Shadows On Glass

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Pharlen
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Re: Shadows On Glass

Post by Pharlen » Thu Feb 07, 2019 4:03 pm

"He nailed you," Pharlen murmured as they left the office building. Jack grinned mirthlessly, helping her into the car.

"Not as bad as I nailed him, Doll."

"No, but he nailed you," she agreed, chuckling. Jack spread his fingers over the rented Mercedes's steering wheel, exhaling.

"Yeah. Now I can see the entire gig. They knew I couldn't have been back because I never would have signed anything to have that particular lot renovated, and I'd have shown up with bells on to see what was going on."

"Go on," Pharlen prompted. Jack exhaled, shrugging.

"So, a few years later, they try this. Big deal with the wooded lot. That brings me out. And that starts a little domino effect. Grab me, grab the Trioxin 2-4-5, off to Hauser Chemicals, and boom. Whatever mad science they're on about happens."

"I figured that. But what does that have to do with the lot up for redevelopment?" Pharlen asked, pale brows quirking. Jack exhaled, re-gripping the steering wheel before he spoke.

"It was a slaughter house. Was. It was renovated before the war by some sick bastard of a surgeon. It's right on the rail lines, see."

Pharlen nodded slowly. She saw.

"So yeah, it's got a bad reputation. And there's no alleged about the atrocities, just no witnesses left," Jack told her coolly.

"Living?"

"None living," he agreed.

"Except...?" she prodded, gazing at his profile. He grinned wryly.

"Right."

"You can't be the only one left, or they wouldn't know to pull your strings like this, Jack," Pharlen pointed out.

"I was pretty damn thorough when I left that snake pit," Jack muttered to himself in a snarled undertone, "Thought I got 'em all. There was always the chance that doctor kept insurance. Looks like he did, obviously."

"This all had to be through the Third Reich, there had to have been extensive documentation," Pharlen agreed.

"Right. But only in a certain circle. The war was hot then. It wasn't possible to track it all down," he exhaled, "I had to get out while I still could. I got the deed to the slaughterhouse, and cleared out."

Pharlen smiled tightly, then watched the passing scenery. And then, Jack had simply left the property to rot. He wasn't going to forgive or forget, the slaughterhouse would remain as a monument to... What?

Drawing in a breath, Pharlen eyed Jack once more. His jaw was tense. His gaze fixed on traffic.

"Why were you there?"

She had to ask it. Jack knew that. She needed the information. It would just be better if she didn't know.

Jack lived an ugly reality, that was to be expected. His life was the twilight haze of old newsprint photos, the glint of moonlight off of weapons drawn in dark alleyways; a pulp fiction existence in a glossy web page world.

"One of those bozos tumbled to what I can do," Jack shrugged, then he grinned harshly, "What a concept, ya? Legions of the dead. You can pump 'em full of lead, and they keep on coming. Thing was, I never knew how or why I can do it. Animate the dead. I just do it."

"They weren't going to accept that," Pharlen noted in some dry amusement. Jack snorted.

"Nope. They would not. Anyhow, it was their fond dream there for a while. An honest to God necromancer, and they sure as hell had a surplus of dead bodies," he grinned in kind.

"Then maybe there was a little bit more of a concrete way for Deedra to be more useful dead," Pharlen pointed out, her brows lifting.

"That, doll, is what I'm afraid of," Jack exhaled slowly, "I'm just an anti social jerk. I don't have an agenda, except for look out for Jack C. Tombs and family. Ruling the world or some rot just isn't on my 'To Do' list."

"Think it might be on Astilbe's?"

"Wouldn't put it past him. He's the sort. He's playing it well, but there's a man who's felt slighted since he was born. He's got something to prove, and he's learned to hide that behind a dispassionate perfect businessman's front," Jack murmured to himself, then he glanced to Pharlen, arching a brow.

"You can't tell me he didn't know good Mr. Selks was a were wolf."

Pharlen exhaled, chewing her lower lip.

"At the risk of freaking you out, Jack, but I've got a bad feeling that the entire firm's upper management are Garou."

The car swerved slightly, and Jack gained control of it quickly. Why Pharlen couldn't wait until they were stopped to drop bombshells like that, he didn't know.

"What makes you say that?" he asked, marveling at how even he kept his tone. Pharlen smirked.

"Some things, you can't hide from some senses."

"Yeah, you've got a better sniffer than most, Doll," Jack grinned, but she shook her head.

"Not as good as a dog, but there's no real reason I can see for several people to have a wolf smell to them."

"I'll buy that. Did you pick anything else up?" he chuckled.

"Daisy."

"Huh?"

"Daisy. Daisy was attached to the secretary. I could feel her there. I'll find out why as soon as I can," Pharlen explained, frowning faintly.

"Right," Jack nodded, then he grinned mirthlessly, "Good to know we've got a little backup handy."
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Re: Shadows On Glass

Post by Pharlen » Thu Feb 07, 2019 4:11 pm

Funny how things happened sometimes. Get dumped into some bizarre fantasy land, end up taking a hit on some dame, fall madly in love with her. A few years later, there he was, laying in a fancy hotel bed with that dame, hand resting on her belly, feeling the squirms of the little larva he'd put up there.

If someone had told him he'd be there even five years ago, he'd have laughed. Not wildly, not hysterically, just knowingly. Jack C. Tombs was a loner, and that was that.

Jack drew himself out of the bed, stretching as he walked to the suite's window. He stopped short of the glass a few feet, to prevent being seen from the outside. Habit.

After a long while, Jack turned to regard Pharlen as she slept. She looked so peaceful. He hadn't slept, really, for decades. She taught him how again. To sleep without the blood-soaked nightmares was a relief.

He found himself dressing in the dim light. Carefully drawing the shoulder holsters over his back, then checking the pistols reflexively, Jack glanced to Pharlen once more. He smiled faintly, tightly, then leaned over the bed to kiss her cheek.

It wouldn't take long. Jack wanted a look at the old slaughter house. To make sure the layout hadn't changed. He should have blown the place up. Burned it to the ground.

