Evil Returns To Sunnyside City

By Ron

Here’s a short story I originally thought to submit to a magazine, but I chickened. I decided to publish here instead. More is on the way.

I took a final drag on what would have been my last cigarette of the day. Possibly ever. It would have made my doctor very happy.

But between when I lit up and now, something happened to make me rethink that. Something I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

I was looking at a dead body. But that wasn’t unusual. I’m a homicide detective.

Dead I can handle. It was how it got that way that made me the rethink the whole quitting thing.

Whatever killed it wasn’t human.

“What do you make of it, Mac?” the rookie asked.

“Trouble,” I growled, “and for the last time, don’t call me Mac!”

“But everyone else does,” the rookie said, confused.

“You’re not everyone else,” I said, flicking the butt to the ground and grinding it under my heel.

There were several uniforms milling around, trying not to look as inept as they were. A few other plainclothes were peering intently at things like they knew what they were looking at.
None of them had a freakin’ clue what was going on.

Except me. And I sure as hell wish I didn’t.

The rookie tried not to pout as he joined the others trying to look like they knew what theywere doing. To be fair, he’s a bright kid and knew his way around a crime scene pretty good.
Not this time.

The rookie had a name. I just didn’t bother to learn it. I learned long ago not to get attached.

I didn’t keep partners very long. They could never stand the heat. And the burner was about to get turned way up.

One of the forensic guys called over to me. “Mac! You ever seen anything like this?” with the tone of someone who’d already decided I hadn’t.

“Yeah,” I said, still taking it all in.

We were in an alley. Even before it was a crime scene it was a rank hole. Now it was a rank hole covered in gore.

When I said there was a body, I exaggerated. You could tell it had been a body. Once. Most of the parts were unrecognizable.

I was fairly certain it was human, though we needed DNA to prove it. But what killed it was definitely not human.

“Who could do something like this?” one of the techs said.

“I don’t think it was a who,” said another. “Some kind of animal probably.”

He was sort of right, though not literally an animal. Animals kill to eat or to protect themselves. This killing wasn’t done for food or protection.

This was for fun.

Some people kill for fun, too, but not like this.

This was demons’ work.

I don’t know what you think you know about demons, but it’s probably wrong.

They’re not servants of the devil. They’re real and they only serve themselves and sometimes each other.

And they come in all shapes and sizes.

How do I know? I’ve been on the job a long time and you see some very strange things when you’re a cop in Sunnyside City.

I don’t know why it’s called that. There’s nothing sunny about this hole.

I kept my musings to myself. These idiots wouldn’t believe me anyway.
Hell, I almost didn’t believe me. I didn’t think any of these creatures were still around. They disappeared decades ago and I figured they were gone forever.

I figured wrong.

My mind raced. Why did they come back? Where the hell did they go in the first place?

I was getting ahead of myself. Maybe it was just a demon or two. Maybe not everything was coming back.
I hoped to hell not. I remembered things worse than demons.

I decided to save that panic for later. Right now, I had to figure out what did this and make sure it didn’t do it again.

“Rookie!” I said, jerking my head back toward the car.

“Mac . . . I mean, Sergeant MacKenzie? Don’t you want to wait until they collect the evidence?”

I gestured with my head. “It’ll be days before they sift through all this,” I said. “We can’t wait for that.”

“But what do we have to go on?” he asked, jogging a little to catch up with me.

“Wait and see, kid, you wouldn’t believe me if I told ya.”

“I wish you wouldn’t call me “kid,” sergeant. I’ve been on the force for six years and a detective for six months.”

“I call everybody “kid,” kid. Easier than remembering names.”

“You don’t call the captain “kid.”

“Because he’s the Cap. Caps aren’t kids. Now, shut up! I have to think.”

I really didn’t have much to think about. I already knew what I needed to do. I just wanted to shut the kid up for a while.

He stayed silent for most of the ride to my place. I was driving. I don’t trust the wheel to rookies. Or anybody.

“Where are we?” he asked as I pulled up to a hydrant.

“My place,” I growled, sounding like he should have known. But there’s no way he could. I don’t like anyone enough to invite them over.

“Your place?” he repeated. “Why?”

“Some old case files. I think tonight’s killing is related.”

“Related how?” Guy’s a genius.

“I don’t know how. That’s why we’re here.”

