The Writer's, artist's & reader's Guild

The Face of Fear: Chapter Four

faceoffear4

Chapter Four

3…2…1
This is your radio friend, AM 1400 WRJN! Welcome back to the news at five, with your hosts Tony Hill and Gabe Posen.
‘Welcome back dear listeners, my name is Tony Hill and this is the five o’clock news.’ Tony’s voice had once again taken on the familiar tone of the common radio host.
‘And my name is Gabe Posen.’ Gabe was an expert in the art of seamless linking, much of it due to his twenty years in the business. ‘In the news tonight Mayor Gothner addresses the city in regards to the constant road work in our city, a preview of the game of the week as the Raiders look to capture their first title in BSFL, but first this.’
Tony jumped in; ‘A grisly scene was discovered this morning by city police at a parking structure down town. An undisclosed number of men were found dead in the lower level of the structure in what has been called a bloodbath of a proportion seldom seen ion out peaceful town. Here to give you, the listeners, the latest inside information about what some speculate is related to organized crime is Chief of Police Peter Swan.’ Tony swung his chair to the right of the mic stationed above the desk in front of him allowing Chief Swan to push his chair closer. The booth was cramped with the two regular news anchors and then when weather and sports were added one had to hold ones breathe so that the doors could even be closed. ‘Chief Swan, what can you tell our listeners about this horrible event?’
‘Well Tony.’ Chief Swan began trailing off in his very careful dialog. ‘To be quite honest we are not quite at liberty to divulge the specific details of what has happened. This in part due to the fact that we just don’t know. We have victims and we have a scene reminiscent of one you might see in the pictures, but as to the why and how, we are still working on those aspects.’
‘Chief Swan there have been rumors abound concerning the number of victims and there alleged alliances.’ Tony continued.
‘Certainly.’
‘Our reporters on the street have heard numbers ranging from four to as many as twenty.’
‘Well I can tell you that numbers ranging in the teens and upwards are highly exaggerated. It would make it seems as if there had been a bloodbath down there and I can assure the good people of this city that a war of that magnitude had brought the attention of the police in the area. Moreover we at the moment have a body count of six men.’
Tony hesitated at that answer. He was sure that there had been seven armed men down there. Chief Swan’s reply must indicate that there was a survivor, that or he had forgotten about one of them, but the Chief of Police was not the sort of man to forget details, not if the stories about him were to be believed. He replayed the events of the previous night in his mind. The bullets flying, he dodged, bounced off walls and ducked behind the truck. One, two, three men fell and then four, maybe five or six? He couldn’t quite recall, it had all happened so fast, he was in the moment at the time, not thinking, just letting it happen. His body began to travel back to the moment and everything visualized itself in slow motion. Too late he realized that he had let a full minute of dead air fill the airwaves and Gabe jumped in to make the save.‘And what of the rumors that the victims all belonged to local mob gangs?’
‘That is an interesting aspect Mr. Posen.’ The Chief swung around, placing himself between the microphone and Tony so that he could face Gabe. ‘Several of the victims are known to the police from earlier crimes, which might not be a surprise seeing as how men in this line of work tend to end their days violently. What they were doing in the parking structure, downtown at this time of night and what precisely happened to them, as well as why, is still a mystery to us.’
Tony popped out of his fugue state as soon as Chief Swan began talking and quickly regained his composure. ‘There have been speculations, especially in the Journal Times this morning that this might have been The Leahmann family once again staking its claim on the city. Any comment?’
‘That is a distinct possibility I guess, but nothing we have uncovered in the past year has pointed us in that direction.’
‘So this might be some other crime family trying to horn in on the city. Maybe by taking out minor criminals in the area?’
‘That is also very possible. This nothing that I am comfortable commenting on at this moment. We have yet to uncover if these criminals killed each other in some form of trade that might have gone south or they were murdered by a third party. It is just too early to tell.’
‘So, for our listeners out there what can you say.’ Tony pressed. ‘Should they stay indoors, avoid the downtown area or venture out at night?’