He hadn't. Jack shrugged pragmatically as he tugged the brim of his hat down. With an uncanny ease, he slipped from the suite and outside without notice, eluding even the security cameras poised throughout the building.

A lot had changed in some fifty years, Jack decided as he cruised the silent city. But the industrial section where the slaughter house sat seemed the same. Filthy, wretched, decaying. The train tracks were still there, abandoned in favor of the more efficient electric rails.

Renovated or not, the brick and timber building looked the same. It held an air of sagging putrefaction despite the work done on it. It still stank of blood. Jack regarded it from behind the wheel of the Mercedes, his features impassive.

It looked like that when he first saw the joint. It was busier, then. Cars in the lot, boxcars stacking up behind it, human cattle culled out like prime beef for an exacting butcher. Soot in the air, on the ground, staining lungs and brickwork alike.

After a long moment, Jack swung out of the car, stepping purposefully to the building. Long and low, windowless but for the offices, vents on the ceiling, it looked like any Industrial Age building. Jack snorted softly.

It only took a few moments with the lock picks to open the front door, less than that to locate and disable the alarm on it. Neither lock nor alarm were very sophisticated; there was nothing left in the building to steal.

Jack gazed through the front lobby, a sneer touching his features. How well he remembered that. He was probably the only one of the 'patients' to have come through the front doors.

Suckered in like a stripling. Jack had been too convinced that no one had noticed just how alike he and his female 'partner' had been. Someone must have recognized the woman's corpse, or found the body stored in his closet like a spare suit.

Which, of course, it was. A spare set of flesh and bones for the spirit that he was. Now his body was alive. He hadn't figured out if he could leave the housing of living matter without killing it again.

The office was empty. A chill exhaled from it. Jack grinned wolfishly into the small room.

"Remember me, Herr Doktar? I'm the one who hacked through your throat with that shiny bone saw of yours. Did a marvelous job on the spinal column, didn't it? Even though it was a touch dull," he whispered in a soft croon.

"I suppose it went a bit dull when I was asking that lovely secretary of yours where I could find you," Jack went on, stepping into the office, "Such a beautiful girl. And what powerful lungs. I'm surprised you didn't hear her."

The atmosphere went dull and sullen. Hate seethed in the chilled air. Jacks green eyes gleamed in remembered insanity, his teeth baring in a jackal's grin.

"Or did you hear her, and you were too cowardly to come to her aid? I'm sure she realizes now what kind of a man you were," he purred softly, then he widened his eyes, a pious expression of respect for the dead sweeping his mobile features.

"She is in a far, far better place now."

The rage was tangible. Jack felt it and fed on it. He stared into the heart of the presence, watching, forcing it to take shape.

"Oh, you can do better than that, Doktor Johnson," Jack leered, "Come on. After all these years, don't you want the answers you died for?"

A blackened and smashed face formed over the desk, mouth poised in a filthy orchestration of crushed teeth, torn muscle, and severed tongue. Artistic.

"Aw, you really looked bad, I'll bet your dear wife had to have a closed casket ceremony. If she bothered after finding out about that hot and torrid thing you had with dear little Inge," Jack purred, stepping ever closer to the ghastly apparition. He all but breathed in the roiling fury of the wraith.

"What do you want, Tombs?" Johnson finally hissed.

"Don't play cute. It's far too late for that. I want to know what in Hades has been going on here," Jack smirked, coming ever closer to the wraith. He could sense Johnson's surprise that Jack clearly heard and saw him.

It was, after all, quite a common neurosis among the dead; that the living rarely saw them gave many an inferiority complex.

"Or what? You'll kill me? Don't make me laugh," Johnson sneered. Jack withdrew, an avian tilt to his head as a sweet moue of worry came to his features.

"Oh. Gosh. That's right. You're dead already. Whatever can I do?"

Jack let Johnson puff up on that. Let him gloat. Then he leaned close to the fetid apparition.

"You didn't find out very much about me when we last met, except for the fact that you could disassemble my body and I'd still be able to get up and hack you into dog food," Jack confided, "But there is more."

Johnson snorted, contorting the death mask of his face into further wreckage, amused.

"Your threats are meaningless to --"

Fast as a rattler striking, Jack seized Johnson's head in his hands, his fingers laced with a gleaming green aura. Jack grinned in the enjoyment of Johnson's tortured howl as a flex of his knuckles pinned fingertips into the ectoplasm of the apparition.

"I'm sorry, what were you saying? All this screaming. It reminds me of fifty years ago," Jack murmured sweetly.

Sweet, indeed.
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Re: Shadows On Glass

Post by Pharlen » Thu Feb 07, 2019 4:29 pm

"Now cut the crap. What has been going on here?" Jack hissed, ruthlessly drawing off Johnson's essence. Johnson blubbered and howled, lashing at Jack in desperation, pounding at the living man with shattering bursts of energy.

"Aw, you went through this dump and managed to suck the essences out of the ghosts of the poor sots you killed, didn't you?" Jack crooned, his eyes narrowing, "It'd be nice if I was all noble and here to avenge them, but I couldn't give a damn. I want to know what's going on here now."

Johnson's voice rose into a keening scream, cursing Jack in several interesting and exotic variations. German was a remarkably eloquent language for invective. Johnson wasn't German, rather an expatriate American, but it still was impressive.

"See, here's the thing, Johnson. You're wasting all that strength you stole on me. I just suck it down like a Coke on a hot day," Jack purred just as he could see the wraith beginning to realize that nothing he did affected the necromancer.

"Why should I tell you anything?" Johnson snarled. Jack smiled all too kindly.

"Why, because I might just let you go and leave you to your pathetic little haunt."

And then Jack would rent the building to Elvis, and he would open it as a trendy oxygen bar.

"You give me no assurances, why should I believe you?" Johnson snapped. Jack's brows lifted, giving a peculiar innocent sweetness to his features.

"I do believe you told me the same thing. If I sang, you might let me go and return to my pathetic little racketeering."

The look on Johnson's twisted features was priceless. Jack drew in the outrage with the fury, his lips parting as if to inhale it past his teeth and taste it.

