Part 2

Shaugnessy smelled like day-old sweat and Jim Beam. You see people like him, you really start to wonder how it is that the world population clock in Times Square keeps managing to tick upwards. I tried to block him out, him and his outlawed cigarette that he smoked because he was a Slayer and a cop and could do whatever the hell he wanted.

The vid-unit we were looking at went from static to a picture. It showed a very rough looking character, maybe late twenties, a tattoo of a snake across one bicep. I didn’t like his eyes. They had the disconcerting glint of psychosis in them.

“This cutie pie is Dietr Maas. He’s one of Spike’s crew, a made guy and a chief enforcer. He’s very tough. Killed two Slayers last year in Chicago, another in Newark the year before,” said Shaugnessy.

“What’s our interest?” I asked, taking a sip of the Jim Beam Shaugnessy had handed me when we entered the darkened interview room. The whiskey was another perk of the job. Product liability lawsuits had long ago put all the legit distillers out of business in the domestic U.S., putting them in the same company as the tobacco companies, gun manufacturers, and fast food conglomerates. The auto makers had only skated because the oil ran out and market forces finally made alternative fuel autos attractive to consumers. The Beam was an illegal substance these days, smuggled in from Central America alongside cocaine and tobacco. There were a few exemptions to the Surgeon General’s hard alcohol restrictions that came with insanely high import duties and a lot of paperwork, but this was definitely not among them.

“Our interest is that we weren’t able to nail this son of bitch, despite the fact that the Tacoma field office had this guy in last month and ran a Fushima-Broeder on him.”

That got my attention. I leaned toward the vid screen and frowned. “I don’t get it. If the Tacoma P.D. ran a Fushima-Broeder profile on him, why didn’t they hold him?”

Shaugnessy knocked back the small residue of whiskey in his glass and said, “They didn’t hold him because he aced the profile.”

“Then they did the test wrong,” I said.

“Nope. We reviewed the logs, the galvanic responses, the cross-indices, the works. This boy came out smelling like a human being. And he’s not the only one. Lately we’ve had other vamps slipping past Fushima-Broeder.”

Shaugnessy saw the look on my face and nodded. This was serious. Used to be vampires were pretty easy to identify. Although they breathed when they needed to talk, they didn’t respire. They tended toward the cold-fish side of things in terms of body-temperature. And of course you could always try holy water or sunlight.

Then the CIA decided its supernatural operatives needed to be able to blend in better. So the spook doctors, the old DH Group, and the Lothair Corporation tinkered with their DNA coding and came up with vampires that had body heat, could sunbathe under the ozone hole, and could drink Holy Water as a chaser. That made a Slayer’s life more complicated for sure. Almost got me killed a couple of times, and I’m very, very good at this game.

The answer to the conundrum was something called the Fushima-Broeder test. It was little more than a series of ethical and moral questions designed to test the human-ness of a subject. Simple questions could throw vampires because they didn’t have the moral or ethical framework with which to structure an answer. Even human sociopaths have some society-inspired structure. They might honestly say ‘yes’ to a question about whether it’s okay to push their grandmother down an elevator shaft, but their physical responses, such as skin galvanics, pupil dilation, brain-center activation, pulse and respiration were human ones. In a sociopath, those readings might be quite skewed, but they were clinically identifiable as human. Vamps and other soulless creatures, however, tended to produce really outlier physical responses, or they got very confused about simple questions like “A man and a woman are on a date. She offers to pay. How does he react?”

But if vampires had started spoofing Fushima-Broeder …

“That can’t happen,” I said. “It would mean …”

Shaugnessy let me complete the thought.

“It would mean someone’s ensouling vampires,” I finished. “That’s the only way they would have the cognitive and ethical framework in place to fool an F-B screening.”

“That’s why I always liked you, Summers. You got a brain to go with the rest of the package,” said Shaugnessy.

“Okay, so maybe this is a CIA thing, trying to make their undead operatives Fushima-Broeder proof. But why use a guy like Maas who has ties to Spike? Last I heard, Spike’s whole crew was persona non grata in the States.”

“Wait, you haven’t heard the whole story on our boy Maas. But we’ll get to that. First, a few more visual aids,” said Shaugnessy, fingering his video remote. He paged through a succession of vampire hoods that looked like they belonged on a Post Office wall. He rattled off the names as their faces came up.

“Dorian Voorhees and Janos Miklevitch from the European vamp syndicates. Adrienne St. Claire, late of the October Seventh Army undead terrorist faction in Paris. Ricky Takamora of the Two Snakes Kai. Gianni ‘Nose’ Nostrello, out of the Langella vampire outfit in Canarsie.”

He clicked through half a dozen more without bothering to narrate.

“Okay, so they’re all scum. And I take it they were all ensouled recently,” I said.

The smoke from Shaugnessy’s cigarette curled lazily in the light of the vidscreen as it added to the room’s ambient haze of tobacco smog.

“These are just the ones we know about because they slipped past a Fushima-Broeder, or because we got hard street information. But there’s one more common denominator. They’re all dead. The big dead this time. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” he said.

“I’ll weep over them in private. Who’s putting the stake to them?”

“Don’t know that, but the M.O. is Slayer.”

“Not one of yours.”

“No. Lot of ex-Slayers out there, though. They go private, and there are more lucrative career choices than two-bit P.I.”

I let the insult slide as he continued.

“The terminations were all consistent with a typical Slayer Unit take-down. Weapon used was a .44 Mag, your standard issue service arm in nearly every S. U. in the country. Forensics ran the slug that offed Gianni Nostrello. Silver hollow point with factory enchantments, nothing special. Straight ahead vampire round.”

“So this could be government black bag work, some private outfit, do it yourself — anything.”

“That’s how I see it. That’s why you’re here, to fill in some of the blanks.”

I took a swallow of whiskey. “So, what’s the Spike angle?”

“Our best guess is Spike’s taken Maas as a personal insult. You know how these vamps can get with the whole blood feud bullshit. He’s trying to trace the ensoulments to the source, and he’s piling up a pretty impressive body count in the process. Last word had him in New York. I want you to beat him to his goal, and to take him out if you get the opportunity.”

“And what about the ensoulments?”

“Bring me a why and a who. Then you let the Department take care of it. I want you clear on that.”

“Any leads on Spike?”

“Just what I’ve told you. He’s around, he’s on the trail. Pick up the trail, you’ll probably find him.”

“This all you got? That’s pretty slim,” I said.

“That’s why I brought you in,” he said. He touched a finger to his nose. “Whatever I might think of you personally, you can follow a scent like no other Slayer I’ve ever known.”

“Comes from being the Slayer, Shaugnessy.”

“That’s why we keep you around, Summers,” he said as he flicked off the vid unit. “Go get ’em, doll.”

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