‘Tony, Gabe and the good folks out there in the ether.’ Chief Swan maneuvered his chair so that he sat squarely before the microphone attached to the desk. ‘You may trust that the police have the situation at hand. As we speak investigators and homicide detectives are on the case and no stone will be left unturned in an effort to solve this. Are primary goal is to keep you safe in your beds at night and that you may venture out on our streets without worry.’ The chief looked over at Tony and nodded.
‘Well thank you Chief Swan, I am sure our audience will sleep easier tonight. Next on the the five o’clock news hour we will hear from the mayor, but first a word from our sponsor.’

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The months and years following the passing of his mother were pivotal in Anthony’s life. Initially his father waited on him hand and foot, a way for Mr. Hill to work through the pain of losing his wife. His toe headed son with his blue eyes, pale skin and sharp features was spitting image of her and by staying by his side, reading to him and watching him as he slept made it seem as if she was still in his life. After the first month had passed Mr. Hill was forced to go back to work in the capital and Anthony was left in the care of a new governess, a young woman who had lost her own son two years previously. The young boy was melancholy most of the days, only showing emotions when his father left in the morning, crying and screaming, tugging at the man’s pants legs in an effort to keep him at home and in the evening when he returned. After two weeks Patrice returned to give Anthony a semblance of normalcy and it worked. She eased him into the transition  of a new governess and even gave the woman a Christian name; Charlotte. Charlotte and Anthony bonded with each other through their common denominator of loss; his mother and her child. They became the other ones surrogate and before Patrice knew it the two strangers had formed a bond reminiscent of a mother to her son.
During this entire process Mr. Hill became increasingly absent. His days in the capital grew longer, some of it due to the demands of his office and in part due to an unease he felt when gazing upon his child. He was beginning to heal after six months, but when he came home and the car approached the house, he could see Anthony sitting in his mother’s rocking chair and for a mere second he would swear it was his dead wife come back to life. His heart would skip a beat and his palms would get sweaty as he exited the vehicle and then a wave of disappointment washed over him as his son would leap off the stairs and into his arms. The first time it happened he dropped him, his limbs refusing to raise up in the obligatory embrace. He had also begun feeling other, natural urges. Since she had fallen ill the marital bed had been reserved for care, sadness and somberness. This had left the widower with a pent up frustration that now began to rear its ugly head once the whole in his heart was becoming smaller. The Governor-General and several members of staff, all of them close friends of Mr. Hill were now urging him to remain in Batavia and attend the various illustrious parties that were thrown in the honor of assorted dignitaries from around the globe. Once he relented and attended one of the soirees he was hooked. To unwind with other adults of the western caste was something he realized he had been craving. To have real conversations about real things and to laugh again completely altered his reality. Mr. Hill had never been a great drinker either, taking the odd snifter of brandy at the end of the day, champagne on his wedding day or a whiskey and cigar whenever he had company, but now the libations flowed and he came to the conclusion that he quite enjoyed it. Another aspect he enjoyed were the local Balinese girls who would come around and offer the services to the gentlemen of the governing class. He had not paid much attention to them while his wife was still alive, but now, when his body ached for a human touch and the warm embrace of the subtle skin of a woman he got not ignore them. All to often he would wake up in one of the guest rooms of the Governor-General’s annex with a different girl, he would feel the pang of guilt course through his veins, but the following evening he would repeat the pattern of drinking and womanizing and his voracious appetite became legendary among the islanders.
As his father was sinking deeper and deeper into a spiral av debauchery and he saw less and less of him young Anthony was introduced to the Balinese culture. Charlotte first brought him round to here small village and family after a year had passed and their relationship was well and truly cemented. At first her husband, a tall and menacing warrior, was skeptical, but once he saw how his wife and the white child had formed a close relationship and how much she needed the child ha relented and welcomed Anthony into his home. Since he spoke no English and barely any Dutch he communicated with the boy in his native tongue and the child replied for Charlotte, who spoke poor English herself, had incorporated Bali in her speech early on in their relationship. Anthony would stay with the couple and their tribe days on end without issue since his father was more and more often away and could care less about where his son was, and many a night as the boy lay in the hand carved cot they had made for their own child, was spent discussing how a parent could abandon their own flesh and blood for such lengthy periods. The village elders came by and clucked their tongues at the attitudes of Westerners. And so it was that after a year had passed Anthony Hill had lost both his biological mother and his father and managed to replace them with an entirely new pair.

