Written by Chris (alcoholandaphorism)
Gumshoe: Nights Black Agents: Session 4
A small graveyard, tucked away amongst the trees and mountain, mere miles from the Serbian border. A small village, isolated and unremarkable. A graveyard, now filled with much fresher corpses than it is supposed to hold. The result of the actions of three ex government agents who find themselves on the precipice of something worse
Ruddeck, the man who was supposed to be their employer, Ruddeck their betrayer, is unconscious, his limp body haphazardly lying over the stone rubble that Hans had slammed him into. Leaning closer to check Ruddeck’s pulse Hans can see blood all over his face and beard, blood as if he had been feeding off his captive.
The captive is still inside the Sepulchre, handcuffed to a green metal chair, blood pouring from a wound in his neck. The other two agents are in the Sepulchre with him. Sergei, groaning against the wall, hands pressed against his chest to stop the bleeding from a recent bullet wound; The other agent, Antipov, still standing despite a wound of his own, glancing to the outside he sees Hans standing over their assailant – the short and bloody conflict is over. Dusk is rolling in, and full beam headlights will soon be their only lighting.
Antipov pauses in the midst of the Sepulchre of this Greek orthodox church, fresco’s looking own from the walls upon him. Something is wrong here. The chair should be easily broken, even by someone handcuffed. Cautiously he approaches, a water flask below the guy’s neck now overflows with blood. Leaning close Antipov tried to staunch the bleeding. The guy is thin, too thin, a heroin addict chic look, minus the chic. Heavily bearded, maybe early forties, moaning and shaking as Antipov tries to keep the pressure up.
Remembering the odd sight he noticed as the car holding the prisoner had approached, Antipov glances down to the cuffs around his arms. He stifles his reaction, the man’s flesh is charred black, as if the metal is red hot, black puss filled blood is dripping from where the skin is pealing away. Putting a thin layer of cloth on the back of his hands, he taps it against the silver cuffs. It is cold to touch. Something in him warns him not to take the cuffs off now, despite the obvious agony they are causing the poor victim. His gut is rarely wrong, and with all the strange events of the night he is taking no chances. Instead he just speaks gently, trying to calm the man as he binds the neck wound. The man’s head rolls back, eyes flickering open, clots of black liquid running across the surface of the eye and vanishing.
Sergei ignores this, instead stepping, pained, out to see how Hans is doing. He finds Hans kneeling in front of one of the range rovers, slipping off their number plates and switching them for clean ones. With Sergei’s help he bundles a bound Ruddeck into the back, having found the keys inside Ruddeck’s jacket pocket. They both pause as the boot opens. Rolls of silver wire, and wild rose branches litter the boot.
“Roses” Hans thinks “The Balkans have some myth about wild rose branches. Something to do with vampires, or werewolves.” “I don’t like this” is all he expresses out loud.
“We only have one hour until our patsy arrives.” Sergei says “and darkness is falling fast. We should be gone soon”
“They had plans for Dedopovic, or handler” Hans says “We should put out some stalking horse for him. See what we get”
Sergei nods, shouldering his P90 and starting into the middle distance. “We need to find somewhere where we can regroup so we can interrogate this bastard”
“I’m pretty much ready to go. Let’s put the vehicles under tree cover while we wait for David to finish off inside”
“I don’t like this waiting around” Sergei says “We have no night vision tools and…fuck me” Sergei says as he opens the second van ” What the fuck? This is a heavy duty UV bulb. Have you seen this shit Hans? What is this shit for”
“I’m getting far too many alarm bells going off here “Hans replies
“You are telling me. We should just take the other guy as well. Two captives, should be able to tell us where the other half of our money is”
Hans looks once more at the odd set of tools and equipment, before heading in with Sergei to see how David Antipov is doing inside.
“Now, don’t look at me like I am insane “Antipov says to greet them “But before I pop the silver cuffs off this guy I want someone covering him with a firearm”
Sergei’s P90 rises instantly, levelling on the captives head
“Well, you took that too well” Antipov says “Why does that make me more nervous?”