I swear, I’m going to tell Cap to take this partner crap and . . .

“What sort of cases were they?”

“Can’t you just shut up and wait a minute? You’ll see!”

By this time the elevator had stopped at my floor and we got out. It was a short walk down the hall to my door. A few steps beyond that was the stairwell. I like to have quick access to the exits.

I opened the door and walked in. I didn’t wait for the kid’s reaction. I didn’t even care.

I had books and newspapers in piles on almost every surface. It was a lifetime of research into things I’d hoped never to see again.

Besides what was on the chairs and tables were clippings and pictures tacked to the walls.

The kid was looking at one of them.
“Did you draw this picture of a dragon?”

“Nope.”

“Then who did?”

“It’s not a drawing,” I said. “It’s a photograph.”

The rookie had to mull that over for a few.

“Say again?”

“It’s a photo. Of a dragon. I took it years ago.”

“Why?”

“Because it was there.”

“I mean, why was it there?”

“It was hungry. It was looking for someone to eat.”

The kid lost his patience. “But where the hell did it come from?!”

“You tell me, we’ll both know.”

The rookie shook his head. “What does this have to do with the case?”

“Nothing,” I said. “You’re the one started asking questions about the damn dragon.”

“Then why are we here?”

“I need to find a vamp.”

“A what?”

“Vampire. You know, pointy teeth, stays up late, sucks blood.”

The kid had no patience. “I know what a fucking vampire is!”

“Then why’d you ask?”

“They’re real? Like the dragon?”

My turn to lose patience. “Why the fuck would I be looking for one if they weren’t fucking real? You’ve got to pay attention, kid.”

“You think a vampire killed the vic?”

“Nah. Vamps are more likely to bite ‘em and leave ‘em. They drink a pint or two and they’re done. They don’t paint an alley with someone’s insides.”

“Then why are we looking for one?”

“Do you know anything else up at that hour?”

“I didn’t know THEY’d be up at that hour, since I didn’t know THEY existed until two minutes ago!”

“You gotta learn to calm down, kid. Keep this up and you won’t last another week. Your head will explode. Seen it happen.”

“You really saw someone’s head explode?”

“Of course not, you idiot! It’s an expression!”

The rookie sighed.

“Vamps are territorial,” I said. “They pretty much know everything that happens on their hunting ground. Especially at night.”

“So you think he might’ve seen something?”

“She,” I said, looking at an old file I found in a pile on what was a dining room table. “According to this, the vamp in that neighborhood’s a she.”

“How old is that file?”

“’Bout a quarter century,” I said.

“So, how do you know she’s still there?”

“Vamps live a long time, kid. Once they’ve established their territory, they don’t wander far.”

“When’s the last time you saw one?”

“Couple decades, maybe.”

“Then how do you know they’re around?”

“Where the hell else are they going to go? Look, kid, if what I think killed that person is back, vamps would know if anyone does.”

“What do you think killed him, er, her, um, whatever it was.”

“Don’t wanna say yet. Hope to hell I’m wrong.”

I got the address from the file and was putting my jacket back on to leave when the kid said, “Got any garlic?”

“Why? You hungry?”

“I thought vampires didn’t like garlic.”

“If you eat some and they drink your blood, it makes it taste funny, sure,” I said, “but it won’t slow ‘em down any.”

“How about holy water?”

I shook my head.

“A cross?”

Another head shake. “They don’t give a crap about holy stuff. That’s for people who think their faith is stronger than a pair of fangs. Vamps got nothin’ to do with the devil. Hell, I met one once was a practicing Catholic. Went to mass, did communion, said confession and didn’t get burned once.”

“They have souls?”

“Hell, kid, I don’t know if I have one. I’ll worry about it in the next life.” He started to ask another question. I held up my hand. “Just an expression, kid. I don’t know that, either.”

“What kills them?”

My turn to ask questions. “Why in hell do you want to kill them?”

“Because they’re evil! They drink human blood!”

“A lot of animals would chew on you, too, if they had a chance. Are they evil? And sure vamps drink human blood, but they generally don’t kill people. Draws too much attention. Sure, someone who passes out in an alley might find themselves a quart low in the morning, but killing people’s a bad way to stay out of the limelight.”

“Aren’t you afraid it’ll kill us?”

