1.4: Learning More

It took a while to explain everything to the gargoyle, and vice versa. They'd had to consult the dictionary more than once, on both sides of the conversation. But by the time they were done, the rookies knew that the gargoyle, Heinrich, had arrived on a boat straight from Germany only last night, and therefore had nothing to do with that battle with the Quarrymen.

The officers also had their earlier guess confirmed; Heinrich had come here solely to find more of his kind. He told them that until his family had seen an article in some German newspaper, they'd had no idea that others of his kind still existed; for all they'd known, not only their parents but all other living gargoyles had been killed back in World War II. And it turned out that the 'Bergungen' that the gargoyles had been engaged in, had been helping people escape from East Germany before the Iron Curtain had come down.

Carter had finally put his gun away sometime during the conversation, and now, at the revelation that the gargoyles had helped people escape from a Communist regime, he chipped in, "My next-door-neighbor escaped from Hungary back in 1974. He told me he had to have help to sneak across the border, too, and even then he almost didn't make it."

"Yes, very dangerous," Heinrich agreed. He spread one of his wings a bit, glancing down at the many scars they could see in it, then reached up to absently finger his chipped horn as he added wryly, "Some soldiers very good shots."

"You were shot at? And hit? …More than once!"

Heinrich snorted. "Many times. My brother, Helmut, he lucky devil; never hit, ever. Instead, I get all his bullets; Heinrich der Schweizer Käse." Davis was holding the dictionary at the moment, so he flipped through it and translated for Carter; Heinrich the Swiss Cheese.

After that, Carter became almost visibly friendlier, and Davis had to admit he was impressed too. To get shot at multiple times, and still come back for more, to save people you didn't even know… this gargoyle would've made one helluva cop.

Eventually, Heinrich took them through the rest of his photo album, giving names to each of the people pictured therein, and telling them that the missing photos were of Heinrich himself; his family had removed them so, if the worst happened and he didn't return from America, they would have something to remember him by. (Carter had looked down for a second when he'd heard that, and Davis knew what he'd been thinking; if Heinrich hadn't frozen in place at the sound of his shout upon awakening, or if Davis hadn't talked him into lowering his weapon, the worst might have happened that very night.) The officers saw many more examples of humans and gargoyles peacefully coexisting, even the baby gargoyle Gregor and the human toddler Dieter sharing a playpen together.

Just before they got to the last page of the album, Davis's wristwatch started beeping. He looked down at it and cursed under his breath. That was his 'You've got 10 minutes to get to work; why aren't you there already?' alarm! He told Carter, "We need to get downstairs and muster before anyone starts asking about us, or poking around the broom closet."

"You come back later?" Heinrich asked anxiously.

"Sure, we'll be back later; I can come up here on my dinner break," Davis offered. "And don't worry; we won't tell anyone else you're up here. Right, Carter?" as he looked his buddy dead in the eye.

Carter looked startled for a moment, then said, "Right, not a word! Far as anyone else downstairs is concerned, this place is still abandoned. We'll be back later…"

"So why exactly are we not telling anyone about him?" Carter hissed once they'd closed the trapdoor that led down to the broom closet. "Even if he's friendly instead of hostile, this is major news; a major break for us!"

"One, this guy doesn't deserve the kind of harassment he'll get if any of the higher-ups get hold of him. For all we know, he could end up on a slab in a lab somewhere, being dissected… and I'm not about to let that happen to him. Two, once we get this guy completely up to speed on English, he can be our ace-in-the-hole when dealing with the gargoyles we already have."

"Ace in the hole? How, exactly?"

"Once we locate the others, we just get Heinrich to talk to them and tell them how wonderful life is in Berlin these days. Then we find a freighter they can stow away on, and they're off to Germany! Heinrich's family gets more of their own kind to talk to, and we defuse the whole gargoyles-versus-Quarrymen situation the easiest way possible. That's a win-win situation if I ever heard one! But first, we have to find the native gargoyles, and we need to keep Heinrich safe and away from the Quarrymen until we can. That means keeping our mouths totally shut about him. I know for a fact that we've got at least one Quarryman sympathizer right here in our own precinct, and the last thing we need is for Hayden or somebody else to let slip to Castaway that we've got a live one."

Carter winced. "Good point. Okay, not a word to anyone, even Bluestone."

"Especially not him," Davis agreed. "He's in too tight with the higher-ups; he'd probably feel obligated to let them know everything. And even if he wasn't, he's such a straight-arrow, I'm not sure he's any good at keeping a secret."

After the police officers had left, Heinrich pulled out his pen and paper and began writing again. When the young men returned, he would ask them to mail a packet for him; one full of all the letters he had written up till now, to be sent home to Berlin. Heinrich could even pay for the postage; Karl had converted some Deutsche Mark to U.S. dollars and stuffed them into Heinrich's bags the night that he'd left. In the meantime, he wanted to write down all the details of this night's meeting, this Erstkontakt, while it was still fresh in his mind.

Dear Helmut and Helga,

I met my first American humans tonight. They are two young police officers named John Davis and James Carter, who work in the station below where the gargoyles were sighted; they found me here just before I woke up this evening. (Yes, I know it was careless of me to assume that just because no one had been up here in more than a week, no one would come at all.) Luckily, they did not shoot me on sight. Instead, they have told me a great deal about the gargoyles native to this land. Not all of it is good news…


Translating from the German:

Deutsche Mark: German currency

Erstkontakt: first meeting