(Note - This is a continuation of a story from last week. If you haven't read part one, just scroll back a little. Otherwise, enjoy ...)
The phone began to ring.
Eigerman picked it up. He managed to keep his voice steady enough. “Shere Neck Police Department, who is this?”
The voice on the other end chuckled. “That’s a shame,” it said. “I was hoping I could talk to one of the chamber maids about my turndown service.”
Eigerman took a deep breath. “Tell me your name.”
“You know who I am. Don’t you?”
“Maybe. Who’s this with me?”
“You mean my little man-mobile? Say what you will about the Viennese, but you’ve got to admit they make a mighty fine music wire. Maybe I can give you a name, maybe not. Tell you what, listen to another story of mine. This time all the way through, no interruptions, then maybe we’ll talk about your dead friend.”
Eigerman gripped the receiver tight enough to hear the plastic creak in his fist. “Maybe we could meet somewhere, and you could tell me this story face to face.”
“Are you being deliberately grotesque, Herr Kapitän? Or was that merely an unfortunate choice of words?”
“Maybe both. Tell me your story,” Pronouncing the man’s name was like praying to the Devil, so Eigerman closed his eyes as he said it. “Narcisse.”
“Very good! You may make Chief Inspector yet someday. You’re going to like this story, too. It’s the God’s honest truth. I heard it from a friend of a friend, and you know that things like that always turn out a hundred percent.”
“Sure they do,” said Eigerman.
“It happened in New Jersey, the way I heard it – right outside the Pine Barrens where that Jersey Devil keeps popping up in the supermarket tabloids. I always thought that was some sort of urban legend, but given our personal and shared experiences recently, perhaps I ought to revisit that idea, what do you say, Eigerman?”
“I’d say you’re going off on a tangent.”
“Fair enough. There was a gentleman who owned a farmhouse just outside the Barrens, on about an acre of land. He grew tomatoes or some such nonsense. He did alright for himself, except for this rodent problem. They lived in the walls, you see. Sometimes they got into the pantry and wreaked hell on the dried goods. To make matters worse, his wife was deathly afraid of the buggers.
Anyway, Farmer Barbie got an idea. He sent his wife and children up to the grandparents’ house. Then he got a hold of some stethoscope from this horse doctor who owed him a favor. The farmer started tracking and marking where he heard the most noise, from the rats. As it turned out, almost all of them lived in one wall. Even better, that wall wasn’t a load bearing number or anything. He could drill right into the goddamn thing, no problem.
So what does Farmer Barbie do? He gets a length of hose and hooks up one end to the tailpipe on his pick-up truck. He drills a hole into a section of wall, slides the hose on in, and then runs his car for a few hours. Smokes out the wall void. The thing about carbon monoxide is that it’s insidious, Eigerman. You don’t know you’re breathing in a lethal dose until it’s already too late. So, after a few hours of turning this wall into a gas chamber, Farmer Barbie starts to chop a few holes in the wall and pulls out rat after rat after rat, after rat. Half a dozen garbage bags filled to overflowing with rodent carcasses, way I heard it. There were hundreds of the fucking things in that wall, and Farmer Barbie got just about every last one of them.”
“So what did he do with them?” Eigerman just blurted out the question, he couldn’t help himself.
“That’s the bitch of it. Like I said, this was rural Jersey, and it’s perfectly legal to burn garbage there. In fact it’s fairly commonplace, and Barbie already had a pretty good sized bonfire going that day. I’m sure he told himself that burning those rats was the simplest way to get rid of them, but you and I standing here talking, we both know he had a smile on his face as he heaved the first black bag into the pyre.”
Eigerman felt a little lightheaded. “Except,” he said.
He could almost hear Narcisse’s grin as he went on. “Except, you know, don’t you? Maybe it wasn’t until the 2nd or 3rd bag, but it happened.”
“Not all the rats were dead.”
“Yahtzee. And once they found themselves roasting alive, they tore the hell through those garbage bags and hightailed it right back to the house. Burning alive and blind they may have been, that house was just as much theirs, and they knew their way back home.”
“And the house went up like a timber box,” said Eigerman.
“You’re fucking-A it did,” said Narcisse. “And good old Farmer Barbie, he died trying to put that fire out.”
A long silence followed. Finally, Eigerman said, “So, is this the part where you warn me to leave your people alone? Because I don’t see how that’s an option.”
“No,” Narcisse sighed. “We’re past warnings and we’re past bargaining. I called to allow you the opportunity to find some perspective in the shit storm that your life has become, Eigerman. You and your ilk should have never set foot in Midian, and for your sins, every last one of you are going to burn.”
“Who did you leave in here, Narcisse?”
“Fuck you and that dead nobody, Eigerman. He’s just meat for the beast, and so are you.” The line went dead.
Eigerman dropped the phone and then looked about the room. The last thing he wanted to do was check out the corpse, but he made his way to the bed anyway. He remembered Gibbs having a tattoo of a rose with the word “Mother” on his inner elbow, and that part of his arm had been chewed on down to the bone. No luck finding a match there.
Still, Eigerman was going to have to talk to Gibbs’s girlfriend and mother – no kids, no wife, thank God. But moreover he was going to have to break the news to Darla, who was more than a little fond of the handsome young trooper.