Antipov cautiously shuffles forwards “Ok. I am going to take the cuffs off you. Move and he will blow your head off”
With a quick single movement Antipov pops the cuffs and leaps backwards. The cuffs drop to the floor with a ting, and the mans arms fall to the front. The flesh and muscle have burned down to the bone nearly, and black blood flows freely
“Haha,haha. Oh you dumb pricks. You dumb fucking pricks” The man says, his head lolling from one side to the other “You’re the ones who took the bomb aren’t you?”
“Before you laugh too much” Antipov says “We can always put the cuffs back on”
“They know. They know what you did. They know where you are now. They know and they’ll be coming for you”
Antipov grits his teeth “Sergei. It’s time for your favourite thing. Let’s hog tie him and then we can move way too fast and get the fuck out of here”
“We need to check him for bugs” Segrei says “Strip off his clothes”
“We can do that in the car. Toss them from the back for all I care, but lets move”
“Sure “Sergei agrees “But I’ve been up for nearly 48 hours now. You have to drive”
“Hans can drive. I’ll take a look at that bullet wound of yours”
Hans nods, he has an idea of where they can lay low. There’s a heavy duty safe house, just across the Serbian border. All concrete walls and minimum comforts, but easy to hide in, easy to defend. A place they can at least doss down in.
They bundle into the car, Antipov examining the injured to see what he can do, and checking their two prisoners for bugs. The vehicle makes good time through the wooded areas, and slowly they return to civilisation – areas where they have bars on their mobile phones. As they do, the burner phone they had given the number of to the Brigadier General rings. Antipov smiles slightly as he pops the phone open
“I am being watched. I can’t talk long. They, they are after me. We need to talk. We need to talk soon. Can you do that?”
“Belgrade. I have a safe house in Belgrade, but it has to be the next few days”
Antipov takes a few moments, as if considering it ” Belgrade. that would be difficult but..”
“Please, we have to meet quickly”
Antipov smiles again, he has him on the hook “Yes. You are right. It is just it will be difficult but….we will find some way. If you are followed, use the cards like I described, mark the area so we know the op is blown. Now, who is following you, who is the opposition?”
“There is a word for them. Zalozhniy”
Antipov has to hold back from a sharp intake of breath. He recognises the word. A Hungarian myth. A term for the dead that don’t stay dead. Once he would have written it off as gang slang. Now…
“Thanks you” Antipov says, keeping his voice steady “for not lying to us”
The line cuts, and Antpov smiles “So, not that I need external validation or anything, but.. Am I good or am I good? We frame him, and I still manage to turn him.”
Hans ignores the comment “I don’t like this. This shit is like Istanbul all over again”
Sergei’s head raises from seeming sleep “You were in Istanbul?”
Antipov waves his hand over their conversation “Shit. I forgot. They were going to hit our handler.”
“We can’t do anything from here, maybe in the safe house” Hans replies
“We have the satellite phone we stole, surely you can do something with them? Improvise something?”
“Right, then its my turn to drive. You get that connection up before Dedopovich gets his throat slit”
The next half an hour is a shuffle of drivers, as Hans tries to hook up some sort of feed to their surveillance back at Dedopovich’s hotel, and Antipov tries to keep their captive from expiring. The captive has lost a lot of blood, and is barely lucid. They have the kit for a blood transfusion, but don’t know the captives blood type. Trying to keep the captive lucid Antipov tries to get the details form him, but the captive is evasive. Far more than a bleeding out man should be. Antipov watches the responses carefully. The man doesn’t seem to be afraid of dying, but he is interested in the blood, and doesn’t seem picky what type. Taking a break from another unsuccessful attempt, Antipov leans back, his eyes becoming far too heavy in the passing hours of night.
“Listen. I just want information from you. That is it. That is your only use. You keep messing me about and you don’t even have that, I might as well save us all a few pints and just let you die. Talking is the only card you have”
The bound mans eyes snap open, his voice coherent and lucid “You will open your veins soon enough for the family”
“What the fuck?”
