Eigerman hammered the gas..
Tommy lived in a converted farm house at the end of a long cul de sac. They pulled up to the house, tires rolling over his crushed coral driveway sounding like wrapping paper on Christmas Morning.
“Should we split up?” Otis asked.
A volley of machine gun fire ripped up the hood and blew apart a side view mirror. Both men dived under the respective safety of the dashboard and waited for the magazine to run dry. It did a few seconds later. Eigerman rolled out of the driver’s side seat and low-crawled to the back bumper. Otis followed suit. Within a few seconds, Eigerman had the trunk popped open. He fished out a shotgun and a bullhorn. He tossed Otis the shotgun and both men took aim on the front door. Eigerman bawled out instructions through the megaphone. “Come on out with your hands up!”
To be honest, both men were expecting another fusillade of shots, but what they got was the front door opening, and a voice like gurgling road tar.
Eigerman flipped on the spotlight and pinned the figure to the front threshold. “Jesus wept,” he said.
“Tommy?” said Otis. His voice was high-pitched, on the verge of breaking. That which looked like Sergeant Thomas Pettine tried to answer them, but all he got out was a wracking cough and a voluminous spray of bright red blood. More blood seeped down over his face, soaking the brim of his white Stetson cap.
Oakes lowered the bullhorn and looked across the car. “Otis,” he said, “You need to listen to me. That is not your brother, not by any stretch.” Then, he lifted the bullhorn and hollered “Show me your hands, now!”
The bloody figure paused, puzzled, and then raised his skinless right hand, looking at it as if he’d never seen it before.
“Oh shit,” Otis whispered. The bloody man with his brother’s face was holding a compact UZI submachine gun with an extended clip. He had another one in his left hand as well. He didn’t drop them, and he took another step forward.
“Stay where you are and drop those goddamn guns or I will shoot!” Eigerman, knowing even as he spoke, what was about to happen, what had to happen. Otis Pettine turned on him, leveling the shotgun at Eigerman’s head.
“Shoot my brother, you’re dead, understand?” Otis had one eye on the Captain and the other on the man wearing his brother’s face. The bloody, shambling man took another step closer, clutching more than enough firepower to turn both men and the cruiser into so much shredded waste.
Now Otis swiveled the gun back, not quite pointing it at what he thought was his brother, but aiming in that general direction. “Don’t come any closer, Tommy. We’re going to sort this out, so just step back please, okay?” Another sweep back at Eigerman.
“Lower your gun, Captain.”
The bloody figure was now less than 30 feet from the cruiser, well within firing range. He opened his mouth and spit out more blood. He may have even tried to say Otis, but what came out was “Ogh-oor” like something from some second rate zombie flick. The white Stetson fell off the top of the ruined head, exposing nothing but blood and white planes of skull where there had been once a full head of hair.
“Narcisse!” Eigerman screamed, and raised his gun.
“Don’t!” Otis screamed back, and pointed his at Eigerman.
“Blurrgh!” screamed the bloody man, as he dropped to his knees, raised both guns and began firing. Bullets spanged off of the bumper and shattered the safety glass. Otis gut-shot his own brother, but Tommy Pettine kept on blasting. Amazingly, Otis then fired a shot at Eigerman, but missed. Tommy didn’t. Bullets smashed into Eigerman’s vest and tore into the meat of his thigh. A bullet struck his right bicep and the muscle exploded like a frog in a microwave. Eigerman turned, propping his ruined right arm up with his left hand and fired across the roof of the cruiser, striking Otis Pettine right above the bridge of his nose. His broad handsome features imploded like a collapsing building as the back of his head flew apart. Eigerman turned and fired three shots at his former sergeant, who was already lying on his side, that white skull dome of his looking like some great unearthed stone. He saw the lacerations, clean and straight that ran down the sides of the man’s face, meeting at a point just below his chin.
“Got you, you bastard.” He moved to unhook his radio from the holster, only to find that a bullet had struck it at some point during the firefight. No matter, he’d try the car in a few minutes and get an ambulance out here. He just wanted one minute alone with the monster, to let him know that the Good Guys won, after all.
Eigerman limped just outside of arm’s reach of the still figure and loaded another clip into his gun. Both of the submachine guns were firmly in Narcisse’s hands, fingers still on the triggers. That concerned him. He stumbled backwards, and caught himself. He took careful aim. Breathing slowly and counting off each shot, Eigerman methodically fired 15 rounds into the bloody carcass, striking the head, shoulders, elbows and wrists. It never so much as twitched.
