For the first time since the case began, Gabriel was able to leave the scene of his searching for books almost exactly as he found it. Of course, this was mostly because he hadn't cleaned up St. George's since he ransacked it earlier looking for more dream information. Books and papers were still scattered all over the floor.
Gabriel was once again deeply involved in the search for his grandfather's book. Luckily, he had already searched part of the seemingly vast expanse of volumes that the store contained, his last search interrupted by the discovery of Magentia Moonbeam's phone number.
"Ah..." Gabriel pulled out a small black volume with handwritten poetry in it. The cheaply embossed cover had the name "Heinz Ritter" on it. He opened the book to a familiar poem...
Drei Drachen kriechen in meinen Schlaf, die Seele woll'n sie lebendig zum Frass. Feurigen Atems, gespaltener Zunge geniessen sie jedes Mahl.
Gabriel shuddered a bit... his translation of the poem during the Voodoo Murders had clued him in to some of the horror that Harrison Knight was undergoing, and also reminded him of his pre-Schattenjäger days and the dreams he'd had, of dragons and snakes crawling over him. Those days were past, but the dreams he was having now were much more personal.
Shaking his head, he took the book back into the small room that had served him so well as a studio/bedroom and laid down on the bed. Propping the sagging pillows behind his head, he took a look around him.
His life had changed so much since the last time he'd peacefully laid in that bed. Trips to Germany, Voodoo cults, werewolves, dead kings, African ruins, and mysterious women were almost becoming old-hat for him. Lying in this room brought all that back into focus.
Blinking his eyes, he picked up the book and began to read. Or rather, he began to skim, since he still couldn't read much German. Gerde had tried at one point to get him to take a class at a local college but Gabriel had fought it, remembering sourly the days when he had been forced to sit at a desk and learn things he didn't think he'd ever use.
Many was the time that he'd been sent to the principal's office for ignoring his teachers and writing stories, stories about monsters, travel, magic, fantasy, whatever came to mind. His teachers had always told him to forget the fantastic, and to concentrate on the realistic.
Gabriel smiled to himself: wouldn't they be surprised to know what he considered realistic now!
"Crap - doing it again!" Research was not Gabriel's strong point, but he could do it when the subject was interesting. Otherwise he would start to fade off and daydream...much like he was doing now! Right now, reading his grandfather's German poetry and having it mean about as much as his old algebra books was not exacting qualifying as INTERESTING...
Gabriel leafed through the book, trying to see if anything in it sparked his instinct at all. Poem after poem in the German language stared back at him, seeming to mock him. Some Schattenjäger you are - you can't even read your forefathers' tongue! Gabriel shook his head again, closing the book and setting it down while he rubbed gently against the bridge of his nose in an attempt to focus. He picked up the book again, and for the first time, noticed that the first two pages of the book were stuck together. "Hmmmm.."
Standing, Gabriel closed the book again, and walked over to his desk. In the drawer beneath the faded wood spots where his typewriter had once sat, Gabriel found an old table knife that he used as a letter opener and opened the poetry book to the offending pages. Slipping the knife's blade between them, and being careful not to damage the aging paper, he separated the clinging pages. Pulling the chair out from his desk, he sat and began to read the formerly concealed pages. They were in English, to Gabriel's surprise.
To my son, Phillip,
This book is a record of my thoughts, impressions, and beliefs about the nature of the family into which you have been born. Since I left Bavaria, I have been recording my feelings and dreams in an attempt to purge them from my psyche, but now I see that this is not going to be possible. Someday, I shall be able to tell you about the yearning you have to be somewhere else, doing something that you feel to be right but unknown to you. I have attempted to remove us from that life, but I find that to be impossible now. Soon, I shall explain all to your mother so that we can return to the land that bore me and take up our proper positions as the Hunters of Shadow that the Ritters, and now the Knights, are destined to be. You shall be raised to learn of the responsibilities and duties of our ancestral vocation, and taught the use the tool that was given to us so many years ago but was lost.
I will also tell you of the others, our ancestral nemesis. If we are the lion, they are the serpent. They share our power, but their use of it is selfish, while ours is to be used for the glory of God, and the good of his people.
Remember the power of your ancestors, as they remember theirs.
Gabriel was shaking as he looked at the date of the inscription to the poetry book - the same date as his grandfather had fallen from the roof of his house. He recalled the fateful letter from Christian von Ritter to King Ludwig. "Seems to run in the family... remind me never to write a letter to anyone ever again."
