The Dogman Chronicles: Prologue

The beer is stale. I haven’t bothered to turn on the lights in the small flophouse room that will be my home tonight. I’m sitting in what once passed as an armchair, drinking the stale beer because it was in the mini fridge, and staring at nothing. Not the neon pitifully flashing in its death throes trying to convince me that the little bar under it will make my evening; not the 40 watt bulb that heralds the bathroom’s location only because I couldn’t find the switch earlier, when I bothered; nothing and everything fill my sight. I know about the spider working its way up the curtain. I know the room is too hot, the beer is stale and exactly what the kids in the adjoining room are doing. I just don’t care.

I give myself a few more minutes of sulking before pulling myself out of the chair and starting for the bath. Lately, I find myself doing that more – thinking about the past while staring at nothing. It’s a bad habit and a bad sign. I have work to do, a paid job, the first in a couple weeks. I freelance when not holding down my own office. I could take more jobs – should take more jobs – but lately, I’m not interested.

My secretary, Sonia, is interested. I have a choice now of actually bringing in revenue or having my backside kicked by a middle aged Russian Jew whose own kids are still in therapy years after fleeing the nest. That’s not fair, I know. I’m taking a colder shower than I’d like and in an already foul mood. Without Sonia, I’d probably sit in some flophouse armchair somewhere until I starved. She’s good for my business, good for me and only one of her thirty kids ever had therapy anyway. I get out of the shower and stop moping about working when I don’t want to.

Dressing, I start to sharpen up. The still mostly full can of beer quenched my thirst but not my senses – that I was doing by myself. I remind myself to grab a six pack of diet soda on the way back. I hate beer, stale or otherwise.

I’m getting back into my own skin in a way. I feel most like myself – the self I want to be anyway – when I’m working. I grab the tablet and run over the files Sonia sent earlier. Secretaries might be a thing of the past, but Sonia is worth her weight in gold in my business.

Tablet locked away in the briefcase, which is now chained to the bed, I slip the phone off the charger and into my jacket pocket. The .45 is in the holster as I swing the jacket over it. Anyone that knows what to look for can see that I’m carrying – which is fine by me. I don’t want surprise – I want intimidation.

Time to go. I step out the door and lock it. I check out the parking lot from the balcony walkway. I look down and see the bags of trash tossed out by the young acrobats in the next room.

For a moment, I’m six again. I’m sitting outside my mother’s rundown apartment on the bags of trash where my ‘uncle’ left me. I’m discarded – just like the trash.

But only for a moment. Sulking over the past is over for tonight. Time to go to work – find Mr. and Mrs. Allen’s runaway little girl and do what’s needed to get the stupid brat home.

Time to go find Miss Camily Aurora Allen. I’m Robert David Hund and I’ve got a job to do.

True Slayers: Heroes, Part Four

There were statements to be given and I again found myself being less than truthful with the police. Not that it mattered, Chambers was their star witness – as far as they knew, I’d merely introduced him to Thompkins. No mention of vampires, doppelgangers, werewolves, werecats, slayers or talking swords – which didn’t bother me so much.

What did stick in my craw was that there was also no mention of the murder of Mr. Jenkins. There was no way to tie Vinnie to that without mentioning his pet vampire – a creature that was now mercifully turned to dust. That case would remain forever unsolved. Vinnie would never have to account for it. That did not sit well with me.

We’d sorted things out and gotten everyone home safely hours earlier. In a few more, I’d be getting ready for work. Sanity kept knocking at my brain, asking if I didn’t want a little sleep before then. But I sat by the window, looking out at the street instead.

Plans are just starting points. That mine get upset stopped bothering me when I was six – I’ve too many siblings, extended family members and friends to ever expect that plans will run the course that is set for them. Calling Officer Compton, that had been my idea. Virtually nothing else that happened had anything to do with my planning, once Vinnie came out.

I can’t remember the last time, before this, that everyone was in the street like that. I saw people I knew only in passing as well as people I’ve known my whole life. I see Mrs Elmore once or twice a month when it’s my turn to take her whatever dish Momma had prepared or once in a great while when helping get her to the van for her doctor’s appointments. I was debating how angry I should be at my brothers who almost certainly had gotten her down the steps.

Slayers aren’t safe – we instinctively use weapons perfectly, are ridiculously strong and can move faster than any normal human ever could. People could have been killed. Why the ____ were they all out there?

And Mrs. Elmore – where did she – how did she –  I mean, sure, she has asked me about my faith dozens of times but what she did that night – it was like she knew Vinnie. Knew his soul. Knew just what to say.

They had known a lot from the online stuff – that was most of what had people riled – but how they knew it related to our neighborhood, I didn’t know, sitting there with the lights out as morning broke over the East Side.

