Book: The First - Part: Two - Chapter: 20 - Installment: i

        Edmond was standing over the toilet, shortly after dawn when he heard the knock at the door.  He did what he could to will the flow to stop as quickly as possible, which was successful in the middle of the second, more insistent knock.
        Buckling his pants as he exited the bathroom, he nearly tripped over Carly who was coming out of the guest bedroom rubbing her eyes.
        “Who is it?” she croaked at him.
        “Shhhh, Carly.  We have to be quiet.”
        He picked her up and tip-toed to the door and peered through the eye-hole.
        A woman in a dark coat and shades stood on the porch.  Two well dressed men in shades stood by a black sedan.  Edmond didn’t know what bureau or agency they came from, but they couldn’t possibly be more obvious or typical.
        As stealthily as possible, Edmond turned on his toe and took the twelve long strides it took to cover the distance between the front door and the French doors as the back of the small bungalow. 
        He wasn’t surprised to find when he pulled back the curtain that another agent was standing blocking his way.  He was surprised that she was the spitting image of the woman at the front door.
        That’s beyond cookie-cutter-agent syndrome. He thought.  Twins.  Hot, twin agents.  Sexy.
        There was no other exit.  He didn’t have his service firearm, even if he would have pulled it on a fellow officer. 
        It had been days.  He and Carly were clean.  He knew it, the authorities ought to know it.  It was time to face the music.
        He calmly unlocked and opened the sliding door.
        “Good morning Lieutenant Edmond.” The woman’s tone matched the November morning air.
        Carly sensed the disruption in the calm she’d had hiding at Bev William’s home.  She hugged Edmond’s neck tight and began to whimper.  It was the most emotive he had seen her since her mother’s death.
        “Good morning.”
        “You’re both going to be coming with us.”
        “Yeah, I assumed as much.”
        “Good. We were hoping we wouldn’t have to be forceful.”
        “Show us the way.”
        The two men sat in the front of the car.  The woman joined Edmond and Carly in the back.
        As they drew away from the curb the woman produced two black blindfold bags.
        “Please don’t let this alarm you.  You are in no danger.  But the location of our destination, is I’m afraid, prohibitively secret.”
        Despite her assurance he was a little alarmed.
        “Who the hell are you people?”
        “That information is also more than I can currently tell you.”
        The sedan circled the block for several minutes, clearly avoiding giving away the least bit of information about the direction they were to be travelling, while Edmond convinced the anxious Carly to put the bag over her head. He only managed to convince her by putting his on first with false reassurance. 
        His intention had been to try to keep oriented, so as to have some notion of where they were going, but by the time he had calmed Carly down and got her blindfold in place he had been too distracted and had no sense of where they were heading.  One thing was for certain, it was not a short drive.
        It wasn’t until nearly twenty minutes had passed before a thought occurred to him.
        “Hey, where’s your other partner?”
        “Excuse me?” responded the woman.
        “The other lady.  Your twin.  I didn’t see another car.  You didn't just leave her behind?”
        “Hmmmm.” She half-laughed with a bemused velvet voice.


