Part III of III
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
Dane was driving, and he was going way, way too fast.
‘What the fuck, Southerland? WHAT THE FUCK?’
He fishtailed the modified SUV and caught every skid he could on every turn, barely touching the break. When the turns stopped, he slammed his foot down on the gas and headed up town, making for the bridge. The metallic thrum of the custom engine echoed off asphalt as he pounded through the rain soaked night.
‘You answer me right now you piece of shit, what the fuck was that back there?’
‘Jesus ‘Bec, give it a rest until were in the green okay?’
‘Fuck you Josh, did you see what-’
Dane spoke with the voice of God, drowning out the engine, the storm, and the twinkling city.
‘STOP. Josh is right, were open now. Once I sew this up you can berate me. One more goddamn word out of anyone’s mouth before this thing stops, I start making corpses. Green?’
The engine slammed the road.
Eric was stuffed in the back with the two women. Too scared to speak, he couldn’t stop looking at Sasha with her ashen face now flecked with dried blood. Completely motionless, he thought maybe she had finally died. Then she blinked slowly, purposefully like a cat might.
He shut is eyes.
Dane slowed his driving after the first ten miles or so. The black SUV faded into the river of metal entering Manhattan. In his usual deliberate way, Dane silently waited through the traffic. Sirens would fly by and he would prickle, but they never stopped, and he never lost his cool.
Dane Southerland never did.
He found the thruway, and hurled the suburban up 87. The city lights dimmed, and bled into woods and trees made black with night. His orders took, even though he thought they might not. No one spoke. Behind him, Rebecca looked out the window, and would randomly usher silent curses to herself. Josh was looking down at his feet, concentrating on not thinking. But Mark was a different story. When Dane glanced the passenger seat next to him, Mark threw him a look that could start judgment day. And once he saw it, he could feel him drilling a hole in his head with smoldering eyes. The kid in the back would whimper, and the corpses would flail. An hour passed.
Behind them, the city lit the cloud soaked sky like a rising sun, but this far north it was sleepy towns and thick forest. He pulled off 87 suddenly onto Taxter road and then onto Taxter ridge itself. He heaved the vehicle violently up the ridge, mud and water spraying until halogen lights revealed a small wrote iron gate, and the white faced granite slabs lined together like the re planted trees that surrounded them all. Tim was smoking on a gravestone, and glanced up with his doe eyed impatience as they all piled out of the car.
‘Fuckin’ finally you is here. I had about thought you stupid ami’s had taken the piss and-’
‘Okay so were here, what the FUCK was that, Southerland?’ Rebecca slogged though the wet earth to him, her hat off now, her black tac garb mad her pale face and bright red hair look like a phantom in the dark.
The headlights cut a bright swath through the black, and Dane turned to the jury. They all lined up to face him like a firing squad. Tim broke the silence.
‘What the fuck was what?’
‘Tell him.’ Said Mark. ‘Tell him what it was.’
‘I was doing my job, that’s what it is.’
‘Oh yeah?’ Becc gave a short laugh ‘Then I must have forgotten what it is you do because that was never apart of the job before.’
‘He shot a cop. Killed him.’ said Mark, mostly to wipe the stupid, quizzical look off of Tim’s boyish face.
The Irishman gaped, but held his tongue.
Rebecca continued, unabated. ‘So we kill cops now? I ask merely for information.’
Dane looked at her, but said nothing.
‘What about old women? Couples? Fucking kids? Where do we draw the line, Southerland? You told me, you said what we do is guard these people, we plunge into the dark to stop these things because the world needs us. Humanity, you said, needs us. Was that humanity tonight?’
She was close to him now, and he held her gaze like the professional he was.
‘Explain it to me, fucking explain it. And the crack about Michael, about hating him and him being and idiot and all hat shit, was the just a gag or did you mean it?’
