Deal with the Devil
Detective Matt Bluestone sighed in relief as he put his car in park and killed the engine. Thank. God. As a life long New Yorker – not to mention his partner’s driving habits – he’d thought there was nothing left on the roads to phase him.
It wasn’t exactly what was on the roads that worried him; it was the roads that meandered here, there, and anywhere without apparent reason. It was a damn maze! Add in idiots who thought 50 miles per hour was perfectly acceptable to city streets, and Matt was more than ready to go back to New York and its crazy traffic jams.
But noooo, this was business.
Well, not exactly legitimate business, unless you considered requests from the Illuminati legal. All told, he almost would’ve been just as happy to forget the whole world-wide secret organization that pulled the strings, if it meant he didn’t have to come to this crazy little town in Connecticut to talk to some firefighter.
All right Bluestone, enough whining. Get on with it. He got out, automatically locking the door even as he stared up at two poles off to the side of the parking lot. Why anyone would have 40 foot telephone poles – completely unconnected – anywhere, let alone a fire station, was beyond him. Matt tried to shake off the bizarreness of the day on his way to the building.
He tried yanking the door off its hinges before noticing the intercom laughing at him from the wall. Great. This gets better and better. He punched the button with unnecessary, but therapeutic force.
“Hello?” a woman’s voice finally came from the machine. “Can Ah help you?”
Momentarily disturbed by the obvious Southern accent, he hesitated before answering. “Uh, yeah, I’m looking for...” He frantically checked the slip of paper Hacker had given him. “Bill Stiles?”
“Ah’m sorry, but this is th’ Deputy’s day off. Is he expectin’ you?”
ARGH! “Yes.” He better be. “Deputy?”
“Well, he called in sick this mornin’, so Ah’m guessing he just fergot. Do you need directions to his house?”
No, he mentally whimpered. Not more driving, please! “That’d be a help, thanks.” After getting the directions, he got back into the car and pulled out into traffic, biting back a near scream of frustration.
This was not a good day.
Much to his unformed but tangible fears, the drive ended up being half an hour of searching for what was probably only ten minutes of driving. He finally pulled up to a white two story with porch and bushes, along with hints of a flowerbed beneath the edges of the bushes. A tree brooded over to the left of the house, small red leaves scattered among branches and along the ground. Very picturesque, really. The only sign of the oncoming holiday was a cloth witch wrapped around the tree trunk, leaving the impression that she’d slammed into it during the night.
Not exactly tasteful, but entertaining. Matt jogged up to the door with a grin and rang the doorbell. Thankfully, no unholy soundtrack started; it was just a normal doorbell. The inner door was finally opened by a stocky man, of medium height with thinning/receding dark brown hair now graying at the temples and glasses. He was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, of all things, which had Matt shivering in his trench coat. It was a cold October, and this guy was in shorts? Well, what do you expect out here? Not exactly New York, now is it?
“Um, hi? I’m looking for Bill Stiles?”
That got him a curious look. “That’d be me.”
Yay. Finally. “I’m Detective Matt Bluestone.”
“Not from around here.”
“No, New York, actually. I’m here on... business.” Feeling like an idiot, he flashed his Illuminati pin at the man. There was a flicker of recognition in his eyes before he opened the door.
“Come on in, Detective.”
Bill led the way in then to the right, into a white and blue living room. He took a seat in the only chair, leaving Matt to perch uncomfortably on the couch. “So. Why’d they send you here?”
Matt shifted. “I’m supposed to get the information about gargoyles.” He shrugged. “Why they can’t use the phone....”
Bill made a face. “A lot of the high ups are really tradition bound. Machinery can’t be trusted, so use couriers. Makes no sense, but far be it for me to suggest a different way.”
“Sounds like a bad personal experience.”
The older man laughed. “Don’t get me started! Anyway, what was it you were after again?”
“I’m here to ask about the gargoyles.”
The older man raised an eyebrow, pretending nonchalance with control that came from long practice. “You believe in that stuff?”
“You work for the Illuminati and you’re asking me about belief?”
