Chapter XXXVI: An Interesting AssignmentThe main gates to the graveyard were strangely locked. Not just locked, but reinforced. Thick chains were wrapped ostensibly over the locking mechanism, heavy padlocks at their centres. Heavy beams were placed as fortifications.
'Why on the outside?', I murmured. It was like they were keeping people in, rather than people out.
A small hole in the wall provided access to the graveyard, which had been concealed badly by wooden frames. Pulling them aside, I stepped into the graveyard. It was a stately place, graves organised in rows along a sloping footpath. For a graveyard though, it was noticeably absent in flowers or other commemorative items. Aside from a slight breeze, the sound of wind moving through leaves, there was little noise...wait! Was that...no, it couldn't be. Yet, there it was again. A hollow moan, much like those in the plaguebearer's house. Muffled however, as if it came from the ground. Stepping away from the gravestone I'd been leaning on, I walked further down the hill.
On a plateau, a small building was illuminated by an eerily bright lamp. Looking around, I put my hand on the doorknob, turning it, opening the door...looking straight into the sight of a rifle. The man standing behind it looked at me closely before lowering the weapon, smiling friendlily and falling back into a leather couch in front of the TV.
'Sorry about that', I responded, looking at the man strangely. 'Do you get visited by zombies often around here?'
'Let's see...goths, wiccans, mourners, possibly ghosts, wraiths, I've heard their are even mummies. Let's face it, a graveyard is a freeway. What's your name?'
'Yeah, the smells coming from the store across the street sure are appealing aren't they? I can see the dead rising again for just one more buffalo wing.'
'Not exactly', Romero replied.
'Interesting. Got any idea what's making them so restless right now? You know, personal theories.'
Thank God this guy has zombies to shoot at...
'Sounds like it, you're the luckiest guy in town.'
'Like you said man, everyone's a winner. I would be too, with a rifle like that.'
'Well, what would you want me to do?' I had to get that videotape to Isaac, I didn't really have the time to deal with this. On the other hand, the guy needed to get out of the graveyard, smell some fresher air. Possibly see a shrink...
'You're a better shot than me', I shrugged. 'I don't want zombie apocalypse on my conscience. How about I deal with your business for you?'
That puts the five minutes into perspective, I thought with a smirk. 'I see, you wanted to converse with a young lady of negotiable affection. I can find you one.'
'Sure thing. Back in a minute.'
So, five minutes. My mind worked as I climbed the hill. At least one to get there, maybe two. Negotiations, plus deed, and back. Either more than five minutes, or this guy needs to do a little endurance training with another trigger of his... Smiling broadly, I saw a hooker walking past, skimpily dressed and 'stacked' enough for Romero's pleasure. I walked up, radiating charm and magnetism.
'Just the woman I was looking for', I purred. 'But not for me, a friend of mine.'
This is going to sound stupid. Well, out with it.
'He...uh...works the late shift at the graveyard over there.'
'The kind that works as a matchmaker for a corpse abusing gun-nut', I muttered under my breath. Still, that wasn't the girl's fault. 'Trust me', I said. 'You will be totally safe. You have my word.'
I was a lot of things, but not a killer. I nodded, taking her hand gently, and led her back to Romero's, making small talk as we walked, helping her keep her footing in the darkness. A nice girl, overall, guileless, with a sharp mind. She'd come to Hollywood seeking fame, as all did, and ended up doing whatever was necessary to make a living. Knocking on the door, Romero answered quickly, looking at the girl, then to me, a big smile on his face. He stuck up his thumb, enthused.
I looked around. Romero didn't have much, save his guns. I didn't want his money. Then I glanced at the couch, where the rifle sat.
'Have you got one of those spare?'
'You're too kind man, let me know if you need anything else. Think I'm going to be in town a while.' Romero wasn't paying attention though. He was looking almost shyly at the woman standing by the door. Shaking my head in amusement, I punched his shoulder.
'Play nice kids.' With a farewell to the both of them, I closed the door firmly behind me, walking down towards the mausoleum. Behind me, I could here the sound of the TV being played. Then, a laugh. Peals of laughter, male and female, at whatever they were watching, the sound of conversation coming from the slightly open window. I shook my head again, wondering whether it was loneliness rather than 'urges' getting to Romero.
The building was ominous, hidden behind leafless branches, the wind whistling through them combining with the sounds of moans underneath the soil, the scraping of bone against wood. Cringing, thinking that it was some small mercy at least that the creatures were mindless, unable to comprehend the horror of being buried 'alive', I opened the mausoleum door.