"I don't know. The kid and his piece of shit flunkies just cleared out the trash and wreckage," Johnson finally blurted out. Jack leered at him.

"And?"

"That's all I know!"

"You remember how long it took for you to die?" Jack purred sweetly, easing up on Johnson slightly for effect, "We can do that all over again. I'd enjoy it."

Johnson wrenched violently as the agony of the draining of his essence faded, then yowled as it returned full force.

"You just never learned, did you?" Jack sneered, amused, "You tortured I don't know how many to death here, and that's how you died. Karma, no? But you didn't learn, you tortured the souls after their death as a soul, and here I am again. I guess I'm just your little guardian angel."

"Gas!" Johnson abruptly squealed in blind desperation. Jack smiled faintly. Johnson was a coward and a bully, easily exploited by a bully who wasn't a coward.

"Gas. Trioxin?"

"I don't know, you think I care what those meatbags do?!" Johnson wailed.

That would unfortunately be all too true. Jack nodded to himself, then loosed his hold on Johnson slowly and carefully. Jack's brows lifted after a moment.

"Kid? Astilbe? Arlois Astilbe?"

Johnson was sullenly silent.

"Inge Astilbe. You knocked that poor benighted secretary up. And that meant that kid grew up an orphan, and that kid spawned Arlois. Now I wonder if this isn't all personal for Mr. Astilbe," Jack mulled.

That explained a lot. Including how Astilbe came to know about the Trioxin and Jack at all.

Jack laughed abruptly, cold and sneering.

"That's beautiful. Touching. That meant Dear Little Inge was here to spy on you."

"What are you talking about, she worshipped me!" Johnson hissed.

"If she worshipped you, she'd still be here, right beside you, playing the innocent dame who doesn't realize that she's been helping to torture and murder innocent men, women, and children for years."

Johnson glared at Jack flatly.

"You're an ex-pat American. They weren't going to trust you. Particularly not if you really could formulate some super zombie soldier formula. The moment you came close to it, she would have sung to whatever SS officer she was reporting to, and you'd be the first man they tested your procedure on," Jack explained, sneering.

"You're wrong!" Johnson burst out, humiliated.

"Please. Five bucks says Arlois's papa wasn't even your son. A perfect blonde gal like Inge? She wouldn't be breeding mutt-blooded American brats. She'd be spreading for a good Aryan man."

"How dare you?! Inge was mine! She was mine heart and soul! She wouldn't even look at another man after me! I was her first! I was everything to her!" Johnson howled, infuriated, everything in the office rattling with the force of his vehemence. Jack grinned like a coyote in the moonlight, enjoying the fervor in the chicken house.

"What are you going to do, kill her?" Jack inquired with a scalpel thin grin.

"I'll kill her! That witch, that wench, that two faced lying tramp!"

Jack wasn't any hero. Life had continually screwed the man until he didn't care for anyone any longer. All he wanted was his own profit and indulgence. But sometimes, Fate made up for a few things.

Jack held out his hands and hooked his fingers into the ectoplasm of the raging ghost. It was always sweeter when they were so caught up in their own one reel horror of fury that they didn't notice what was happening. Jack inhaled Johnson's essence, devouring it entirely. For a moment, he could feel the sundered soul battering within his own soul, but then it was gone.

Jack's eyes burned a brilliant green, he felt the energy rushing through him. In the days before he lived once more, those souls sustained him, became part of him, became part of the crazy quilt that was his soul.

Now, his digestive system worked. Sucking a soul down like that was akin to a good stiff espresso with less side effects.

"Idiot," Jack snorted, amused, stalking from the office.

Few defined ghosts remained in the killing floor turned experimental surgery. Most were barely there, depleted by Johnson's return to his old habits after death. Pleasant man, really.

Jack scanned over the interior coolly. The old operating apparatus was gone, but the blood gutters remained. He remembered when they ran overflowing. The pens, the shackles, the cages, all gone.

In fact, it would be a nice, quiet place to set up shop making an illegal gas formula. People would insist it stay closed, Astilbe brings in the apparatus needed, and no one needed be the wiser.

"Thank you."

Jack turned quickly, hands on his pistols, then he paused and nodded, reflexively tipping his hat to the wraith of a woman behind him. She was powerful, herself, he could see that. She must have had haunts outside of the slaughterhouse to have escaped Johnson's hunting of the others.

"Didn't do it for you."

"That doesn't matter," the woman responded easily. Jack glanced at her. She didn't look like one of Johnson's victims. She carried a death wound in her manifestation, but it was obviously received in a trolley accident.

Jack mulled over that. He hadn't seen that in decades. It was nostalgic. So many injuries were tied up in technology's advances. Interesting study.

"This your regular haunt?" Jack asked softly, beginning to pace the length of the building. Small offices lined the east side of the open room, the doors were open. A few low walls divided the floor space, intended to direct the entering cattle.

"Was, until Johnson showed back up. Father would have never sold this place to that monster had I not been killed," the woman murmured as she drifted after him, "I'm Regina Falk. My father built this place."

"Funny how things happen like that," Jack snorted, "You pay any attention to the breathers?"

"Some. Most are idiots," she responded rather predictably.

"Trioxin gas. Mean anything to you?" he asked.

"The question, Mr. Von Tombs, is what that means to you."

Jack froze as Astilbe's voice echoed through the warehouse.
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Re: Shadows On Glass

Post by Pharlen » Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:04 pm

Before the last remnants of Astilbe's voice could fade, Jack had his pistols drawn and not a shred of cover. He fired both Colts with deadly precision at moving shadows, grimly braced for the impact of the return fire.

Ricochets sang off of white washed bricks, illuminated in the muzzle flashes of the powerful 45s. Yelps of pain broke between the shots, the heavy thuds of bodies hitting the cement rewarded Jack's aim at bare movement in deep shadow.

They didn't shoot back. That bothered Jack. He had hit at least five, and not one shot was returned. That meant they wanted him alive, and expected fully to be able to do that.

Worse, it meant that Astilbe had iron control over his goons.

Jack held his fire, realizing that he'd run out of targets. He backed towards the old loading bay doors, his gaze sharp.

