill you.”
He chuckled until he saw her expression.
They drove the rest of the way in silence.

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