They sounded like horse clops. Black boots hitting the cold sidewalk on that bitter December morning with leaves scraping against the ground like cat claws against a blackboard. Not far the sound of giggles and excited screams drowned out the sound of the metal clanging together as the gate closed. Like the sound of some skewed gong. Billy Clawyer’s knee was bleeding after a bad experimental run on the slide. Ms. Ketcher was already attending to the lesser injury with a Band-Aid and antibacterial cream when she first saw him.
She was dead no more than ten seconds later.
Winter Wonderland by Josh Whitener
That’s the only thing you could label this one room prison cell. Rain drops trickle down the edge of the wall where you could see the piss turd for brains decided he’d rather go out for a drink than finish up a job. Oh well could be worse. I could be running from the cozzers after I riddled a school yard with bullets. Jesus…
The rain fell that night like it did most days in London. Home sweet home my arse. The drops ran like mad streets down the window sill and connected as they did. John’s eyes were staring outside into the night, looking down into a small alley where the flats across the way joined. Most of it was covered by an overgrown tree placed their probably by some environmental activist. Keeps nature growing, right? Honestly it’s more of an eyesore than these buildings. The night was humid today. The wetness stuck to the back of your neck and made your mind fluffy, like. There was a brief pause before he took his eyes away from the window with a sigh. He’d phoned Chas a half and hour ago and he’d be just about off his night shift before he’d be heading home for the night. He wondered what kind of excuse he’d give his wife tonight. Certainly nothing would entail that he’d be spending it taxing around his best friend (a person she considers worse than death) for free with God knows what on his agenda. In all honesty there wasn’t anything on his agenda even though he probably should be neck deep in some kind of plan, but he wasn’t. He didn’t know the first step involved. With all that bizarre information from Moscow there was certainly a way of doing things. Something smelled though, and not something usual like the night time theater of London’s underground. This was different, it was kids.
A flame was created, applied quickly to an already awaiting cigarette. His last of the night according to the crumbled pack left on the night stand. At 1: 17 in the morning there generally wasn’t a news stand open that would service a strange Scouse chain smoker with little funds. Hell, that’s why he called Chas in the first place to being with, and just then there was the sound the taxi pulling up. John was still by the window when he saw his friend waiting outside.
Why the hell? That’s all Chas Chandler could think about when John came minutes later gliding down the stairs and out the door of his apartment. The engine sputtered in the bitter cold, and the wind was picking up even if the rain was dying down – odd weather. He’d helped John out of as many scrapes as he’d liked to, and somehow kept on owing his debt. It’s fair usually, after what Constantine has done for him but it usually didn’t involve the same shit John got him into. Some of it was just plain frightening and he wanted no part in it. Too trusting not to care was all he lived for with John, though. So here he was again, sighing and shaking his head as John climbed into the backseat.
“Keep the meter off tonight, mate. Won’t be too long” he said shutting the door.
“Fucking better not. I told Renie I was pulling the graveyard tonight just to keep me arse from getting kicked out tonight, John. Where the hell have you been anyway?” Chas said half-angry as he pulled the cab into drive and started down the street towards Winchester.
“Too far than I’ve ‘ad liked, mate.”
“Gary’s bird, Martha, told us down at Kettle’s that you were dropping the lease for that place in Soho. You’re living here, now?”
“Yea, mate; things are getting kind of stretched here. Bit of bad luck running in the air, like.”
“When ya called I thought you were in some kind trouble. What’s got you so jumped you want to head to Westminster?”
“Pimlico actually. You heard about that school yard shooting, yea?”
“Yea, all over the telly this morning, but why you wanna go there now, anyway? Place was crawling with police and even some of Scotland Yard. Pauly told me…”
John cut him off, lighting another cigarette in the process.
“Don’t worry about it, Chas me old son. Just do what you do best and keep the wheels turning, eh?”
“Don’t fuck about, John. You can get your friggin’ ass outa ‘ere if you keep that shit up.”
Chas’s evil eye stared down the mirror pointed right to Constantine. John sighed, covering his face with his hand for a moment and running it back through his messy hair. He exhaled.
“Fuck it. Didn’t mean it like that, mate. Just one of those nights, right?”
Chas hesitated for a minute, but shrugged it off. John always had weird nights. Exceptions or not he felt like he was about to get mixed up in it in the worst ways.
“Yea, well…just give us a fag then?”
John handed his friend a cigarette and his lighter. He slumped back into the seat and didn’t say much until they were close enough to the school and just watched what was left of the rain trickle down the window outside.
Peter Tingerman was sick from school that day. His mother had nearly had a fit all morning when the news broke out over the BBC. Kept him in the house all day and just held him. She couldn’t believe what had happened. This wasn’t the kind of thing you’d expect out of the money put through in private school. This wasn’t the kind of thing you’d expect out of any place. It was horrible.