"Odd. I can't really tell where they are, or I'd help you," the ghost mused, shrugging pragmatically. Jack smirked coldly. He wondered how long Astilbe had listened to him chatting with apparently nothing.

Or if Astilbe knew damn good and well what Jack was talking to.

"Come, Mr. Tombs. I thought you were a business man. You're acting like a common thug," Astilbe called, a rued note of amusement in his voice.

"So who's acting?" Jack retorted sweetly, then his voice fell flat, "What do you want, Astilbe?"

"Answers," Astilbe responded promptly, "Answers Dr. Johnson failed to extract fifty six years ago, answers that I have asked for myself in the interim."

"I don't know what the hell you're talking about," Jack snorted, "I wasn't alive fifty six years ago."

And wasn't that the Gods honest truth?

"I doubt you were alive seventy five years ago, but that doesn't seem to have stopped you," Astilbe laughed once.

"The point, Astilbe," Jack demanded. He paused as he felt the doors behind his back. Astilbe would have someone stationed out there, unless he was a complete fool. It was clear that Astilbe fully expected to have a nice chat with Jack.

"I wouldn't make a daring break out the back doors, Mr. Tombs. Wouldn't want you to turn up missing and presumed dead like poor Mr. Selks," Astilbe murmured.

Astilbe watched Jack from the depths of shadow in the old foreman's office, absolutely immobile. Either Jack was insane and thought he was talking to ghosts, or he was actually speaking with the spirits.

In any case, Jack did seem to have remarkable night vision. Astilbe had warned his people. They paid for not heeding his advice closely.

Jack fell silent, waiting. He wasn't going to give Astilbe the satisfaction. After a long moment, Astilbe depressed the small intercom button. It was a new system, inconspicuous and well set up. The sound was crisp, clear, and difficult to pinpoint.

"You've discovered a few things about me in the past few days. Tit for tat. You weren't intended to discover those things, but I do think it serves well that you know them now," he murmured, watching Jacks face.

"Look, if you're trying to get me to write you a prescription for whatever the hell you're on, I'll remind you that I am a mortician, not a medical doctor," Jack retorted in dry amusement.

It was difficult to hide the phobic reaction screaming to break free in Jacks mind, but adrenaline fueled him. Devouring Johnson's essence gave him further strength. He steeled himself.

"Daisy, I hope you decided to hop from the secretary to Astilbe. All past rose thefts will be forgiven," he muttered under his breath.

Astilbe spared admiration to see Jack restrain himself. Not that Jack was any sort of a worthy adversary. Jack didn't have allegiances or agendas. He was a poor sort of stepped up thug. Astilbe smiled faintly, letting a remarkably authentic wolf's growl ride on his words.

"The consensus is that you are either a remarkably sane Malkavian, or a Giovanni without allegiances," Astilbe announced abruptly, "I tend to think Giovanni."

"The hell are you babbling about?" Jack demanded in what was fairly close to an honest confusion. He knew he'd heard Malkavian before.

"Those are different vampire clans," Regina explained absently. The breathers were all too active for her tastes.

Vampires? Astilbe was blathering about vampires? Jack's brows drew together. Suddenly, Selks calling him 'leech' started to make sense.

"I expected better of you, Mr. Tombs. The cards are on the table, further denial only annoys me," Astilbe exhaled, as if deeply rued, "We know what you are. Filthy undead blot on the living earth."

"You think I'm a vampire?" Jack abruptly sputtered out, and despite everything else, he couldn't keep from laughing.

It was a clear, full throated hilarity that echoed within the slaughterhouse. Jack C. Tombs. Vampire. He loathed vampires with his every fiber. He would go out of his way to kill them. He'd do it for free.

"Did you want to interview me? After all, that did get Anne Rice out of writing bad porn," Jack blurted out in unfeigned amusement, "I have to consult with my lawyer Santa Claus before I talk to you. Then we really should pick up the Boogie Man and Tinkerbelle. We'll have a party!"

Astilbe regarded Jack coldly. The laughter was genuine, but the facts remained. He waited, silent and seething in the darkness, until Jack wound down.

"You were born in 1910, yet you still appear to be some twenty odd years of age. You have been a better assassin than any living man could have ever been. You have been observed to perform spells of necromancy, animating corpses in particular," Astilbe informed Jack.

"And I do weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, too," Jack retorted scornfully.

"In 1995, you were seen leaving a small research facility; sources tell me you had liberated a canister of a gas known as 2-4-5 Trioxin," Astilbe went on, ignoring Jack's outbursts.

"Yeah? And then what, I went to Disneyland?"

"I believe you were stealing back your own formula. That you have since then experimented with that until you were able to create the semblance of life in that zombie you've been dragging around since 1963," Astilbe noted calmly, watching Jack's face intently.

Score. Jack's mobile features went still a moment. It was true then. Jack had feelings for that mockery of life.

"I don't know where you came up with these freakish stories, but I am no more dead than you are, and Pharlen certainly is not dead," Jack told Astilbe flatly.

"Ah, I've struck a nerve," Astilbe purred, "Perhaps it even disgusted you to be this unholy filth. Did that cause you to break from the family to try and force the spells of necromancy to restore life?"

"Do you want to come out here and take my pulse?" Jack challenged, giving Astilbe pause.

It was true that Jack seemed to be able to tolerate sunlight, but there were some vampires that shared that aberrant property. Perhaps more experiments with the Trioxin gas.

Or something else, Jack always wore a hat outside, and he was a mortician. It couldn't be that difficult to protect skin with the heavy cosmetics used in the trade.

That Jack seemed disinclined to deal with his fellow vampires was a boon. Though that was irrelevant. A pulse.

"If you can make yourself look alive, if you can somehow brew a life out of death, then I'm sure you can create a pulse," Astilbe finally responded.

"Does the word 'Denial' mean anything at all to you?" Jack demanded, outraged, "You can pour all the Trioxin you want down someone's throat, but that doesn't change a damn thing, you're either dead or alive, you can't be both!"