"Aw, Christ," muttered Franklin Mosely as he heard the voice of the person on the other end of the phone. "Why couldn't you have just stayed in Germany?"
"Mostly, my man! How could you say such a thing after all we've been through?" Gabriel smiled at the discomfort in his friend's voice. Maybe it was mean, but Mosely always gave such a great reaction to the amount of teasing that Gabriel tossed his way that it was hard to quit. And it had been so long since they'd talked...
"What do you need, Knight? I'm frickin' busy here, y'know?" Gabriel heard a deep sigh on the other end of the phone. "Those of us with a 9-to-5 need to put in the hours, unlike the 'book crowd' you seem to be part of these days."
"Can I come down and talk to you for a bit?" Gabriel knew he was putting his friend out a bit. Mosely really was working hard to try to move up in the police force, and for all his whining about the hours he put in it was beginning to pay off. The Voodoo Murders investigation had made him noticed among the upper echelons of the New Orleans Police Department. This notice, however, made him all that much more busy as he was given more casework than ever before.
"Shit, Knight! Yeah, I suppose, I got some lunchtime coming up here pretty soon, and the vultures should be taking a rest too, pretty soon."
Gabriel could hear Mosely shift in his seat a bit. "Actually, I could do with getting out of the station for a piece. Wanna meet somewhere in about an hour or so?"
"Even better," said Gabriel. "Last time I was in there I almost slipped and fell on some doughnut glaze on the floor outside your office, and..."
"Ease off, ya wanker! What say I see you at the Gumbo Shop in an hour? Better be your treat, moneybags," Mosely said.
"You got it, bud." Gabriel smiled. "Always happy to support the fastest growing part of Louisiana... your waistline! Seeya in an hour."
"Oh, man, that's good stuff!" Gabriel announced as he and Mosely sat back in their chairs, bellies filled to nearly bursting. "I haven't eaten like that since I was here last!"
"Still don't see how you can eat like that and still keep that girlish figure of yours, Knight. How many tapeworms DO you have?" Mosely looked down at his own expanding waistline and frowned. "And how can I get a couple?"
"My tapeworms have extraordinarily good taste, pal. Guess you're plumb out of luck!" Gabriel smiled and sat forward, leaning on the table. "Mind if I ask you about some stuff?"
"Why? We've got nothing going on that's gonna interest you right now...no new voodoo killings or anything like that!" Mosely eyed Gabriel suspiciously. "Though that Grace of yours did take off in a hurry a while back.... one day I stopped by the store to chat and the next day she was gone! Anything cool going on with that?"
"Yeah, she said that you were around a bit. We had another case come up in Germany a while back. Had to deal with this real ball-buster of a cop in Munich to do it, too." Gabriel grimaced at the memory of Kriminalkommisar Leber.
"Dang... yeah, German cops can be tough. We had a couple come over for this exchange program thing and they almost lost their cool the first day they were here... Franks refused to salute them or get them coffee, as I remember." Mosely laughed to himself, then sat up in his chair a bit. "So what DID you want to ask me about?"
"Well, I'm looking for someone, but I can't find them in the phone book." Gabriel pulled out his tape recorder and gave Mosely a "do you mind?" look. Mosely rolled his eyes but nodded his assent. "How do you guys go about finding someone when you can't find them in the phone book?"
"Well, see, we have all sorts of computers to do that sort of stuff for us. Looking up people by last known address, former aliases, stuff like that. But I can't let you use that stuff. Confidentiality and privacy, all that stuff. If it came out that I let a civilian use that stuff for personal business, I don't know what would happen. Shit'd hit the fan, that's for sure."
"Almost as bad as losing your badge?" Gabriel smirked a bit as Mosely's face turned redder than the spicy cajun food had already made it. "Sorry, low blow."
"And if you may remember, I didn't frickin' LOSE it!" Mosely calmed down a bit but still held a level glare on Gabriel. Gabriel, being fairly used to it, continued.
"Okay, so I can't use your computers. I wouldn't know where the hell to begin anyway. That's really more Gracie's area." Gabe shifted in his chair, a bit uncomfortable. "How about this - there had to be an accident report taken by the police when my granddaddy died, right?"
"Yeah, I suppose."
"So could I get a look at that? I mean, it's case-closed and all, right? Plus it happened over 50 years ago..."
"Well, here's the deal on that. Yes, it's okay... public domain, Freedom of Information Act, and all that jazz. Plus I know you'll pester me until I let you. But I'm not going to waste department time looking for it. So you have to look yourself. And you can't take anything out of the archive area." Mosely sat back again. "Though if I know you, you'll figure something out."
