Read Dead Matter Online

Authors: Anton Strout

Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy

Dead Matter (10 page)

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“Um, yeah,” I said, still trying to get over the idea of Godfrey with a social life. Usually he had a serious case of bookwormius maximus. “I e-mailed you some pictures from my phone … ?”
“Oh!” he said, his eyes brightening. “Of course.” He moved behind his desk and sat down at one of the biggest flat-screen monitors I had ever seen. He started clacking away at the keyboard. “Let’s see what we can see.”
The first shot came up on the screen.
“Sorry about the crappy quality,” I said. “We were breaking and entering … Well, technically, keying in and entering.”
“Not a problem,” he said, adjusting the brightness of the images on the screen. The dark edges of my photos lightened, showing a greater amount of detail within the blueprints. “Ahh … schematics.”
I tapped at the screen. “If you zoom in there …”
Godfrey’s hand shot out and grabbed mine, pulling it away from the monitor.
“Please don’t touch it,” he said. “I brought it in from home.”
I looked at him, perplexed. “This isn’t Department issued?”
Godfrey let out a bitter laugh. “Are you kidding me? With the budget cuts around here from downtown? No. This is mine. It fell off of a truck that almost hit me and it survived so … I helped myself.”
I knew all too well the strange knack Godfrey experienced that made him a divining rod for luck. I also knew the guilt I still felt for having used him for it in the past, so
I remained silent on it.
“Sorry,” I said.
Godfrey shook it off and turned back to the monitor. “So what are we looking at?”
“It’s the blueprints for the Gibson-Case Center,” I said. “It’s that new place that’s been going up on Columbus Circle. Jane and I chased a guy right up to the doors and got turned away like we were trying to gain entry into a foreign consulate.”
“These look like
white
prints to me,” Godfrey said, and I cringed. Was he channeling her?
“Whatever they are,” I said, “there’s a problem.” I pointed toward the empty block of space at the center of the whiteprint, this time making sure not to touch the monitor. “It appears that there’s a dead zone that can’t be accounted for.”
Godfrey flipped to the next picture and then the next.
“They’re all the same,” I said.
Godfrey cocked his head and continued flipping over and over through them all.
“Well, not exactly the same,” he corrected. “I mean, yes, they
are
all technical drawings of the same building area, but look … There are both blue-
and
whiteprints of the location.” Godfrey flipped through a few to show me the difference.
“So?”
“Blueprints came about in the forties,” he said, “but whiteprints replaced them in more recent years. We shouldn’t be seeing a mix of blue and white ones together for one project given the spread of time.”
I was still confused. “Meaning what exactly?” “Meaning someone’s been working on whatever’s going on there for a long time, longer than any development cycle for most high-rises in this city. That hidden area seems to have been earmarked private for years.” He stood up, grabbing a flashlight off of his desk. “Come with me.”
Seeing the flashlight in his hand worried me. Every part of the cavernlike Gauntlet I had ever been in had been strung with at least the bare minimum of electric bulbs. I wanted to ask where we were going that we needed the flashlight, but Godfrey was already hustling through the shelves and shelves of record books.
I ran to catch up. Already we had moved past the modern metallic bookshelves into an area filled with older, crafted cabinets and storage units. The last string of electric lights ended shortly after that and Godfrey clicked on the flashlight.
“We’re not funded to string more electric lines or bulbs until next quarter,” he said. “So I’m afraid we’re going to have to rough it.”
We continued on and the area actually started to feel more cavelike as we went. With only a tiny pool of light to guide me, a bit of claustrophobia kicked in.
“Are we going spelunking?” I asked, calming my nerves with a little humor. “Jesus, Godfrey, where are we?”
“Deep storage,” he said, searching the sides of the path with his light as we went. “A lot of old New York documentation is stored back here … Our archives are slowly being backed up to digital formats, but we didn’t want to discard anything until we could confirm or deny any paranormal connections to all this. We’re terribly backlogged. It’s going to take us years to get back to this point digitally. So for now it all lives back here.” Godfrey fell silent for a moment, then spoke again. “I should warn you … there are a few creatures that roam around back here that we’ve been working to get rid of.”
I reached for my bat and pulled it out. I hit the button and it sprung to its full size. “I’m sorry … creatures?”
Godfrey gave me a sheepish look. “I’m afraid even I haven’t fully been through all the sections down here yet. No one’s quite sure where all this leads to or what lives down here. There have been the occasional … altercations.”
“Great,” I said, peering off into the darkness. “Good to know. You do your thing and I’ll do mine if it comes down to it.”
Godfrey stopped in front of one row of old-fashioned drawers and started moving along them. “I appreciate it.”
Halfway down the row he stopped and pulled open a drawer about waist high. It was then that I realized that these were an ancient equivalent of the type of record cabinet that Jane and I had rifled through downtown.
Godfrey gently pulled a sheaf of old parchment paper out of it.
“Careful,” he warned and I stepped back. He laid them out on top of the old wooden file cabinet. He reached for the corner of the pile and started flipping down lower into it, all of them showing more and more signs of age and deterioration the deeper he went.
“Fascinating,” he said.
“What is?”
“Your ‘dead space’ on the whiteprints is older than it seems.” He pointed down at one of the older, more fragile-looking sheets of parchment. “Look. The buildings concerning that block have changed over the years, but this blank space of yours has been filed since the American Revolution.”