"You created Trioxin to replace the necrotic spells, Mr. Tombs, you got the idea right here when Dr. Johnson came under the mistaken conclusion that you had already some form of duplicable formula to animate the dead," Astilbe raised his voice to respond, beginning to be annoyed with Jack's pathetic lies.

"Trioxin was developed by the United States Army as a defoliant for marijuana, you pin head!" Jack snapped out, "I had nothing to do with it. I have, nor never have had, any spells of necromancy!"

Again, that was the Gods honest truth, and Jack's voice rang with it. He had no idea how he was able to affect the dead as he did. It seemed to be something he was born to.

"That admits that you know what Trioxin gas is," Astilbe purred. Jack stared at nothing, outraged.

"Of course I know what it is, I'm a mortician and a Californian. Now are you going to come out here and check my vital signs or keep playing this stupid game?"

"I guess he can't see that you're alive by your aura," Regina offered with a shrug. Jack exhaled and stared at the specter.

"Thanks. I'd have never figured that out."
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Re: Shadows On Glass

Post by Pharlen » Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:04 pm

"Speaking to your incorporeal friends?" Astilbe smirked, "It is very difficult to believe you are not a vampire when you stand there chatting with beings that are not alive."

"I also chat with beings who don't have brains, what the hell is your point?" Jack demanded, acid, "Do you think that the supernatural is the sole realm of vampires? Do you really think that no mortal could possibly see ghosts?"

"Of course not, but in our mission to watch over the mortals..." Astilbe began with a mealy mouthed propriety. Jack laughed harshly.

"Oh, please. Get the hell over yourself. The reason you and your vampire pals hide from us nice living people is because you're jokes. Even if you joined forces and swore to be bestest buddies, you would never be able to withstand even one small armed force deciding to wipe you out."

The ghost standing beside Jack thought that was hilarious. Jack grinned to her side long. He was kind of starting to like her.

"Johnson proved some fifty years ago that torturing you for information was somewhat futile," Astilbe remarked evenly, "So I can only ask you this, and I will only ask once. Are you listening?"

Jack simply exhaled, folding his arms over his chest.

"I want the formula for Trioxin 2-4-5. I want to know everything that you know about it. Now," Astilbe demanded. Jack regarded the darkened slaughterhouse almost aimlessly, impassive.

"I told you everything I know. It was developed by the U.S. Army. It is a defoliant for marijuana."

"Then how is it, being a Californian and a mortician, that you know about it?" Astilbe growled.

"It doesn't work right, and I was contacted to deal with the casualties," Jack responded smoothly.

"Why did you steal it?"

"It didn't work right, and I dealt with the casualties. It seemed interesting," Jack smiled thinly. It was great when one lie backed up another.

Astilbe glared at Jack. The man was too good a liar. Parts of what he was saying were true, that made it nigh on impossible to pick out the bull. After a moment, Astilbe sighed, long suffering and slow.

"I suppose that will have to do, then. You may go."

Jack frowned faintly. The alarm bells of warning rang loud and insistent in his brain. They couldn't let him go. Not after all this. There was no way they could let him just waltz out of there.

"I assure you, I do not lack in honor as you, Mr. Tombs. You may go, return to your hotel, then home, all in perfect safety. You have proved useless to me, and I know already that it would only be a waste of time to interrogate you," Astilbe all but purred, watching as Jack realized something was very wrong.

"You can't let me go. What is your angle?" Jack demanded. Astilbe didn't respond, his eyelids lowering as he observed the man. Psychological torture would certainly work where physical would not.

Jack jerked faintly, his eyes widening. They thought Pharlen was a zombie. He'd carefully gone out of his way to give Astilbe the impression that Pharlen was completely harmless. Astilbe must have known that Jack would have to come and see the slaughter house.

And Jack had left Pharlen sleeping in the hotel room.

"If you even consider touching my wife," Jack whispered flatly, "You'll find yourself regretting this worse than Johnson."

"Oh, don't worry, Mr. Tombs. An innocent babe would never be harmed. It's the matrix you've created that we'll backwards engineer for the formula," Astilbe smiled thinly.

"She isn't dead, you wall eyed buffoon, I'm not dead, the hell we have to do to prove that?" Jack snarled breathlessly.

"You leave me no choice, Mr. Tombs. I need the formula. If I have to take that from your charming wife or whatever she is, then I shall," Astilbe assured him.

Wonderful. And half the time, Pharlen couldn't remember what the hell the stuff was called. Not to mention the fact that the gas would likely slam to a halt on contact with her.

"Or, if you'd rather spare your wife the discomfort of becoming once more a science project, then you could give me the formula," Astilbe murmured, "I would be delighted to keep Mrs. Tombs in my home until you have shown me a working sample of the gas."

That was the game, then. To hell with the Garou's inbred desire to kill the undead. Astilbe wanted a way to make zombies cheap and dirty. Jack was tempted as hell to give the man the formula, if only for the pleasure of watching as Astilbe realized that not even Jack had any sort of control over the toxin created zombies.

"You show me Pharlen. Show me you have her," Jack demanded.

Astilbe turned slowly, nodding to the people behind him. After a long moment, one of his men stepped foreword, carrying Pharlen in his arms.

Jack tensed as the man walked from the office. Pharlen lay in his arms heavily, apparently still asleep. They must have drugged her. His teeth set hard enough to crack.

"As you can see, we have..."

Something snapped in Jacks' mind. He drew his pistols without warning, firing both into the man carrying Pharlen. There was a moment of stunned shock that Jack would risk his precious experiment like that.

The man dropped under the gunfire, but the woman in his arms twisted, landing on her feet, awake, aware, and she ran for Jack even as he pounded gunfire through the office window.

A bullet ripped through Astilbe and he snarled his fury. They'd do it the hard way, then. He snapped a command to return fire, guttural and snarled. In that moment, the slaughter house came alive with heavy caliber gunfire.

Jack just kept firing. He had everything to lose.
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Re: Shadows On Glass

Post by Pharlen » Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:07 pm

Roaring inchoately, Astilbe burst through the shattered glass of the overseers office, his suit shredded into tatters as fragile human seeming melted into that of a hulking gray brute. Jack stepped back, his eyes widening in terror, as the Garou bore down on him.

