What Teeth They Had: Book 2 Chapter 5

book-2

The oath of MIR was formed out of a tradition of public service. Each new recruit is sworn in after reciting the oath from memory during the induction ceremony. It is through this tradition that each officer better understands their commitment to the infected and the ravages of Lycantrosis.

It is the sworn duty of all MIR officers to prevent infected people from becoming victims twice for the same tragedy. That they are not marginalized for their illness, and find strength in the support of MIR personnel and facilities.

You may find a copy of the oath on the back of your training booklet.

Chapter 5: Blood of My Children

Judith’s body had grown inflamed and discolored after the beatings. She was abducted in her sleepwear, still stained with food grease from dinner and a mix of her and her husband’s blood. She caught a glimpse of her misshapen visage in the polished reflection of the steel table before her. Her left wrist matched the purple welts on her face and neck, and it ached under the weight of handcuffs locked to a metal chair.

She sat without a word, tracing the cement lines of the bare brick wall with her still functioning eye. If they were watching, Judith made sure they would see no fear. On the inside, her thoughts were of her boys. Had Ron and Luke made it to the precinct before the Finishers blocked the roads? What did The Finisher’s perverse doctrine say about children that aided infected?

Judith’s attention found the door with the sound of the deadbolt cracking. The door opened to reveal Jake’s coworker Jessup. He was dressed in the finished metal jumpsuit over his regular clothes. It was just as filthy as Judith’s sleepwear with stains pooling along his chest and forearms. Whatever business he engaged in went elbow deep, and even the disposable safety gloves had been sullied tonight. The chef’s knife Judith used to murder her husband dangled from his fingers.

“You left this inside him,” said Jessup as he examined the knife under the florescent lights. “You sure know how to ruffle some tail feathers.” He hurled the knife into a trash bin in the corner of the room before removing his gloves and tossing them on the table.

“Jake will survive. Our best doctors are puttin’ him back together as we speak. A miracle really, all his vital organs shoulda’ been shedded had he not had oppositus–all his insides are flip-flopped. A wife should really know these things about their husband.”

Judith knew of the condition, but her disease had gotten the better of her tonight, and a plan three months in the making had ended in a haze of savagery. He was supposed to die in a carbon monoxide leak, thought Judith. Now everyone suffers.

“Where are my children?” said Judith.

“Jake asked the same thing when he came to. The boys are fine…in our protective care. Whether or not they stay fine is up to you.”

They wouldn’t dare hurt them. “What do you want?”

“What do I want?” Jessup pulled out a chair and sat across from Judith. His torso stretched several feet above her. “I want you lynched above the overpass on Route 40, and your children’s heads dashed against the rocks of the quarry. I argued for this with your husband, but he has other plans.” Jessup’s patchy beard contorted in a grin. “Better plans.”

He pulled out a packet of paperwork that had been trifolded in his pocket and flattened it out on the table. “The ideology of The Finishers appeal to all kinds of people: firemen, police officers, lawyers, judges, alderman, and even a handful of congressmen. Turns out they’re all real fond of Jake and what he’s done for our cause.”

Judith knew whatever was written on the papers would ruin her life, how or when was torture to ponder. Her fingertips twisted around her chin and lips as tried not to scream.

Jessup cleared his throat before continuing. “A group of them faxed these over at Jake’s request. I’ll give you the long and short of it. First of all, your marriage with Jake Reto is null and void effective immediately, and complete custody of Ronald and Luke Klove with be transferred to him.”

Judith’s fingers clenched into a fist and smashed against the table. “He’s not even their blood!!”

“I’m still on page one, sweetheart. In lieu of life imprisonment for the crime of attempted murder, you will allow all Finisher activity to continue unabated in the state of Illinois for as long as your tenure at MIR is active.”

Judith spit on his paperwork. “This is complete fucking lunacy!!!”

“We believe otherwise,” said Jessup. “This is more than fair considerin’ what you did to a good man–.”