Book: The First - Part: Two - Chapter: 19 - Installment: ii

        Sarah was on one hand impressed. On the other she felt the stunning pressure of mass scrutiny. The computer prowess of the Lazarus was staggering. The processing power behind their network was to the mainframes at the university as those same mainframes were to her laptop.
        These people are really high-tech. Like super-tech. Could they actually be running quantum processors?
        Whoever was doing their hacking was elegant.  The databases the Lazarus had direct clandestine access to was impressive.  The head of IT, Maureen Deng, had walked Sarah through.
        “You can sort through the records of Canada Post, any of the phone companies, the hospitals, VPD, RCMP or any other the other police forces across Canada, the US, Europe and – well, pretty much everywhere.  Ditto Canadian Forces and the other militaries, at least their surface level records. The secret stuff we have to hack on a case by case basis. We are all pretty much as far out on the bleeding edge of cyber security as you can get. Pretty much any database you can name, we’ve already got full instant, up to date backdoor access to. Totally over the top spy-novel fiction type access. Except it’s real.”
        Sarah was surprised at the older woman’s willingness to help – to basically give Sarah carte blanche over her silicon baby. Here Sarah was the young turk, come in to potentially show the woman up using her own system. Then again, there was no saying she would succeed. It could simply be a matter of Maureen Deng giving Sarah enough rope to hang herself with.
        Maureen sat at Sarah’s side to assist her navigating the idiosyncrasies of the Lazarus’ system, but her presence weighed heavy on the thin girl. Also observing – and no doubt ready to redirect and advise her actions were Henri, who felt like the closest thing she had to an ally in the room; a second older man, not as old as Henri, fiftyish (though Sarah was admittedly poor at guessing ages of anyone over thirty) who, though he spoke little, was treated with enough deference that Sarah didn’t need to be told that he was in charge; two other women rounded out the group – one stout, though hardly unhealthily so, who had introduced herself as the Head of Intelligence; the second woman was lean, angular, nearly as porcelaneous as Sarah and gave her the creeps.
        Sarah was accustomed used to working with no one looking over her shoulder – either alone or with someone who was otherwise distracted.
        In short order they had covered the rather obvious fact that any vein of inquiry that Sarah could recall from the opening twenty minutes of any TV police procedural had already been run as a matter of standard procedure.  Sarah was here to exercise her more creative data searching and sorting insights.
        “So the last place facial recognition has him is the bank machine – which we already know from the banking records.”
        “That’s right.”  Pamela Guerin, the Intelligence Head.  “From there the both of them have disappeared completely.  Which is not in and of itself hard for one person.”
        “It would require a certain amount of either luck, knowledge or planning to make it out of the city without getting caught on an accessible camera somewhere.”  Henri advanced the conversation. “So chances are they didn’t go far.”
        “Which means one of two things. Either they holed up in some off-the-grid surveillance blackhole – a wooded park or an abandoned building….”  Sarah's thought at Guerin’s mention sent a shiver of recollection up Sarah’s spine. “But that would be difficult to maintain with a young child.  The kid would simply get impatient.”
        “So, the other option?” Prompted Sarah.
        “A private building.  A home.  An office.  Some place secure, at least moderately comfortable and where a seven year old isn’t going to go stir crazy – or if she were to, it could be reasonably contained.”
        “If he has an ounce of survival smarts he’d ditch the kid.” The strong, angular woman.
        “That doesn’t seem to be in his playbook. I’d say he’s protecting her. Besides, she hasn’t shown up. The problem is, that assuming they have found a locked door to hide behind, it isn’t anywhere that either of them are known to be associated with.  And that, is what we want you to try to ascertain, Sarah.”
        She absorbed the information and thought for a long moment.
        “Okay, so he left the hospital…?”
        “The last confirmed contact with Edmond was around 8:15. It wasn’t until nearly nine AM that it was noted that they weren’t present.”
        “Obviously his home is out of the question.”
        “Absolutely. Though it is assumed he was there. The apartment is right around the corner from the ATM. It appeared to have been left in a hurry. Who knows what he took, beyond the rarely used credit card he used for the cash advance – the rest of his personal ID was left behind with his wallet at the hospital. In any case Edmond and the girl beat the VPD to his apartment and out again.”
        “Hmm. So, the theory is, that he has someone to turn to, who isn’t apparent from looking at the rest of his life - someone who could help them hide?”
        “That’s right.”
        “Who he would have to have contacted once he was a fugitive – ‘cause it wasn’t like he was prepared to go into quarantine.”
        “Fair assumption.”