The man drops back into delirium, babbling once more.
“You know” Antipov says “I didn’t think I would miss the days when I was at risk of the KGB electrocuting my nuts”
Sergei pulls himself onto the back seat “We never used to electrocute peoples nuts.” He waves his hand, cutting off Antipovs objection “We did so much worse than that
With a whip of his arm Sergei cracks a slap across the captive “Hey you. I know your type. We used to hunt your type. Arms dealers. Kind of people who would cut off boys heads and kick them as footballs.” The crack of another slap echoes inside the car “You know nothing about us, now cut out this bullshit talk and tell me what I want to know”
“Sergei” Antipov says, holding his voice level “Get out. Go up front and help Hans. I will handle this”
Sergei curses “Right, I’m driving. Hans, move over. I’ll take over while our friend has his little love in with the captive” The vehicles wheels spin as Sergei slams down the accelerator “David. Why don’t you ask this prick why they had all that crap in the back”
“Take us off course a bit” Hans says “I have a connection, don’t want them tracking this back”
Minutes later, off roading away from the main trail, the modded satellite phone flickers to life, laptop screens flickering as they connect to the audio visual bugs set around Dedopovich’s hotel. The phone picks up, but no voice answers. Just a soft moaning. Translucent barely visible figures move like mist on the monitor screen.
“You have our servant.” An unknown voice says over the phone “You can run. We will find you”
“Shit” Hans says, cutting the call “I think we were too late”
The mist like figures on the screen part, leaving the image of a desiccate body on the ground. The image vanishes as Hans yanks the phone out, cutting the connection. Moments later the range rover pulls over and the phone spins through the windows, splashing into a nearby lake.
Hans steps from the vehicle, pacing around, trying to breath deep and clear his mind. Antipov steps out to join him
“Don’t worry too much about Dedopovich.” Antipov says “He was a dickhead anyway. Warning him was just a matter of professional courtesy. The rest though…”
“They say we have their servant” Hans says” Listen, myth says that…the undead…they can see through their servants. Speak through their servants. Act through their servants.”
Antipov looks back at the vehicle “You mean? … Fuck”
Laughter starts from the back seat, rising and rising.
“We should ditch him now” Hans says
“No” Antpov pauses “If you are right. If this..thing…can speak through him, then, then that means I’m talking right to the big man behind the curtains. I can use that, make him slip up, find out something about what we are up against. Five minutes, then I promise, we kill him and ditch him”
They both slip back into their seats, the range rover starting out once more. Antipov looks at the interrogation so far once more. There has been two personality types showing. A narcissistic, manipulative, high functioning sociopath, always trying to take control of the conversation, always trying to play him and a submissive, aversion syndrome, addictive personality. Shit. What Hans said is making far too much sense here.
The guy behind the scenes is cocky though. In a way Sergeis outburst has helped him. Let the thing think he is weak, easy to manipulate. Antipov starts talking once more, letting the captive twist the conversation this way and that, he doesn’t care, he just needs to keep him talking and prime him with a few good conversation starters.
“Talk to us. People keep saying the same term Strigoi. What gang is that. Who are you working for?”
Antipov lets the term hang. Strigoi. Come on bite you bastard.
The bound man laughs again “Meat. This is all meat. You are all just meat, and we are so hungry”
Antipov wants to smile, but instead he recoils back. Come on, keep talking shithead.
“Thirst. He will find you. No matter what. Dedopovich, you know he screamed when we fed upon him. He voided his stinking bowels. He was inferior stock. When I walked amongst your world in sunlight we used to hunt down those half breed Yugoslavian bloods. We used to punish them”
Antipov thinks back to the neo Nazis wannabie they captured “Pure blood?” he says,
“Please. You know what I mean. You knew well enough when you took our bomb. That was clever. You, when I find you I may turn you, make you one of the blood.”
Nice, but not enough, Antipov though. I need more, like who the hell are you “Stop talking tough. You are one guy. There are three of is and we have all this stuff that fucks you up. You think you can touch us?”