======

Teague turned the volume dial all the way down, shutting off the radio. He had just finished listening to Chief Swan saying nothing on the Five O’clock News and had little interest in hearing what the mayor had to say. He was quickly approaching St. Mary’s anyway and needed to focus on parking his car, a task that seemed always to have trouble with. After taking ten minutes to get the car squarely in the parking space, it had to be perfect, he approached the grand building. It was a red brick building that looked as much like a school like it did a hospital. He walked through the doors, passing doctors and nurses on their way to and from work and even the odd patient. There was an officer standing in the foyer who threw him a glance, but Teague flashed his badge and the man tipped his hat and nodded at him to pass. He stopped at the reception desk and asked the young woman seated there where he possibly could find Mr. Hammer, the name Chief Swan had given him, and she directed him to the fifth floor. Tipping his hat and managing a smile he ventured down the hall, stopped at the elevators and waited a few seconds before deciding to take the stairs, he was getting out of shape his wife kept remarking. Once he had reached the fifth floor ha had realized his mistake. In truth he had realized it after the first flight of stairs, but had pressed on and now he could feel the sweat drip down his spine and making his pants stick to his thighs. He had to stop and catch his breathe at the top, almost leaning on the statue of the Virgin Mother stretching out her arms invitingly towards him, as if she was saying; Come, let me comfort you my child. He did not heed her.
The walls lining the narrow corridor were painted stark white and with the overhead light tubes bathing the space an equally cold glow everything appeared clinical and chilly. Every few feet hung a nondescript painting of some landscape or a black and white photograph of an ancient doctor. It did nothing to thaw thew sensation Teague got upon listening to the sounds of his footsteps bounce off the walls. Past the corridor he arrived at a large open area with a hexagonal high counter in the middle, like some form of command center. Several nurses were busy moving files, answering phones and speaking with doctors. From the epicenter several doors and corridors lead to other parts of the floor, like spokes on a bicycle. He sauntered up to the desk, removed his hat and placed it before him as he leaned up against the hard wood. A woman wearing her dark hair in a bun and with her horn rimmed glasses placed low on her nose met his gaze and gave him an inquisitive look.
‘Detective Teague here to see a patient by the name of Hammer.’ He said and tried out his smile.
The woman smiled back and then looked over Teague’s shoulder and called out a name which he couldn’t hear and no sooner had she done this than a burly officer stepped up beside him with his hands on his hips.
‘What seems to be the problem Esther?’ He looked down on Teague from a height of near seven feet.
‘This man wants to see Mr. Hammer in room 506 and I thought I’d run it by you first Bill.’ Her voice was chipper in the presence of the giant.
‘My name is Detective Garfield Teague Officer…Billy?’ Teague cut in with as authoritarian voice was possible whilst staring into the barrel chest of a boy in blue. ‘And yes I am here to interview Mr. Hammer, the only survival of the massacre downtown this morning. I believe he may have vital information,’
‘Well Sir.’ Officer Billy mused with the fact that he could lord something over a man of higher rank than he had. ‘I can’t allow that. Strict orders from the Chief of Police himself. No one is to see Mr. Hammer.’
‘Well Billy boy..’ Teague took out the hand written letter from Chief Swan and handed it to the officer. ‘I have here written permission from the Chief that I am allowed access to the witness. So we can stand here and debate it or you can show me to room 506 and let me in.’
The towering Billy glanced at the paper and then at receptionist Esther, she clucked and he shrugged and motioned Teague to come with him, which he did after picking his hat off the desk. They walked round the reception area and headed down one of the sterile corridors. This particular had a faulty fluorescent bulb and it flickered on and off as if it was speaking in Morse Code. It strained Teague’s eyes and he placed his hat back on his head and pulled the brim down so that the flashing became no more than reflections in the hard wood floor. The corridor ended with a glass window overlooking Grand Avenue and another police man leaned up against it holding a shotgun. He wondered if the officers knew what they had behind those doors, was he anything else to them than a cut up thug or were they aware of his true identity. At any rate the Chief was taking no chances, even if, at the moment, no one actually knew that Hammer or Lindquist was still alive.
