There was a distinct smell to a junk squat. It was a chemical smell that hung in the air, a smell that sober people knew instinctively to avoid. These instincts were cooked off, boiled from the primal lizard brain of a junkie’s mind. The smell of baking benzo carbazole meant pleasure not death to those so far gone they could be here.
Pushing through the hall of addicts there was a different reaction. Those that still had mental faculties that extended beyond how to get their next fix scattered back into the walls. Feral eyes waiting for a badge, the swarm of armored men to come flooding in behind me. I wasn’t a cop. At least not in any sense they might comprehend judging from the state of this place.
The carcinogenic stench was enough that I could smell it from the street. A late stage chemical hive, ready to burst, overflow spilling the death packed inside this worn out husk out into the world. Judging from glazed over faces from those too stoned to run I knew I was in the right place.
Already I could hear people getting out of her way behind me. Turning into the stairwell residual training kicks in and I’m sprinting. Hand moves to where a shoulder holster had formerly resided. Cigarettes slap against the hand from inside the coat pocket as if to remind me I didn’t use a gun anymore.
Rounding the fourth floor I gag gasping for air. There she was. Standing expressionless at the top of the stairs she waited for me.
“How?” I hear myself say. Confused for a moment as to where the word came from. This wasn’t where we were supposed to meet. Worse she knew exactly where I had been going and now blocked the roof. As she sat at the top of the stairs her canvass jacket pooled, dripping down.
“What do you think I am agent Harker?” She was in no hurry. Her words cold and smooth like polished steel. She knew my name and that made things worse. The only identifier I had for her was a case file number. “Ember, if that makes you feel more comfortable.” It didn’t.
“What do you mean?” Trying to blank, words stumble out of my mouth. Can’t fight the training as the mental picture I had of this woman is updated from her display. The file had assumed she had been some low end fixer that had gone vamp. If that’s what the file said, I knew now it was only because she had wanted it too.
“I had heard about you, the killer of Nephilim known to look the other way.”
“You are killers agent Harker, tell me why.” What good were any words I could muster?
“I want to hear them, your words.” The stench of the drug lab, wherever it was in this building, seemed to thicken. Was someone starting a fresh batch of BCKD? It became hard to focus now. “Sit agent Harker, the fumes aren’t as bad.”
Squatting back to the wall one leg eased out into a half slump on a stair. The other leg, two steps down, supported my weight. Hand clutching the railing I watched her, watching me. Pulling the pack of cigarettes from my pocket I offer her one. She shakes her head no and I go about the ritual of lighting my own.
“Well.” Letting out a long exhalation of grey smoke I tried to put my thoughts together. “Well, you say killers, seems like your mind’s already made up. Maybe some of us are. I don’t know. Not if I can avoid it, but yeah, I’ve gotten burned for that.” Turning from her to the orange tip of the cigarette; ash drops onto the stairs below.
“I don’t know who’ve you’ve dealt with in the past. There are always those that want power for the sake of power, to lord over someone. I know the Keepers, or the ones I’ve met, they’re not that type. It’s not about us, you know. It’s those people stuck in the real world, like that guy from tonight.”
“Do you know what he wanted?” The calm in Ember’s voice turned arctic.
“He wanted as many ampoules of ketamine as I could give him. You see agent Harker, he’s grown apart from his wife. Despises her now. She gets off on boys she brings home from the rave circuit. While K went out of style years ago he didn’t know that. What he did know is that his wife had talked about one of her partners ODing. A sad cuckold who’d rather see his wife dead, than live with the shame. That’s who you saved tonight agent Harker.”
“How did you know?” A stupid question but I couldn’t help myself.
“We are the children of gods; his sins are no mystery to me.” There was something about the way she spoke. “Nephilim.” Listening to her was like watching a period piece movie, but the dialog was sideways.
“How old are you?”
“Does it matter?”
“No, I guess it doesn’t. So what happens now?”
“That’s up to you.”