Pharlen clung to Jack's side, fumbling for the scalpels he kept secreted within his clothing, then she flicked one with a deadly accuracy as another of the wolf-men came barreling out of the shadows. The razor sharp utensil struck home hard in the brutes eye, but another of the weres was taking the floor.

Jack fired steadily into Astilbe, surrendering ground until he and Pharlen were once more backed to the door.

"Gotta get us outta here, doll -- " Jack hissed.

The cargo bay doors jerked open behind the couple, dumping them both backwards. Someone caught Jack, then Pharlen, by waist and shoulder, shoving them down as a man in black leapt over the couple, machine gun spraying lead into the slaughterhouse.

Jack paused as he abruptly recognized Deedra's friend hauling him and Pharlen out of the immediate line of fire. He shook himself, getting his feet under him, then pushed Pharlen to one of the men.

"They ain't getting away with messing with her," he snarled, "Get her out of here."

"Jack!" Pharlen yelped, startled as Jack turned, joining the gunmen pressing their way into the slaughterhouse. The leader blinked several times under cover of hat and scarf.

"I don't know if he's brave or stupid."

"S'worse, he's pissed off," Pharlen muttered, then she peered at the man, "Who are you?"

"Henry Arnaud. Just another legitimate businessman," he responded in grimly amused irony, picking Pharlen up and moving her to one of their vehicles.

Jack slid after the quintet of machine gunners, fury fueling him as he pumped bullet after bullet into the oncoming Garou. To hell with phobias, they had made the mistake of messing with his family.

The crossfire was hot, Astilbe had several guns backing up his wolf men. Jack concentrated his fire on Astilbe, insanity burnt into his eyes even as the enormous beast kept on coming at him.

"Draw 'em into the open, then we blow the joint!" one of the machine gunners snapped to Jack. Jack heard, but didn't respond.

Paired Colts were overheating with the repetitive firing, yet they kept spitting bullet after bullet out. Only the merest of pauses in the sequence as each was reloaded by the ghosts attached to them.

Astilbe let out a jangling roar, springing over the hail of gunfire to get to Jack. Jack fired twice more, his face twisted in a snarl, then darted aside, turning on his heel neatly, hand coming down with the glint of precision steel.

A scalpel razored over the Garous' jugular, then Jack spun to fling the small knife into another of the beasts bearing down on him. Machine gun fire from the small AK all but flung the second Garou aside, and more of the beasts kept coming.

All of Astilbe's men there were Garou, Jack realized grimly, and they were pouring out of the woodwork in blind fury as he downed their alpha.

Two bullets caught Jack in the shoulder and chest, fired wild, jerking him from his feet. Fury more than pain blinded him, though it wasn't like in the old days when it took at least a pumpkin ball fired from a shotgun at close range to knock him down.

Jack swore, struggling for his feet. He could hear Pharlen scream his name. She knew he was down. If he didn't get back up, she'd come for him.

Henry struggled to keep hold of Pharlen, astounded at the resistance one pregnant girl offered. He jerked, then let out a harsh gasp and released her as she aimed a blow at his crotch. The blow didn't land, but her feet hit the ground.

The moment Pharlen felt the ground beneath her feet, she latched her hands onto Henrys lapel's and pulled.

Electric blue fire ignited around them both. Henry gaped as he realized the phenomena. Before he could fully grasp what was happening, the scene changed.

They stood in the slaughter house, surrounded by gruesome figures in stopped motion. Henry stared. Garou arrested in mid spring, saliva flown from gaping jaws, frozen in time. Bullets halted in their spinning course. Blood sprayed from impacted wounds like graffiti.

Henry was no fool, nor an amateur. He jerked his gaze from the incredible sight and seized Jack by the armpits, dragging the man from under the teeth and claws of a Garou arrested in place mere feet over the man.

Drawing his own heavy Colt, Henry fought to pull Jack to his feet, then he fired convulsively into the Garou before him as, without warning, time seemed to snap back into its normal course.

"Dammit, Pharlen, get out of here!" Jack howled, feeling her at his back. Many of the Garou were getting back up. Silver, he should have gotten silver bullets...
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Re: Shadows On Glass

Post by Pharlen » Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:12 pm

"Nice try, Arnaud, but you still lose," Astilbe hissed as he lurched grotesquely back to his feet. Jack stared as, if at all possible, Astilbe became more gruesome. Larger. Primitive.

Silence fell as Astilbe got back up. Henry Arnaud's men grouped tightly around their boss and the Tomb's, machine guns held ready. They faced off some thirty Garou in various states of transformation.

"You aren't stopping me this time. You and your pathetic little human dregs will die, and then you'll serve me as perfect zombie soldiers..." Astilbe leered, his eyes gleaming sick yellow.

"I die, and I take you with me," Henry replied in an even whisper.

"We already found your pathetic little bomb, Arnaud, it's sitting harmlessly in the bathroom, if you think you can get past me and get it. You know what I want. Give me the Tomb's now, and you'll die less painfully," Astilbe leered.

Pharlen tugged at the back of Jacks suspenders, whispering, and he nodded faintly, tense and alert. Henry glanced aside to the man.

"Daisy, Daisy, tell me you love me, do," Jack abruptly crooned. Astilbe stopped short and stared at the man in open astonishment.

Shadows pooled, then swirled into a vortex before the Garou. Eyes of burning hell fire formed within the nexus.

Henry spat out a startled curse, turning away from the gathering darkness, pulling his men around with him. Well trained, Jack liked to see that.

Everyone knew to turn away when someone summoned something not intended for the eyes of mortals. Not everyone knew that 'Daisy' was something that could be summoned that shouldn't be looked at.

In any case, Jack thought Daisy looked better in her ghoulish incarnation. He didn't have time to admire the view. The moment the nightmare thrust herself from the shadows in a brilliance of the negation of light, Jack darted away.

Towering almost to the ceiling, the nightmare peeled away from concealing shadow, a vast and decaying thing. Tattered wings unfolded, snapping cold red flame. The slaughter house filled with the stench of death and rot.