“Listen to me!!” interrupted Judith, “You need to stop those doctors and let him bleed out! If you don’t kill him now he will get stronger! Then who’ll stop him–you!? The only power you’ve ever had was handed to you by some rich daddy years ago, and you’ve been squandering that ever since! I’ve felt the terror of grown men as they were hunted down by Jake! When he runs out of wolves you’ll all know that terror. He dreams of it!!”

Jessup’s stare had lost color, bringing with it a confused, hateful glare as if a part of him believed her. He reached out and pulled her across the metal table, her left arm still anchored to the chair. His knuckles snapped her neck back with each strike as her vision blurred. Judith did not beg or cry, she only endured as she always had.

Jessup’s face was flushed red and sweating when he released her slender body back onto the chair. He slammed a pen on top of the papers and slide them across to Judith. He whispered through gritted teeth, “Sign the deal.”

*****

“I thought we were toasting?” said Gator with his glass hovering in front of him.

Judith had been somewhere else. Not nearly as gory as the typical full moon visions, but still painful and crystal clear. She soon returned to reality in the Hancock Building in Chicago.

“I’m sorry,” said Judith. “I have trouble staying ‘present.’”

“That’s all fine and good, but I’m going to ask that you not leave me hanging.”

Judith lifted her glass and together they toasted the impending end of Howard Fettel.

“Let me settle the tab and we’ll come up with the plan elsewhere,” said Gator.

The room soon erupted into applause. Judith surveyed the crowd to find partygoers delivering a standing ovation to Allred. She expected a decrepit man, barely able to walk, but Allred was imposing and powerful in his stride onto the stage. His face was serene as he took the microphone from its stand.

“I’m very proud of what we have accomplished,” said Allred. “I know this is a disease that has touched many of your lives with a grip all but strangling. And like many of you, I never thought it would reach my family. My oldest daughter Sarina was diagnosed with Leukemia only three years ago; she lost her battle only two months ago…”

Judith heard Gator whisper “lying fuck” under his breath.

“At my age you think you know the world–that it can only be one way, and then a disease seeps in out of nowhere. It forces you to reevaluate your priorities, question your god and your code. My hope for everyone here tonight, is to put aside your family grievances and take hold of your children, your siblings, your spouse, and let them know they are cherished no matter what.”

Judith concurred with Gator’s earlier sentiment. That girl is dead because of you and men like you who’s “code” rob innocent people of their humanity.

The room once again clapped for Allred.

“This crowd is as generous with its applause as it is with its money. Thanks to everyone here, we raised over one million dollars for the Sarina Allred Foundation.”

As the crowd began celebrate, Allred held his hands in the air to stifle them.

“And there’s one person I’d like to welcome up here–a man that has been keeping a low profile all night. He’s not a wealthy man, nor is he an influential captain of industry, but he came here tonight with my daughter on his mind, and to make a personal donation of fifty thousand dollars.”

The house lights dimmed as a spotlight crawled towards the bar.

“Mr. Doogan…Mr. Fred Doogan, please join me on stage.”

Gator stared at Judith in horror. “Get the hell out while you can,” he whispered before starting his long walk to the stage. His silhouette disappeared into thunderous applause and camera lights.

Just stay calm, big man. I’ll get you out of here.

Judith felt the cold press of a pistol against her spine.

“I’m very sorry I have to do this Ms. Klove,” said the bartender, “but I’m going to have to ask you to please leave with these gentleman.”

*****

Judith and Gator were reunited in a penthouse suite several flights below the fundraiser. They were seated in leather chairs with table settings placed before them. The faint sounds of celebration above were squelched by two bodyguards closing the double doors behind Allred.

He stared at Gator first, then Judith. His eyes were hawk-like in their tranquility as if goading field mice into a sense of ease. He stood a moment, pressing his palms flush against the table. “Wine makes these things easier,” said Allred. He looked to his bodyguard and held up three fingers.

Three glasses were placed on the table-one for each. The wine bottle was uncorked and placed before Allred. He poured Gator and Judith’s glasses first. When he had poured his own he held the glass to his nose and closed his eyes.