I poured myself another OJ. I wanted something stronger to go with my mood but that was a bad idea and I knew it. So I sipped my OJ as I went back to my mullings.

Slayers exist to protect normal people from creatures run amok but instead normal people had protected slayers from a slayer run amok. I wasn’t sure how to parse that. People had been in danger because of my stupid plan. I knew how to parse that – and I was still angry with myself about it.

But what I kept coming back to was Mr. J. This time two years ago, Daddy, he and I were putting a new bathroom into what became the Myers apartment. Last year, he gave me coveralls for Christmas. He’d dropped by to borrow a wrench a week before he died. I still had the feeling he would be hollering out the window at the kids or helping Daddy with one of the cars or laughing at me trying to keep my siblings from whatever new disaster they’d concocted – any minute now, I should hear his voice booming down the hall. The world still didn’t seem right without him.

His bayonet lay on my end table. I wondered idly if it knew, if it was happy now. The actual killer, the vampire, was dead but that crazed thing hadn’t been the murderer. it would have gone in and stood on its head instead, had that been Vinnie’s instruction. It didn’t care – it just wanted to please its master. Vinnie had caused Mr. J’s death.

How had I not known he was an atheist? In this crazy mix of Protestants and Catholics, how had he gone unnoticed? I knew he knew Mrs. Elmore – he’d helped Daddy dozens of times when her building’s super couldn’t build or repair something. Mr. Vole being older than Mrs. Elmore, that was most of the time. They’d built her ramps in the apartment, installed all manner of handicap equipment – I can’t believe she didn’t.

She did, of course. She is one of those people – give her five minutes and she will witness to you. For whatever reason, Mr. J didn’t listen.

That wasn’t the real problem, I began to realize as the sun peaked over the rooftops. Why didn’t she nothing. Why didn’t I? I saw that old man every day – and I never even asked him. He went to church – I assumed everything was okay. But it wasn’t. It wasn’t ant that cost Mr. J his life. In a building full of slayers, he wasn’t safe because his soul wasn’t safe.

I now have a head full of insane vampire trivia. Traditional vampires have to be invited in to any home. All vampires can be ordered out but only of Christian homes. Vampires can kill Christians but they can’t mesmerize them. Jews have very similar protections the symbols being the only real difference but no other faiths are protected. Vampires prefer atheists – they are simply the easiest prey.

What went through his mind as the life was being drained from him? When he knew he couldn’t fight and couldn’t get help, when he knew he was dying, what did he think about? Was it just fear? I kinda doubted that – it wasn’t like him. Did he cry out to God? Did he finally realize he needed God? It wasn’t in time to save his life but was it in time to save his soul? Dear God, I hope so.

He didn’t get justice – and won’t get it. But maybe, just maybe he got mercy instead. Maybe all those pies he ate with Mrs. Elmore, all the talks with Momma, all the Sundays in church – maybe all that paid off in his final minutes. I remember a sermon where the pastor said we don’t want justice, we want mercy – meaning we don’t want justice when we’re the ones in the wrong.

For all my planning, we’d been saved by the people around us – the normal folks. People who didn’t get up late at night to chase a vampire over the rooftops – people that just lived their lives like anyone else. The real heroes didn’t have fancy powers or an encyclopedia of the undead (yes, I have a copy) – the real heroes were people like Mrs. Elmore who could care about a jerk like Vinniie and all the others who stood in the way.

I got up automatically to get ready when the alarm went off. Pulling off my shirt, it dawned on me that maybe he did get the justice he’d have wanted, Mr. J, I mean. As I showered, I remembered being nine. John and I saw Petey, Mr. J’s ancient hound in the street, hit by a car. The guy stopped and got out but Petey was already dead. I remembered being so angry but then Mr. J got there. the man apologized and Mr. J shook his hand. He told us later that it was enough that the man apologized – he couldn’t stand seeing anyone hurting. He didn’t want revenge – Petey wouldn’t have wanted that, either.

Stopping Vinnie from hurting anyone else, that would have been enough for Mr. J – all he would have wanted. As I dressed, I thought about what I hadn’t done – hadn’t said. I couldn’t undo the past but I could make a better effort in the future. Maybe that was even more my duty now – slaying is a last resort. Might not happen, of course, but a world full of saved souls wouldn’t need slayers at all. And there wouldn’t be any more Mr. J’s, dying alone in pain and terror – and leaving behind friends to wonder about whether or not they’ll be seeing them again.

That last part is between Mr, J and God. As I grabbed my lunch from the fridge and a bagel to munch on the way, I had the strangest feeling that things were okay with Mr. J now. Whatever those last minutes were like, God hadn’t given up on the old man. It was not my business whatever they had decided that night, but I started to whistle as I locked the door behind me. I had real hope that everything was okay. Now, I had to get real moving because I didn’t want to be late for work.