The
American Revolution?”
Godfrey nodded. He moved his finger to a single signature that ran along the old drawings of the empty area.
“David Matthews,” he said.
I raised one eyebrow. “Please don’t tell me the Dave Matthews Band is immortal or something … although that
would
explain why they play so well together.”
Godfrey shook his head and laughed out loud. It echoed off into the chamber. “Wrong Dave Matthews. We’re talking mayor of New York around the time of Franklin and Jefferson.”
I let out a silent “phew.” “So this land has been zoned for some hidden purpose for over
two hundred years
?”
Godfrey started to put the sheets back in the drawer, closing it. “It looks like mayor after mayor just grandfathered it forward every time the surroundings changed … but who and why?”
Somewhere off in the dark distance, the sound of something moving became apparent. Godfrey nearly jumped out of his skin, but I put a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
“Easy,” I whispered.
“Maybe we should get out of here,” he said.
“If you’re done,” I said, pausing to listen again to the distant sound of something dragging along the stone flooring. “I don’t think we have to hurry, though. Sounds like we’re dealing with something as slow as zombies.”
Godfrey just stared at me.
“What?” I said.
“Zombies,” he said. “You say it so nonchalantly. The idea of them down here doesn’t scare you?”
I thought about it for a second, then answered. “Not really. First of all, I don’t have to work down here, and from what you’ve told me, whatever still lurks down here likes to stay out of your well-lit areas.”
“But we’re not
in
a well-lit area,” Godfrey said, a little hysteria creeping into his voice.
“You didn’t let me get to my ‘second of all.’ ”
“Sorry,” Godfrey said, looking with morbid anticipation out into the surrounding darkness. “Continue.”

