Q&A: A Rho Seven Story
Jack Bishop sets a cup of water on the table and sits down opposite his prisoner. He smiles. “We know you sold the artifact, Boyd,” he says. “Its necromantic signature is splattered all over your shop.” He leans in close, and Boyd can see the arcs of electricity dancing in his eyes. “Now, look; maybe you didn’t know what it was you were selling. Hell, I could buy that. A guy in your line of work probably sees all kinds of crazy old statues come through the shop. Can’t expect you to catch all the dangerous ones, right?” The woman in the corner with a sledgehammer draped across her muscular shoulders scoffs and mutters “Bullshit,” under her breath. Bishop acts like he didn’t hear her. “So how about you help us out here, Boyd,” he says. “Who’d you sell the idol to?”
“I sold it to ‘None of your Goddamn Business,’” says Boyd. “I don’t know who you two think you are, but you ain’t cops, and your girlfriend back there ain’t gonna scare me into ratting out a customer. Nice hammer, sweetheart.”
The head of the mallet drops to the ground with a heavy thud as the woman spits into her palms and rubs them together. “Five minutes, Bishop,” she says. “Give me five minutes and I’ll have whatever’s left of him singing like a canary.”
Bishop waves his arm, and a barrier of electricity crackles into existence, blocking the woman’s approach. “Whoa, calm down, you two. There’s no need for all that. Boyd’s a good guy; I’m sure we can work this all out. Tell you what, I’m gonna go grab us all some coffee. When I get back, we’ll put our heads together and see if we can come to some sort of agreement. Ursula, you mind keeping an eye on our friend here?”
Ursula chokes up on the handle of her hammer. “With pleasure,” she says with absolutely no pleasure. Bishop gets up and heads to the door, seemingly unaware of his partner murder-eyeing their prisoner. His electric barrier sputters out as the door closes.
BOOM! The table splinters under a vicious overhand assault from Ursula’s sledgehammer. “WHO DO YOU WORK FOR!?” she roars into Boyd’s face.
Boyd topples over in his chair and scrambles away from the madwoman. “Hey! Whoa! Who do I—what? Ain’t you supposed to ask about the idol?”
BOOM! Another blow and the table splits in half. Ursula charges through the wreckage, grabs Boyd by the shirt collar, and hoists him into the air with one hand. “Don’t you tell me what to tell you to tell me!” She yells as she brings the head of her hammer up to press against Boyd’s throat. “Answer me, maggot! WHERE ARE THE CODES!?”
Boyd struggles for breath as the hammer presses up against his trachea. “What the hell, lady,” he gasps. “I feel like you’ve seen interrogations on TV before, but you don’t really understand what they’re for.”
“SWEAR TO ME!” she growls, and Boyd flinches back from her spray of saliva. The pressure beneath his chin increases. He can feel the drumbeat of his pulse throbbing in his ears. The hammer’s pressed against his carotid artery and darkness is creeping in along the edges of his vision.
“Knock knock,” comes a strangely accented voice at the door; a lanky, begoggled man in a black, oilskin coat is peering around the frame. “Sorry to interrupt, Ursula, but your mother is on the phone.”
Color floods back to Boyd’s world as Ursula drops him to the floor and blood rushes back to his oxygen-deprived brain. “Ooh, I’ve gotta take this. Erasmus, you mind keeping an eye on this scuzzball?”
“Not at all, dear.” Ursula rushes out, slamming the door with enough force to crack the frame. Erasmus glides past the wreckage of the table to help Boyd up off the ground. “My apologies for Ursula, friend. She means well, but she does tend to do her thinking with that hammer. Now let’s see here.” He flips through Bishop’s notes making interested noises. “Ah! A simple information retrieval? Child’s play! They waste all this time, when I could get the answers in ten minutes with a handful of electrodes and a blender. But like, one of those really good ones that they sell in the infomercials, you know? So, how often do you suppose you use your left cerebral hemisphere?”
