Ed Danvers Case Files:
Sins of the Father
Who’s Got Your Goat?
The doc sent me home today. He said my hip would be sore and tender for awhile and I should lay off it. He didn’t send me home empty-handed, though. I’m now the proud owner of a fancy aluminum cane, complete with a little rubber foot. So now I’m the old codger with a cane. I guess it sure beats a plastic hand? Not that Vicksy didn’t make short work of that. The little gadget monkey made himself a screwy new hand that makes noises when it moves. So far he only seems to use it to crack walnuts. The hip’s been behaving, mostly. It was a little touch-and-go when Laurel’s kid hopped on my lap to hear another story about her grandma and great grandma back in New Orleans. I can’t be mad at the kid, she’s only four. But damn, that hurt.
Vicksy was slouched behind the bar staring at the television and going to town on a bag of walnuts. The news was the news. Father Nutso was apparently staying low for a couple. It gave me some time to mull the case. There were three families left after the priest cut up the Pattersons and the Bartlebys. He seems to put some time between his appearances. Two or three days. Of the remaining families, I was keeping a close eye on the Babatundes. Mr. and Mrs. Babatunde, along with the Pattersons and Bartlebys, were the most high profile of the lot. These three had a lot more facetime on the news and had chipped in the most to hire me. The Tylers and Fukimuras have kept a low profile. The Tylers did interviews in the beginning, but the Fukimuras have kept their heads down from the get go. Good for them. The media is bunch of blood suckers. I swear to god, if Vicksy cracks one more walnut…
“Vicksy,” I groaned, “When did you decide you loved walnuts so much?”
“When they got easier to open,” he cracked another one with his metal hand and dumped the content in his mouth. “I was excited to try Brazil nuts, but as it turns out they’re pretty disgusting.”
“Get anywhere with the barflies?”
“Just that Gabe’s grandson knew Babatunde’s kid. They were on the basketball team or something together.”
“What kind of kid was he?”
“Didn’t get much other than he smoked pot and fucked a lot.”
“You just described every teenager alive.”
“That’s all I got, Eddie.”
I spun around on my stool and spotted Gabe at the table under the television, falling asleep with his chin in his hand. His crumpled trucker cap covered his balding head. At least, that’s what I think it was for. I can’t imagine any other reason to walk around tacitly asking ‘Hoof Arted?’
“Gabe,” I called. He twitched a little. I’d have to work harder. “GABE!”
He popped up with a hard intake of air, wiping the drool from his chin with his flannel sleeves. He blinked, scanned the room, and jumped when he saw me.
“I think you should maybe cut him off for the night,” I said to Vicks.
“He’s been working that beer for four hours,” he replied.
“Ed?” Gabe greeted me with a groggy cheer. “When did they let you out, you old fart?”
“Yesterday. I need to ask you a few questions, Gabe. Is that alright?”
“Yeah, Ed…sure,” he hesitated and his eyes flickered like he was trying to recall anything I would want to question him about.
“Vicksy says your grandkid knew the Babatunde’s boy. Can you tell me anything about him, like what kind of stuff he was into at school? Know of any hobbies? Anything like that?”
“Just what he did with Justin at school. Sports, newspaper, honors society.”
“Over achievers,” I chuckled.
“Though I remember Justin mentioning Akim, the Babatunde kid, joining this weird hardcore religious youth group that met after school. He thought it was weird.”
“When did he mention this?”
“A few weeks ago, maybe a month.”
“You know what it was called?”
“I can’t remem….”
“Eddie,” Vicks called over, “Look at the TV. That’s the guy.”
I craned my head to see the TV above me. On screen was a priest standing at a podium, flashing in the media lights. Behind him stood the Babatundes. They looked solemn.
“What guy?” I asked Vicks.
Vicks raised his mechanical hand and wiggled its fingers.
“Are you sure?”
“I can’t forget the face of the man who lopped my paw off.”
“Turn it up.”
“…is disturbing. This has been a hellish blow to the youth group and their families.” The chyron under the speaking priest read ‘Reverend Gilligan Wendell.’ Poor guy. “…Those held responsible will face justice.”
“That’s a double entendre, Eddie,” Vicks chimed.
“I know what it is.”
“…the Babatundes will be staying at the rectory until this maniac is caught. They will be well protected there.”
“Is the PD okay with this?” I was thinking out loud again.
“Jeez, this is bad,” Vicksy said. I guess Vicksy was thinking out loud too.
“You with me on this one?”
“Hang on,” he scanned the room. “Which one of you derelicts do I distrust the least? Gabe, you’re on your honor.”
“Aw, Simon, thanks man, it’s a privilege,” Gabe sang.
“Now we can go.”