Second of all
,” I said, holding up my bat, “I have this.”
“We don’t really carry weapons down here,” Godfrey said. “Too much potential to damage the archives. I usually rely on running away.”
The poor guy looked embarrassed to admit it.
“No shame in that,” I said. “Given the shit we deal in, running away is a perfectly acceptable form of survival.”
Godfrey took the light from me and started heading back toward the more civilized section of the Gauntlet.
“Really?”
“Really,” I said. “Think about Connor and how he got to be one of the White Stripes. By letting a ghost pass through him. You think I want that happening to my fine head of hair?”
“I thought the White Stripes all wore their white streaks like a badge of honor.”
“Badge of horror, more likely,” I said. “I see it more as a mark of failure. Just a bunch of guys too stupid to get out of the way while fighting evil. Everyone in Things That Go Bump in the Night knows well enough to get out of the way, too. If I see something coming that’s likely to mess with my vanity, guaranteed you’ll see me running. Gotta stay pretty for the ladies. Speaking of ladies …” I checked the clock on my phone. Jane’s brunch meeting was wrapping up. “Think you can lead me out of here alive?”
“Hopefully,” Godfrey said, not quite the beacon of optimism I had hoped for. I wasn’t worried, though. Between my bat and his lucky breaks, I had the feeling we’d be fine getting out of there before whatever shambling mess that lurked down there could find us.
10
I needed to get the hell out of the office and over to the Gibson-Case Center with Jane during public hours if we were going to check the place out. I hit my desk for a few moments to sort out all the incoming paperwork into piles ranging from most important to burn at my earliest convenience. I was grabbing up my messenger bag when I heard a female voice clearing behind me.
Allorah Daniels was standing there. She was wearing a short white lab coat over her clothes. The same silver necklace from yesterday was intertwined with the chain on a pair of safety glasses. Her hair was pulled back today and it worked on her. For an Enchancellor, she looked hot.
“Mr. Canderous,” she said, nodding.
“Enchancellor Daniels,” I said, throwing the strap of my bag over my shoulder. “Is there something I can help you with?”
She looked down at her clipboard and flipped through a few of the pages there. “Thank you for bringing those clothes in this morning,” she said. “I’ve gone over some of the tests I ran on what I found. Do you have the time to go over the results?”
“I was just on my way out,” I said.
“Well,
make
the time,” she said. Her voice was so stern, I took my bag off and sat back down. There were more pressing personal cases I needed to be dealing with, not something like this.
“Look,” I said. “I don’t want to make an issue out of this, but that encounter … It could have happened to anyone. It was just a monster thing, okay? I’m sure any number of divisions would love to get their hands on the follow-up for this. Perhaps Things That Go Bump in the Night would like a crack at it?”
“So you think this was a random attack?” Allorah said, scribbling on her clipboard.
“I’m usually pretty up on people trying to purposely kill me,” I said.
Allorah looked like she was holding back. “Let me be blunt,” she said. She walked around to Connor’s side of the desk and sat down, resting her clipboard on one of the stacks of paper. “
Have
you made any enemies lately that might set something like this on you?”
I laughed. “I don’t think so. As a matter of fact, it hasn’t even crossed my mind. Ordinarily, I’d say yes, but I haven’t been in the field
to
make any new mortal enemies. I haven’t had enough time away from my desk or all this paperwork to piss new people off. Which is why I think it’s okay if you want to farm this out to someone else …”
“Forgive me for pulling rank,” Allorah said, “but this creature attacked
you
and if you don’t mind, I’d like you in the loop on it whether it was gunning for you specifically or you were simply planning your ‘Taco Night’ at the wrong place and time. Understood?”
I nodded and remained silent.
“Good,” she said, checking her papers again. “Now, I’m analyzing some of the mucus that was all over your clothes from the attack …”

That
sounds like a fun time,” I said.
“For me?” Allorah said, giving a smile. “Yeah. It kinda was. It beats sitting in on another meeting of the Enchancellorship.”
That made me smile. Finally someone in power who held the same kind of disdain for bureaucracy that I did.
Allorah’s smile vanished as quick as it had appeared. “I think that’s all for now,” Allorah said. “I’m running a few more tests that will take a bit more time, but I trust I will have you full cooperation?”
I nodded. “If I don’t get killed first, sure.”
Allorah stood and cocked her head at me. “Why do I have the sneaking suspicion, Mr. Canderous, that you might prefer a nice death in the field instead of talking lab work?”
I laughed and stood. Allorah walked over to me and her face went grim. “Make no mistake about this,” she said. “The other Enchancellors might be slow to act, but I’m not. If I find conclusive results that we are dealing with some form of vampire, I expect you to drop everything, along with the rest of the department.”
Her tone rubbed me the wrong way and I couldn’t help but be a little short with her. “I
have
taken vampires seriously around here before,” I said. “Remember? But I’m not going off all Code Bela on this until you show me something that says we’re actually dealing with the undead. Until then, I’ll be busy doing my job.”

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