Erasmus smacks his own forehead. “Of course, silly me. The memories could be stored anywhere! You’re right; better take the whole thing just to be safe.” Boyd, still pretty out of it from the near asphyxiation, watches in horror as Erasmus whips an electric bone saw out of nowhere and switches it on. “Now hold very still,” he says. “If you move it’ll scrape against the bone at a weird angle, and new blades for this thing are, like, stupid expensive!”
The door flies open again, and a man in a rumpled overcoat walks in. “Hey, Erasmus, your assistant just called. He said to tell you, ‘It has awoken.’ Then there was just a bunch of screaming and wet, crunching noises until the line went dead.”
Erasmus switches off the bone saw and disappears it back to whatever hidden pocket it came from. “Ooh, I’ve gotta take this. Raincheck! Hey, could you—”
The man waves him off. “No problem, I’ve got this.” Erasmus glides out the door, and the new arrival spins a chair around backwards and sits down, resting his arms on the chair back. “Hey, buddy. How’s it going? That asshole Bishop had his chance with you, so now we’re gonna do things my way. Name’s Bullock,” he says, extending his hand. Boyd shakes it warily. “Look, I know how you black market types work. Gotta give something to get something, right? So what do you want, man? Money? I can get you money. You want your criminal record wiped? I’ve got a Cipher that owes me a favor, I can make that happen. Come on, man. Just give me a name before Bishop gets back. I want the credit on this—” The overhead lights start to flicker, and Bullock pauses mid-sentence. “Shit! He’s on his way back. Quick, gimme a name! Dammit, no time.” He jumps up and rushes for the door. “Fine, whatever. Just don’t give Bishop the name either, okay? And don’t tell him I was here!”
The door swings closed, and another man steps out from behind it. A familiar man. “Privet, tovarishch,” he says as he unplugs the camera on the wall.
“Vlad! Christ, am I glad to see you. These people are maniacs! We’ve gotta get out of here. How’d you find m—”
“Vlad?” says Vlad. “Nyet. You do not know Vlad. You have never heard of Vlad. How fortunate for you, Boyd.” Vlad pulls a small, metal object from the inner pocket of his coat. It unfolds into a razor-sharp sickle, which he drags across the wall as he approaches. “I hear Vlad is dangerous man. Man who keeps track of his associates. Man who can make things happen to people who disappoint him. To their friends. Their families. Such terrible things. Am I understood?” Boyd just nods, terrified beyond the capacity for speech. Vlad smiles. “Da. Is good.” He slips the sickle back in his pocket, plugs the camera back in and slips out the door, mouthing “Do skoroy vstrechi, Boyd,” on his way out.
“Sorry about the wait. There was a heck of a line at the coffee machine.” Bishop backs through the door, doing his best not to spill. He turns, looking around at the shattered table and scattered chairs, and the clearly terrorized prisoner. “Wow, what’d I miss?”
Boyd slaps the coffee out of Bishop’s hands and drops to his knees in front of him. “Please,” he begs, “I’ll tell you anything you want to know. You want names? I got names. Not just the idol, either! I sell relics and weird, creepy $#&@ to all kinds of shady people. I’ll give ‘em all to you. Just let me outta this @#$&ing madhouse!”
“What’d I tell you,” Bishop says to his team as they watch Boyd through the one-way mirror, frantically scribbling names down on a legal pad. “The ol’ ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop, Weird Cop, Prick’ routine works every time. Great job, guys!” Everybody seems quite pleased by a job well done, even Bullock who seems to think he’d been playing the Good Cop.
“Molodéts, Bishop,” says Vlad, patting him on the shoulder. “An interrogation worthy of KGB.”
“Vlad! Hey, buddy. I thought you had the day off.”
“Da,” he says, watching Boyd through the glass. “Just needed to take care of something real quick.”
For more adventures with the rapidly rotating roster of Chapter Rho Seven, tune in to the Dead Gentlemen Game Night, the first Monday of every month on YouTube and Google Hangouts.