He laughed, enjoying the Detective’s perspective almost in spite of himself. “Well, what I got from rumors and the organization’s notes, we got a small... clan, is it? – in the area. Two confirmed sightings, male and female stopping some hijackers slash terrorists that tries to take over a school bus last year, then a male helped out with a nasty hotel fire two months ago. Haven’t really had much chance to check police reports, but I’ve heard a few tales that hint they have a pretty active presence. Honestly, there’s not much but vague rumors to go on.”
“Daaaad! I’m going out to see Tate!” The bellow preceded the thunder of a hyper teen stampeding down the stairs.
Shit! Bill mentally yelped, praying that his daughter wasn’t about to do what he feared she would. Unfortunately, Murphy’s Law of the perverse seemed to be kicking in.
Jay bounced down the steps, then paused at the foot, suddenly noticing Bluestone. “Oops.”
Bill shrugged, a silent “Kids. Go figure,” hoping that embarrassment at her shouting in the house would send Jay on her way.
Bluestone just laughed and waved it away. “Don’t worry about it.”
Jay’s brow furrowed. “Wait a sec. I know you.” There was barely perceptible panic in the man’s eyes and Bill sighed and winced in silent defeat. “The cop, detective.... uh, hang on, it’s coming to me....” She snapped her fingers frantically. “Detective... something with rock. Sapphire?”
“Bluestone. Detective Matt Bluestone. And you are?”
His daughter held out her hand and spoke the damning words. “Jay Stiles, part time gargoyle. We met in New York, last spring...?”
Revelation sprang into Bluestone’s eyes. “Oh, right, Elisa told me about that!”
No no no. He knew? How the hell could he know? This just kept getting worse. “Ah, isn’t Tate waiting?” he finally managed.
“Oh right! Thanks, Dad. See ya later, Detective!” With that, she bounced out of the room.
Uneasy silence reigned.
“Well,” Bluestone finally declared. He leveled a challenging look at Bill. “‘Nothing but vague rumors’?” he quoted sarcastically.
The older man sighed and scrubbed his face with his hands. “How much do you know?”
“How much do you know?” Bluestone demanded.
Bill glared at him, but the detective glared right back, chin set stubbornly. He reminded himself that this young man had managed to discover the truth of the Illuminati by sheer perseverance, even with the society trying to stop him. Intimidation would not work.
He sighed again and looked away. “First off, understand that I never wanted to get into this. I... inherited my position from my father when he died. At the time I was doing odd jobs, mostly in the stock car business. They approached me with the offer for ‘something better’ for the occasional shady job. I enjoyed working with the cars. I didn’t want ‘something better’, especially with the strings they added on. So I told them what they could do with their offer. Next day, I got fired. It kept up until I promised one service for them to leave me alone. That kept them away for awhile, but... eventually they came back. They were going to involve my wife and kids if I didn’t help – join – them.” He looked up, desperate to know if the younger man understood. “I couldn’t let that happen.”
Bluestone appeared sympathetic, but leaned forward. “What’s this got to do with gargoyles?”
“I was first... I guess you could say assigned, here to keep a watch for gargoyles. There’ve been rumors and urban myths about them for decades, probably centuries around here. There’s no question about their presence, but so long as it wasn’t proved, the Society wasn’t about to do anything. And then.... Jesus. And then Jay found them.”
The older man shrugged and spread his hands. “Blind luck, karma, whatever you want to call it. I don’t know. But that alone would be reason enough for me to cover up their presence. And... do you know about Dr. Anton Servarius?”
The detective made a face. “Let’s say I’m familiar with his work.”
“He’s the reason she’s... one of them, now. The chances of that being random are astronomical at best. Damnit, I don’t know if I’m being tested, it really was chance..... For all I know, they were the ones who funded the experiment that turned her into that!” Bill sighed and swiped a hand over his face. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to lose it like that. I’ve just seen one too many, gotten too many people into this... and I thought recruiting was a bitch. Being recruited.....”
Jesus. This wasn’t anything like what I expected. I mean, sure, I know the Illuminati has members from every possible background, but I expected someone like Hacker, or Malone. So damned proud of ruling the world, moving people around like puppets. Well, congratulations Puppet Bluestone, and meet Puppet Stiles. It hadn’t emotionally occurred to me that they’d need to force people in, or test them like this. Asking me to turn in Goliath, ok, I can see that. Asking a man to turn in his daughter –
And here I was thinking Dracon was a twisted s.o.b.