Facing away from the grim carcass, he pulled up a chair, lit a cigarette and sat down. He unhooked the radio from his belt and called the station. “Is that you, boss?” she asked, sounding a little breathless.
“Yeah, we need to talk. Are you sitting down?”
“I just did. Is it about Labowitz?”
Eigerman felt a thin layer of frost cover the skin of his heart. “What about Labowitz? Did he call you?”
“He just left here a little while ago.”
Eigerman felt the air leave his lungs like rats deserting a sinking ship, or a burning pile of garbage.
“You saw him?”
“Only for a minute. He was in and out fairly quickly. His head was all bandaged, like a burn victim’s, but not his face. I asked him what happened and all he said was the other guy turned out a whole lot worse. Then he laughed, and to tell you the truth, it creeped me right the hell out. He barely sounded like himself.”
“Where did he go to?” asked Eigerman, knowing full well what Darla was going to say even before the words came out.
“He let himself into the armory. Oh God, boss, should I have tried to stop him?”
“No!” Eigerman didn’t mean to shout but he simply lost control, and the shuddering giggle that came next must have sounded even worse. “No. If you see him again, stay out of his way. In fact, just close down the shop. Patch all calls through to my car phone. That reminds me, is there somebody in Calgary that can run a trace after a call’s been disconnected?”
Darla took a minute before she answered. “I don’t know, but if nobody’s made any calls since the last one, you could always try star 69.”
She took a minute to explain how that worked, and then promised Eigerman that she was going to lock up and wait for his call.
He lit a cigarette before turning back to the phone. He was positive that it wouldn’t work; that the operator would only be able to trace the call back to the hotel office, or that a glut of calls over the network would have interfered somehow, or some other sort of monkey wrench that he couldn’t even fathom would have been wedged firmly into the gears of his life. When it came right down to it, he deserved no better, and he knew it.
Why were they following up on Midian, anyway? When it came right down to it, this wasn’t police work, it was attempted genocide.
“Country justice,” Eigerman muttered to himself, and that was it. What did they call themselves on the way down to Midian? He remembered, and said it out loud: “We are the Sons of Freedom.” That was it.
Eigerman dialed the number and got right through to the operator. “Yes sir,” the cheery voice informed him on the other side of the line. “We can put you through directly if you would like.”
“That’ll be fine,” said Eigerman. He smoked through the clicks and whirrs before the other line began to ring – once, twice, three times. An answering machine picked up. “You’ve reached Thomas Pettine with the Shere Neck Police Department. If this is an emergency, please hang up and dial 911.”
Eigerman lowered his head and hung up. There was nobody for him to call. He was 911. He was the last of the White Brigade.
Only, that wasn’t quite right. He made one more stop before heading over to Pettine’s place, and he argued with himself for pretty much every minute of the drive there. Tommy Pettine’s brother had been with them at Midian, and was the only civilian to come out of the raid alive. But he wasn’t exactly on the right side of the law.
In fact, Otis Pettine spent the majority of his waking hours in the cell adjacent to where they’d held Aaron Boone captive all the way up to the night of the Purge.
Otis was a drunk, mean and nasty, too. But when you had your ass backed against the wall, Otis Pettine was the kind of guy good to have around. It wasn’t just that he was good in a fight, it was that he was only ever good in a fight. It was his natural state of being. Otis couldn’t hold down a job for more than a month, pay his bills or even figure out how to apply for financial assistance, but he stood a head taller than either Eigerman or his brother Tommy, and with the possible exception of Labowitz, he knew how to handle himself better than anyone Eigerman knew.
If there was ever anyone else who could take on Narcisse, it was Otis Pettine. Except, Narcisse had gotten the drop on Otis’s brother, which meant that he might not think straight when it came right down to it.
In the end, Eigerman decided that shady back up was better than no back up, which is how he found himself at the Pine Bluff Trailer Court at just past 1a.m. on a Monday morning. Otis answered the door dressed in a pair of cut off shorts with a halo of sour mash wreathing his massive head. He swayed a little in the doorway and grinned at Eigerman.
“If it’s about the noise, tell those dickhead neighbors I already sent the bitch packing. They won’t hear from us the rest of the night. I’m going to bed anyway. Unless you want a beer or something.”
“I’m afraid I can’t. It’s about your brother. He’s in trouble.”
Otis Pettine’s boozy haze dissipated like smoke in a hurricane.
“I need you to listen to me very carefully, Otis. There’s a good chance that we’re going to see somebody tonight that looks almost exactly like your brother. He might even sound like Tommy. But if he appears hurt, or disoriented, or both, then – and I need you to be clear on this – that thing, whatever it turns out to be, it’s not your brother. Do you understand?”
“Christ,” said Otis, “I wish we had more back-up.”
“Well, we don’t. It’s just us.” Eigerman slammed on the brakes just past a 4 way intersection and let the car idle in the middle of the road. “If you can’t handle this, I swear to God just say the word and I’ll leave you on the side of the road. Is that what you want?”
Otis Pettine shook his head very slowly. “What I want,” he said, each word like a brick being shoved off the edge of a freeway over pass, “Is to make this motherfucker pay – pay for Cormack, pay for Kane, shit, even that tight-ass Joyce, none of them would have got so much as a scratch if it weren’t for these …”
“Monsters,” Eigerman finished for him.
“Yeah,” said Otis. “Let’s go get this goddamned monster.”
Eigerman hammered the gas..