“She. And no. She won’t kill us. They only kill if they have to. And I don’t figure to give her a reason.”

By this time, we had left the apartment and were getting back into the car.
I drove to the address in the file. It was a sad neighborhood. It was probably nice once, but urban blight moved in like an unwanted houseguest. And never left.

The house was in decent shape. It was still single-family, even though most of the other places had been chopped into apartments. Sad. But what can you do?

We went up the walk and used the knocker on the old wood door. I wasn’t sure she’d be home, it being night and all, but it was kinda close to dawn, so I knew there was a good chance.

The door creaked open. A willowy blonde stood there. She looked like she was mid-30s, but I knew better.

“You got old, Sarge,” she said.

“And you don’t look a day over 150.”

“I’m 183,” she said.

“See? You look good for your age. How’d you know it was me, if I changed so much?”

“You smell the same, like an old saloon. A mix of stale whiskey, cigarette smoke and cheap aftershave. With a hint of desperation thrown in.”

“More than a hint,” I growled.

“I was trying to be nice.”

“First time for everything, I guess.”

The rookie was looking from one of us to the other like he was watching tennis.

“Going to introduce me to your friend?” she asked.

“He’s not my friend. He’s my partner. I call him ‘kid.’”

“N-n-n-ame’s Brown,” he finally stammered. “Jack Brown. Detective Jack Brown.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Detective Jack Brown,” she purred, extending her hand.

He shook it and I could see surprise on his face. “Your hand is warm!”

“What did you think she was, a walking corpse? She’s alive like you and me. She isn’t a dead human. She’s just not human, is all.”

“Not human? Then what is she?”

“She’s a vamp, dumbass! It’s like a donkey and a horse. One’s not a dead version of the other. They’re just different.”

“Don’t humans turn into vamps when they’re bitten by one?”

“God, no!”

“Then how do they make new vampires?”

“Well, kid. Let me tell you about the birds and the bees. When two vamps really love each other . . .”

“Oh. They breed like anything else.”

“You make it sound so romantic,” the vamp said, deadpan. “Stop, please. You’re turning me on.”

The rookie smiled sheepishly.

“Look, kid,” I said, “My guess is, we’re offshoots of the same species, but evolved differently.

“They’re stronger, live longer and drink blood. No one knows why. Might’ve been the environment they lived in way back.”

“So, they’re not supernatural?”

“Nope.”

“And there aren’t any supernatural creatures?”

“Didn’t say that.”

“Oh,” he said, looking even more confused.

“Can we get back to the case, now?” I growled.

“You tell me,” the kid shot back, showing backbone for the first time. “You brought us here.”

“OK, Deb,” I said, turning to the vamp. “I need your help . . .”

“I go by Barb now,” she said. “I had to change identities. I’m Deb’s daughter Barb. Isn’t the resemblance uncanny?”

Vamps had to be careful about that. Eventually, even the dullest human will start to notice his neighbor’s just as hot as she was 50 years ago.

“OK. Barb,” I said. “We had a killing.”

“Did one of us do it?” she said. Like I said before, killing’s not their thing, but sometimes one goes nuts. Kind of like humans.

“No,” I said. “Too messy. We’re going to have to use DNA to identify the vic. Not enough of anything else left.”

I could hear her quick intake of breath. “Demons?”

Now it was the rookie’s turn to gasp. I hadn’t told him my theory.

To his credit, he didn’t say anything, but I could feel his look.

“That’s what I’m thinking,” I said. “See any around?”

“Not since about the time I last saw you,” she said.

By this time, we had settled in the living room and she was serving drinks. The kid had a coke. I went for whiskey on the rocks. Sure, I was on duty, but how often do you investigate a demon killing? I’ll have coffee next time. Maybe.

“Where do you s’pose they went?” I asked, “and why are they back?”

She shrugged. “I’ve been wondering that. Seems like all the mythical creatures left about the same time and haven’t been seen since. What’s next, unicorns?”

“I hope not, “ I said. “Those bastards are mean. I wonder whose big idea it was to make a horse with a spear on its head.”

“Somebody made them?” That was from the rookie.

“No, you idiot. Figure of speech.”

“What other kinds of creatures are there?”

“I don’t have time to go over the whole list,” I said. “Right now, all you need to know about are vamps and demons.”