 

True Slayers: Heroes

It was getting late and I was beginning to wonder if this was going to work. It should – I didn’t think Vinnie had the humility to walk away from a total loss. I’d heard and read the accounts from both Thompkins and Chambers – Vinnie wasn’t the kind that could admit defeat or let go. He should show up.

Well, in truth, showing up would be stupid – if he had any brains he’d simply start over somewhere else. Yeah, he had brains but I was betting his pride would overrule them. Steep bet on a guy I’d never met but you work with what you’ve got.

Crystal was on the rooftop of the adjoining building by now. I couldn’t see her face, just the outline out of the corner of my eye. I wasn’t taking my eyes off that street.

Chambers was just barely in view from where I was. Tresmayne had him covered from the top of Crystal’s building now. He’d jumped from mine – I won’t be trying that anytime soon.

The alleys were covered by various slayers. Thompkins had window duty from my apartment. If Vinnie showed, Chambers wouldn’t be in any danger. If.

If Vinnie was watching from somewhere, he had to be suspicious. Chambers had sat there forlornly for hours now – staying on the street instead of going to his apartment. Maybe Vinnie had more brains than I thought. Maybe.

Or maybe he was waiting for the neighborhood to be asleep – at least as asleep as a New York neighborhood gets. That seemed more likely and even if not, there was nothing to do now but wait.

I went deer hunting with a distant cousin when I was fourteen. It was the most boring thing I’d ever done in my life. My cousin got a small buck and was ecstatic all the way home. But for me, the excitement of the kill didn’t begin to make up for the hours of extreme boredom just waiting for the unsuspecting deer to show itself. That, and I admit I’d seen Bambi once too often with my sisters – it just wasn’t my thing.

But now I was beginning to understand what my cousin had tried to explain. Where I was bored past tears, he was on fire, every nerve and muscle at the ready, all his concentration centered on that instant when he had a good clear shot. I was feeling that now.

Hard to describe – I knew that street like the back of my hand but now I was perceiving it as if under a microscope. Every line, every crack, every tiny movement – it was as clear as a HDTV image in freeze frame. I knew it was late, knew time was passing but I didn’t feel the passage of time, other than as it related to whether or not Vinnie would show himself. I stood on that rooftop feeling like a perched hawk, watching and waiting for dinner to walk by.

Eclectic slayer – I guess that’s why I hadn’t even bothered to bring a weapon, not even a bat. Whatever came to hand would be fine – strange way to feel about the possibility of being involved in a fight with a guy who wants me dead, but there it is. That wasn’t the plan – I wasn’t expecting to need to fight – but good strategy considers all the known possibilities along with the wild cards. Yet I hadn’t brought a weapon. Either it’s an eclectic slayer thing or I’d done something stupid. I mentally put that on the long list of things to ask the Mistress about someday.

The street felt wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on why at first then I realized that despite the hour it still looked like daytime. Oh, it was dark enough, but curtains and drapes that normally closed after dark were still open. Lights that would normally be out were still on. Most lights were out – it wasn’t something a passerby would notice – but the wrong ones were still on. It was like no one had gone to bed.

Maybe they hadn’t – there had been a lot of fuss of late and especially tonight. Maybe in my hyper-aware mode I was noticing lights more than I would normally. But I didn’t think so – I knew this street and the people on it. Mrs. Kelly across the street to the left of Crystal’s building, and third floor up had never had a light on after nine pm in my living memory but there was a little lamp glowing in one of her windows.

I noticed but strangely didn’t care. I was still concentrating on Vinnie – still very much the hawk waiting for his prey. Nothing else really mattered – although I saw incredible detail, I only cared about the one detail I didn’t see – Vinnie.

Half bidden, the thought crossed my mind that Chambers, unlike Thompkins, would be feeling the cold. He hadn’t moved, hadn’t adjusted his jacket. He was like the professional actor that pretends the other guy hadn’t flubbed his lines and the set didn’t just fall on his head – he just keeps acting. Had to respect that – later. For now, it was merely noted in the back of my brain.

I sensed a vampire but that didn’t bother me. After a moment, I knew why, Mertyn had joined Tresmayne for whatever reason. He wasn’t a threat and I didn’t care until I had to.

Time kept passing. It was weird – like looking at a clock, knowing time is going on normally, but feeling like time had stopped. Like looking at the passage of time through a window – seeing it but not being part of it. I knew it was past midnight now but didn’t feel like it had been the five hours that had actually passed. Impassively, yet keenly aware, I continued to watch.

A shadow moved where it shouldn’t at the end of the next block. A passerby? Maybe. It grew closer, shapes blending from shadow to form. By the time it was ready to cross the street to our block, I had it in perfect view. A man, 6′ 2″, long coat, collar up, hat low. Nothing surprising, it was cold even if I couldn’t feel it. My brain said ‘passerby’ but my gut was screaming something else.