Unholy screams tore from several of the Garou as Daisy's head lowered. Flesh hung in strips from white bone, the internal fires of Hell burned in empty eye sockets. A single tone of despair hummed from corroding throat as if played on a pump organ with leaking bellows and dried reeds.

"Thou art mine," Daisy groaned, then with a rush of fetid air, she let out a banshees droning wail, promise of death and then some.

"You are no match for the darkness we serve," Astilbe snarled, backing away despite himself.

"I am the darkness," Daisy bellowed, wild laughter burning from bile flung from viscous teeth. The laughter hadn't faded before the gaunt gathered herself to fall upon the grouped Garou.

The wild hysteria of the screams was music to Jack's ears, but he had other business. It was nice to know that Astilbe was a man of his word, the disarmed bomb was right where he said it was. In the bathroom, on the sink.

It wasn't very well disarmed. Jack sneered at the wiring, swiftly reattaching the detonator with a few deft movements, scalpel serving for a screwdriver.

A sixty second delay was all Jack could manage to get out of the bomb's ignition. It'd have to do. He picked up the tidily bundled plastique and ignition, then sauntered out of the bathroom as if for all the world taking a moment to freshen up.

Daisy had shoved the Garou back, sheer repugnant death drove back the Glasswalkers, though several leapt for the nightmare. It did little good, Daisy was a night gaunt, a nightmare, a primal thing hooked into the psyche of even the most pragmatic of souls.

Foul and putrid flesh gave way easily under the teeth and claws of the Glasswalkers brave enough to grapple with the nightmare, but bone and ivory beneath was powerful as steel. She crushed against the weres in a gleeful destruction.

Jack sidearmed the bomb, sending it sliding under Daisy's hooves to the Garou. He swung Pharlen into his arms then jerked his elbow into Henry's side.

"Sixty before the place blows, get out of here," Jack grunted, heading for the open cargo doors. Henry didn't need to be told twice. His men raced out before them, securing the rail siding, and Jack followed with the older man.

Astilbe was thrown from Daisy's neck in a stunning violence. He found his gaze focused on the very bomb he'd seen disarmed. Counting its last three seconds.

They wouldn't blow up their own bloody dem...
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Re: Shadows On Glass

Post by Pharlen » Sat Feb 09, 2019 2:31 pm

A fireball exploded after the fugitives, back lighting the escape across the rails and empty lot beyond. Jack staggered as the force of the hot wind hit him, bowing his head over Pharlen. Henry steadied him, looking back at the slaughter house as it began to burn.

"Evil bred evil, now it burns," he muttered under his breath, then he frowned at Jack, "That demon will be more than angered. And it is free."

"No, she's not free, but she works pretty cheap," Jack replied with the echo of a rakish grin, "Daisy?"

Henry stepped back sharply as the nightmare stepped from deep shadow once more, the horror of her hellish incarnation bleeding away almost before it could be perceived, until a remarkably adorable winged black pony stood before them.

"No more yelling for eating roses," Daisy announced, threading her head under Jack's arm to support him even as he set Pharlen back to her feet.

"All past thefts forgiven, didn't say anything about future," Jack sniffed. Pharlen laughed softly, going over Jack's wounds quickly.

"He's got you there, Daisy."

"What's your angle in this, mister? What was this to you?" Jack frowned, wincing as he finally began to realize he'd been shot more than just the two times. He forced himself to focus on Henry, ignoring Pharlen and Daisy's rather ghoulish commentary on his wounds.

"You can't tell me you're some do-gooding tree hugger out to off any competition that happens to be ecologically unfriendly," Jack added a moment later.

"Very astute, Mr. Von Tombs. You're right. However, appearing to be an obsessed crack pot simply made it easier to ascertain what Mr. Astilbe was really doing," Henry murmured, watching in fascination as Pharlen began to heal Jack.

"Trying some hackneyed rule the world schlock?" Jack grunted.

"Hackneyed, yes, but it happens," Henry agreed.

"You make it sound as if it's your business to step in on deals like that," Jack noted keenly. Healing or not, he had lost a lot of blood. He leaned heavily on Daisy's back.

"It can be a lucrative venture. One is born to such things, you know. There is a choice of how you use those skills. But there isn't any reason why it should be a thankless occupation," Henry noted with a slight amusement to his tone.

There was something strangely familiar in that remark, Jack decided, but he couldn't be certain if it was his own sentiments being echoed or an actual chord of memory resonating. It may have been the eerie feel of a cooled lead slug being forced from his body under Pharlen's care.

"In my experience, it's a hell of a thankless occupation," Jack murmured, compelling himself to stay on his feet.

"You have met with the wrong people at the wrong time," Henry demurred. Jack laughed once, the tone ragged.

"Now you're sounding like Pharlen," he noted, glancing to his bloodied bride. It was all his blood. She wasn't hurt. That was more than he could ask for.

"Oh?" Henry glanced to the woman, "I cannot pretend that she is any more normal than you are, Mr. Von Tombs. Charming though you are, Mrs. Tombs."

"Normal's relative, and mine are nut cases," Pharlen chirped.

"No, we're not normal. I'm just curious about what would bring a man like you to doing this. And where the money that it'd take to get me doing it comes from," Jack murmured. He could feel Daisy shifting under his weight and grimaced. The nightmare fully expected him to keel over.

"Some people are simply good at nothing else but these games, Mr. Von Tombs," Henry smiled distantly, "And one does find that there are agencies who are not willing to admit such people exist, but whom are willing to pay handsomely. It remains a matter of finding both the players and the payers."

A sarcastic remark about Impossible Mission Forces hovered on Jacks lip's, but never fell. There was something too hauntingly familiar about Henry's choice of words. He frowned slightly, watching the pearl grayed light creeping over is skin, then took Pharlen's hand as she rose, still singing softly under her breath.

"I thought the guys like you died out after the war," Jack finally offered slowly, "Tough, unapologetic. No regrets. Style."

"Not all," Henry snorted softly, "I know what you mean. I would rather deal with an air head like Deedra Shore than another damned tormented anti hero sort."