"Knight, huh? Name sounds familiar to me." Jesse Price, the archivist for the police department, was checking Mosely and Gabriel in to view the old files. She received the signatures and turned to open the gate for them. She was a 50-something year-old woman and not unattractive.
"Hmmm...did you read my book - the Voodoo Murders?" Gabriel was not really looking at the archivist, but rather looking at the room behind the locked gate that was separating the two men from the files he needed.
"Hell, everyone in the department read it!" With a huge smile growing on her face, Price looked at Mosely, who was beginning to redden with embarrassment. "What was the name of that detective in the book..."
Gabriel grinned. "Ha! I was wondering how you police folks liked that part..." Price unlocked the gate and the two men entered the room.
"Ugh...this place is worse than I thought it was going to be..." Gabriel looked around the dusty old basement archive and held back another sneeze. "Don't they ever send you down here to clean this place, up, pal?" The basement archive was the size of two handball courts with row after row of shelves, containing all the paperwork data for police cases dating back into the early 1900s.
Mosely sat down in a worn but comfortable chair at the side of the archivist's desk. He wore a grin that was absolutely priceless. He didn't often get to put Gabriel into the uncomfortable position, and even if it was mean and spiteful he had plenty of catching up to do.
"Musta been my week off." Mosely's grin grew a little bit, as he turned to the archivist sitting at her desk with a similarly bemused expression on her face. She had just come in and sat down with Mosely. "Now watch this, Price. Knight never once had to look up a book in the library all throughout school. He always sweet-talked some young librarian's assistant into doing it for him. Now let's watch the artist at work..." Mosely turned back to watch Gabriel's search.
"You know what this reminds me of, pal," Gabriel called out as he combed the aisles looking for the proper year, "is that old Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom TV show. You're that old fart, Marlin Perkins, sitting in the helicopter, while I'm Jim. I'm the handsome one down doing all the work, wrestling the alligator, capturing the elephant, whatever."
Gabriel walked away from one shelf and over to the next. Looking at the card on the side of the shelf, he found that he was at the row for the year his grandfather had died. "Actually, after watching you eat, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you're the elephant." Gabriel smiled slightly at the comment, knowing that it was going to set Mosely's blushing red face into high gear. And right in front of the archivist. Gabriel glanced down the row of shelves to see his friend's face, which was taking on its predicted hue. Unfortunately, the archivist was not at her desk.
"Ah, just find your damn file, ya wanker." Mosely settled back to watch. He had a clear view of Gabriel down the aisle in front of him. "And as I remember, wasn't Marlin always with some hot little native number in the hut while Jim was doing all the work? So who's the smarter one?"
Gabriel sighed. "Good point." He found the box of files containing his grandfather's case, and pulled a small, wheeled cart over to put the box on while he searched through it. Opening the box, he found the file and began to read it. He looked up, momentarily, as he heard a screech at the end of the room, out of his line of site. It sounded like metal against concrete, so he assumed that the archivist was getting some work done. Mosely looked away toward the sound, too, but not seeing anything, he turned his gaze back to Gabriel.
"Find it, pal?" Mosely sat up in his chair to get a try to get a better view of what Gabriel was reading. Suddenly, the two men heard a loud crash at the other end of the room, followed by another crash, followed by another. "SHIT!" The detective leapt to his feet and ran down the aisle straight at his friend. Grabbing Gabriel, he tackled him into the aisle away from the rows of shelves. Just in time, too, as the shelves toppled over like dominos, crushing the table that Gabriel had been standing at just an instant earlier.
Gabriel was gasping for breath on the floor, the wind having been knocked out of him by the former football player. "Oh man... thanks bud." Mosely clapped him on the shoulder and looked up to see what had happened. He made his way down the aisle, a gasping and groaning Gabriel behind him trying to get to his feet.
Mosely stopped short at the sight of Price sitting on the floor, dust from the shelves rising in the dim light. The shelves had fallen away from her. On the fallen shelf directly in front of her were two handprints. She was looking at her hands, covered with dust. The blank look on her face slowly metamorphosed into a look of horror. "Did I..."
"Did you! Question is," sputtered Mosely, "what the hell are you doing!?"
Gabriel made his way up to view the scene, his wind returned. He stopped short at the sight of Price sitting on the ground with the look of horror on her face. A slow look of recognition slowly crept across his face as he took his first good look at her. "Hey, I know you from somewhere, don't I?" Gabriel racked his brain for a moment before he realized just where. It was thirty-odd years ago, but he'd never forget it. That same dazed look of horror...