And suddenly, like an oil well it hit him; rage, pure and unadulterated. ‘What do you think this is, Bec; day camp? We are fighting a war here; a war without an end, without a goal, without any hope of victory. A war that gives us one outcome; death. What did you think was going to happen? The cop saw our faces, saw what we were doing. Either I let him take a shot and one of you gets hit, or I let him lock us up. You think they aren’t going to find out? You think they don’t know us? This isn’t a game for weak hearts, were playing for keeps here, honey, and I will do anything to keep the scale tipped in our favor.’
He was angry and it was obvious. The others responded in kind.
Mark roiled ‘I used to be a cop you piece of shit, you think I’m just going to be okay with this?’
Josh pleaded ‘Cmon man they just want to know what’s the deal here, you never said anything about anything like this.’
Rebecca lashed out ‘Oh don’t pull that art of war crap on me. You have everybody fooled, all alone surrounded by your little acolytes, gaming all of us day after goddamn day. Well, I’m sick and fucking tired of it.’
Tim just gaped, he could feel what was pooling at the back of everyone’s mind; that this was it, it was over now. The dream had died. Four months now they had all worked under Southerland. Four months they had trained with him, lived with him, breathed in sync with him. He was God as far as they could tell.
He gathered them all, made them sign six months of their lives away for the knowledge of the dark, for the power of light, and for the vast well of knowledge he possessed. But tonight, when he killed the innocent, the spell was broken. The visage of immortality that clung to Southerland like a soft mist had burned away and now they saw him for what he was; the monsters they hunted, the ghost in the machine. All the money, the gear, even their clothes were his, and now that they saw him, they started to feel just what that meant; and it felt dirty.
‘What is going on.’
The bickering stopped, and they all turned their heads to see Eric, the kid, shaking like a leaf on a tree. He had climbed out of the back of the SUV and was clearly terrified.
Dane spoke first ‘It’s a long story kid, I’ll tell you later.’
‘No, you’re not getting this one. I want out, now.’ Rebecca was on the warpath.
‘You have a contract; it isn’t filled.’
‘Michael had a contract, did he fill it or did you just hate him enough to bump him off?’ Mark said angrily.
The clamor started up again, they were all yelling now, trying to force their anger into steel daggers to cut Southerland where they could.
He put a stop to it.
In a clean motion, he drew his SOCOM. He didn’t aim it, didn’t even raise it, just held it in his had. Everyone stopped talking.
‘I have spent 30 years in this business. 30 years of blood, black and hate. What the fuck did you think was going to happen? If it helped you sleep better to think in all this time I never had to cross a line, then I was happy to let you live that way. We’re violent people living violent lives; sooner or later, someone is going to get in the crossfire and when they do, you don’t stop shooting, because the enemy wont stop. They won’t stop ever.’
He turned on Mark with cold, calculated eyes ‘As for Mike, guess what; I did hate him. He was cocky, he was stupid and he was an idiot. You know how I know that? Because he’s fucking dead. Stupid gets you dead, that’s he lesson and that’s the name of the game. I let that cop suck wind and we all get fucking DEAD.’
Rebecca was smiling now, and shaking her head slowly. ‘You know, I can’t believe I just got this, but you’re out of your goddamn mind, Dane.’
She said it with conviction, with that deep, soul-affirming certainty that one couldn’t help but believe.
‘You can read all these people, and see how everything fits together how it’s going to play out; but you don’t have a fucking clue as to who you are. Why do you even do this? Do you have any concept of the word you claim your trying to save because I don’t think you do.’
She walked close to him again, and looked into his eyes like she was searching for something she had lost there, like maybe the man she had seen all those months ago was captive to all the hate that was this new Southerland.
Then, it was his turn to smile, but not the far away smile he usually gave, like someone pretending to laugh at something they didn’t think was funny. This time, it was full of derangement and wild malice; hatred that rivaled the monsters they fought nightly. A mental fortitude of insanity that betrayed both strength and weakness at once, and gave anyone looking on the impression that deep down, in some haunted region of the soul this guy had lost it, was way off the reservation and had become more dangerous than the things he killed.