“We are everywhere. We will find out who you care about, we will make them ours, we will make you ours. This vassal is growing weak now, he served us faithfully. You wanted to know who he was, this bodies name?” The eyes roil over black as he speaks “He is who you were looking for, he is called Viktor Eschenko, but I’m sure you already worked that out consi..”
And that’s enough, Antipov thinks, you talkative bastard you. Reaching forwards he grabs for the mans neck and prepares to twist. Restraints snap and a grasp like iron fixes on Antipov’s wrists. He has just enough time to recognise this when Victor’s mouth open, and something erupts out. There is pain, at his neck. Pain and warmth. Victor’s jaw is dislocated Antipov realises in a dim haze. Black tendrils are running across Victors face as something prehensile extrudes from his mouth and feeds.
Then the vehicle fills with the snap of a single shot of gunfire, and smoke from a P90 barrel. A chunk erupts from the top of Victor’s head. As the thing withdraws from Antipov’s neck he can hear Sergei’s cursing, trying to keep the vehicle under control and ready a second P90 shot at the same time. Hans leans back from the front of the car, and lets his round join the first. Victor’s body crashes out of the back window as his head crumples under the shot, tumbling into the darkness as the swerving car speeds away.
Antipov grabs for nearby cloth, robotically forming a tourniquet, holding pressure over the blood spurting from his neck. His eyes locked at the vanishing body of whatever the hell just attacked him. Despite his mind and body’s attempts to retreat into shock, his instincts take control, he goes through the steps. Stabilising his health, his fingers flicking over his phone, sending a text to the Brigadier General. An abort code. The creature heard everything. Which means he knows of the meeting. Finally, the work done, he sags down, the phone dropping from his shaking hands.
“Sergei…thanks for not shooting me”
Sergei swigs from a hip flask, eyes locked middle distance, blankly responding to Hans directions to a new safe house. They must assume the old one is blown now.
“I’ve never seen anything like that” Sergei growls between calming swigs, hands white on the wheel “What the fuck was that?”
“Burns at the touch of Silver. Talks through other peoples. Rips out throats. You tell me” Antipov says “It makes no sense”
“It makes too much sense” Hans says in a quiet tone “This is like Argentina again”
“Fuck” Is all Antipov replies
“We have driving to do. We have to get away from this place now” Sergei says, his eyes on the dirt track that claims to be a road.
“It was worth it” Antipov says with grim pride “Even with this. Would have thought we were mad if I hadn’t have heard it. Hadn’t have seen it”
“How do you know we haven’t?”
“Psychology background. Trust me, shared hallucinations aren’t like this”
A night’s drive later the safe house looms up ahead of them. Overgrown by nearby vegetation, the concrete bunker that rises from the ground is still an imposing sight. As Antipov checks for unexpected guests and Hans starts rigging up the communication network, Sergei descends into the belly of the beast, discarding the bound Rudeck in its lowest sub basement. Returning to the light quietly, Sergei approached Hans
“We need to keep an eye on Antipov. In case he turns. He was bit by that thing”
Hans nods “We can test him with the silver. Use it to keep an eye on him. If it burns him, we will know”
“Otherwise, well, Antipov is Antipov, not some tongue fucking freak” Sergei glances back down the stairs “I’ve got Ruddeck ready for a chat. Keep an eye on our friend” and with that he descends back down, to where Rudeck awaits, bound to a chair, with a single naked bulb above him. Time to…talk.
Hans watches as Antipov returns, sitting back down. He is engrossed, trying to get out a secure message. Details of where he had planted a clean cover ID and travel documents. What should be enough to get Brigadier General Lennart out before the heat comes down.
After watching Antipov long enough to be sure he is not doing anything unusual, for now, Hans returns to the dossier they have on the laptop, and the feed of what happened to their handler. Seeing again the barely visible figures that descend on Dupovic as he screams, firing round after round. Seeing as something comes out of the figures’ mouths and feeds upon Dupovic. Seeing Dupovic’s skin collapse in upon itself. The news reports are coming in already. The hotel of the attack has burned down, with the resulting death of a hundred and thirty people. A gas explosion ten minutes after the attack. Or so the reports say.
