Part 3
Threats and Consequences

Usual disclaimers apply.  The following might contains male-to-male sex.
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A Special thank you to Brett for his editing work


The man was sitting behind his desk watching the underling try to comprehend his instructions.

“I don’t get it,” he finally said.

“That is obvious,” the man replied with a sigh. Over the months since he’d taken this body, he had grown to dislike this century. People had forgotten their place, always questioning the orders they were given, or wanting to know why they had to obey them. “Fortunately, you do not need to “get it”. I have given you the probable location where it is hidden, and you are to find it, no matter the cost.”

“But why?”

Things had been simpler the last time he’d taken on a body. People did what they were told without questions.

“Because if you do not, your life here will be at an end. You do enjoy your life here, do you not?”

“Yes, yes, of course. I love working here,” the underling replied having misunderstood the threat.

“Then you have your instructions, go find me that case.”

The underling left without even bowing.

The man couldn’t wait for his master to arrive and put this world right. Things would be simple again once he was here.

* * * * *

It was Sunday, so that meant a visit with dad. It didn’t matter what else I was doing, unless I was tied up somewhere or unconscious, I always came here on Sundays.

The door to his room was open, but I knocked on the frame anyway to let him know I was coming in. It was a futile gesture, but I did it anyway. Dad had always hated people who just walked in unannounced.

It was a sunny day so they had moved him by the window to let him look outside. Another futile action, but the doctors didn’t know what I knew; they thought he was simply catatonic, that he was still in there, somewhere.

I pulled a chair and sat before him, not blocking his view. The truth was that he wasn’t there anymore. He hadn’t been in there for almost twenty years now. I knew that because one, I was the one who had done that to him and two, I had searched every corner of his mind looking for the smallest shred of consciousness.

I had been seventeen, a young psion full of himself, a teen who thought nothing could touch him. Dad had already taught me not to use my abilities openly, but that was because he worried that I would be taken away and experimented on. We didn’t know what I was. He’d never had any contacts with a psion before me. Hell, he didn’t know what I was had a name, he just called me a psychic.

What I really didn’t know about was the ease with which I could be possessed. The spirit I encountered after school just walked right in and made himself at home. I tried to fight him off, but he had me in a cage while he rummaged through my memories on the walk back.

There he delighted himself by torturing my father, both physically and mentally, letting him think his son was a monster and ending by slowly ripping out his soul and eating it.

Okay, so the truth was that I wasn’t the one who had done it, but even after all this time, I still felt responsible because the spirit had used my abilities to erase my father. I’d even told that to the police officer who performed the exorcism, but he didn’t believe me. He didn’t know about psions either, so he just thought it had been something the spirit could do, as far as he was concerned, I was just reacting to the trauma of being possessed.

Over the next decade, some of the best doctors saw my dad, but they couldn’t do anything for him. I even tried multiple times to find him in there, until I accepted that he was gone. All I had left of my father was an empty shell. So I’d placed him here because I could feel just how much they cared about their patients, and I came to see him every week, telling him what I had been through; acting for a few hours like he was still here, even if his eyes were vacant.

“Like you can see, it’s been a busy week.” I’d been telling dad all that had happened over the last seven days, hardly believing myself that I’d been possessed by that demon only a few hours after my last visit. “I gave Chris the drawing yesterday, he’s got the best chance identifying those sigils and I have my feelers out to find some of the zombie wrangler’s associates. I’m really hoping that one or the other will lead me to the man behind them, I owe it to Ralph.”

I was silent for a while before getting up. “I’d better get back to it, believe it or not, Sunday’s the best day to find low life who might know something. They’re either at Church praying for forgiveness or at the bars trying to convince themselves they’re still good people.” I sighed. “I can’t believe anyone still commits crimes considering Angels occasionally fly around.”

God’s existence had never been in doubt, there were accounts of Angels going back as far as we had history, but over the last decade, their presence had increased, which led a lot of people to think the end of times was coming. Myself, I didn’t quite believe in that, I couldn’t imagine that God had put the world on a timer and that when it dinged we were done.

I figure that when the world ended it would be at our own hands in spite of everything the Angels had done to try to stop it. I mean just look at us, even while proclaiming that everything is about to end the Church was fracturing itself trying to decide who was actually God’s children and who wasn’t. Were vampires going to heaven? How about werewolves or dragons? Were mundanes the chosen ones or were arcanes also eligible? Sometimes I wondered where that left me, but not often. I was usually busy enough dealing with my everyday problem to keep my mind off that.