Mark spoke first. ‘I’m out. Keep your fucking money.’
‘Me too.’ It was Josh, but he said it sadly.
Tim didn’t even say anything; he just stood next to mark and folded his arms.
Rebecca pulled her glock, her HK and her dagger, throwing them at Dane Southerland’s feet like relics for a cruel alter. ‘I want my money.’
Dane lost the sadistic grin, and then turned away from them all. ‘Leave the bodies, leave the kid. Anyone who wants out can get his or her cut tomorrow at the warehouse, nine am. Ill offer 70 cents on the dollar; non negotiable.’
‘The kid comes with me.’ Said Rebecca. ‘Im not going to let you ruin his life too.’
Dane turned to the kid now, the insane grin replaced by his usual stone face, impassable and mysterious.
‘What do you think kid? You want to go on with these people.’
Eric got angry again, and the words poured out of him like lava.
‘What is even going on here? An hour ago im getting a handy in the ally, im worried about a project at work, im fucking drunk and now there are are are… whatever these things are?’
‘Vampires.’ Tim said coolly.
‘Yeah! What? That’s what I mean, who are you people, why are you what you are? Why did you.. I don’t know… Why the fuck did you give me that stake?’
The rain slowed then, from fat drops to the slow mist that kept the wet world drenched. In the distance, fingers of real sunlight dimmed the city lights. Southerland moved quickly, purposefully towards the back of the SUV and Eric, and for a second he thought the older man might kill him.
When he didn’t they saw what he was doing; he grasped the Vampires by the feet and dragged them out into the night, through the little iron gate and slumped them against a nameless grave worn smooth with age. Sasha was out, but Helen still moved her eyes, although the flailing had stopped.
Oily blood still snaked its way down her chest.
‘That’s why I gave you the stake. Because these things; these things will never stop. They think they run the show, and in the last 300 years, we have cut them and their cohorts down to size. Technology, kid, is saving humanity. But we can’t let up, we can’t slow down and we cannot afford to be complacent. If we give them an inch, even one piece of doubt they will plant it in the darkest part of your brain and it will grow into complacency and apathy; and they win.’
Helen was smiling now, a black smirk that was creeping across her white face.
‘You work for the Libach Group, don’t you?’
Eric blinked out of the trance Dane had put him under. ‘What?’
‘You work with computers, at Libach.’
‘So I drafted you. I was tailing Helen, and I saw her tag take interest in you, so I did a quick background; Eric Stetzer, 24 years old, you are a systems architect that is working of the PIN firewall. You have knowledge of data systems that I don’t, and I needed a techi since this teams contract is almost up.’
‘You’re fucking twisted.’ Rebecca butted in.
‘Oh yeah? Fine, call it what you like but I told you before; I will do anything to keep us on top, keep them moving. You can’t let them rest, can’t let them think;’
Sunlight was flooding the world now, and as a rim of burning gold crested above the horizon, the two Vampires started to smoke. Dane moved quickly then, grasped both silver stakes and pulled hard. Gore poured from the wounds, and the paralysis wore off. Sasha screamed and cried. She was pretty again, and her tainted blood seemed more human now. She was like a victim, crying innocent, as the sun beat down on her smoking form.
But Helen didn’t move. She kept her eyes on Eric, until the heat was too much, and she burst into flame. All he could see through the white-hot blaze was the bloody smile. In less than 5 minutes, it was over, and only the fuming ruin of the corpses remained.
They all stared, and Dane continued, his eyes glinting madness in the morning sun.
‘You can’t forget that the dark comes before, and lingers after.’
Josh got there at nine on the dot. He didn’t say anything; he didn’t even look Dane in the eyes. Outside the huge warehouse on Sackett st. by the waters edge, Dane handed the boy a black duffel bag filled with cash, and he never saw the kid again.