The live news feed shows police everywhere, and photos of the lead suspects for the attack are plastered on the screen. Hans’ breath catches, it is the three of them. Disguised, as always, by Antipovs insistence, but he still recognises the situations. The places. The images are of them. Interpol’s wanted patsies for the attack, shown on screen in crystal clear images. Antipov looks up from what he is doing, his eyes narrowing, but he just nods. If anyone can get a positive ID on them after all he did to make them hide their features, then he deserves to get caught.
Another scream comes from below, the multiple floors doing little to muffle the results of Sergei’s torturing. Wet hacking sounds, and the flickering of power. The professional in Antipov disagrees, but the exhaustion in him wins over, he just shuts his eyes and rolls over once more.
Light rises, and Hans still sits in front of the computer, trying to track down sellers for which he can acquire the parts for a new magic van. For all his hours in TOR protected areas, and the old haunts at the darknet, nothing has come to pass. Similarly, any investigation into the neo Nazis they had used for bait comes up blank. Chances are that piece has been taken off the board permanently.
His flags set up on Brigadier General Lenort’s name gives more, unwelcome, information though. The Brigadier passed away in a “Tragic car accident”. There doesn’t seem to be much other information, a very rushed overview of the coroners opinion. Little wire information on the emergency services responses. Notes on the flaw to his record due to the recent security breech, and slice of life information on his soon to be complete wedding to his long standing girlfriend.
Something doesn’t quite sit right with Hans. The first step is to find out if the coroner had been leveraged in his writing of the report. Getting the coroner’s report is no challenge, the firewalls and security might as well not be there for all the pause it gives Hans. The car had dropped from an eighty foot precipice. They had to use dental records to identify the body it was so mangled. Hans notes two interesting sections, one on puncture wounds on the body and the other noting lack of blood. Not items he would expect to see if the coroner had been compromised, maybe this was a clean report after all.
“So” Sergei says, stepping from the floors below, his face gaunt, tired, and blood dried brown on his clothes “A vampire conspiracy.” there is no humour in his voice “He wanted to trade us in. Us and the laptop. Our money, he sent back to himself, to fund the transformation. It was all for one shot at immortality. He’s riddled with cancer. This was his way out. He says silver kills them well enough. Do any of you want a chat with him”
Pulling himself up from where he was sleeping Antipov shakes his head “I don’t really care. He could be a servant. Which means I’m not talking anywhere near him. I’ve had enough of that. Alive. Dead. Let do as you will be the whole of the law”
Sergei turns and descends once more. A single crack of gunshot is heard, then he returns, body slung over his shoulder. After unceremoniously dumping the body into a plastic barrel Sergei turns and looks inquisitively at Antipov.
“Sunlight soon. Maybe you should get some sunlight Antipov”
“What and ruin my British completion?”
“You need some vitamin D”
“Fuck sake” Antipov says, grabbing a chunk of silver and pressing it to his skull “That ok? I’m not one of them! If I do turn, you an put a bullet in my head. Just do it clean, none of your interrogation bullshit”
“I don’t need your permission” Segrei says
“I’m giving it anyway. Basic politeness”
“Polite British bullshit” Sergei shakes his head “I’m getting some sleep”
As the sun rises, Antipov looks out at a changed world
“What do we know? Silver. He said when he once walked in sunlight..so sunlight?”
“What the hell can we trust on these things? and what will get us dead?”
War Journal: Section 1: Preliminaries
Known Information on the Opposition:
Silver: Silver has been shown to burn the opposition, and is capable of restraining them: confirmed visually in a single instance – 80% likelihood this is reliable for other opposition members. Based on 40% reliable interrogation, silver also is capable of killing them. Our captive only said that the opposition knew where we were after we took off the silver cuffs. At reliability 5% I would guess silver may block the link back to the opposition.