“Hi Jake,” Joanne said as I almost walked into her.

“Hello Joanne.”

“He must really be proud of you, coming in to keep him company like this every Sunday.” She meant my dad, of course, but she was the one who was proud. It was radiating off her how I was a good son, how I’d make a good husband, how I could be *her* husband. She was in her early twenties, and had started working here a few years ago. She’d developed a crush on me within two months of meeting me.

I’d done everything I could to avoid leading her on while remaining polite and friendly. I’d made comments on my job and how dangerous it could be at times. I’d mentioned how I could be a slob at times or stubborn or an ingrate when I was angry, but none of that seemed to tarnish this image she had of me. I hadn’t told her I was gay, because she hadn’t actually made a move on me yet, for the moment she seemed perfectly happy with this fantasy she’d built.

“I have to hope that he is,” I said perpetuating the lie that he was still in there somewhere. “I’m doing the best I can to be the kind of son he’d be proud of.” They hadn’t liked it when at admission, I told them there was no one left inside my dad’s body. They’d thought it meant I’d given up on him and they let me know in no uncertain terms that they wouldn’t stand for that kind of attitude. So I’d played along, part of me hoping they were right, that one day I’d come here to find him standing up, smiling and giving me a hug. Even now, after all these years, I still hoped for that at times.

“You are,” she said putting her hand on my arm and I picked up this image from her of the two of us together holding our babies, twins. It was just this side of being creepy, but fortunately I was distracted by the man who walked by us.

I’m not sure what about him caught my attention. Maybe it was the jacket which seemed rather thick for the season, or the scars on his neck. What was odd was that it wasn’t my prescience that had reacted to the man, I was just getting a feeling that something was off about him. I watched him startle the nurse at the station and talk with her for a moment while Joanne told me something about her mother. He then walked to a room.

It took me a moment to realize that it had been my father’s room. I didn’t even apologize to Joanne before running off. I still wasn’t getting any sense of danger, but having a stranger walk in my dad’s room couldn’t be a good thing. When I got there, he was standing over him.

“Get away from him,” I said.

The man looked up at me. “You see me?”

“Yes, I see you. Now get away from my father.”

“Good, you must be Jake, I have a message for you,” he said instead of moving. He had a bit of an accent, German maybe. I wasn’t that great with accents and I wasn’t really trying to figure it out. Having him stand over my father like that set me on edge.

“Fine, you can tell me later, but Get. Away. From. Him,” I said through clenched teeth.

“What, from the old man?” He reached for my father and I sprinted for him. I wasn’t going to wait to see what he was going to do. I tackled him and sent him against the wall. I noticed two things in doing that; those weren’t scars around his neck, but runes, and his muscles were massive under that jacket.

He pushed me back, but I kept my hold on him so we both stumbled, bumping into my father and making his wheel chair tip over. My breath caught as I watched him roll out of the chair and turned to help him, but the man grabbed me by the collar, lifted me up and smashed me against the wall hard enough to make my head ring.

“The message is simple, Jake,” He said. “Drop this.”

“Drop what?”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” he said with a smile. “You are making some people angry with your questions and they’ve paid me a very large amount of money to come here and tell you that if you don’t stop they will have to do something rather drastic.”

My head cleared enough while he talked that I thought to read him, but I didn’t get anything. The guy had some sort of spell on him that shielded him from my abilities.

“Give them a message in return from me. I don’t take kindly to threats. If they do anything to my father I’m going to hunt them down and make them pay.”

“I’ll pass the message along, but remember my words, Jake. I would hate to have to come back here and do something violent. I dislike violence.” He let me go and I dropped to the ground.

I didn’t follow him, I went to my dad. “Are you okay?” I asked him as I checked to make sure he hadn’t been hurt in the fall. I righted his chair and picked him up.

“Is everything okay there?” an orderly asked standing in the doorway holding a stack of towels.

“Did you see a man walk out of this room? About six feet tall blond hair wearing a thick leather jacket?” I asked him as I gingerly sat my father back in his chair. The orderly shook his head. “Don’t worry, dad, everything’ll be alright.”

Being told to stop looking didn’t stop me. Having my father threatened to get me to stop only made me more determined to find out who was behind this. I did make some arrangements to keep him safe. I called in a few favors to have people keep an eye on the residence.

