Monday, August 20, 2012

Rue: Dead Heat Part 3

Dead End

I had never liked Sergeant Steve Johnson, even before he stated his intention to shove me headfirst into a crematory furnace. He patted a hefty gloved hand on the chain link conveyor belt.

“So, Rue, are you going to lay down and roll in like a good boy or am I going to have to carry you?”

“I’m afraid you’ll have to carry me Steve. After all, I had intended to get answers today before dying, not after.”

He was rising from his place on the conveyor belt, slowly turning his patchwork quilt of a head from side to side. I could hear his neck pop from here.

“Answers? You are cute aren’t you Rue? Good guess that I’d be listening in on you and Hugo. You’ll be pleased to know that he never did call me. I’ll have to show him why that was a bad idea when I’m done with you.”

I slipped off my jacket and draped it over the back of a chair facing the computer that monitored the furnace temperature. I didn’t look at the screen. I didn’t really want to know how hot the fires would have to be to turn me to ash in an instant. The information would just make me sweat and I was doing enough of that already.

Johnson was sauntering forward slowly, smiling as me as he started cracking his knuckles.

“Is Morelli really that scared of me Steve? That I’ll find out something I’m not supposed to above Hatter’s family? I know Morelli’s had every one of the opposition picked off in scandal or mysterious death since the bombs fell. My problem’s that he’s killing families now. I want to know why.”

“Morelli didn’t have his family killed.”

I pulled off my tie and raised my fists. I had never been much of a boxer but I had seen enough movies of them to know that this is how it happened. Johnson was still smiling.

“I suppose you’re going to leave it hanging like that, aren’t you? Just leave me wondering who killed his family as I roast.”

“That’s the idea. You always were too damn nosy Rue.”

“I hate that name.”

I swung for Johnson’s side and he didn’t move. My right fist crashed into his body armor and my knuckles wept in pain. His right found my stomach and reacquainted it with agony. He just held his fist there and let my body shake around it. The air in my lungs fled from me, screaming.

“Why are you doing this Rue? I really hate having to hurt you.”

“But you… don’t… mind fires…”

“Hurt you. I said hurt you. I don’t mind killing you, but I hate hurting you.”

“How… kind.”

I wrapped my left around his right arm and twisted. The armor held firm. Johnson was laughing.

“You know what this armor’s like, Rue. You aren’t going to get through it. You aren’t going to force it in any direction that I don’t want it to go. Are you trying to hurt yourself?”

“No. I was just giving you a chance to surrender.”

“Or what?”

I heaved and lifted Johnson, armor and all, a foot into the air. His eyes widened. I strained and raised him another two before he started wriggling.

“You aren’t that much bigger than me Steve. Never were. Even before you started sucking up to Morelli. About your suit, I know exactly what that armor’s like. As long as I hold you by the elbows, you can’t move your arms.”

I twisted and fell backwards, slamming Johnson, armor and all onto the conveyor belt. I kicked the lever to turn it on and hopped on top of my would-be killer. My hands dug under the collar of his suit and wrapped around his stitched together throat. He gagged and thrashed, slamming his fists into my ribs.

“Let me go Rue. Morelli will kill you if I die here.”

“Wasn’t that what you intended to do to me Steve? Why should I bother? By the way, I’d stop thrashing. It won’t do you any good and you’ll just die tired. You see, I’ve kept in pretty good shape being out there in the field. Remember that Rue name you gave me back when you were in the precinct? It’s truer then ever. I’m still built like a friggin’ gorilla. Now tell me who killed Hatter’s family and you won’t have to find out what the sound of being burned alive is.”

The coffin-wide door to the furnace was getting closer and the heat had me dripping. I let the drops of sweat worm their way into my eyes. I wasn’t going to blink. He could try something if I blinked.

“They were turned into organ donors.”

“From what I hear Steve, the pieces were too small even for that unless you know someone with a chipped kidney.”

“Not that kind of donor. They were used… to make people like me.”

“Excuse me?”

“When Morelli had me put back together, they couldn’t find all the pieces. So they used donors. That’s what happened to his family. They were donors. The same thing was intended for Rick but they used too much embalming fluid on him.”

“Who did? Who did Steve?”

“Please Rue, don’t let me burn. If the threads burn, they’ll get out. Please don’t let me burn.”

“Who’ll get out? Who’ll get out Steve?”

He was stuttering now, seeing something that I couldn’t. It didn’t matter much to me though. The furnace door was only a couple feet away. It was time to get off the belt. I tried to roll to the side and Steve’s hands were clenched tight around my joints. The big man refused to move.

“They won’t let us go Rue. They know. They know I stole parts of them.”

“Parts of who Steve?”

“Parts of the people in the furnace. They’re still burning, waiting for the rest of themselves. They want me. They want me don’t they Rue?”

One of the stitches in his forehead was starting to peel back, severing what had looked like two pieces of the same body.  His skin was writhing, changing, remembering who it was before.

“What did they do to you Steve?”

There were two arms around my elbows, and I was tumbling off of the conveyor belt. Get back on your feet, Morgan. The furnace door was slamming shut. Too late. I leaned in to look through the window and saw Johnson’s face splitting apart, white light bursting from within.

“Damn it!”

“They had more of a claim to him than we did Morgan.”

I turned and looked over my shoulder. Amy was holding my jacket and tie for me. Her eyes were wet.

“What just happened here Amy?”

“I was wrong about there not being any ghosts here. There are thousands of them. They’re in the furnace. All of them. Bits and pieces of them have been stolen. Someone’s been stealing from the dead to make people like Steve.”

“My god. Rick’s family was butchered so someone could frankenstein together someone else.”

I reached into my pocket and pulled out three packs of ProTabs and downed them all.

“We still don’t know who though. I never got a name out of him.”

“I got a name Morgan. They were screaming it at me from the furnace. It wasn’t a person though, it was a place.”


“Cairo District.”

I took my tie from Amy and she helped me slip my jacket back over my shoulders.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had the ability to travel. Besides, isn’t that what people do on vacations? Now let’s get moving. It’s too hot in here.”

“Least it’s a dry heat.”

“True enough.”

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