He looked confused. I figured I’d be seeing that a lot. “Most creatures of myth and legend are just that. Creatures,” I continiued. “Flesh and blood. Nothing magical about them.”

“Most?” the rookie said.

“Don’t go there.”

I turned to Barb. “Seriously? You haven’t seen demon sign?”

“No,” she said, “I don’t get out as much as I used to. I’ve got a connection at a blood bank, so I don’t need to stalk winos in alleys.”

“The killing we’re investigating was just a couple blocks over. Know anyone else who might have caught a whiff of something?”

“Hugo. I know he hunts my territory from time to time, since I’m not.”

“Isn’t that considered an insult?”

“He asked permission. It was very sweet, really.”

“Hugo?”

“He even lets me know when he’s going to be around, so our paths don’t cross. I haven’t heard from him in a few days, though, so he probably hasn’t been around.”

“Can you get ahold of him? I need to know if he’s heard, seen or smelled anything unusual.”

“I’ll let him know. Whether he gets back to you . . .”

“I know. We’re not exactly on hand-holding terms.”

“So, what did the remains look like?” Barb asked. “Anything big enough left to have teeth marks? That’s usually a dead giveaway.”

“So to speak,” I said.

“So to speak,” she responded with a smirk.

“No,” I said. “I’m not sure there was anything left even the size of a tooth.”

“That’s narrows it down to about a dozen different kinds of demons.”

“Yeah,” I growled. “Kinda figured that on my own.”

“So I’m no help at all?”

“Not so far. Not unless Hugh . . . “

“Hugo,” she interrupted.

“Whatever,” I said, “not unless he got a whiff of something.”

The rookie and I said our good-byes and headed back to the car.

“So, we wait for the other vamp?”

“Not on your life,” I said. “I’m not going to rest my whole investigation on someone who’d as soon suck me dry as look at me.”

“What’d you do to piss him off?”

“Nothing serious. Tried to arrest him for murder, is all.”

“Did he do it?”

“Of course he did,” I snarled. “Why else would I try to arrest him?”

“Why’d you let him go?”

“I didn’t understand what he was at first. Then I realized, you couldn’t put someone away for a life sentence if they live a couple hundred years. It’d mess up the system.”

“What about the death penalty?”

“No guarantee he’d’ve gotten that. Besides, vamps heal so fast, lethal injections and electrocutions wouldn’t work.”

“A stake through the heart?”

“Even if that works, can you picture a judge sentencing that?”

“How about sunlight? Fire?”

“Why are you so hell-bent on killing vamps? What did they ever do to you?”

“I want to be ready.”

“Believe me, kid, if a vamp really wants you dead, I doubt you could stop him. I was lucky Hugo saw how dumb it’d be to kill a cop.”

“But that’s not relevant now,” I said. “Vamps aren’t the problem. It’s demons we have to worry about.”

“’Demons?’” the kid said. “Plural?”

“Pretty sure one demon didn’t reduce the vic to pulp. Usually takes a pack to do that. Pack of small ones, usually.” I shuddered. “I hate the small ones.”

“Why?”

“The big ones, you can take one on one. The small ones form a mob. Hard to fight back when you’re surrounded by fangs and claws. Probably what happened to our vic.”

“What do they look like?”

“Demons? Depends. There’s a lot of different ones. Some are hairy. Some have scales. Big ones. Small ones. But, still, they all have one thing in common.”

“What’s that?”

“They’re pure mean.”

“Where do they come from?”

“I dunno. Where does anything come from? Where to bears come from? Do you know where bears come from?”

“How do you kill them?”

“With something big enough to rip them apart.”

He didn’t seem to be encouraged by my wisdom.

We went back to the precinct to see if any of the techs had something useful. It was a wasted trip, but we didn’t have much else.

“Nothing?” I asked Melanie, the head tech.

She shook her head, whisps of grey hair dancing around her face. “Not a fucking thing.”

She was pretty in a school marm-ish way, but knew more swear words than I did.

“I mean, we got a lot of DNA evidence from the vic that we’re running down now. Plenty of blood and body fluid samples to choose from, but nothing solid. Literally. There wasn’t anything solid enough to pick up with anything except a sponge.

“And absolutely nothing,” she continued, “that gives us clue one about the perp.”