Mark and Tim never came.
He wandered back inside, and poured himself another strong drink. The floor of the structure was concrete, and the lofts that hung above him like a jungle canopy were quite nice; beds, kitchen, an comfortable bar area with pool table and a 64” tv. It was the place where his crew could relax, have a drink and unwind. Where the slept and lived and talked late into the morning about where life was going, what it all meant.
Downstairs, however was purely dedicated to the hunt. Long shop tables with heavy equipment. Gun safes, computers connected to heavy servers and thick data cabling piped in from off the street. The windows, open now, were usually covered in thick, bulletproof metal casings. The walls were adorned with dozens of crosses.
At 10:30, they both showed up.
Rebecca walked in as usual, and Dane gave her a lazy stare from atop the loft. The kid was with her, and jealously pricked in the back of his mind. He suddenly became aware of how drunk he was.
‘You got my money?’
‘It’s right there, honey.’ He pointed to the table where the large duffel bad sat open. She flipped through it. ‘This is the full amount.’
‘Well I don’t want it.’
‘Then give it to the kid. That is, if he was worth it.’
She frowned. ‘What does that mean?’
‘You two fucked last night, I’m saying you can have all the money and if he was good enough-’
‘Yeah yeah, real mature Southerland. Why don’t you have another drink?’
Eric stood silently through the exchange, and saw Southerland, as he had found his name to be, take a sip from a coffee mug. He winced as the liquid went down.
‘Was she good kid?’
Eric looked at the floor.
‘Did she do that thing’ he said, rising and coming to the railing ‘where she wraps her tongue around-’
‘Hey Dane, guess what? It’s old, and it’s boring. Like you. Yeah, we fucked; I was stressed, he was stressed and you’re an asshole. What about it?’
‘Nothing. Did you tell him I was going to offer him a job.’
‘I don’t want it.’ Eric spoke for the first time. He was wearing a tac jacket like Rebecca now, his blood soaked clothes replaced sometime in the past 5 hours.
‘Six months. You get to play with that,’ Eric followed his gesture to a bank of monitors on the far wall all plugged unto blade units and sleek, black Prime data cutters. He had seen them before, but only in magazines; they were strictly military hardware. ‘You live here, you work here you follow my orders and six month later; payday.’
He fidgeted, and Rebecca just looked at him kindly. The whisper barley escaped he lips. ‘You don’t want this.’
‘I’m sure she told you what we do. Well once you’re done with me, you’ll know all about ‘em. Weaknesses, strengths, other shit.’ He was sloshing his drink ‘and then you leave when its done half a million bucks richer. What do you say kid?’
He looked at her, and they shared the same doubt he had been carrying around with him all night.
‘I told you last night, kid. Light has to be created, darkness is there; it’s always there. We need good men like you; think of your family.’
‘You won’t have a life here, Eric.’ Rebecca cut in ‘You don’t know him this is what he does, he manipulates people, he uses them.’
‘Yeah and then pays them.’ Dane smiled, but it wasn’t for himself; it was for her. He had won. What the Eric saw last night was rolling around in his mind grasping for an answer, and with his toys and his money, Dane Southerland could provide an answer, find him a place. Rebecca had seen it on Taxter ridge, and she saw it again now; the silver tongue that was Southerland was more dangerous than any weapon in the room.
‘Look take it or leave it, but you walk out and you’re on your own; both of you. She’s good, ill give her that, but she’s not me. She doesn’t have my connections or my skill. And try as you might, once you see what we have seen, your life is over.’
He looked away from them then, out into the blazing light of dawn, and seemed to be talking more to himself suddenly. ‘You can try to live a normal life, like I did. But little by little, so slowly you don’t notice until you’re heart is empty, you lose it. Your ability to enjoy, to feel love. You think only about the darkness, and it haunts you. Your girlfriend and her bullshit just seems useless. A dead end job feels like masturbating to stop a gunman. And then all your carefully conceived denials come crashing down in an avalanche of terrible reason; we are all alone out here, dead things eating the living on a speck of dust lingering in sunlight.’