Update!

I should post the next installment today. I had intended for Reckoning to be the final chapter and then an epilogue but it’s not going to work that way. The final chapter will be Heroes – whether or not it will still need an epilogue remains to be seen but I still expect so. Reckoning would have ended up in at least forty parts – the longest of any by far – so I think breaking into a new chapter is the best recourse.

The only reason you get to see this is that I’m writing and publishing in sequence – had I written then published, this kind of thing wouldn’t be evident. I could restructure chapters any way I pleased without anyone knowing. And actually, I will – this is effectively the first draft. When I edit, I will definitely make changes – there are continuity problems (memory, what’s that?) and flow problems and POV changes that shouldn’t be where they are – but the plot and story structure will remain the same. I like the alternating points of view and the general confusion of the first chapters – after all, Jack becomes a vampire slayer and amateur detective in one day, he shouldn’t get it all perfect off the bat.

But the love story got lost in the writing and needs to be revisited – and will be in the edit. For now, I’m concentrating on getting it finished – once that’s done, the editing and rewriting will probably take a few months. The final result will be an e-book. None of the edits or rewrites will be done online – other than the minor spelling and continuity edits already done, the novel will stay online as written originally.

Okay, enough talking – time to go write!

Buggy

This will bug me until I write about it. I once wrote two novels because of an idea that wouldn’t go away knowing full well I could never publish. My excuse then was ‘good practice’. Now it’s ‘get it out of the way so I can finish my own work’. Sad, I realize.

Anyway, I’m, one of the weirdos that watches the DVD commentaries. Worse, I’m one of the three people on the planet that liked Star Trek V. Oh, I knew the plot didn’t work and that the end was a mess but it had so many great vignettes that I loved it.

Anyway, the pain scene with McCoy and Spock was one of the ones that had made no sense to me. It came too late and accomplished nothing that I could tell. It also rang false and is one of the few I really didn’t like.

Anyway, listening to the commentary, I finally understood what was supposed to be happening.  And much too late and with no point to it at all – other than to get it out of my head – I know how to fix it.

Both actors had correctly objected to the scene and the studio had insisted on ‘fixing’ what the scene was trying to break – a rift in the family. The idea was that characters (not just Kirk and Co) would be convinced by Sybok’s philosophy – they ended up with Vulcan mysticism instead.

That part would have required a major rewrite – Sybok is a very sincere snake oil salesman – his theology is garbage and calling him intellectually gifted doesn’t improve things. Kirk, not Sybok, first realizes they’ve been had – so much for intellectually gifted.

But back to the scene. McCoy, in the movie, euthanizes his father ‘to preserve his (father’s) dignity. That rings so wrong on so many levels – first, it’s out of character and second it’s almost out of continuity – Star Trek usually finds better solutions than killing people for their own (supposed) good.

The fix – McCoy does euthanize his father but in a moment of weakness – a child, not a doctor, answering a parent’s plea. That would have fit far better with the rest of the dialogue and would explain McCoy’s continued agony over the event. He gave in – he made a mistake – and he can’t ever fix it. Release from that emotional pain might explain a willingness to follow Sybok – far better than Sybok’s snake oil ever would or the mind control element, for that matter.

Spock is confronted by his father’s rejection – but this is old territory and the movie quite rightly dismisses it. Spock long since moved on – we’ve seen his progression in both the series and the movies. But the idea was to develop a rift between the characters that meeting the false god would shock them into healing (I presume). Can’t get there from here, even without the studio’s meddling. The alternative of Sybok and Spock’s separation doesn’t strike me as a good solution, either. Sybok is a late addition – this would push the envelope past its development.

The fix – Spock’s initial rejection at Star Fleet Academy. This is hinted at in the series – or at least alluded to. We see Spock find acceptance in the crew of the Enterprise – acceptance he had not known before. He’d been rejected on Vulcan. He chooses SFA over VSA – we aren’t told why but it’s not hard to guess. He’s looking for acceptance – whether or not he’d have admitted it. But he doesn’t find it initially in SFA or SF – and that must have been quite a blow. He’s overcome it long since – but never, so far as we know, dealt with those feelings directly.  There’s an old wound there that Sybok could have reopened, would have been immediately difficult and yet ultimately, Spock could over come it.

The rift between them wouldn’t come from the philosophy but from what comes naturally to Kirk – rejecting the ‘freedom from pain’ that Sybok is offering. In the end, Kirk should learn that yes, pain is a good teacher but it’s a really bad companion while McCoy and Spock come to grips with learning from pain without repressing it (yes, I do see the irony there).

Ta da. All fixed. Since I don’t expect a call from Paramount I can safely leave it there without re-writing the screenplay and go back to my own business.

I plan to have True Slayers done by the end of the month.