I knew I wasn’t going to be able to find anything on the zombie wranglers directly. In the few minutes I had with the conscious one, I didn’t think to grab his wallet and he didn’t think any names, so I went about looking for the construction company that had lost the zombies. It was surprising how many construction companies there were in and around the city, and how many of them used zombies. Considering the amount of work that goes into making a zombie I’d have expected them to be too expensive to be so wide spread.

Yeah, I know what goes into making them, my godfather’s a Voodoo priest, remember?

It took over a hundred and fifty calls for me to find them. Letters Construction they were called. A midsized company what specialized in commercial buildings. I stopped by an artist I knew, to get him to draw my two wranglers’ faces. I was okay to draw objects, but I couldn’t do faces to save my life.

I showed my PI card to the receptionist and had to wait ten minutes for a bear of a man to see me.

“I don’t know that one,” he said when I showed him the pictures, “But that’s Norman Derringer, he’s in charge of handling our zombies. Can I ask what’s this about?”

“I’m looking into a man’s death and someone matching Norman’s description was seen in the vicinity, as well as some zombies.”

The man swore under his breath. “We’re missing twenty two zombies. We found out Saturday morning and we’ve filed a report with the police. I have trouble believing Norman’s involved in that, he’s a good guy.”

“Like I said, he’s just someone who was seen in the area, he might not be involved, but I have to look into it, in case he saw something important. Do you have his address?”

“Shouldn’t the police be the ones looking into it?” the man asked.

“They are pursuing a different line of inquiry,” I replied, “I’m working for an interested third party.” It was surprising how much lying was involved in a job that mainly revolved around finding the truth. I’d gotten pretty good at it over the years. Hell, I could even fool most bargain basement magical lie detectors. I also firmly believed that used in moderation, lying was a good thing.

He pulled out a file and wrote the address down.

* * * * *

Norman’s wife, Yvette, was wracked with worries when I visited her, her husband hadn’t come home for two days and she couldn’t reach him. She’d even tried a locater spell but it hadn’t worked. It confirmed to me that George had done as he’d said and they were both dead.

I didn’t tell her that, I gave her the same story I gave Norman’s boss, I was looking for him because he might have information about a man’s death. This actually comforted her, she thought he might be hiding, that was why she hadn’t been able to locate him.

She was able to identify the other man as a friend of Norman's, Kenneth Bigelow. She didn’t know him all that well, he’d come over a couple of times to watch a football game. She didn’t know what he did for a living, but she did find his address in their address book, which led me to a dingy apartment about two blocks from my office.

Getting in was simple enough when you could see the tumblers in the lock and feel where everyone was within fifteen yards. It barely took me ten seconds to pick his lock. What I saw at first glance told me that Kenneth liked expensive things; he had a forty-two inch plasma on the wall, a bunch of wine bottles in a rack in the kitchen, designer clothing in his closet and a top of the line computer that barely saw any use by the dust on it. What he didn’t have was any indication of who had hired him, no piece of paper with an address on it or even a psychic residue to point me in a direction.

I sat on his couch, real leather by the feel of it, and looked around for some clues on how a low life who compensated for it by buying expensive things might be linked to mister slick who had given him and the others the job. I wished I’d taken more time to search his memories, but having George breathe down my neck hadn’t made me want to stay there any longer than needed.

With a sigh, I resigned myself to the fact that this was a dead end. Hopefully Chris would have more success with the drawing. I got up and headed out, only to find the doorway blocked when I opened the door by a massive man with runes tattooed on his neck.

“I wish you had done as I asked,” the man said before punching me.

I didn’t get any warning the punch was coming. Normally I get enough to at least minimize the impact, but this time nada, so I ended up on the floor with a sore jaw.

“Yeah, well, I’m not good at following orders from people involved in killing a friend of mine.”

The man closed the door before looking at me, which gave me the time to get on my feet.

“I wish they would have told me this was personal for you,” he said, “I would not have wasted time with threats then.”

At this point any other PI would have taken out his gun and threatened to use it, but I don’t have a gun. I know how to use one, but I don’t own one. Guns give results that are too permanent, and I have something else I can do to end a fight just as quickly.

I reached for his mind, to shut down his motor control, but I wasn’t able to grab it. It was like it was made of mercury, every time I tried to apply pressure it just slipped away.

I saw the punch coming this time, early enough that I was able to raise my arms to block it, but he was still strong enough to force me back against the wall. The next thing I did was use my telekinesis to harden my jacket and shirt. Normally that would be enough to absorb any punches, but this guy was hitting much harder than he should, even with all those muscles.

The next punch went through the wall because I moved out of the way in time.

