The Mask of Romek - Chapter Five


Chapter Five: Friends Reunited
March 21st 2009. 1330hrs
Arkham PD Cells

It took longer than I expected but the holding room door eventually opened again two suits stormed in, slamming the door in the reddening face of Lt Nelson.
“Sir,” the first suit placed a laptop on the table, “Your agent status is being reactivated under the Patriot Act.” The second suit removed the cuffs and stood at the door like a marine guard. First suit opened the laptop and spun it to face me.
“And The Director needs to speak to you.” The screen flickered to show a grim faced man apparently in his early forties. Septimus White, The Director. Any check on my Federal ID would have shown up on his radar.
“It’s been a while,” I said as I rubbed the soreness from my wrist.
“John what the hell are you doing back in Arkham?” Charming.
“You mean apart from keeping Doc in the land of the living?” I brought my old friend up to date with recent events.
“I need out Septimus, this Romek character is back from the dead, gunning for the Doc and he's brought some freaky voodoo powers with him.”
Septimus leaned forward his face filling the screen, “I know, I’ve seen the CCTV from the Morgue parking lot. I can take care of the murder charge but I have reactivated you and placed on secondment to Homeland, that should hold for a while,” he paused, “John when this is over you should leave Arkham for a while, twenty maybe thirty years.”
I smiled at the thought, “Maybe this dump will have an IMAX by then.”
“The whole Morgue situation is being played as an act of terrorism by persons as yet unknown, all evidence has been seized by Agents Lee and Lifeson here for further inquiry.” Septimus ran a hand across his tired eyes.
“John my resources are stretched thin right now, there's a situation ongoing on the West Coast as we speak which needs my personal attention. These agents with you at present are needed for a job in New York City. I'm afraid you will have to employ some of that famous chutzpah of yours and deal with this yourself. But above all else, keep Marcus safe and for God,s sake keep it low key. I can’t afford another Seattle. Good Luck,” with that the screen went blank and Agent Lee or Lifeson (couldn’t tell them apart) snapped the laptop shut and whisked it out of sight.
The suits left as quick as they had arrived.
The detention room door swung open again, this time to admit an aging cop in a uniform that was frankly struggling to contain his ample frame. He slumped into the chair across from me and placed two steaming coffees between us. Under his arm was a clear bag with my confiscated property in it. He tossed it to me and I broke the sealed bag open and begin the tedious process of replacing my belt, shoelaces and tie to their rightful stations. My badge and gun would come later.
As I worked away in silence I took another look at the man who was returning my liberty for the price of a signature. He looked about 60, with that kind of careworn face that comes with a life of public service and private drinking.
“You don’t remember me do ya?” he drawled, sipping from the steaming paper cup. I took the coffee, meeting his steady gaze straining to place him.
“Sorry buddy, have we met?” Cops do all look alike at that vintage.
“Mike McNally, I was Billy Swaggart,s partner the last time you was in town,” he explained.
“I saw the tape Marx, I know how Billy died.” We sat in silence staring each other out.
“Y'know when you worked that case with Billy back in 2001 I was up to my eyes in a mail fraud thing. He never talked about the murders at the time but after it was all done we sat down in Malone's Bar and sank a few like we do. He told me all sorts of shit, the stuff that never made the papers.” He took another sip of his drink, his eyes never leaving me. I had never sworn Swaggart to secrecy, it figures he would confide in the person he trusted with his life.
“Y'see Billy wasn’t born here, he didn’t get Arkham,” he swept an all encompassing arm around the grey detention room.
“Me, I'm an Arkham boy through and through.Third generation cop. I seen all sorts of weird shit in the wee small hours, the kind of stuff the locals don’t talk about, even to each other. Craziness my Grandpaw called it.”
Craziness, yeah that fits I guess. The big cop shifted in a seat way too small to be comfortable.
“What happened to Billy falls into the craziness category I would say wouldn’t you?” I nodded and kept drinking. He stood up, grunting with the effort.
“I'm too old for craziness Marx. I got another 6 months driving a desk before my 40 is in,” he paused in the doorway without turning round.
“Don't worry about Nelson, he's just looking to retire a captain. Do me a favour will ya? When you catch up to that character in the mask, tell him goodbye from me.”
“Sure thing,” I said as the door swung shut.
What the old cop was telling me in his own way was they look after their own round here and I was lucky enough to count in that number. It was reassuring I no longer had summary justice on my list of worries. Where I come from, summary justice can involve anything from a bullet in the back while trying to escape to an unfortunate accident involving a rope and a tree, also while trying to escape.
Ten minutes later I was standing outside the Arkham PD building catching a cab to the impound to collect my Dodge. I called Marcus, he picked up after half a ring.
“John thanks God. It was on the news a...a terror attack? That’s the worst cover story I've ever heard of, what's going on?” trust the Doc to manage concern and criticism in one sentence.
I explained Romek's little magic act and the loss of a friend of mine.
“I bagged me one of his new recruits Doc but this guy can conjure up an army of zombies in real short order” I said nursing the lump on my head as I remembered my not so soft landing.
“We need more information. This is not a random event, our ancient friend has a plan. These powers he is manifesting haven’t featured in any of my research so far. The library might have something. I'll check and get back to you. In the meantime I suggest you find Romek. I suspect he's not too far away. Good Luck.” With that he hung up. Good luck, I was gonna need more than that. When the Doc said the library, he meant our library. Over the years we acquired an alarming amount of stuff just like normal folk do. However our “stuff” is mostly holy relics, weapons, bizarre inventions, just plain weird shit and of course books. The Doc had built up a collection containing writings from throughout the ages written by a variety of tortured souls whose insight into the occult may have cost them their sanity but has saved my ass on more than one occasion. They have their uses yes but as with all things it comes at a price. Some of the books I guess are the WMD of the written word. We need them because the bad guys have them and they damn well want to use them. But that doesn't mean we like to keep them in the house. In 1929 we built a safe place to keep our peculiar collection.
The Vault.
The entrance is in the North Wing, hidden behind one of the paneled walls. In the age of speakeasys and secret drinking dens nobody took any notice of our nocturnal building work or our alteration of the building plans to disguise its existence. Besides the Miskatonic had secrets long before we showed up. The Vault is deep under the University and we guard it with our lives.

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