The rectory was just outside of town where the necrotic tendrils of suburban sprawl had not yet penetrated. It was housed in an ancient, palatial mansion nestled in the hills. It was like someone had lifted the Winchester House and dropped it just outside of LA and then let Morticia Addams decorate. There’s your vow of poverty for you.
It was black outside, the moon just a sliver, the path leading to the house unlit and unpatrolled. I was able to hobble down the path unnoticed while Vicksy kept to the hedges. I got vicarious enjoyment from watching him skulk, while I tipped side to side on my cane. The best part of the job is the sneaking around. I take real joy in it. Of all the places to take a slug at my age. Right in the hip.
When we got up the house, Vicksy took a peek in the windows. The outside might have been unguarded but the inside was lousy with guys dressed like Friar Tuck. The reverse Dutch Boy hairdos and everything. There was no sign of the Babatundes, but there were three more stories and thirty more acres to this place. Apparently I’d gotten into the wrong racket.
“How do you figure we get in, Eddie?” Vicks whispered. “The joint’s crawling with guys who look like they brew their own mead.”
“A ritzy layout like this’s gotta have a servant’s entrance.”
We slunk around the perimeter of the house until the found a door recessed into the masonry, covered in cobwebs. The original knob rusted away ages ago, but a new handle had been drilled onto it recently, along with a deadbolt. This thing was locked tight. Not even a jiggle. I looked back at Vicks and he was fiddling with his hand. He was sticking it with one of those tiny screwdrivers you use to fix your glasses, a pen light sticking out of his mouth.
“Un init, Eddie,” he mumbled through the pen light. “Gust aking son adjustents.”
He walked to the door flexing his humming motorized fingers, humming his own little tune right along with them.
“I’ve been working on some ideas for this thing. I’ve been dying to test it out.” A thin metal file unfolded from his index finger and he inserted it into the key slot. The bolt clicked and door opened with a sharp crack.
We looked at each other. Vicksy being Vicksy motioned for me to go first. I slapped the cobwebs down before entering. They weren’t sticky and slid right off my hand. This is something I would be investigating if they weren’t on the ground and I didn’t have a bullet in my hip.
“Vicksy, would you be so kind?” I jabbed my finger at the webs on the ground.
The webs were made from sewing thread, cotton and baby powder. I don’t think they were decorating for Halloween. These were hung as camouflage or deterrent, but who for? Who would want to go through this door that that would be an effective deterrent?
“You smell nice now, Eddie,” Vicksy cackled. “Baby fresh.”
The door opened into a long brick corridor. It wasn’t long before we came to a barred cell door. Vicksy shined his light in. There were two naked, bloodied people inside tied down to heavy wooden tables. It was like a medieval torture scene.
“Are they alive?” Vicks gasped.
“If you’re going to kill us, kill us,” a hoarse voice murmured from within.
“We’re not here to kill you,” I said.
“No more, please. No more. This won’t fix what happened to Karen.”
The mysterious occupant just wheezed in response.
“Vicksy?” I motioned to the door.
He worked some more mechanical hoodoo on the lock and the cell door creaked open.
“It looks like the Spanish Inquisition in here, Eddie.”
The prisoners were an African American man and woman that I guessed to be in their mid-forties. This was the best I could tell with all the blood, bruising and Enochian rantings carved into their flesh. They were too badly beaten to be identified, but if this wasn’t the Babatundes, I’ll eat my cane. The man was tracking me with his eyes.
“Mister Babatunde?” I said.
“Who are you?” he said in a laboured croak.
“Ed Danvers. You and the other families hired me to investigate the deaths of your kids.”
He closed his eyes, or at least I think he did, they were too swollen to tell the difference. As if a switch flipped, he suddenly tried to sit up, pulling against the chains that stretched him over the table. He howled and cried.
“Get the locks,” I said to Vicks.
“My wife, Ekemma,” he struggled against the chains to see his wife next to him. “Is she alright?”
“Mister Babatunde,” Vicks wrestled with the chains. “I need you calm down so I can get you out.”
Vicksy unlocked one of Babatunde’s arms. He threw his hand out to his wife on the next table, but fell inches short.
“Mister Babatunde, one moment, please,” Vicks pled.
I went over to examine Ekemma. She only stared. Vacant and empty. It’s the stare I’ve seen one too many times. That stare is the reason I never sleep. I closed her eyelids and turned to Babatunde.
“She’ll need medical attention,” I mumbled. Sure, I lied. But despair is one thing we don’t need right now. I don’t need to be lugging out a guy who thinks there’s no reason to leave.
“So, what’s your first name?” Vicks said, helping Babatunde to his feet. “So I don’t have to keep calling you Mister Babatunde.”
“Kwento,” he sobbed. “It means ‘one who protects the family from destruction’.”
“Oh…I, uh,…I like it. Kwento. Don’t let’s focus on etymology too much, right now, though.”
