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Justin Gustainis

Known Devil


To Josephine Dougherty,

dinosaur fan and baby woman.

Hope you like it here, kid.

“All sin tends to be addictive, and

the terminal point of addiction

is what is called damnation.”

W. H. Auden

“Criminals do not die by the hands of the law;

they die by the hands of other men.”

George Bernard Shaw

“Revenge proves its own executioner.”

John Ford

I’ve never had a lot of use for elves. In my experience, they’re lazy and dumb – nothing like those drones in the stories, who supposedly work for the Fat Guy up north. I don’t like elves, and elves with guns I like even less. And when those guns are pointed at me – well, it’s like that Mafia guy on TV used to say: fahgettaboudit.

But first, a few words from my partner.

“So now him and this killer ogre are on top of the railroad car, dukin’ it out, haina? Bond can’t do any fancy karate moves with the train going forty miles an hour, but he’s holding his own, against this thing that’s about twice his size. You know how big fuckin’ ogres can get.”

“Yeah, I sure as hell do. So do you, comes to that.”

Karl Renfer took a sip of lightly microwaved Type A.

“What Bond doesn’t know, cause he’s facing the wrong way, is that the train’s coming up fast on a tunnel…”

Police union rules say we’re allowed one coffee break per shift, along with half an hour for dinner. Karl and I were taking the coffee break in our usual spot, Jerry’s Diner, although I was the only one at our table actually drinking coffee – Karl’s beverage preferences are a little different.

It was just past 1am. Being open twenty-four hours, Jerry’s place gets a fair amount of undead trade, so the menu includes Type A, Type O, and an AB negative plasma that Karl says is overpriced. I was content – if that’s the word – with a cup of the dark roast that Jerry’s is infamous for. It’s not too bad with cream and sugar – a lot of cream and sugar.

Yesterday had been our day off. Karl had spent part of it checking out the new James Bond movie, Skyfang, and I was half-listening while he told me about it.

I gathered that Daniel Craig was fast replacing Sean Connery as Karl’s favorite actor to play Agent 007. I could see his point. Yeah, I watch those movies, too – but unlike Karl, I only see them once.

We agreed that Craig was the first actor to play the role who looked like he might actually be a professional killer – and that’s what Bond is, when you get down to it. I’ve known a few real life-takers in my time, and thought that Craig had the attitude down cold, so to speak. Even if he did have a better tailor.

It was just another Wednesday night, maybe a little quieter than usual. But that was before those two fucking elves came in and started waving guns around.

One of them used a chair to climb onto a vacant table and started yelling, in that high voice they have, “Nobody move! Everybody freeze!”

Good luck with that, shorty. Instead of acting like statues, everybody in the diner turned to see who the hell was making all the noise. Maybe that’s what the elf had really wanted, anyway.

He looked typical for the species – around 4’6”, with the blond hair and pointed ears that they all have. I’ve seen a few try to pass for human by dying their hair and wearing it long enough to cover the ears, but they can’t do much about the fact that elves are what the PC crowd calls “vertically impaired”.

This one was wearing jeans and a gray sweatshirt that said “College Misericordia” on the front. The part of my mind that wasn’t focused on the Colt Python he was holding in both hands wondered if he might’ve come by the shirt honestly.

Even if he had attended Misery – as everybody calls it – I assumed the elf was a dropout. College Misericordia doesn’t graduate thieves – at least not deliberately. It’s true there are quite a few lawyers and politicians among their alums, but you can’t blame the college for that.

The elf’s partner in crime was wearing a navy blue sport shirt and khakis. They fit him pretty well – you can find clothing in all sizes these days, from Pixie Extra Tiny to Ogre XXXXXL. This guy was pointing some kind of automatic at Donna, the cashier, who’d gone pale enough to pass for a vampire’s girlfriend.

“Open the register!” the elf yelled. “Put the cash in this – just the bills, no coins!” He tossed her one of those fabric tote bags that the crunchy granola types do their grocery shopping with. Donna fumbled the catch, and the bag fell to the floor at her feet. I thought the elf was going to have a coronary. “Pick it up, bitch! Put the money in it quick, before I blow your fucking head off! Do it!

His buddy was still on the table, sweeping the room back and forth with the barrel of that big pistol. The Python fires a .357 Magnum cartridge, and it’s got quite a kick – I wondered if it had knocked the elf on his ass the first time he fired it. Assuming he ever had fired it.

“Hands on the table!” he screeched at the customers. “Nobody move!”

Even from twenty-some feet away, I could see that the elf’s eyes were bloodshot and bulging. I wondered if there was something coursing through his system besides adrenaline. If he’d been human, I’d have figured him for an addict of some kind. But apart from the fucking goblins – who’ve shown an unfortunate fondness for meth – human recreational drugs don’t have any effect on supernaturals. Just as well – some of them give us more than enough trouble as it is.

Donna had finally got all the cash from the register into the canvas bag. The elf snatched it out of her hands, then turned and trained his gun on the customers, just like his buddy on the table was doing.

“OK now, listen up!” Like we were gonna ignore him, under the circumstances. “I’m goin’ around the room now. When I get to your table, the men are gonna reach for their wallets slow and put ’em in the bag here. Then the bitches are gonna dump their purses out on the table, so I can see what you got inside. Anybody doesn’t do what they’re told, or who gives me any shit – I am gonna fuckin’ kill you and everybody with you, too!”

He glanced toward the other elf, who was still on the table, nervously traversing the room with his gun.

“You cool, man?”

I thought he looked about as calm as Jell-O in an earthquake.

“Yeah, I’m cool. Go get the fuckin’ money. I gotcha covered.”

I wondered just how often these two losers had watched Red Pulp Fiction. Quentin Tarantino’s got a lot to answer for.

“What’re you packing?” I murmured, just loud enough for Karl to hear me.

“Straight silver. You?”

“Silver and cold iron, mixed.”

Silver bullets are good against some kinds of supes, like vamps and weres. But they’re useless on any members of the faerie family – including goblins, trolls, orcs… and elves. Karl’s gun would be useless if the shit hit the fan in the next few minutes.

Cold iron, on the other hand, will take out any member of the faerie clan. The mixed load in my Beretta meant I’d have to double-tap each elf, to make sure he’d catch a bullet that would hurt him.

But our situation here was kind of complicated.

Cops are expected to protect the public at all times. That’s why we all pack a gun when we go out, even off-duty. But the public, especially the portion of it currently inside Jerry’s Diner, wouldn’t be well served by a bloodbath.



2011 - 2018