The night was heavy with fog. It was the kind that rolled over the back of your shoulders and made your face sticky with humidity, and moist vapor. The ember burned nearly to the filter before John flicked it into the gutter as he stepped out of the cab. Chas leaned out the window, resting his arm on the door before speaking.
“I’ll keep the engine on in case we need to make a quit run, right?”
“Right, mate. Keep an eye out and pull it back down the street. Wouldn’t want the lad knowing I wasn’t who they’ll think I am.” He said with a small smirk.
John started down the high street towards the school. There were only a few more police there then before. A few from Scotland yard finishing up the remainder of their investigation and leaving the scene. A usual, John kept going. He was already spotted just across the street, and why not. It’s certainly not the clothes, or short stroll at such an odd point in the day that would throw them off, was it? The officer watching the gate into the playground stood calm, but he was obviously shaken up over something. After seeing what went on here tonight who would blame him. As he crossed the street the man uncrossed his arms and waved him down.
“Oi! Where do you think your going?”
Constantine gave his best at keeping a friendly grin, but it faded as soon as he saw the inspectors pulling off down the street and, soon enough, out of sight. He turned to the guard who was not more than some piss ant security watch.
“This bloody square hasn’t got a good spot for some kip anywhere. You’d think for her majesty’s royals they’d have some place, eh? Inspector Constable Constantine. Peter and David wrapping it up here, then right?”
He figured given some usual names would help. Some how he didn’t think this poor chap would know any of them. John knew a bit about rank and by the look of this sad git’s sullen expression when he walked up – he did too. The guard gave a small stutter, furrowing his brow in an attempt to put a face to a name he knew nothing of. Thank God for that one too, but then again it had been years since he was under file.
“Uh, yea, they just left. Why didn’t you go along with them?” he asked nervously.
John lit another cigarette and looked around the school yard.
“I’m doing follow-ups for a different division. Something a bit more detailed, like. Let’s have a butchers look, you and I.” he replied quickly, trying to buy at least sometime to check out the crime scene.
There was a small gust of wind that blew his ashes into the man’s neatly pressed uniform. He patted them away and then followed Constantine from behind quickly.
“Excuse me, mate. I think I’ll need to see some I.D.”
John stopped in his tracks a bit, but didn’t take to long to keep his control and continue to eye the scene around them. Gruesome, even after the clean up there was still bits of blood on the all, and down near what John figured was some kind of see-saw there was a blanket covering whatever stain was enduring to taint the yard.
“Hey, did you hear me?” the cop was moving in behind him with any reason to put his hand on his gun, and make his c*ck feel hard.
John had enough though; this was all he could manage right now.
“Got a wife, officer?” he said calmly.
“What?” the copper replied, a little taken aback.
“A wife, kid too?”
“Uhh…yea. Litter girl. 10 months old. How did you-.”
“Something like this makes you think twice about your job, doesn’t it?” John didn’t take his eyes away from the scene of the crime – as gruesome as it looked. No one here did a better job for the media to have a field day. “Something like this comes along and you want to be there with family. After all it was blind luck you and her didn’t make it sooner than you thought. In a way the miscarriage was a blessing, eh? Might be your kid here, then wouldn’t it?
“Whhh…what are you talking about? How did you know my wife has a miscarriage? We…we…didn’t…” he stuttered continuously trying to make sense of how he knew all this.
John was stoic. The drop in his voice as very gradual, and there was a reason he didn’t make any sudden movements of suspicion. As a matter of fact he didn’t want to be here longer than he had to which made perfect sense considering what he needed to get in a short amount of time. The guard was easy, the rest would be hard.
“Go home, mate. Go home to your wife and little girl. I’ll lock it up from here.”
With that he turned to the guard. He had a wide-eyed look plastered over his sheepish looking face. He didn’t respond with anything recognizable in his voice, but he did give some kind of recognition. The hypnosis wouldn’t last long, enough for him to get into his car, start it up and, with a half-a-mile starting, he would more than likely only remember the images John put in subliminally to keep his mind on his family and the blood stained blocks of the school.
Chas’s taxi pulled up shortly after he saw the car disappear. He got out, and shut the door, quietly moving from behind the gate to stand near John.
“Bloody tragedy, like. Been on the telly all day and night with this.” He said quietly looking around, same as John had been.
This time though, John had gotten rid of the excess dilemmas and started his way around the playground. News reports had been around the air the last twenty-four hours. He remembered what Newcastle had done to him, and that wasn’t even HIS kid. Didn’t matter thought, even if it was he didn’t think it would have been as been as it had. He moved around to the side of the school where the teacher was killed. She had moved to cover the children around her when the shots were fired. Some were picked off quicker than others, but pretty soon she realized she’d been hit too. One bullet went through her chest and into the head of the little girl she tried to protect. They weren’t issuing reports, but they didn’t need too. He had a knack for seeming the obvious – and the not so.