“Any guesses?” That was the rookie’s contribution. I took a slight step back, trying to make it look like I was just shifting my weight a little. I would’ve run if I could’ve gotten away with it.

“Guesses?!” Melanie exploded. “We don’t fucking guess in my lab! We go by the evidence, asshole! We don’t guess, read tea leaves or use a Ouija board! Do you think I have a fucking crystal ball up my ass? A fucking magic eight-ball? We go by the fucking evidence! We’re scientists, for fuck sake!”

Did I mention Melanie has a temper?

This was getting us nowhere. “C’mon, rookie. We have witnesses to interview.”

“What wit . . .?” he started to say, but stopped when I gave him a look.

“Right,” he said. “Witnesses.”

“Thanks,” he said, whispering as we walked away. “I owe ya.”

“I should’ve let her rip you a new one,” I growled, “but we don’t have time for that shit right now.”

“Why? What’s next?”

“We do what cops do best,” I said. “We sit in a car, drink coffee, smoke, eat doughnuts, and wait for something to happen.”

So, a half hour later, we were sitting in the car not far from the crime scene, me with my coffee, doughnuts and smokes and the kid with a coke and a granola bar.

“You expect the de . .., er, perps, to come back?” He wasn’t quite ready to say it out loud.

“Beats the shit out of me,” I said. They sometimes come back to the same territory to hunt again, but you never know.”

That’s when my phone rang. It was Melanie. They’d ID’ed the vic.

I froze when I heard the name. “Could you repeat that?” I asked the phone.

“John Finelli,” she repeated, annoyed.

I filled the rookie in after I hung up. He gave a low whistle. “That changes things,” he said. “What are the odds he was a random vic?”

“Too fucking slim to make sense,” was my answer, as I started the car and put it into gear.

Finelli ran crime in that part of town. Luckily for the cops in this city, you can’t exactly call it “organized.” All the bosses had their own fiefdoms and were constantly duking it out, trying to expand their territories.

This was starting to look like more of the same.

“I don’t get it,” the rookie said. “if this wasn’t random, who could control the, er, demons to make the hit? And why?”

“Somebody was sending a message,” I said, answering his second question.
“As for who,” I continued, “that’s why we’re off to see a wizard.”

“A wiz . . . seriously?”

“I don’t know anything else that could control demons like that.”

“What about a witch?”

“Don’t be stupid,” I said. “Witches do earth magic. They never practice dark arts. Well, except for that once.”

“You have to tell me about it someday,” he said.

“No,” I replied. “No, I don’t.”

“Do you know many wizards?”

“A few. And they’re all assholes.”

“Are some good and some evil?”
“Let’s just say some are less evil than others.”

“Great,” he said.

I called Deb, er, Barb to see if she’d heard anything.

“Hugo said he hasn’t seen any sign of demons, per se,” she said, “but he’s heard about a mage trying take take over crime in that neighborhood, one who’s been known to summon demons.”

“Did he say who?”

“He did.”

“Are you going to tell me or are we going to play friggin’ twenty questions?”

“He said not to tell you until after I give you a message.”

“What’s that.”

“That now you owe him twice. For this and for not ripping you to shreds twenty years ago.”

“Did he say he was never going to rip me to shreds?”

“He says he’s still weighing his options.”

“I’m glad he didn’t deliver his message personally, then.”

“Me, too,” she said.

“So, who the hell’s the wizard? I haven’t kept up with who’s who in magic in a while.”

“You’ll recognize the name, though he’s new on the scene. His father was Michael Grimcheski. The son has taken over the family business. He’s Junior.”

The original Grimcheski was a son of a bitch, but would never use demons when he could do his own dirty work. Besides, once you call them, they’re tough to call off.

“So the kid is trying to outdo the father?”

“Aren’t they all?” she asked.

“Especially when they have a lot to live up to,” I said. “Or down to. Whatever.”

Barb said Hugo didn’t know where to find Grimcheski the younger, but I had a feeling where to look.

“We need to find Finelli’s headquarters,” I said to the rookie after I hung up and filled him in. “I have a feeling Grimcheski would set up shop there. Call O’Hara from vice. He should have a lead.”

The kid placed the call and hung up with the name of a dive bar in the same neighborhood as the alley.

“Sunnyside Bar and Grill?” the rookie said. “Seriously? Who names these places?”