Pharlen and Daisy both lifted their upper lips at that, Pharlen chuckling softly.

"Fascinating as this is, I really need to get Jack back to the hotel before he passes out," she noted. Jack grinned at her, ruffling her hair.

"I'm not going to pass out, doll. Besides, I want to know what the hell was up with Astilbe beyond his rule the world schtick."

Pharlen rolled her eyes, amused.

"Glasswalker, if you must know," Henry supplied, chuckling to Pharlen, "Come, Mrs. Von Tombs, you must realize that at the end of the thriller movie, the heroes must finally reveal the villain's plot."

"Gads, I didn't know you had a brother, Jack," Pharlen grunted.

"Don't listen to her. Glasswalker?" Jack laughed under his breath. Henry nodded, clearly humored in the turn the conversation had taken.

"Glasswalkers. It is a tribe, if you will, of Garou. Were Wolves. They usually are in business, and to all appearances are interested in ecology and the like. In reality, they are acting for darker purposes. Not all, but enough," Henry explained, tentatively reaching out to pat Daisy.

"Okay, that ties in neatly with what I know," Jack decided, "Astilbe's grandmother was the secretary here, and she was keeping tabs on the man in charge. She must have passed what she knew onto her son. And he must have realized it was me that killed her."

"Exactly. He could never figure out a way to avenge himself, but when his son turned out to be a Garou, that paved the road we are on," Henry added with a nod, "Once Arlois had a way to deal with you, he started the ball rolling."

Jack found his response frozen in his throat, staring at a pair of luminous eyes coming from out of a collapsed siding shed.
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Re: Shadows On Glass

Post by Pharlen » Sat Feb 09, 2019 2:32 pm

Shock garbled Jack's words even as he tried to warn them. He pointed at the sudden rush of movement in the high, weedy growth beside the old building. Another Garou, giving a bloodcurdling howl as it sprinted to the small group, startling even Daisy with its sudden appearance.

Just like in the movies, one last scare...

Some -- Thing burst from the weeds behind the cars with a shrieking cry, striking the springing Garou amidships and carrying it off course to slam to the ground. Stunned, Daisy and the three humans could only gape.

It was big, shaggy, white under the moonlight. Some primeval thing thrown together in a warped mad scientist's dream of monkey glands and pig hearts. Snarling, it tore the hapless Glasswalker to shreds before turning its bloodied muzzle towards the transfixed observers.

Squared teeth like chisels extended from its mouth, flanked by respectable sabers of ivory. Long, tapered ears lifted, then a paw bearing long, smoothly curved claws raised to mildly wipe at the neat triangle of nose.

"It's a rabbit," Pharlen finally noted flatly.

"What clued you in, the fluffy tail?" Jack replied tonelessly, absolutely dumbfounded.

It wasn't any Pookah, and it certainly wasn't holding a pocket watch. Grunting, the ten foot tall apparition turned and lumbered away in a peculiar hopping gait.

"S'Deedra," Pharlen sputtered, blinking hard. Henry forced himself to regard her.

"Deedra? Deedra Shore?" he demanded, "Are you sure?"

"It's her scent," Pharlen responded helplessly, "I guess she really is a wonder bunny."

That was more than enough of the animal kingdom for Jack. His eyes rolled back into his skull, and he collapsed beside Daisy's hooves. Pharlen, Henry, and Daisy all peered at him rather stupidly.
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Re: Shadows On Glass

Post by Pharlen » Sat Feb 09, 2019 2:34 pm

It was with great relief that Jack settled into the seat of the large jet liner that would take them back to California. The commuter flight had been uneventful, he wished he could say the same of his little visit to the old country.

The big 777 idled on the tarmac, waiting out another jet's problems. Pharlen had already fallen asleep beside Jack. He smiled at her, smoothing her hair briefly. She slept a lot now. Wouldn't be too much longer before she uncorked.

It didn't make a lot of sense, but all that mattered was Astilbe was not ripping Jack off. The rest of it, well, Henry Arnaud could explain it all he liked, it was still crazy.

Glasswalker Garou, secretly working against the forces of good and blah blah blah. It was good to see that Henry agreed with Jack's take on the whole thing being on the dark side of stupid.

Armies of zombies led by werewolves in service of the forces of darkness. Jack shook his head. He supposed it was no worse than the people standing on the beach with squids on their heads trying to summon Cthulu.

What nagged at Jack was the way his memory kept whispering that he somehow knew Henry Arnaud from somewhere. Henry seemed to know Jack, and fairly well, at that. Jack finally exhaled, shaking his head.

Jack used to know a lot of people like Henry. Menacingly quiet, deliberate, understated until underestimated, thoroughly professional. An old school hit man. An old school detective. There wasn't a big difference between those things, not decades ago.

Good to see the breed hadn't died out, after all. Jack smiled wryly, glancing at Pharlen once more. He finally shrugged, pulling a small cassette player from his jacket pocket and putting the earphones on. May as well catch up on his listening if she was going to sleep.

As the tape started, Jack leaned back, gazing out of the planes window. The music was suitably dark and eerie. He remembered when the show first broadcast. Funny how the tough guy assassin he was would arrange his schedule around episodes of 'The Shadow'.

That was long ago. Jack settled for buying tapes of the shows as they surfaced. He lowered his eyelids, listening to the radio play in deep satisfaction.

Jack abruptly sat bolt upright, his eyes opening wide, and he seized the recorder, stabbing at the buttons in blind shock. He managed to hit rewind, then play.

He wasn't mistaken.

Henry Arnaud. Businessman. Alias.

A stewardess leaned over to tap Jack's hand.

"Excuse me sir, we're taking off now, you'll have to turn that off until we're underway," she murmured. Jack gaped at the woman, numbly shutting the player off. He turned to stare out of the window as the jet began to slowly pull from the airport buildings.

Something dark moved near the loading bays the jet flanked, catching Jack's eye. A shadow cast of a man, then the man walked from it. Ruby sparked off of the hand lifted to tip a fedora with a red band. Lower features obscured in a red scarf.

Then he was gone.
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