        “So, assuming he made no calls from his apartment…”
        “No land line.”
        “And his cellphone…”
        “Also at the hospital.”
        “Well, this is obvious. You guys really didn’t need me to figure this out.”
        “For starters, which payphone is an impossible question to answer.  We can’t run voice recognition - we don’t have a sample of his voice, although we could most likely get one simply enough – but even so, calls aren’t recorded as a matter of course.”
        “You have a two hour window between when he disappeared, and when he used the teller.  There aren’t many routes by which the two of them could have crossed from VGH to the West End.  That will limit the number of phones to check.”
        “No wallet, no cell, he probably had no pocket change either.”
        “Better yet. He more than likely called after leaving his apartment.”
        As it turned out, it wasn’t Maureen Deng who felt like she was being shown up on her own turf.  Pamela Guerin, was clearly getting more agitated at each step of Sarah’s analysis of the situation. 
        “How would you propose prioritizing the phone records we check? The options are daunting.”
        “The ATM he used was a third party machine. He wasn’t heading in a specific direction in order to use his regular bank. So that implies a general direction. Say… one hundred and twenty degrees fanning out from his apartment in the direction of the bank machine?”
        “The number of phones grows logarithmically as the distance increases.”
        “He probably called sooner than later, he had to settle on a plan fast.”
        Guerin wasn’t finished critiquing Sarah’s approach.
        “You are clever, but there is one more problem with your thinking.”
        “Please.” Sarah encouraged.
        “We haven’t got a clue who he would phone. We can check all the calls made on all the phones in the search area. We are pretty much certain he wouldn’t call anyone we know he is affiliated with, so how do we know which one of those potential calls is the single one we are looking for? You can massage the data in a thousand ways, but never get an answer. You simply can’t program a computer to tease that sort of connection out.”
        Sarah refused to be snared by the sheen of antagonism.  She was being tested and refused to be thrown off by an emotional response.  Whoever these people were, she felt that she needed them and it behoved her to make them feel reciprocally.
        “You are very right. I’ve found in my experience that there are certain types of information that are best – only, even – gleaned by a certain level of intuitive assessment. Computers are the best tool for filtering and cross referencing massive amounts of data, but aren’t so good for the noise. Fortunately, the human mind is a pattern seeking wonder. That can be a hinderance – how many hours have been wasted pondering human faces on toast?  Two dots and a line under it, are just two dots and a line under it, but our minds see eyes and a mouth. But it also allows us to make connections in the absence of repetition – indeed we can see patterns in the absence of a pattern.”
        “Explain what you are suggesting please, Sarah.” Henri coaxed her back towards her main point.
        “We search the phone records digitally. Prioritize the calls by proximity and time to Edmond’s use of the ATM and in a fan pattern extending away from his apartment. Then we simply look at the data ourselves and see what stands out. We might just see something. If not, then things do get tougher.”
        By the time Sarah was done talking Maureen Deng had already initiated the search.  The data started springing up on screen for all to see.
        “Well…” muttered a pleasantly surprised Pamela Guerin.
        “Indeed, ‘well.’ Spoke up the man who was in charge. “That does seem an awful coincidence.”
        Clearly she had been right, something in the data had leapt off the screen.  Sarah herself had yet to recognize it.  She scanned the call-records, one by one down the list wondering if she’d be able to see what they had.
        And there it was – less than two dozen calls into the search – a name she recognized from the news reports about the hospital outbreak, the reporter Bev Williams.
        “Before we invade the home of an innocent party, can we corroborate the connection?” asked the man in charge.
        “Everyone knows Edmond is in recovery,” started Guerin, taking back the point position on her own job, “our information is that Williams is too.  Can we place them at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting together?  Or is the 'Anonymous' part going to pose a problem?”
        Now Sarah really got to see the computing power of the Lazarus at full throttle.  Maureen Deng started a cross-referenced facial recognition search on both Williams and Edmond going back years.  In less than sixty seconds they had a list of sixteen separate incidents where both subjects had been captured on security cameras within two blocks of one another within ninety minutes of one another.  Another, simpler search confirmed that in thirteen of those occasions, an AA meeting occurred nearby, starting and/or ending within the same ninety minute window.
        Before he left the room to follow the man in charge, Guerin and the angular woman, Henri put his hand on Sarah’s shoulder as if to say ‘you did well.’ 
        His actual words were “Someone will find a bed for you.”  She needed it.

