Crescent City Creeps #3

Blowin’ Like a Hurrican’

Anatoli and Delareux walked down a narrow, rugged street. Either side was lined with ancient, wooden structures. Most were two floors and had balconies railed off with dirty, worn French Provincial ornamentation. From some jutted overhangs and awnings that almost spanned the street. In front of every building and spilling out into the streets, were vendors and their carts and booths. Cars were parked along the sides leaving one with no notion as to how a car managed to navigate the anarchy. A main street shopping center filtered through an eldritch lens. Delareux stopped at the door of the loudest establishment and lit a cigarette. He held out his open cigarette case toward Toli.

“We’re early,” Delareux murmured.

“It’s seven o’clock,” Toli consulted his fob with one hand, accepted Delareux’s offer with the other, “I thought he got here six thirty sharp?”

“I would like to approach the doctor in a more relaxed state.”

“Oh. I see,” Toli stood cross armed. He flicked his thumb against the butt of his cigarette and launched an arc of ash.

Delareux pinched the cherry off and returned the remnant to his case, “That’s probably fine. The man is at least 80.”

He slunk into the front door and Toli followed. The passed down a narrow, creaking hall full of peeling paint that looked like old newspaper. Delareux parted a curtain of beads and slid through. Toli looked as though he was parting cobwebs. They emerged into an ornate mass of gilding and velvet. Every inch of the space, save for an area that seemed designated as the main thoroughfare, was packed with Victorian furniture of all kinds. Mostly couches for two. Save for Toli and Delareux, the occupants of the room were all young women in needlessly ornate lingerie. A small woman stepped into sight. She was older, rounder and a kaleidoscope of feathers, satin and bleached hair.

“Hi, Delareux,” she cooed, “You bring a friend?”

“Here on business, Fanny,” Delareux said, “I need to see a doctor.”

“Oh. Not contagious I hope.”

“Me too.”

“His name is Andronikov,” Toli leaned in.

“Oh, yeah. He’s here. He’s in the back lounge,” Fanny pointed down a row of doors.

“Thanks, Fanny,” Delareux squeezed past. Toli and Fanny circled each other in a labored waltz and he followed Delareux. They entered the lounge, which was a photonegative of the parlor. Wooden and spacious. A man sat alone reading a book in a high backed chair by the fire. Tilting toward the light as he looked as far down his beaked nose, at the page, as he could. Strands of stringy black hair became dislodged from behind his ears and swung casting moving shadows on the page. His eyes looked like they were cast from lead. The dark circles underneath looked like they were clinging on and dragging the rest of his face with them. His rolled up and met with Toli’s. The corners of his mouth looked as they they were being hoisted on fish hooks.

“Gentlemen,” he said in a thick Russian basso profundo, “May I help you?”

“Doctor Andronikov, I presume,” Toli was pleased with himself and he held out his hand, grinning.

“And you are?” asked the doctor, pinching Toli’s hand between his thumb and two fingers.

“Of course, Doctor. Anatoli Palazzo.”

The doctor rotated his eyes toward Delareux. Delareux nodded.

“I was wondering if I could have a moment of your time, Doctor Andronikov.” Toli chirped and clasped his hands.

“Please. Arkady.”

“Arkady. I understand you do pro bono work for the orphans,” Toli alighted into a chair adjacent to Arkady and leaned toward him.

“Yes?” Arkady let a bit of a smile crack and settled in his chair.

“One of those orphans is a friend of that eccentric fellow there,” Toli gestured to Delareux, “And this orphan had come to him with a disturbing thing.”

“What would that be?” Arkady snapped the corners of his mouth up.

“She said she handed it over to you. It was a syringe. With the oddest markings on it.”

“I believe I remember that, yes. What about it?”

“Have you been able to examine it? What were your conclusions?”

“And what is it that you do Mr. Palazzo,” Arkady leaned forward.

“That’s just what I was about to get to,” Toli snapped his index finger in the air between them, “And please. Anatoli.”

“Russian name,” Arkady grinned. Toli grinned back.

“I fear there may be an epidemic on the street. Affecting the orphans. And with my capital I think we could start a program to help keep kids from getting into trouble.”

“Anatoli. What is it that you do?”

“Of course,” Toli adjusted his glasses, “I own an import/export company. In fact I own a bunch of warehouses down by the piers. And that’s where I found a syringe just like the one our poor orphan found. I gave it over to Detective Ed Danvers. He said was going to have you look at it. I was eager to know if you knew what we…what the kids are dealing with. Danvers says you’re the best there is.”