“Helluva bedside manner, Doctor Vicks,” I grumbled.
“What about her?” Kwento pointed to Ekemma.
“Well…it’s best to…let…”
The crack of the door reverberated down the hall.
“Hey, what dipshit took down the cobwebs?” a voice echoed. Approaching footfalls followed.
I pulled my gun.
“You sure you wanna fire that rod down here, Eddie?” Vicks said. “The whole house will hear the echoes off these walls.”
“You got a better idea?”
He held up his hand and waved his fingers. “Like I said, I made a bunch of modifications I want to test out.”
“Fine. Trusting weird shit has gotten me this far.”
“Round two, Batabundys,” the voice drew near. “I wonder how much more you can…”
A young friar appeared at the cell door. He looked at me and Vicksy, mouth hanging open like a mailbox.
“Bros, how’d you get in here?” he barked, holding his arms out to the side in an attempt to make himself look bigger.
“Vicksy?” I growled.
Vicks shot some kind of ray out of his fingers. It popped and roared as it burnt through the air, landing square in the friar’s chest. He was tossed back and hit the wall, sliding down unconscious with nasty burn on his skinny chest.
“How’s that echoing off the walls for ya?” I said to Vicks.
“Needs a few adjustments. That’s what testing is for.”
Overhead, feet pounded against creaking, wooden floorboards, shaking dust off the cell ceiling. Faint shouting could be heard coming through the door to the outside.
“Time to find out where the rest of the hall leads,” I said. Vicks and I kept Kwento on his feet. Blind leading the blind, in a manner of speaking.
A glow appeared at the other end of the hallway. As it grew it resolved itself into flickering torchlight accompanied by another chorus of voices joining the warpath.
“Are these guys joking?” I simulated a laugh. “Torches?”
“Maybe they have a theme,” Vicks replied.
“Get that ray gun of yours ready.”
“I don’t know about that, Eddie. That last shot kinda overheated it. Another shot and it might blow.”
I held up my gun. “Good old fashioned heater. Never lets me down.”
The friars came rushing at us from both ends of the hallway. I counted about twenty in all, jammed in the narrow little corridor. They aimed their guns at us. Reverend Wendell made his way to the front.
“Oh, you guys got guns?” I smirked. “I figured you’d have pitchforks.”
“I recognize you,” Wendell said to Vicks.
Vicks waved back with his mechanical hand. “It actually came in handy.”
“What are you doing in my house?” Wendell said, smiling like a maniac.
“Well, Mister Babatunde paid me a lot of bread to investigate the death of his boy. And this is where I wound up.”
“Don’t you watch the news, Detective…?”
“It was Satanists, Detective Danvers. That’s all.”
“Right. Satanists. The anarchist’s version of Freemasonry. Sure, they did it. But see the thing is I recognize Enochian when I see it. And that kind of sours me on the whole Satanist theory. In fact, I’d believe it was Tura Satana, before I believed it was Satanists.”
“Oh. You’re a clever detective too.”
“We stand ready to kill them on your command, Reverend,” a friar chimed in.
“No. Thorns this big have earned audience with Karen.”
“Who’s this Karen?” I asked. “Another one of your victims?”
“Karen is victim, but not one of mine. She is my daughter. She was raped by that pack of jackals you refer to as victims. Those jackals that never saw a day behind bars. Never a sliver of justice. So I am that justice. And I mete it out to the guilty and those that defend them. That includes Mister Babatunde. That includes the two of you.”
“I get it, Wendell. You’re a father and your daughter was violated, it was more than you could handle and you snapped. You want justice. But this isn’t the way to do it.”
“That’s not for you nor I to decide. That’s for Karen to decide. And she will decide your fate.”
They took us up so many stairs I started to get worried about low flying aircraft. And the hallways in this place, you could have a game of catch down them. They really knew how to drag out the trip to see Karen. They must have stuck her in the highest, most remote tower in the whole mansion. After it felt like we had walked to Jersey, they stopped us at the end of the hall. A lonely, white door faced down the hall. We entered. Inside, it was normal teen-aged girl’s room. Another overachiever, I thought. I’ve never seen so much gold colored plastic in my life. Everything from spelling to field hockey. Red, blue and green ribbons with gold, silver, and bronze medallions dangling from them. All were draped over anything that stuck out far enough. The only thing missing was a bed. In its place was a rocking chair facing the wall. A mane of tangled black hair poked out from the high back.
“Karen,” Wendell whispered. “We seek your counsel.”
Karen stood for what felt like all month. Her head was bowed as she turned to face me and Vicksy. Her head snapped up revealing a goat’s head with glinting black spears for horns. She began screaming and bleating as her eyes caught fire.
“Genuflect before God!” It sounded like a yelling baby goat, and pointed a bony, rigid unguis to the floor.
“Great. One of these,” I sighed.