Chapter 20


Book: The First - Part: Two - Chapter: 19 - Installment: i

        The escape was revealed shortly after three A.M. this morning when a security guard failed to check in on time during his rounds.  The massacre on the CDC ward was discovered minutes later and security authorities report that the missing quarantined patients could not have been missing long at the time of discovery.  The security schedule was simply too precise to allow for a large gap.
        The police and military have closed traffic on all bridges and tunnels and set-up a secure perimeter within Vancouver City limits.  Members of the public are recommended to stay off the streets and keep as secure as possible within their homes.
        For Canadian News Net, I am Bev Williams.


        “Shit.”  Pamela Guerin drew out the epithet like a slow leak.
        The department heads were a mixed group, bleary-eyed and still waking up, showing the effects of burning the midnight oil and in some cases piped in by video-chat.
        “I need to know all new information you have uncovered.”
        “I’ve forwarded everything I have to you already.  Mostly it's been the news as it has unfolded from VGH.  The media has done the standard digging and profiling of the major players.  Patient Zero at the hospital, Detective Shale, was not in fact patient zero.  He contracted the disease from a woman in an investigation he and his partner were conducting.  The woman’s husband, Jeremy Meyers, attacked a jogger.  It's assumed that the husband was infected too.  Shale’s partner is the missing patient – the original missing patient.  The minor he escaped with was the Meyers’ daughter.  There is no known victim before Jeremy Meyers.  And nothing in my research contradicts the press on that, but it's early in my research….”
        “Alright.  Abner?”  Marcel turned to his victamortologist. 
“Not much that I can add.  I received a copy of the autopsies of both Meyers.  Mr. Meyers’ died of uncertain causes, possibly a defensive assault from his victim or possibly the disease.  The wife was shot by Lieutenant Edmond – the officer who is missing with the Meyers’ girl.  But – and this is the strange part – both of the Meyers as well as Shale…”
        “Carry on.”
        “It's damned strange.  They – their bodies - degenerated quickly.  First into a gelatinous mess, then liquid, then they evaporated.  Bloody un-natural.”
        “Un-natural?  You are aware we fight vampires, aren’t you?”  Clayton Savage, head of a department known as Interface, whose primary duties included covering the tracks of the Lazarus group where it interfered with the appearances of a “normal” society.
        “Any information whatsoever on the decomposition?”
        “No.  In none of the initial cases were the authorities in charge of the cadavers prepared for what happened.  Apparently the gaseous final stage was pretty noxious, but that’s all we have.  Since then there has been some co-ordination.  The bleak assumption was that when the first of the quarantined victims reached that stage the CDC would be ready for it, but now… who knows where they will be when they die.”
        Marcel cast his gaze over the other department heads.  Business, and Acquisitions were both administrative and only in on the conversation as a courtesy.  Systems, Harm Reduction, T & S, Clandestine Ops and Interface were in the loop, but their purviews wouldn’t be relevant until if and when a decision on action was made. 
        The General Science department was a unique entity.  Virtually the entire department, apart from its head was made up of either outsourced advisors, or researchers who worked under other companies in the Lancaster group umbrella.  In all cases those subordinates were entirely unaware of the Lazarus’ actual purpose.  The head of General Science, Caitlyn Stone, had a tremendous capacity for sourcing the expertise needed as it was required.  Practically by definition, she was out of her depth in this circumstance.  Her responsibility was to advise on the vast array of possible known science, with the exclusion of that which was strictly known by the select few people in the world who studied the science of vampires – the Victamortology department.
        “This is an unusual situation, Marcel.  Normally Abner and my domains are only related at the fringe and by the scientific method.  But on this count it seems that the cutting edge of widely known science intersects with what you have his team working on.  As a result, for the moment our information is for all practical purposes the same.”
        “So be it.  Pamela?”
        “There is very little I’ve uncovered that the authorities are keeping a lid on.  They really have no idea where Lieutenant Edmond is.  His last known location was a bank machine a few blocks from his apartment.  That was two days ago.  He is still officially on BOLO, but the tenor at VPD is that he has slipped the net.  If they are fortunate he and the Meyers girl, Carly, may have gone to ground within city limits and may come up in the upgraded search they have for the new escapees.”
        “And what do we know about them?”
        “Not much.  We’ve got personal details on each of them, but you can be certain that the police will have their personal domains staked out tighter than our numbers could.  If we are going to find them first, we have to find a short-cut.  An alternate route.  And we have to do it fast before the disease progresses to its final stage.”
        “And they literally evaporate.”  Filled in Marcel.
        “Any chance that happened to Edmond and the girl.”
        “Can’t be ruled out entirely.”
        “You doubt it.”
        “I do.”
        “Knowing their fate could be useful.”
        “So could knowing what they know.” The head of Intelligence added.
        “While we are playing hunches…”  Henri spoke up from behind Marcel.
        “I think we may have a resource that could track Edmond and the girl down.”

Installment ii


AUTHOR'S NOTE: No I hadn't forgotten you...

So it has been since March.  Yeah, that's bad.
I swore that I was going to be moving forward more regularly.  I didn't.  And that is worse.

I have a list of things that kept me from writing, not the least of which was that I found myself in a bit of a corner that I had some trouble solving - and which resulted in a rewrite of a portion of a previous chapter (I'll note that appropriately elsewhere.).  I also went on vacation (in May) and took my laptop with me with the intention of getting a bunch of writing done, but on day three, my 18 month old daughter accidentally screwed up my boot sequence so badly that I had to wipe the whole drive (once I got home) and everything I had written up to day three was lost, while the laptop was effectively relegated to being an overweight phone and iPod charging dock for the duration of the voyage.  Once home I spent an inordinate amount of time solving a truly spectacular string of technical issues for a client - a task that took much of my evenings that I would normally be writing during.  By the time I had all that out of the way, I was truly beyond the habit of working on Necropolis at all.  I gradually worked my way back into it, refamiliarizing myself with where the story was and what the problem was that I had to solve.  I spent many nights after the light was off pondering how to get past the issue.  I never totally quit, the whole time.  Other minor issues, too trivial each on their own added up, and now here I am, in September and I haven't posted a chapter in seven months.  Yeesh!

Well, that is about to change.  At least for the moment.

I have finished part two.  There are going to be new installments, starting tomorrow and following each Friday until part two is over.  (I haven't broken it up yet, but I suspect that the two remaining chapters are going to come in a total of three parts.)

In all that time thinking, I've had some serious shuffling of ideas.  Part three is going to be focussed on something different than I had planned.  Something that was always part of the story, but not made as important as I now intend.  From there, I'm not sure what will happen yet.  I can either finish the story I had planned for Book: the First by expanding to a fourth part, or I can shift that part of the story into Book: the Second.  I'm not sure at this point which is going to be most feasible.  It will depend a lot on how complete Book: the First feels as I get to the end.  No doubt start the second volume with what was intended to be the climax of the previous book will start things off with a bang, but it might be a structural nightmare.  Only time will tell.  I may even discover a third option - who knows.
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Necropolis by Kennedy Goodkey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.
Based on a work at necropolisnovels.blogspot.com.