Arkady stared at Toli and pressed his lips tight. He looked like a cobra attempting to mesmerize its victim, “Inconclusive,” he said.

“You don’t say? That is distressing,” Toli rubbed his lip and stared at the floor in thought, “Well, if you figure it out, please let me know,” he handed Arkady as business card and stood up.

Toli and Arkady stared at one another as the later took the offering. Toli nodded, smiled and left the lounge. Delaroux bobbed out behind him.

“Interesting fellow,” Toli said taking Delareux aside.

“You going into business with Dracula?” Delareux asked.

“Hmph,” Toli frowned, “Of course not.”

Delareux looked impressed.

“Does it seem like he’s hiding something to you? Lost his forced smile when I asked about the syringe. Or mentioned the warehouses.”

“His ghost nearly got loose from his skin.”

“Maybe I should talk to Danvers again. See if he’ll tell me more about the doctor.”

“If you want my advice…”

“I don’t.”

“I’d stay clear of Danv…”

A loud crash, deadened by the humid air, cracked from outside the window. Through the backdoor window they could see a gaunt boy, like a skeleton shoved into skin two sizes too small, had cartwheeled through the air and landed in a mound of stacked garbage bags and cardboard boxes. He sprung back to his feet and stared hard in the direction from which he flew. His face was crimson and pouring with sweat. He gritted his teeth so hard it seemed likely they would snap. His bloodshot eyes bulged. With both arms flailing in a series of haymakers he charged. The object of his ire was a man, or perhaps a gorilla, stuffed into a pair of blue longjohns with a cyclone pattern stitched into the chest. The outfit was completed by a pair of yellow galoshes, yellow oven mitts and a mop bucket with a slot cut out so he could for his eyes. He looked like a dime store version of a Renaissance Fair knight. The blue knight stood firm as the berserk waif thrashed forward. One of the boy’s balled fists connected with the side of the blue knight’s mop bucket helmet. The knight staggered, regained his footing and delivered a practiced right cross to the waif’s clenched jaw. Blood erupted from his mouth staining his teeth and knight’s oven mitts. The waif fell to its knobby, baseball knees. His expression changed from fury to confusion. His eyes rolled drunkenly backwards and he collapsed onto the overstuffed trash bags.

Toli threw open the back door and ran toward the knight, “What on Earth is going on here?” Toli demanded.

“Stand down, citizen,” said a reedy voice, forced down to lower octaves, reverberating through the bucket, “Everything is under control.”

“Under control, my eye,” Toli yelled, “You’re beating the tar out this child, you ape.”

Delareux started yanking on Toli’s coat sleeve.

“Why are you just standing there,” Toli snapped at Delareux as he pulled him aside, “Call the police.”

“The Blue Hurricane is about as close to police as you’ll get in this neck of the woods,” Delareux explained.

Toli pulled his coat sleeve free from Delareux’s pinch and walked over to the knight.

“You’re the Blue Hurricane,” he said leaning to get a look into the bucket.

“Yes, sir,” replied Hurricane, saluting.

“I’ve heard good things about you. What’s going on here?”

“This child had lost his mind,” Hurricane explained, “He was inconsolable. He went on a rampage and began attacking passerbys. I attempted to subdue him, but despite his frail appearance, he packs a wallop.”

Toli knelt down over the boy. Delareux stood behind him, scanning the waif.

“Son?” Toli patted the boy on the face, “Can you hear me?”

The boy moaned and his eyes lolled. Delareux crouched and slipped his hand in the boy’s pocket. He pulled out a familiar looking syringe. Toli arched an eyebrow.

“Third one today,” he mused, “Son, where did you get this?”

The boy began dribbling unintelligible snippets of attempted dialogue. Toli held the syringe where the boy’s eyes settled. Toli jostled him.

“Do you remember where you got this?” Toli repeated.

“Mmph,” the boy slobbered, “Dock. The dock.”

“Step aside, please,” Arkady shouted as he approached, “This boy needs a doctor.”

He pushed his way through the gathered crowd and crouched beside the boy and edged Toli away. He loaded up a needle and injected the boy in the shoulder.

“I gave him a sedative,” Arkady announced, “I will take him under my care. He’ll be fine.”

“Here you go doctor,” Toli said, holding the syringe from the boy’s pocket, “Another one for your collection.”