“Got you motherfucker,” he said, panting slightly. He was out of ammo and his right arm throbbed like an infected tooth, but otherwise all was just as fine as paint, yes sir. He fell lopsidedly into a kneeling position and rolled the body on its side. “What the fuck kind of sick bastard goes around wearing other people’s faces?” The dead man’s blood felt hot and slick on Eigerman’s fingertips, but he felt it wouldn’t be right for the ambulance arriving to find this sort of … defilement.
He gripped the edges of the ruined face and tugged. It didn’t come free. Eigerman frowned, adjusted his grip and yanked harder – nothing. Something was wrong. Eigerman looked at the guns still clasped in each fist. He reached for one and pulled. They were in place just as tightly as that face. Then he saw the loops of piano wire strung around the dead man’s hands, binding him to his guns.
Eigerman was going to need a tourniquet soon, he was really losing a lot of blood. He just… needed a few minutes to sort this out. Something kept nagging him. When he spoke to Darla, she’d told him that Labowitz had come in and checked out weapons from the armory. But Labowitz stood at least 6’4”. How tall was Narcisse?
As this turned over in his mind, he heard the unmistakable rack-rack! sound of a shotgun round being chambered. He turned around and saw a silhouette framed in the emergency flashers.
“We’re going to have to do something about this insatiable bloodlust of yours, Mein Kapitän. You’ve got a real problem. Killing your own squad, tsk-tsk-tsk…” Narcisse kept the shotgun casually aimed at Eigerman as he threw a set of handcuffs over towards where he sat – hell –almost lay at this point. His arm no longer hurt, and was beginning to grow cold. “Put these on or I’ll blow your dick off with this thing.”
Eigerman did as he was told. “There’s going to be others, you know. They’re going to hunt you down and waste you.”
Narcisse looked him over, and smirked. “Sounds like job security.” He popped the trunk. “Get in.”
Eigerman did what he was told. Narcisse barely watched him climb inside. The last thing Eigerman saw were the scalps hanging from the monster’s belt. Narcisse tipped him a lascivious wink as he slammed the trunk shut. Then, all was darkness.
“Wake up, Mein Kapitän. Time to behold the fruits of your labor.”
Eigerman’s head jerked back. Smelling salts rocketed into his sinus cavities, forcing his eyelids to spring up like guillotine blades in reverse. He was in a dark room that only took him a few minutes to recognize. He was back in Eden’s Draw. He thought of the 1st trip over here – the dusty Winnebagos and station wagons parked outside with the cardboard and duct tape over the windows, and of the similar way many of the windows at the old hotel had been boarded up. How much of Shere Neck looked vacant, ever since …
The word insidious echoed through his mind, Narcisse had said something about … gas? Smoke? No, it was carbon monoxide emissions, that was the thing. Rats in the walls didn’t even know they were being gassed until their hearts slowed down and their muscles began to lock up.
“You need another snort?” said the man seated across from him. It was Narcisse, although his voice sounded different. Muffled, somehow. Beams of daylight crisscrossed the shadowy room, and when Narcisse leaned into one of the dirty sunbeams, Eigerman shrank back and cried out.
Narcisse had slipped Gibbs’s face over his own misshapen one like a Halloween mask. The result was dizzying. Narcisse’s eyes blazed out from the dead sockets like firebrands.
“It’s not a quite perfect fit, but you look like you might be about right.” Narcisse’s eyes crinkled with merriment behind the slack face. “Let me tell you where you went wrong. You made the mistake of thinking once you burned down Castle Dracula that you guys could simply ride off without any sort of blowback.”
“But sometimes the monsters get away” Eigerman finished for him.
Narcisse cocked his thumb and forefinger like a gun and pulled the imaginary trigger. “Bingo,” he said. “The thing is, we’re not the ones bent on extermination, Eigerman. That’s you guys.”
“Bullshit. You killed my men.” Eigerman fought back tears. He’d be fucked if he was going to cry in front of this ghoul. “You killed them all.”