‘Detective Teague here is green Chuck.’ Officer Billy said to the man carrying the shotgun and was met with a smile and a nod. Then he turned to the door to 506 and opened it. ‘Through here Sir.’ Officer Chuck was basically the same height as Officer Billy, but almost twice as wide across the shoulders, a linebacker to the other’s lean wide receiver.
The room was as stark white as the corridor and spartan in its interior decor. There was a dresser at one end of the room, a bed in the middle of it with a small table on the right side of it and above it hung a painting of Wind Point Lighthouse on a summers day. The room was dimly lit with the only light coming from a window facing the street outside and it cast shadows from the blinds that hung in front of the glass.
‘Martin Lindquist?’ Teague inquired cautiously.
‘Who’s there?’ The figure in the bed replied mimicking the tone of the visitor. He moved his hand over to the table and turned on the lamp that stood upon it. The light shone on his pale face, deep set eyes encircled by dark rings and greasy dark hair. ‘How did you get past the officers at the door, what have you done to them?’ Lindquist started squirming, trying his best to move from the confines of the sheets, but kept getting increasingly tangled in the white fabric.
‘Calm down Officer Lindquist.’ Teague approached the bed in slow, measured steps and put his hands up, palms towards the nervous man. ‘My name is Garfield Teague, I am a detective with Homicide. I was given permission to talk to you by Chief Swan. I know that you worked as an undercover cop and I want to talk to you in that capacity.’ Lindquist settled down and cautiously scooted himself to a seated position.
‘How can I be sure you are who you say you are and that you haven’t come to take me out?’
‘Well I guess that is difficult to say, but I have here a handwritten note from the Chief with his seal on it if it would calm you down.’ Teague flung the paper, now badly crumpled on the foot end of the bed. Lindquist, with some difficulty, leaned forward, grabbed it and looked it over. Once he had done so he placed it on the table and appeared to relax.
‘One can never be too cautious.’ He said with a sigh of relief. ‘Detective Teague was it? Why don’t you pull up a chair Sir.’ Lindquist pointed to a shiny metal stool that stood off to one side and Teague grabbed it and sat by his side.
‘How are you doing kid?’ He changed his tone now that most of the irritation was out of the way and he was allowed to do his job. ‘I wanted to speak to you this morning, but was denied that privilege.’
‘I’ve definitely been better Sir.’ Lindquist smiled. I narrowly escaped being shipped off to the Pacific and then this happens, injured at home instead of dying on some Godforsaken beach is a blessing in itself I guess.’
The man lying there seemed to be in his mid twenties and must have escaped the draft with more than a narrow margine, Teague thought to himself, but he didn’t mention it. The war had taken its tole on him just like it had on many others and he disliked even thinking about it. ‘So can you tell me what happened this morning Martin?’ He moved on to the questioning instead to quiet his mind.
‘It started close to a year ago Sir.’ Lindquist began. ‘I had been appointed by some form of task force, a combination of the Federal Bureau, the Police Department here and the Sheriff’s office. There had been rumors of groups of gangs trying to horn in on the City in the wake of the Leahman’s disintegration.’
‘I see.’ Teague had brought out a notepad and was jotting down words for his own use. ‘Why you?’
‘I had just recently graduated from the academy, I was a late bloomer academically, and being from Michigan they found that I was an unknown in the area. So the perfect man for the job; Midwestern, unknown and of northern European decent, my family is from Denmark.’
‘So they moved you here and you were just picked up by a criminal syndicate?’
‘Pretty much. I started hanging out in seedy bars on the east side and made myself available when jobs needed doing. You’d bee amazed how much work the bar owners have for an eager young man. After a couple of months I was approached by one of the regulars in one of the bars I frequented, Henry Peterson…’
‘Commonly known as Baz Peterson, one of the Leahmann’s stooges.’ Teague interjected.
‘Right, he heard that I was looking for work, easy money and with questionable morals. He was in need of a driver for some runs.’
‘That’s it?’
‘He took a shine to me for some reason. I did have to do some dirty work for him, things I would rather not talk about, but it was for the greater good as I saw it. Soon I was allowed to sit in on meeting he had with his boys and join him on more advanced jobs.’