Arkady snatched it and ferreted it away in his medical bag, “Thank you, Mr. Palazzo. Now if you’ll excuse us. This child needs care and observation. Blue Hurricane? Could you assist me with transporting the boy?”

“Sure thing, doc.”

Hurricane draped the waif over his shoulder and followed the doctor. Toli and Delareux began to walk.

“The dock,” Delareux mused, “That lines up with the warehouses. Also where a lot of drifters crash land.”

“Or ‘the Doc.’ Isn’t that how Shelby referred to Andronikov?” Toli added, “Danvers works with him. Maybe I can talk to him.”

“Good,” Delareux’s voice rattled low, “You see if you can work your hoodoo on Danvers, I’ll sniff around the docks.”

“My what?”

As they came to a phone booth it began to ring. Delareux pushed the door aside, stepped in and picked up the receiver, clamping to his shoulder with his neck.

“This is Delareux…you looking to make a few clams…meet me by the docks…bye.” he cradled the receiver and stepped back out.

“Shelby is meeting me down there,” Delareux lit a cigarette.

Toli quickly ranked his questions in order of importance. The welfare of a child outweighed whatever that was with the phone.

“You’re taking a child down by the docks, at eight thirty pm, you reckless idiot?” Toli uncoiled his wrist with every charge, his index finger out, his palm up.

“She’s probably already down there,” Delareux started to stroll away, “So far, all of the victims have been street kids.”

“As bait.”

“I’m giving her fifteen bucks,” he said over his shoulder.

“I assume, I’ll see you in the morning, Mr. Delareux. If not later on this evening getting booked.”

***

“Is Detective Danvers still on duty?” Toli asked the desk officer.

“Your name?”

“Anatoli Palazzo.”

“I’ll see,” the officer disappeared. Toli waited.

Delareux waited under a street lamp. He lit a cigarette with the smoldering remnants of his previous one, blowing the smoke up into the thick, glistening air. The gnats whipping through think unmoving smoke clouds looked like a seventh grade physics class conceptualization of electrons orbiting an atom. Shelby appeared out of shadows.

“I think I found your guy,” she said.

***

“The detective says you can go on back,” said the officer motioning Toli toward Danvers’ office.

Toli nodded to the officer and entered Danvers’ office.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Palazzo?” .Danvers grumbled.

“Detective, it’s about the case from earlier,” Toli said in a halting rhythm.

“I told you, we’ll take it from here.”

“I found another syringe.”

“Where?”

“From another orphan. Went berserk like the others. He was subdued by a ridiculous costumed vigilante.”

Danvers frowned and nodded, “Where is it?”

“This one, like the others, is in the possession of Doctor Andronikov. Who, by the way, says the tests he ran on the substance, were inconclusive.”

“You better not be getting involved,” Danvers scolded, “Did that weirdo drag you into this.”

“What do you know about Doctor Andronikov? When did he come here? Where was he before that?

The scowl on Danvers face softened to curiosity, “You don’t think…”

“I don’t have enough information to know what to think. That’s why I’m here. And I can see it in your face, you have some thoughts about this.”

Danvers narrowed his eyes and looked hard at Toli. Toli replied with an expectant tilt of his head. Danvers stalked over to his desk and sat down. He produced a file from the bottom drawer and tossed it on the desk. Toli leaned over, pulled the file across the desk and spun it around.

“How many other co-worker’s files do have readily at hand?” Toli asked over his glasses.

“Twenty some years ago. My rookie year,” Ed began, “I responded to a call for backup. Some detectives were working this case; an ‘oriental travelling medicine show’ came through town. Now, everybody knew these guys were from Shreveport, but they had this one guy with them. A rusky. Called himself ‘Mad Gregory.’ Was pedaling some invigorating tonic, or some such snake oil.”

***

Shelby led Delareux through the strips of shadows between the sharp circles cast by the flood lights.

“That guy,” Shelby showed Delareux a man in a trench coat, newsboy cap, dark glasses and scarf wrapped around his head. Every so often he would totter and catch his balance, “He gave me this,” she held out a syringe. This one was filled with a thick, golden liquid.

Delareux spun the cylinder of his revolver, checking the chambers. He had three bullets left. Delareux approached the man affecting a stagger. The man inched away, swaying with every step.

“Say, misser,” Delareux slurred his speech, “You gotna time?” he took a sloppy swig from is flask letting some liquor run down his chin. He dragged his sleeve across his face.

The man wobbled away a bit more, gurgling and grunting as he stepped.