I ran to the kitchen for something harder to hit him with. The guy didn’t bother running after me, he just walked. It rankled me a bit that he figured I wasn’t getting out of this no matter what I tried.

I grabbed one of the wine bottles and swung it at his head when he entered the kitchen. It went ‘bunk” as it hit him and all it did was piss him off. I’d been hoping it would break so I’d have something sharp to threaten him with while he reeled from the impact. I swung it again but he swatted it out of my hand.

He grabbed me by the throat, squeezed and pushed me against the wall.

“Do not think I take pleasure in this,” he said his accent a little thicker now. “You should have heeded my warning. Surely your friend isn’t worth dying over.”

I wasn’t paying attention to what he was saying. I was too busy trying to breathe. I’d managed to put a telekinetic layer between his hand and my throat so he couldn’t completely crush my windpipe, but it was still difficult to breathe. I grabbed at his hand trying to pry it loose, but that didn’t help. I kneed him in the nuts and he felt that, but he barely winced.

The guy was chocking the life out of me and I grasped at ways to make him stop, hell at that point I would have been happy just to be able to return the favor in a small way. That’s when I realized that maybe I could. I didn’t have to have my hands around his throat to choke him, I only had to block his airways.

I telekinetically felt down along his throat until I found the place where the airways crossed the esophagus, don’t ask me what it’s called, you’re lucky enough I know what the esophagus is called. There’s something there that closes the airways when you swallow.

I closed it and held it closed.

It took him two seconds to realize something was wrong. For the next thirty it became a contest of who could holdout the longest, but I had an advantage, I still had a trickle of air flowing in while he didn’t. It didn’t stop the panic from clawing at my mind, telling me that if I didn’t do something really soon, I wasn’t going to make it.

I couldn’t afford to pay attention to it, I had to remain focused on blocking his airways, but I wasn’t seeing the other guy panic yet and that worried me. There was no way he could hold out longer than me, not unless he had some magical protection against that, too. The panic latched on that idea and I started feeling my control wavering. If I didn’t do something real quick I really wasn’t going to make it.

I did the only thing I could think of. I put a foot against his chest and pushed as hard as I could. I was so surprised when he flew off that I ended up on the floor. I heard him trip over something and then crash on something else while I took sweet breathes, barely remembering to continue chocking him.

When I was finally able to get up he wasn’t trashing much. I ripped the electrical cord off one of those blenders they were advertising on TV and used it to tie his hands behind his back. I used the cord off a high end lamp to tie his feet. Only then did I allow him to breathe again.

He didn’t move, so I checked he was still alive, which he was, and then searched him. All he had on him was a cell phone, a tracking board, which was how he had known where to find me, and a business card to a Hendrik Asimov, working for Sterling Placement. What would a thug like this be doing with a card for an investment banker?

I used his phone to call the number on it and got his voice mail proclaiming that he was the company’s top investor. I used the ever trusty “0” to talk to the receptionist and then got transferred to the HR department, where I tried to get Hendrik’s address, without success.

I took the tracking board and looked it over; clear plastic, four inches by four. I couldn’t see a power crystal attached to it which meant that the user had to power it themselves. I wasn’t arcane so there was no way I’d be able to do it, but I did know someone. I called Chris and arranged to have him meet me at my office.

* * * * *

Like mundane trackers, magical ones came in various types. Some simply required you to think about what you wanted and it would guide you to it. Those were simple to use, they were more items with stored tracking spells than anything else, but required that you know the target quite well. Others, like the tracking board, required something of the person or object you were looking for, and it had to be prepared before the board would accept it. Some just pointed you in the direction of what you were tracking, while the board gave us an image of where Hendrik was. Chris was able to manipulate the image on the board until he found the closest intersection to the house. I used the GPS on my cell to get us there.

The house was a bungalow with a well maintained lawn and a car in the driveway. Walking to the door I could see that it wasn’t closed, whoever had last gone in or out hadn’t bothered to check that it latched properly. I pushed the door open and looked inside. The entranceway had a pair of shoes on the floor and a business jacket hanging on a hook.

“Mister Asimov,” I called, “I’m Jake Thibault, I’m a private investigator and I need to talk to you.” No answer.

I closed my eyes and extended my mind as far as I could to sense if there was anyone there. I didn’t feel anyone, but that didn’t mean we were alone, all I could do was sense someone thinking. With a bit of mental training anyone could still their mind to the point where I couldn’t feel it, then there were magical ways to hide someone’s presence, and my range was only about ten yards.