Jesse Price was the girl who had been sitting on the curb at the scene of his parents' accident.
"Look, Price, stop crying for a minute..." Mosely was pleading. "You're not under investigation here, this case is closed. My buddy here just wants to ask you a couple questions."
They were in Mosely's office. If possible, there was even more paper on his desk than usual. The yellow polyester jacket was there, waiting for Mosely to change careers to real estate, and the microwave probably didn't even open anymore. The picture of Annie was still there as well.
I'll bet he's still not over her, thought Gabriel. That gal was one of the best things that ever happened to him, and he let it slip away. This obsession with work is starting to make more sense.
He turned his attention to the red-eyed, teary woman in front of him. Unlike Mosely, Gabriel could see that Jesse Price wasn't scared of prosecution, but that something deeper was troubling her. He'd seen that look of years-long pain in his own eyes upon looking in the mirror the morning after many a nightmare-filled night.
"Jesse," said Gabriel, calmly, "I am not trying to blame you for what happened either today or when my parents died. But I do need to ask you some questions 'bout those days. I know it's going to be hard, it's not easy for me to think about these things, either. But I need to ask you anyway, and I hope that it'll clear up some stuff for both of us."
Jesse looked up at Gabriel, then Mosely. Gabriel took the visual hint from her.
"Mostly," said Gabriel, "why don't you go get us a cup o' joe? Or whatever you guys have here that passes for it."
Normally, such a request would set Mosely off, but Mosely took the hint and started to make his way out of the office. Suddenly, he stopped in his tracks. He walked back around to the chair where his jacket was, picked up his badge, then continued on toward the door and exited the office, giving Gabriel a dirty look.
Gabriel smiled and pulled the chair up next to Jesse. "Okay, let's start with my parents -"
But before he could continue, Jesse looked up at Gabriel and sputtered "I don't know what happened back then! All I know is that one minute I was riding my bike down the street, and I saw your parents' car. And the next thing you know I was lying on the grass, your parents car was crashed, your grandma was wailing to beat the band, and you were staring into the car with tears running down your face!" The sobs were coming quickly now, the tears even more so.
"Okay. But do you remember anything else at all? I don't care how weird it sounds. Believe you me, I'm willing to believe just about anything." Gabriel held Jesse's hand to try to comfort her.
"Well..." started Jesse, pushing the tears aside and trying to regain her composure, "I was riding along, before the accident, and it was like I was paying attention to the road, but I was distracted by something trying to...to push through into my memory... like when you have something on the tip of your tongue, and you're just about to remember it, but then you lose it again? Only it wasn't a memory, it was something else..." Jesse had obviously been thinking about his for quite a while - the words were flowing out of her at a rapid rate.
Of course, thought Gabriel, she's probably had years to think about it!
Jesse was continuing, her voice coming increasingly close to cracking again. "And suddenly, there I was on the grass, and your folks Beetle was a wreck, and you were crying..." Jesse was bawling again.
"It's okay, let it out." Gabriel put an arm over her shoulder to try to comfort her. He heard a noise at the office door and he looked over his shoulder at Mosely cracking the door open, and looking at the scene inside. Gabriel shook his head at the detective, and Mosely responded by giving the OK symbol, and backing out again.
"And it was the same thing today!" she continued. "One minute I was talking to Detective Mosely, and the next minute I was sitting on the floor in front of all those shelves, with the dust on my hands! I don't remember pushing the shelves, any more than I remember forcing your folks off the road."
Gabriel's brow crinkled as he thought for a moment. It almost sounds like someone was controlling her...
"Oh, first my grandpa, now me..." Jesse was blubbering in the background. "I'd think you'd hate everyone in my family, Gabriel!"
Gabriel's ears perked up at this. "What do you mean, your grandpa?"
Jesse looked up at him. "You mean you don't know? My grandfather was with yours when he died! It's all in the file you found!"
Gabriel thought a minute longer. "Jesse," he asked, slowly, "what was your grandfather's name?"
Jesse looked at Gabriel, a river of tears cascading down her face.
"Well, he changed the spelling of his last name to sound more American during World War II...that's why my name is spelled differently-"
"Please, Jesse," Gabriel interrupted, a feeling of dread crawling like a cold snake up his spine. "I need to know his name."
Jesse whimpered: "Erich Preiss."