“Technically, you killed them all, you and your goons. You killed Tommy Pettine, and his brother Otis.” Narcisse ticked off the numbers on his fingers. “You walked in and opened fire on poor Gibbs, while he was bleeding to death in that hotel room. Granted, I cut off his face and ate a few bites of him, but a man can only go so far against his true nature. I kill to eat. You…” Narcisse stood up and dumped a stack of photos on the floor between the two men. There were shots of the fire at Midian, crime scene photos of the bodies as they were dragged out and stacked against the back of an idling fire truck. There were color photos of Eigerman, Gibbs and the Pettine brothers holding up dead Nightbreed like hunting trophies, wearing big smiles with big rifles leaning casually against their shoulders. There were photos of Aaron Boone beaten nearly to death, his face a bloody, puffy unrecognizable mask of wounds, struggling to stand up with a sign propped against his chest that read SHERE NECK POLICE DEPT.
Then there were the surveillance photos of Rachel and Babette, taken just outside Eden’s Draw. Nothing more than a tired mother carrying her sleeping daughter in to a temporary place of shelter.
“So you tell me, who exactly are the goddamn monsters?”
“Christ …” Eigerman lowered his head.
“Time we finished this.” Narcisse clapped his hands once, as if summoning a butler.
A door opened and out walked Labowitz. Long deep cuts had been carved into the sides of his head. The flaps of skin hung loosely away from his face, like gills. He was naked save for a single black sock that he wore over one hand, as if was hosting a puppet show. In his other hand he held a small tray heaped with what appeared to be road kill.
“What’s wrong with him?” Eigerman asked.
“Scopolamine, mostly. Given a strong enough dosage, you can set a man on fire and he’ll just wait for you to tell him what to do next. A mutual friend of ours is quite fond of the stuff. He’s the one I’m really after, Eigerman. You boys were simply the warm up.”
“Dr Decker,” Narcisse said. “You haven’t seen him, have you?”
“He died,” Eigerman said.
“So did I. Twice,” Narcisse said. “It’s not as permanent for some folks as one would believe. As for Labowitz, well, a funny thing happened. I was getting ready to cut him into tiny little bits, and then I noticed, that, well look at him.”
Eigerman did. He saw what was beneath the cuts. “He’s one of you,” he said.
“It’s amazing what you’ll find out about somebody once you get past all that skin. It’s been happening a lot around here. Now, as for what to do with you, I propose a wager. Remember the ‘White Angel’?”
“Mengele – the one that got away, right?”
“Gold star for being a good listener. But he almost didn’t, that’s the bitch of it. Josef Mengele was almost caught on account of some emergency surgery he had to have when he was in his late 50’s.
“He’d grown a moustache, you see. And over the years, this may sound pretty fucked up, but he had this habit of chewing off the ends of his moustache. He did this every day, without fail, for over a decade, just chewing, and chewing, and chewing on his moustache. Who does that?
“The human digestive system isn’t built to digest hair, so when Mengele was about 55, he developed severe stomach pains. Lucky for him, he found a surgeon in Brazil that would operate without turning him over to the Mossad.
“Imagine that, the Angel of Death almost done in by a giant hairball.”
“So what?” Eigerman shifted in his seat. The photos of the dead Nightbreed were centered in a patch of sunlight on the filthy floor, and he didn’t like the way they stared at him. He could feel their gazes, even through the lens, through the bodybags and the veil of time. They stared at him ceaselessly, and hungrily.
Labowitz set the tray down over the photos, giggling at Eigerman. “Meat for the beast,” he said, in a low feral voice that Eigerman barely recognized. Then he realized what was on the tray. Not road kill after all, but the scalps that Narcisse had hung from his belt.
“No,” Eigerman whispered.
“Think of it as a modest repast, followed by a long cleansing walk,” said Narcisse. “Mengele was able to power his way through several pounds of hair and came out on the other side more or less okay. Granted, he did it over the space of a few years, and you have until I get bored, or hungry, whichever comes first. Eating a few scalps seems like a small price to pay for your life, considering the length and breadth of your sins.”
Smiling, Narcisse slipped his thumbs into a pair of gleaming metal hooks. “I was kind of hoping you’d say that.”
Narcisse paused, shrugged, and made a show of checking his watch. “Tempus Fugit, Mein Kapitän. I better see you take a goddamn bite, like, now.”
Labowitz hung back, grinning and drooling as he stared at the two men. Eigerman wondered if Narcisse was going to keep his promise and let him walk. He wondered what the Scopolamine had done to Labowitz’s brain, and what he’d become if it ever wore off. He picked up one of the scalps, Otis Pettine’s by the look of it. Cold, congealed blood slicked the bottom half. On the top, the hair felt greasy and brittle with pomade. Narcisse’s smile broadened as Eigerman raised the scalp to his mouth, took a bite, and began to chew.