Daylight: During an interrogation the opposition referred to when he walked in the light. Based on common perception this would seem to indicate that the myth of daylight being an issue to the opposition is true. To what degree we do not know, from modern day perception of it being fatal to old novels where it just removed powers. It could be anything. Reliability: 30% as there are too many variables involved.
UV Light: The recruiter had UV lights. He seemed to think they would work, but he could have been as ignorant as us. Reliability 10%
Wild Rose Branches: As UV Lights. Reliability 10%
Mist/ Capture of Images: The opposition showed as mist on the camera feed, and showed no harm to bullets. It is unsure of this is due to the old tales of not capturing their image on film, or if they were actually capable of becoming insubstantial. Reliability 40%. Too many options.
Mouth Creature: The opposition seem to have some sort of prehensile thing in their mouth. A parasite possibly? Anyway, it seems to be how they feed. Desiccating bodies. Not sure if damaging it is better or worse than a simple head shot. If we get one alive I will let Sergei work that one out. Reliability 40%. It exists, but there are a lot of questions.
Servants: Yeah. Fuck these guys. Looks like the opposition can use servants. See through their eyes, use their capabilities through them, control them and speak through them. We don’t know how these servants are created though, what makes them suitable vessels for control. Reliability: 90% Found out the hard way.
Physical Toughness: We have only encountered servants so far but they show very high physical resilience and strength. Survived head shots, car impacts. Held a speeded car locked to theirs with strength alone. Reliability 70%: Confirmed for servants, extrapolated to presume capabilities are from the opposition.
Theatre’s of Operations
Hans’ has been doing good at scouring the laptop. There is a huge chunk of data in there, enough to keep a team busy for a month, but this should be a start. He’s found four viable locations where the opposition seems to have set up. Four chances to make them bleed.
Theatre of Operations 1: The Middle East
There’s links to military ops in Turkey, Afghanistan and Iraq if this is anything to be believed. A group called over watch security, like Blackwater, if Blackwater had a bunch of blood suckers backing them. I mean literal bloodsuckers backing them before anyone gets smart. Lennart had been talking via e-mail with the security forces in Iraq, trying to arrange a viewing of exhibits in the museum of Iraq. No sign why. Not sure if it could be linked with his reading list. Books from the spy Harry Philby and Laurance Of Arabia. Lot of British colonial powers. Looks like my old crew may have their fingers in this pie as well. I shouldn’t be surprised, and I’m not. Information suggest this is where the opposition are getting a chunk of their heavies from.
Theatre of Operations 2: Crimea
We at least have details on a reliable contract in the Ukraine – Donald Carol. A former US asset now based in the Ukraine. We have a target to watch as well: Lisky Bratva; He’s a member of the Russian Mafia crime family with links to our old friend the Black Sea bank. The guy is elbow deep in a human trafficking operation from Odessa Donald Carrol marked several prime targets in the Mafia for Lennart. The dossier also has details on a list of hits and assassinations since the 1990’s all of which have the oppositions tooth marks all over them. Human trafficking. Or maybe just meals on wheels for the opposition.
Theatre of Operations 3: Vienna
There is a major name listed for Vienna. A former Russian spy by the name of Arkady Shevelenko. Only problem is we don’t know is the asset has been leveraged for us, or against us. Military intelligence is as useful as ever it seems. Looks like the hits in Odessa spread over to here as well. A Russian called Borris Vali got taken out, drained and head crushed. Never made the press. That was 1994, looks like they cleared house but good in the 90s. A bunch of the information we have is CIA docs, and if they weren’t supplied by Shevelenko then I don’t know the game half as well as I think I do.
Theatre of Operations 4: Eastern Europe: Black Sea Bank
Always follow the money. Based in the Ukraine, the black sea bank’s Switzerland. This place has strong ties to Lisky Bratva. A lot of its trading doesn’t make sense from the outside. Financial speculators can’t work out why they are on the verge of buying the Kerner swiss bank. Financially it makes no sense. Which means there must be another reason. Could be worth looking at.