‘So Peterson was the head of the entire operation?’
‘Not at all, he was some lower tiered boss. He was in charge of finding men to do various tasks. He reported to some big fellow who they never mentioned by name.’
‘Was he the leader, then?’
‘I don’t think so. It seemed as if that guy took orders from someone else. I never heard a name there either. The only thing I ever heard was Black Diamond, but that was in reference to I don’t know. Maybe I would have if last night hadn’t happened.’
‘Let’s talk about that. What did happen last night.’
‘Baz came to me for a routine pick up, of drugs I’m thinking. I was really only informed about these things after the fact. We were trading with the Mics, I think they referred to themselves as the  Lonergans, anyway, one of the newer criminal families in the area. This was going to be the first time we did a deal with them so we were supposed to be extra cautious. Baz brought some of his top guys, men with loads of experience, so that made four of us all told.’
‘And then something went wrong during the drop off I gather.’ Teague scratched his head to show some kind of concern.
‘Yes, but not from the Irish boys. They came with their own load of boys, probably just as worried about the unknown factor we presented. No there was something else there.’
‘What do you mean, something else?’ Lindquist voice had begun to quiver and it fascinated Teague.
‘We arrived first and then they came with their truck and everything was running smoothly, or was going to I should say. Just as Baz was going to inspect the crates a thing was there, standing on the bed of their truck.’
‘A thing, like a monster?’
‘I don’t know.’ Lindquist started shaking as he tried to recall the morning’s events. ‘It must have been a man, what else would it have been. He was dressed in a skin tight costume in red and dark blue in some strange pattern and he carried two strange looking, almost wavy swords, but it was the face of that creature that ws the most horrifying, it’s the thing that will keep me from sleeping for many nights to come, that face that almost makes me wish that I’d be lying on some beach in the Pacific cut down by the Japs.’
Teague put his hand on Lindquist’s own to try to calm him down, but the young man recoiled instead. ‘There, there.’ He treid to act empathetic, but felt as if he failed. ‘I am going to need you to attempt a description.’
‘I think I only saw it clearly for a minute or so, gosh the whole thing was over in a couple of minutes, he moved so fast. The face was also red and blue with horrible bulging eyes that peered at you with a horrible crimson glow, like it peered into your soul. A high brow, without eyebrows, in fact the head was completely bald, fangs stuck out of the mouth and horns on either side above pointed ears.’
‘And it, or he, killed all of them? Are you telling me that all those thugs with guns and experienced never managed to hit him once?’
‘He moved so fast. Leapt over our head, ducked our shots and came so close that he could cut us down with the greatest of ease. We didn’t stand a chance. I came at him and he just ducked and took my leg clean off. I don’t know if he thought I was going to bleed out, which, thank God, I didn’t. He let me live, I don’t know why. In truth I think I passed out after he cut my leg off.’
Teague looked in his notepad, he tried to draw Lindquist’s description while he listened, but the horrid image he now had before him was too unbelievable to be real, although it could come down to his drawing abilities. ‘So you want me to believe that a monster or rather a man dressed as some form of demon attacked and killed all the men down there with you?’
‘That is what I recall Sir.’ Lindquist answered with complete sincerity. ‘I know what it must sound like, but it’s all I know. I haven’t even been able to get to the bottom of the criminal organizations in the city either and that is going to bother me just as much. Now I only have one good leg and my career as a cop is over, I’m going to have to sit behind a desk for the rest of my life.’
Teague leaned back, but realized in time that he was sitting on a stool, when a nurse came through the door.
‘I am sorry Sir, it is time for the patient to take his medicine and then to met the Doctor.’ She was very polite and Teague had no reason to argue. He rose and took Lindquist by the hand.
‘Thank you for your cooperation, Sir.’ He winked at him. ‘It will probably help a great deal in our investigation and feel free to contact me at the station if you remember anything different.’
‘Will do.’ Lindquist smiled and winked back.
Teague put his notepad in his inside pocket and placed his hat back on his head. It was getting late and his wife would be wondering where he had gotten off to. He had a feeling that there would be several late days ahead of him and with that quite a few arguments about that fact.

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