The inner chambers were dark, yet clean, floors swept and windows polished. All except for one branching corridor.
Bones. Human, upon investigation. I reached down, running a finger along the markings on the edge of one. Teeth marks. I stood up, wondering what had done this. Not a human, but unusual for an animal to be bringing kills inside a building. Standing up, I noticed one of the indentations in the wall.
'Ginger Swan', I murmured. 'At last, I make your acquaintance.' The door was slightly open, and reaching a hand in, I found the videotape. No bones however, no remains. I wondered where they were. Stolen, by an enamoured fan, perhaps, or did she too stalk the night? Looking over the tap, there was a label with the letters 'DMP' written. No other markings were evident. Pocketing the tape, and closing the door to the casket, I left the graveyard.
Walking quickly back to Isaacs, I noticed a familiar face sitting at an outside seat at the restaurant. Not Samantha this time, I thought with a mild sensation of loneliness and regret, but a notorious food critic from TV. It was him. From his perfectly manicured moustache to his sneering, slug like lips, this was none other than Tommy Flayton. Be a good running dog and deal with your master LaCroix's business, the inner voice mocked. Maybe if you're a good hound, he'll give you a bone to gnaw on. You are a wolf, you should be hunting, NOT WAITING FOR YOUR MASTER'S SCRAPS! DO YOU HEAR ME? HUNT! I grimaced, forcing the voice down. I was thirsty, admittedly, but it could wait. I walked up to the man sitting at the table, the man looking with disdain at his plate.
His nasal, imperious tone irritated me. Dressed as I was, did he honestly take me for his waiter?
'I'm not here for your order, I wanted to-'
You arrogant bastard, I thought. With less effort than it took him to raise a spoon, I could have drowned him in his entrée.
'I just wanted to introduce myself, say hello.'
There were several places where that thumb was going to go up, if he didn't shut his mouth. 'As I was saying, I just wanted to say that I thought I recognised you from somewhere.'
'I thought it was you!' I smiled, shaking his hand enthusiastically. 'You know, I can see why you're so annoyed and highly-strung today. I bet this is a make or break event for you.' The man's arrogant look faltered, his look confused.
'Well', I said innocently. 'Word is you're becoming a joke in the word of food critique. You've gone soft, will give anything a good review.' The man's nostrils flared, his eyes blazing. Then he visibly calmed, holding a fork daintily in one hand, moving the food around the plate with disgust.
'Just what I was thinking. I look forward to your next book, Mr. Flayton.'
I didn't respond, moving down the stairs, putting as much distance between myself and the offensive apertif as possible. His blood probably stank as much as he did.
I walked into Isaac's office without knocking, throwing my coat over an intricate cabinet. 'I'm home honey, and I picked up a movie for us to watch too!'
Isaac turned, placing the tape in the VCR, and turned on the TV. The beginning of the tape fizzled, stuttering, the sound distorted, before it finally settled into an image.
A woman ran up some stairs, the walls covered in a rubbery looking wallpaper, torn in places, marked with flies. No...I looked closer, noticing the flies buzzing around. Not wallpaper. Flesh. I drew back, sickened by the image, but unable to take my eyes away. The woman was pursued by hideous beasts, humanesque faces peering out from mangled flesh and sinew.
The woman raced through a door, slamming it behind her. She slid down, sobbing in fear.
'Oh God, no, please, no more, please ple-' Her terrified voice pierced my skin, my stomach rolling. Good, perhaps, I'd avoided drinking beforehand.
'Isaac, switch it off.' The man shook his head, eyes fixed to the screen, his expression as sickened as I imagined mine looked.
'I can't, neonate, it's important.'
The sound the woman made as she collapsed to the ground, the creatures tearing greedily at her skin, her bones, would stay with me forever. They would haunt me, as would the greedy swallowing sounds, the screeching, the sound of tongues lapping hungrily, smacking putrid lips with satisfaction.
A logo flashed on the screen, to the sound of sinister laughing. Then it ended. Isaac and I stared into the monitor, before he turned to face me. It was a moment before he spoke, his Toreadorean exterior for now shattered.
'I've seen some horrible stuff in the past few nights, but nothing tops that. What the fuck is it, and why are we interested?'
'So you think they have some link to the Nosferatu disappearing?'
'Brilliant. I suppose I better go find it then. Any clues?'
I nodded, leaving the office. Anything, so long as I didn't have to watch the damned thing.