“Beats the shit out of me, kid,” I said. “Let’s go see how sunny it is.”

It was anything but. When we walked in, I think I saw rats having cocktails in the corner. They could have been at the bar, for all anyone would notice.

The rookie was carrying the shotgun from our unmarked car.  I didn’t think it’d do much good, but it seemed to make him feel better.

We flashed badges at the bartender. Besides us and the rats, there was no one else. “Grimcheski here?” I said.

“Who?” the barkeep replied. Great, I thought. Like I haven’t heard that dodge before.

“Great,” I said. “Like I haven’t heard that dodge before.”

“Your new boss,” the rookie chimed in.

“I don’t have a boss. I own this place.”

“Cut the shit,” I said. “Just tell him we’re here.”

“Mac MacKenzie,” a new voice said, coming from the back, near the rats. “I’ve heard about you. Twenty years later and still a sergeant. Upwardly mobile, are we?”

“Stick to what you’re good at, I always say. A lesson you’d be smart to learn, junior.”

I expected him to bristle at that. He surprised me by chuckling.

“I heard about your gruff sense of humor. Father has several stories about you. I expect that remark was supposed to anger me and put me off balance. Nothing you could say that would be worse than what the old man has called me.”

He paused for a moment. “But now I’m the more powerful wizard and there’s nothing he can do to hurt me. Nor is there anything you can do.”

“I don’t plan on doing anything,” I said. “I figure you’ve done enough on your own.”

“Oh, you mean how demons always turn on the one who summons them?” He laughed. It was annoying.

“I made it look as if it were my father doing the summoning. I left a trail of breadcrumbs leading right to the old bastard. The demons will think it was he who summoned them, not I.”

I don’t know magic, but that sounded tricky. I also know how wiley a wizard his father is. Or was. He was older than me, so he could be past his prime. Magic takes its toll, so he could be fading even if he’s only 65 or so.

But if I were a betting man, I’d wager if a pack of demons found their way to senior, he’d have them following him around like lap dogs in no time.

“You’d be right, sergeant,” a voice boomed from near the front door, which hadn’t opened. I hate when mages use mind-reading spells. I hate it more when they appear out of nowhere. Like I said. Assholes, every one.

“I brought friends of yours, son,” the elder wizard said, and about a dozen small demons — all fur and teeth — materialized out of nothing.

More magic. Demons can’t do that by themselves.

Normally at this point, I’d be shitting bricks. But I wasn’t worried. All right, maybe a little. You never know how these things are going to work. I glanced at my partner. He was sweating bullets and trying not to look scared shitless.

All of a sudden, the demons raced across the room, heading straight for us. I winced more than a little when they got to us, but they jumped over and around us to get to their former master.

The rookie and I both let out a relieved sigh. The charm worked.

You see, I don’t go anywhere unarmed, no matter what weapons are going to be used. I stopped by a witch’s house on the way over and picked up a demon protection charm.

I knew Granny from way back and knew her magics were mostly reliable.

This time, she was spot on. Like I said, witches don’t do dark magic like wizards, but they make protection charms like nobody’s business.

In this case, the demons barely knew we were there.

I looked over to see junior cringing against the wall, obviously unprepared for the attack. The rats had wisely disappeared.

“You disappoint me, son,” the elder Greshenski said. “How many times have I told you to always be prepared for the unexpected?”

“But that doesn’t make any goddam sense,” junior said, the demons snarling inches away and nipping at his shoes. “How can you prepare for something you don’t expect?”

“Exactly my point. That’s why you were always a piss-poor student. No fucking imagination.”

“But I summoned the demons!”

“Summoning them is easy. Controlling them is hard. Only a dumbass would summon them without making sure he was protected from them at all times. The only thing keeping you from being demon chow right now is that it makes too much of a goddam mess. One gesture from me and you’d be floor pizza.”

“Mage,” I said. “This is a police matter. You have to turn your son over to us.”

“No,” he said. “I truly don’t. That little charm you brought is good against demons, not wizards.”

“Right,” I said. I didn’t think that bluff would work. “But there has to be justice.”

“There will be,” he said. The wizards’ council will see to it.” After seeing my confusion, he said, “yes, we’re still around, sergeant. We’ve been keeping a low profile. Believe it or not, we’re not all power-hungry assholes.”