The razor’s edge this guy was walking, getting people to join the world’s biggest and most secret organization, while trying to keep his family out, I couldn’t do that. I don’t think I could handle that. But damned if I’m gonna help break this man.
I stood and held out a hand. “Well thanks for your time. I’m sure the Society will be disappointed that there’s nothing important going on out here.”
The expression in his eyes when he shook my hand was unbelievably profound, something I’ve only seen from my partner, the time I came back with Goliath from the Hotel Cabal. Gratitude so thick it promises anything up to and including a life. I hope I can deserve that.
He walked me to the door. “One piece of advice, Bluestone. Get out, and get out now while you can. Eventually they’ll get you by the heart, head, and balls, and you won’t have a prayer of escape that doesn’t come from eating a bullet.” The quiet desperation in the man’s voice alerted me, making my detective instincts sit up and look around. This was a man seriously on the edge. His eyes told me clear as a bell just how long he’d been looking into the brink.
“Look, there’s gotta be a better way,” I started, hoping my very few classes for talking to jumpers would help, but Bill just waved it away with a small, bitter laugh.
“Calm down, I’m not gonna try it. That’d probably only get me out. They’d still be able to get at my family. That’s how they keep you. Maybe if you cut yourself off, no family, no friends, just you and yourself. And then you end up like Malone, holed up somewhere thinking you’re God.”
I had to twitch at the gangster’s name, but shoved away the questions that came up. Probably better to just ignore that. Hit way too close to what I’d been thinking earlier. Instead, I concentrated on his earlier hint. “So, Mr. Recruiter, what do you think of me?”
Bill opened the door, studying me as I stepped outside. “Too hotheaded,” he finally said. “Too stubborn to give in, too devoted to break. Too alive. You made a deal with the Devil, Bluestone. I hope you manage to find a loophole.”
As the storm door closed, I could barely hear a final whisper.
“Damned if I can.”
He waited by the door even after Bluestone was gone, just letting his mind go blank until the phone demanded his attention. The man slowly reached out and pulled the receiver to his ear. “Yeah?” he asked listlessly, knowing who it was and what they wanted.
“What do you think?” the genderless, ageless, utterly bland voice on the other end asked. He never knew the name, or any information other than a phone number to call or be called from.
“He’s a kid. Lot of drive, not too much discipline, and too much integrity.”
“The pot calling the kettle. Runs in the family, I see.” The Voice actually seemed amused.
The phone casing creaked in protest from repeated abuse as a throttling target. “I’m not sure what the hell you mean by that, but I told you before, I’ll do whatever, just leave my kids out of it.”
The Voice laughed, another first in a long day. “Wrong branch in the family tree. We’ve always had a Bluestone on staff, so to speak. Even if it is from one of the more... distant relatives.” With that last, cryptic remark, the dial tone sounded.
Bill slowly lowered the receiver, resisting the urge to smash it down. He always came away from these little sessions feeling as if everyone was in the great big joke but him, and he happened to be the subject of the matter. Well, if nothing else, he’d managed to keep away from the gargoyles subject. Any victory, even one that small, was worth it. They were safe for now.
Eternal thanks to Datafage, whose proofing keeps me from looking dumber than I really am.
Much groveling to Denis, who not only inspired much of this, but keeps me jumping with story ideas/revelations that have me going "Of course! Why didn't I think of that!" Grommit, how do you channel the universe so well?!?!? ;) Thanks chummer for sharing!
And of course, many thanks to M.C. who nagged at me to get it done. I'll be sure to return the favor. ;)
Let me out of here!!!! A.K.A. Home
I want to read more! To get back to the fic archive
Any questions? Complaints? Screams of outrage that I actually consider myself a writer and/or dared to show this in public? Tell me! Send it all to Norcumi@backtick.net! I love mail!!!!
With the exception of some gargoyle lore, Illuminati Lore, and Matt Bluestone, which belong to Buena Vista and therefore the Great Mouse (used without permission), everything in here belongs to me. That means if for some strange reason you want to use my characters in your stuff, you have to ask first.