“Mistakes have been made by us all,” said Allred. “That much is clear. I have no intention of ignoring the lessons of the past, but that doesn’t mean we should forgo a good drink.”

“I didn’t kill Sarina,” said Gator. “This woman here had nothing to do with her. How about we settle this between us?”

“Chivalry hasn’t served you well, Mr. Doogan. Certainly you’ve witnessed its inefficacy in protecting my daughter… your wife…your mother. I’m sorry to say, she missed her flight.”

“What did you do with her!?” said Gator.

“Keep your mouth shut and you might just find out.” Allred turned to Judith. “You require no man to speak for you, yes? At least, until the disease steals the words away.”

“You killed that boy,” said Judith. “Your men followed us that night in Michigan because they thought we were Fettel. They stopped their car and gave us a hard look and knew that wasn’t the case, but they still followed us down that road and tore that boy apart. You and I are old enough to know this isn’t the way things used to be. There was decorum then, not this madness.”

Allred stared at her across her wine glass. “I can no longer give orders,” said Allred. “The Finishers, the vigilante groups, and the small-time militias operate how they see fit. I can only facilitate the madness, but to suggest I have control over it is like saying I can control the weather. There are men, like Howard, that believe they can still control every facet of all men, but as you said, that’s not the world we live in, and it will never be again…I am not sorry about the boy.”

Judith shot up from her chair only to have a Beretta lodged behind her ear.

“What the fuck do you want from us!?” said Gator. “I can’t bring your daughter back!!”

Allred waved his hand to have his guard lower the gun, then directed Judith to sit with the same hand. “Sarina died long before you inherited what her ghost had stolen from me. Like I said, I can’t control the weather, but I can forecast it. The chaos of this world has a way of correcting itself, and I am not sorry about my daughter.”

“So back to Gator’s earlier question,” said Judith. “What do you want from us?”

“When Sarina’s body was found, I was told her name had been sold to a group of nameless thugs. The identity of the seller was believed to be Gator after he had absconded with her duffel bag full of cash. Someone worked very hard to make you their patsy–even planting rot powder in your storage unit. The more I learned about you, the more fascinating you became–a human that had somehow married his way into the inner circle of Howard Fettel.”

“You sent all those people after me just to get to Fettel?” said Gator.

“I never sent anyone. I merely placed a bounty on your head–‘alive,’ I’ll have you know.”

“So you sent me, to get Gator… to get Fettel?” said Judith.

“Imagine my surprise when my scouts reported you had walked straight into the Bedlam Den and were embraced by the man himself. Once again, chaos corrected itself. Howard left his home to an even more dangerous fortification. The Leek Denaa stronghold is the last major haven of the infected. Together, I believe you two have what it takes to reach Fettel and bring him to me alive. In exchange, Gator’s mother will be freed, and you will both be well compensated.”

“Show me my mother!” said Gator.

“Of course,” said Allred. With a motion of his hand Gator was escorted into the next room.

Judith and Allred sat at the table together. She heard the rustling of the carpet as the chair next to her was pulled back. She glanced over to find Jessup sitting next to her. He had not aged in the two decades from their first encounter. He rested his elbows on the table and lowered his head into his hands smiling. His eyes were missing, as if scratched out by pencils.

Another Jessup pulled out a chair on her other side and sat. Soon she felt the presence of an army filling the room behind her. Slowly they took up the space behind Allred, each one mocking her with the same smile.

“You get something out of this as well, Ms. Klove,” said Allred. “I’ll hand Fettel over to you when I’m done with him to collect the bounty on his head. I can also give you something…priceless.”

“What could you possibly offer me?”

“I have in my possession the men who stole your children. Bring me Fettel and I will serve Jessup Murral and Jake Reto to you along with a twelve inch chef’s knife so you may finish what you started all those years ago. You still remember Jessup, don’t you?”

“Sort of,” said Judith, “you got yourself a deal.”

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