I shrugged to Chris before cautiously entering the house. He took a pouch out of a pocket and grabbed a handful of powder from it before following me. The living room had a plasma screen on the wall and a bunch of car magazines on the coffee table. The bathroom was small and utilitarian. The kitchen was clean with a full pot of coffee. The last room’s door was closed. I put my hand on the knob and stopped, I could feel violence through it.

I prepared myself for what I’d see on the other side and then opened it.

The stench assaulted us. I’d found enough dead people in my line of work to be able to identify the smell and as I mentioned before, Chris dabbled in necromancy so he was familiar with it, too. I overlooked the mess in the room and focused on the body nailed to the wall with the wooden legs of a chair. His shirt had been ripped open and sigils carved in his chest.

“Don’t touch anything,” I told Chris as I entered the room. “And don’t step in the blood.” He nodded and went directly for the body while I studied the room. It was a mess; Hendrik had put up a fight.

“Are you getting anything off the room?” Chris asked.

“The violence is obvious,” I replied, “But there isn’t any anger behind it, just a sense of satisfaction. I get fear from Hendrik, but there’s also a sense of familiarity. He knew his killer. What about you?”

“The sigils are the same was those you’re having me look into.”

“So it’s probably the same killer.”

“Yeah, but if that’s the case where’s the circle of power and why did he leave the blood this time? Can you read his mind?”

“I can’t read the dead. Can you bring him back to life?”

“Not here. We’d have to bring him back to my lab.”

“Then we’re going to have to do without. I need to report this,” I said taking out my cell, “so you’d better head home.”

With a nod, Chris left and I called Rocky.

* * * * *

It didn’t take Rocky ten minutes to show up with an army of officers.

“Okay, how did you manage to come across this guy?” he asked me as he pulled me aside to let his investigating team work.

“I was looking into Ralph’s death.”

“Who’s Ralph?”

“Ralph Monroe, the guy who was found shot on Friday.”

“Why were you looking into that?” he asked eyeing me.

“I knew Ralph. I wanted to find who killed him.”

“That’s our job, not yours.”

“It was personal,” I replied. “Anyway, I started asking around and then this thug showed up threatening my dad if I didn’t stop. That didn’t stop me. I was at a suspect’s apartment when he showed up again and attacked me. I got lucky and managed to subdue him. When I searched him I found this guy’s business card and came here.”

“Where’s that thug now?”

“I left him in the apartment.” I handed him a paper with the address on it.

“Why didn’t you call me then?” he said taking it.

“I told you, this was personal,” I said with a shrug.

“So you came here to exact some revenge?”

I snorted. “Yeah, right. The guy stinks and the blood’s dry. He’s been dead for a couple of days already.”

“I should bring you in for interfering in an investigation.”

“And how did I interfere? You didn’t even know about this guy until I called you. As far as I can see I helped you guys out.”

An officer interrupted whatever Rocky’s reply was going to be. “The cuts are the same as on the other bodies, sir.”

Rocky nodded and it took me a moment to realize what he’d said.

“Wait a minute, he said bodies, plural. How many are we talking about?”

“This guy makes eight.”

“How come I haven’t heard about this before?”

“The Feds are hushing it up. They don’t want to cause a panic.”

“So you knew Eric was innocent when I came to you?”

“No, I didn’t. It’s while looking into that one that I learned about the others.”

“And they were all killed the same way?”

“I’m not at liberty to say,” Rocky said after a moment of silence. “Jake, you’d better get out of here before the Feds show up. They’re getting desperate for a suspect and I can’t guarantee they wouldn’t jump on you if they got the chance.”

I didn’t argue with him. The FBI wasn’t a group I wanted to go against. I thanked him and left. Once I was back at my office, I made a few calls and eventually found out that their serial killer had murdered two pedophiles, three murderers, an investment banker under investigation for fraud, and a drug dealer.

Just because I didn’t want to go up against them didn’t mean I didn’t know people in there who could provide me with information. I did mention that I used to sleep around a lot, didn’t I?

So I had eight dead; seven criminals, whose blood was still missing and had been in a circle of power, and Hendrik, who had just been killed. Why had he been killed the same way but the blood not taken, or without the circle? Was he just someone who had come across the murderer and had to be eliminated, if so was it only a coincidence that he was also linked to Ralph’s death or had Ralph stepped in something much bigger than he knew?

I took a deep breath, and for at least a moment, tried to do something other than ask more questions.

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