Around the wall he could see where the bastard had moved to kill the ones that fled before he could be put down. Course someone that did this would have never been taken alive. That corner was where he put the gun to his head and emptied that last shot. It stained the wall, and John just looked, sighing with an emotional frustration as he lit up another cigarette. He noticed something, though. There was a small click in his mind. He looked over his shoulder to where the teacher was killed. Chas’s voice came from behind him.
“Get what ya needed?” he said softly.
John didn’t respond. He was busy tracing his steps. There was a connection here, and not just the obvious of man shooting children. This sadistic fuck just shot the kids. He didn’t mean to go for the teachers at all. In fact the only one killed could have looked like he didn’t want to do it intentionally. Just the kids, and the farthest one first. He looked over the scene, and knelt to the ground. Chas’s voice came across again.
“John?” he questioned.
“Not now, Chas.” John finally added as he dug his hands into the dirt. Spreading it out on his palm he closed his eyes and muttered something that Chas couldn’t hear, but it sounded Swahili. Moments later he blew the dirt off his palm and watched it fall to the ground again. Now, lit under London’s foggy night were small glistening specks arranged accordingly.
“Fuck’ng hell.” John muttered.
“What?” Chas asked, moving over his shoulder.
The small sparkles of what looked like glitter were arranged into a small shape across the dirt. John’s eyes lifted to match each one with a specific point on the yard when a child was murdered. The sign was a curved line – the shape of a U and John knew well what it meant. There was another point on the ground that didn’t match up, however. A single dot in the center of the sigil where no body was shot; this meant something didn’t make sense. Without missing much of beat John rose to his feet and moved around Chas, heading towards the car.
“Still know that bloke who works for the hospital, mate?” he asked, inhaling.
“Starker?” he asked.
“Yea, right. Drop us off at the tube station and get him on the phone sharpish. I’ll phone you with the meeting point.”
“What the fuck is this all about, John. Why the hell are you getting involved in this shit? It’s beyond you anyway.” He responded, but still moved after John and into the car. He put the key into the ignition and started the engine.
“I wish to Christ it were, Chas. Listen. When you get home lock up the doors behind you and don’t use the phone for a while, yea.” He added.
Chas gave a small look to his friend and shook his head, a long sigh escaping.
“Bloody hell.” He said quietly.
The car sped off back down the same road they come in on.
The clock struck 2:00 a.m. inside a large room of Embers Estate. Inside the rotund office was a decorative display of papers where Harrison Levi sat at his desk. He was a large man, maybe in his late sixties or early seventies, but that body was like a hippopotamus almost as if it needed to be oiled routinely or basted just to keep it from living. His head held a relatively small amount of hair which kept his liver spots from being totally viable. His head tilted to the clock as the bell struck six times. He didn’t take his eyes off it until it had stopped, but when he did he simply continued back to his papers. Shuffling through one stack; then moving around to another. Soon there came a knock at his door. He cleared his throat and looked up.
“Come in.” his voice sounded like gurgled water half the time.
The door opened and a bearded man, much younger, entered in. He didn’t say anything at first but simply moved to the seat adjacent from Mr. Levi’s desk and sat down. He gave a small yawn.
“Did I wake you, Jason?” Mr. Levi asked quietly looking to his papers again.
“No, no sir. I…uh…haven’t been sleeping well lately.” He answered honestly.
“Well that’s understandable. We’ve been doing a lot of planning here recently. Did you make all the prior arrangements for tomorrow?” that last question suddenly rose a spark of interest that encouraged Levi enough to look from his work all together and give Jason his undivided attention.
Jason gave a short nod and then leaned back into the seat more.
“Yes, sir, the police are moving this into the investigations team, but our guys have a hold on it from the inside. Manic kills seven children in heartless bloodbath. You’ll read about it in the Sunday paper, sir.”
Levi didn’t say anything, except give a small frown.
“What do you want us to do about Tate’s Club, sir?” he asked moments later. “There’s still the question of when they’ll make their move.”
“Those aging magicians are not a concern to me, Jason. Just keep on your present path and stick to what we tell you to do, eh?” Levi replied uninterested.
“Yes sir.” said Jason
Again a moment of silenced passed between them before Levi looked back to this lists on the papers and Jason made a move for the door. With a small hesitation he turned and took his hand from the door knob.
“What about John Constantine?”
There was a hint of curiosity in his voice. As if he’d stump his boss with the question and for a moment he thought he had, but then the old man’s gurgled voice broken through again.
“We don’t need to worry about coming to him. I’d expect he’d come to us.”
Jason nodded and then disappeared back out of the office.
Harrison Levi turned back to his papers and ran a pen across the names of a list with the title Emersion Academy on the front page. There were three children that weren’t in school that were in Ms. Ketcher’s class today.