I snorted.

“Really,” he continued, “it does us no good to draw attention to ourselves, something it took us centuries to learn. We’ll deal with this boy,” he added, emphasizing the last word. “He’s not worthy to join our ranks.”

“What will happen to him?” I asked, hoping it was severe enough.

“The council will decide his fate, but I will recommend leniency, that he live out his life in the nether realm.”

“Is that bad?” the rookie put in. I’m glad he did, because I hadn’t a fucking clue and I didn’t want to sound stupid.

“Where do you think the demons come from?” the wizard said. “They won’t be able to eat him there, but they’ll be slobbering on him constantly, nipping at his clothes. And the big ones, well, let’s just say they’ll enjoy catching him, beating the crap out of him, and letting him go to do it again.”

“You’re enjoying this way too much, father.”

I thought so, too, but, hey, if this is wizard justice, I’m all for it. Seems to me death would be more humane, but who am I to argue.

“Sounds good to me,” I said. “I need to file a report, but maybe I can fudge some things to say wild animals did it. Wouldn’t be far from the truth.”

And with that, both wizards and the demon pack were gone. No sound, no flash of light. Not even a muttered incantation.

We both turned to the bartender, who was just standing up from behind the bar. We all exchanged a look and, wordlessly, the bartender got three glasses and poured three fingers of whiskey in each.

We exchanged another look, grabbed our glasses, and each drank in one gulp. The bartender looked a question at the rookie and me. We both nodded and the barkeep poured another round. We drank slower this time.

“What’s next for you?” I asked.

“Someone will move up the food chain and take over,” he said, “or maybe one of the neighboring bosses will move in. Same old, same old for me.”

“Maybe the dad will take over from the son,” I said.

“Dear God, I hope not,” he said. “If anything, he seems more of an asshole than his son.”

“Know anything about wizards?”

“Nah. Never heard of them until this punk pops in — literally — and says ‘do you know who I am?’ I said ‘shit, no. Who the fuck are you?’”

“Then he told me about Finelli and what happened to him. He even popped those goddams things in to prove it.”

“Then what?” I prompted.

“Usually the new boss is same as the old boss, but I could see this little shit was trouble. I mean, Finelli was a dickhead, but he was more often fair than not.”

He paused. “You know, now that I think on it, I’ve heard about a few strange things going on that maybe have something to do with this wizard shit.”

“Like?” this from the rookie.

“You know, people disappearing, rumors of people seeing shit like wolves and bears and shit.”

“Remember anything specific?” I asked.

“Nah, I didn’t pay them no mind. Too crazy. Now . . .”

“How long has this been going on?”

“A month. Maybe two.”

“You hear other shit like that, you call me?” I said handing him my card with my cell number on the back.

“I take it this shit ain’t good?” he said, examining my card. “For people, I mean?”

“This shit ain’t good at all,” I said. “Call me?”

“Sure, detective. I like your style.”

“Call me ‘Mac,’” I said.

“I’m Joe,” he said.

I led the kid back outside and to the car.

He exploded as we were opening the doors. “Why does he get to call you ‘Mac’ and I don’t? I’m your goddam partner, for fuck’s sake!”

“We’ll see,” I said. “As soon as you start showing some backbone. But I have a feeling that you’ll get a chance if you stick with me.”

“You want me to stay your partner?”

“Why the fuck not,” I said. “Saves me from having to explain this shit to someone else.”

He calmed down and looked thoughtful for a moment. “What did you make of Joe’s comment about wolves and bears?”

“I dunno,” I said, “Could be demons, could be other things. All of them nastier than wolves and bears.”

He looked thoughtful again as I fired up the ignition and put the car in gear.

“You think it’s going to get bad, Sarge?”  He asked, looking out the side window.

“Yes, Jack,” I said as I pulled from the curb. “I sure as fuck do.”

4 Responses to “Evil Returns To Sunnyside City”

  1. Fran V.

    Ron, That was great! You are a man of many talents. I’m very impressed. Fran

  2. Ron

    Thank you, Fran. I appreciate that.

  3. MB

    Ron! This dialogue is funny! You must enjoy writing it-I can tell. I love it. Continue:)

  4. Ron

    Thanks, MB! It is a lot of fun. I’m nearing the exciting climax of the second installment — I just need to figure out what it is.