He gave a heavy sigh and drained the glass.
‘You think you can live with that? Be my guest. Me, I do what we have done since we climbed down from the trees and sharpened a stick. What built civilization, and what tamed the elements; I fight back. What about you, Eric Stetzer? Are you going to fight back, or are you going to put the blindfold back on, because I tell you what, once it comes off its all full of holes.’
Rebecca made a soft sigh, the beginnings of a tear filled her eyes, knowing she lost him then. Dane was going to suck the life out of him, and if he lived to see his contract filled, he was going to do what he always did; dump him on the street and let him get eaten because without the team, without support, they were as good as dead.
‘Who started all this?’ Eric asked, still mesmerized by the huge amounts of shining hardware he saw all around him.
Rebecca saw her move then.
‘Gabriel’s Sin.’ She said.
Southerland rolled his eyes, but the smile faded.
‘In the bible, Gabriel was the host of heaven, leader of the angels and the Power of God. He would come down, often, and speak the Lords will.’
Upstairs, the sound of a snort and liquid falling into a glass.
‘Legend says that when Adam ate the apple, ‘sin entered the world.’ A lot of people-’
‘Some people.’ Said Southerland
‘-A LOT of people think that’s when monsters were let in. When our punishment started. Then one day, down comes Gabriel and he reveals this to a small group of people, and gives them ‘skill.’ So suddenly, the bible stops mentioning him. They say this was the first group of Slayers, and that Gabriel, feeling a connection and kinship with mankind revealed to them the secrets of fighting them, of mankinds willpower and unbreakable bonds of fellowship and love that can conquer all the hate they bring.’
‘Bullshit.’ Slurred speech from Southerland. ‘You think its demonic hate in a Vampire? In anything? What’s so scary about a corps is that id doesn’t need a demon to be cruel, its just a man.’
“If man were immortal he could be perfectly sure of seeing the day when everything in which he had trusted should betray his trust, and, in short, of coming eventually to hopeless misery. He would break down, at last, as every good fortune, as every dynasty, as every civilization does. In place of this we have death.”
Rebecca signed ‘Charles Sanders Peirce, what of it?’
‘We are the enemy! That’s Gabriel’s Sin; he aided the Devil that was supposed to destroy itself. He taught cruel, heartless men who would be exactly as wicked at the things they hunt were they not mortal to feel righteous, to stand above it all like Gods themselves. He kept the game going. We don’t need hell, this is it, its all around us every time the sun goes now; Vampires are just men without rules and without cages, and then all of them become wicked! Get the joke?’
He laughed a cold, hollow laugh that made Eric shudder.
‘See kid, there might be a God, but he clearly hates us.’
Eric’s eyes got wide. ‘What did you say?’
‘I said there may be a-’
‘You know what? No. I don’t want this. Look at yourself look at all this; this is the great crusade? An aging… I don’t know whatever you are, sitting alone in a concrete building full of guns drinking? What are you, man? Do you even remember what that thing Helen said in the ally? She said that we are the subjects of a God who clearly hates us. Her words, and I remember them despite my… state of mind. What’s you’re excuse?’
Behind Dane, emblazoned on the wall in 2 foot lettering was that same phrase whispered when the cop died.
‘We make war that we may live in peace.’ Eric read the words.
He spun around and started to walk out, Rebecca following with more joy in her heart than she felt in ages. At the door, Eric turned to Southerland one last time. ‘You’re the monster now, buddy. You’re so fucking lost you don’t even know it yet, and someday you’re going to have to look in the mirror and figure out where it all went wrong. Me, I wont be around to see it.’
He slammed the door, and stepped out into the light.