“Say, I jess neesomfin t’ take thedge off, see,” Delareux teetered around the man, blocking his route of escape, “Can ya be a pal?”

The man began making a series of chattering noises that sounded conversational. ️A little green hand poked out of the belly of the trench coat holding a syringe. Delareux noticed their were no arms in the sleeves of the man’s coat. He took the syringe.

“Take,” the man croaked, “Make you strong like bull.”

“What is it?” Delareux said shedding his drunken charade.

“Ichor,” the man chattered in reply.

“Ichor,” the man’s stomach replied.

“Where does this come from?”

“Boss man,” said the man’s head.

“Doctor boss,” said the man’s belly.

The man made a shushing sound and he chest seemed to convulse, followed by a grunting noise from his gut.

“Doctor?”

“No more talk,” the head barked.

“Mad Grigori!” the belly cackled.

The shushing, convulsing and grunting repeated.

“Mad Grigori?”

“No more talk,” the man said and started toddling away.

***

“Cut to the chase,” Danvers continued, “Some people were taking the stuff and flyin’ the coop. Strong, too. These guys were pullin light posts up and whackin each other with ‘em. Goin after regular people. A lot of guys got called in. We ended up chasing Mad Grigori into the swamp.”

***

Delareux grabbed the collar of the trench coat and the man appeared to break in half. He whipped the coat away and two small, green men skittered on the pavement. Their enormous, hairless heads split in two revealing rows of tiny, sharp razor teeth. They spit and hissed, dropped to all fours and raced away towards the warehouse yard. Shelby darted after them and Delareux followed. When Delareux caught up, Shelby had already broken into the warehouse.

***

“Did you catch him?” asked Toli.

“Without a trace,” Danvers said low, “The stuff he was pedaling was this gold liquid.”

***

Delareux and Shelby moved through the office areas, but found only overturned desks, chairs and ransacked filing cabinets, being incorporated into rickety structures of feral design. One office, however contained a wooden crate containing a number of syringes filled with the gold fluid. A printed label was adhered to the front and read:

Ichor test batch #23

Please give to humans only.

I don’t want another Randal.

Grigori

***

“Who shows up not long after that?” said Danvers, “Doctor Arkady Andronikov. Another rusky. Supposed to be some high falutin doctor from Europe. Get’s in good quick with high society. That’s how he came to work for the police. Grigori’s tonic had our guys stumped we let him give it a try. No what he says? Says inconclusive.”

***

Shelby and Delareux crept their way to the door to the warehouse floor. It was already open. In the beam of Delareux’s dimming flashlight they could see the floor was strewn with refuse. Garbage, and the bones and hides of small animals gathered into piles. As they advanced inward their flashlight began to flicker and finally flickered off. A snicker was heard coming from in front of them. Then one behind them. Then above. As they sprinted for the door, a myriad of torches lit at once. On all sides were mountains of sundry debris that sloped up the walls to the ceiling. Some of the debris appeared to be placed with some rudimentary or innate sense of architecture. Like bees or beavers. Perched on these mountains were hundreds of small, green creatures. They all flapped their wide maws in a caricature of laughter.

“What is this?” Shelby gasped.

“Goblin infestation,” Delareux groaned, “I told the guy. Goblin infestation.”

One of the few wearing clothing, if torn wash cloths and used diapers were clothes, stepped forward. He walked along on a staff that looked like it was made from a small femur. He pounded the staff on the floor three times. The creatures hushed.

“Me,” the creature croaked, “Skarl, Big Boss of The Goblin Liberation Front…”

“Oh boy,” said Delareux.

“What now?” barked Shelby.

“If a goblin infestation gets bad enough, they develop politics.”

“If humans trespass,” the goblin continued, “Mad Grigori says they must die. Death by Randal!”

The room erupted into celebration. The began to chant ‘Randal’ in unison. A small goblin entered the clearing dragging a chain behind it. It yanked the chain and a groaning sound shook the building. It yanked again, this time more demanding. The groan amplified into a roar. A thudding began in a dirge tempo. From where the small goblin arrived, a fleshy orb jiggled into view. Followed by what looked like an uprooted tree smashed into the floor. Followed by another. The creature emerged looking like an unevenly inflated goblin that stood halfway to the roof of the warehouse. It was chained by a harness it wore around its distended midsection. It was wearing a leather hood over its tiny head. It covered his face completely save for two cutouts around the eyes and zipper across the mouth. It spotted Delareux and Shelby and began to charge.

“So, this is Randal,” Delareux said to himself.
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