I laughed. “Oh my god. Cavvy? That’s seriously you?”
He smiled at me wearily. “Who else would I be? It’s Detective now, by the way. Special Detective Dante Salvo.”
“Psh,” I wave him away. “Who gives a fuck? You’ll always be Cavvy to me.”
Cavvy smirked. “Careful now, citizen. I could arrest you if I wanted. Contempt of cop.”
I snorted. “Like you’d ever do it. You’re way too stiff and straight-laced to ever be the crooked type.”
“I don’t know,” he said only semi-seriously. “They say the city gets to everyone eventually.”
Some of us faster than others, I couldn’t help but think. I know I shouldn’t have been happy. I know I should’ve realized how much trouble this’d get me in down the line. Meeting your best friend again after fourteen years, except now you’re on opposite sides of the law. It was like a bad joke. No, maybe that’s what I wanted to think it was. And the punchline would be me winning Cavvy over to our side, or him revealing he was already a dirty cop. Or maybe he would’ve won me over, and straightened me out. Made me give up this life of crime. The answers are never that easy, though.
But the thought of that never crossed my mind. I was just happy to see my family again.
“Come ‘ere, you!” I said, pulling him into a hug and kissing him on both cheeks.
“Uhhhh..” Officer Thompson finally interrupted. “You two… know each other?”
Sostene didn’t say anything, but you could tell he was thinking the same. I let Cavvy go.
“We were friends when we were kids,” I explained. “We used to play together, eat together. Practically grew up together. Annie used to have a huge crush on him.”
“Annie?” Cavvy asked, looking confused.
“Yeah, Annie. You know, my sister Annie?” I said disbelieving. “I know you hardly ever saw her because she was always too embarrassed to talk to you, but come on! You gotta remember Annie.”
He didn’t respond for a second, but then his eyes lit up. “Oh! Little Anastasia! I can’t believe I almost forgot about her!”
He faked smacking himself on the head. I grinned.
“You sure you’re not going senile there, Cavvy ol’ boy?”
“Why do you keep calling him that?” Sostene asked.
I turned to look at Sostene. “It was our nickname for him back in the old country. Short for cavaliere, ‘cuz whenever someone was in trouble he’d always try to rush in like he thought he was the cavalry, stickin’ his nose in everyone’s business. Guess he thought he was gonna be just like daddy one day~”
Cavvy coughed. “In case you haven’t noticed, I do have my pin now.”
“Wait, doesn’t ‘cavaliere’ mean ‘knight’?” Thompson asked. “What’s that about?”
“Wait, you seriously don’t know?” I asked. “He didn’t tell you?”
Cavvy pinched the bridge of his nose. “Oh here we go…”
“He never used to shut up about it,” I said, continuing. “See that pin on his chest? The motto, Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum? That’s the insignia of the Knights of Malta. His family’s been in the order for generations. It means-”
“In defence of the faith and assistance to the poor,” Cavvy said, sighing. I grinned ear to ear.
“Of course they’re really nothing more than a glorified humanitarian organization nowadays,” I said. “They barely have enough soldiers – excuse me, knights – left to fill three brigades. Can you believe that when we were kids he always used to think that he was gonna grow up and ride around on a horse slaying dragons and rescuing princesses?”
Cavvy grasped my shoulder firmly. He looked mad.
“The Sovereign Military Order of Malta still does more good for the world than you ever will,” he said defensively. “What do you even do, Al? What kind of job do you have?”
“Uhhhhhh…” I said, trying to think of some convincing lie. I couldn’t tell him I worked at the hospital. Cavvy was a cop now, he’d see through that one right away if he ever bothered looking. But what else could I say that wouldn’t make me look like a bum or guilty?
Thank Zeus and Lycaon for Officer Thompson, because if it wasn’t for those ears of his I think that conversation would’ve ended right then and there. Instead, his fluffy little tiger ears perked up and he hollered, “Time’s up, you two! Coffee’s on.”
Saying no more, he headed inside. We all looked at each other.
“Don’t look at me,” I said. “I just got invited here.”
Apparently Cavvy didn’t really want to know what I did for work that badly, because all he did was shrug and head inside the station. I sighed with relief.
“Y’know, I’m reminded of something the boss said once,” Sostene said as he watched Dante walk away.
“Yeah? What’s that?” I ask.
“Don’t shit where you eat, Al,” Sostene said, patting me on the back before he walked in too.
I slammed the cruiser’s passenger side door as Sostene and I crawled into the back of the car, careful not to upset the burning cup of coffee I now held in my hands. I blew on it and accidentally splattered some on the back of Thompson’s headrest, making him flinch. He looked at me.
“Don’t you spill that lava in my car. It ain’t my fault you poured from his pot,” he said, pointing at Cavvy.
I took a sip, and almost immediately spat it out as soon as it touched my tongue, spraying hot coffee all over Officer Thompson. He yowled, hissing and pawing at his face.
“The fuck’d you do to this coffee, Cavvy?” I asked, reaching for a cream-filled donut to soothe my tongue. I took a bite. “Heat it with a goddamn blowtorch?”
“I like my coffee like I like my women,” he said as I groaned at his stupid cop joke. “Hot, sweet, and-”
“-all over your pants?” I said, finishing for him. “Because that’s where I’m about to pour this shit. This is too damn hot.”
“Yeah well, some of us like something that’ll keep us awake when we’re on the job.”
“Yeah, and burn your tongue clean off,” I muttered. “As for me, I like my women to give me a little kick in the ass.”
I nodded as I reached into my jacket. Here’s looking at you, Theo. I unscrewed the top off my flask, then remembered I was in the back of a police car.
“You uh… you mind?” I asked Cavvie. He glared at me.
“Yes I mind,” he said sternly, snatching away my hootch.
“This is against the law, Al,” he reminded me. “Where did you even get this?”
“Company function,” I said, lying through my teeth.
“Figures. Those Wall Street fatcats think they can just bend the law…” he said, muttering. “I’m confiscating this. Be grateful I’m not going to fine you for it.”
“Alright, Officer Killjoy,” I said, grumbling. I kicked back with my donut, waiting for the coffee to cool. Thompson finished wiping his face with the napkin from the bakery box and turned on the radio.
“-still reeling from the shock of this cataclysmic event. Initial reports place current estimates at nearly 800,000 dead and over 150 million injured in the state of Arizona and various shock points around the world, making this the most devastating natural or magical disaster of the last sixteen years. The tremors are said to have been worldwide-”
“Jesus, can you believe this shit?” Officer Thompson said about the radio. “The entire damn state is gone. Whoever did this shit, I hope someone hangs them with their own fucking guts.”
I chewed a little slower, trying not to let it show. Of course he didn’t know. And we couldn’t tell him here. That it was Nayeli. That we were there when it happened.
“Amen to that,” Cavvy said, sipping his coffee. “See, this is why we need stricter demihuman regulation laws if we want justice for-”
“Whoawhoawhoawhoawhoa,” Thompson said. “Stop right there. Guys like me and Sostene ain’t got nothing to do with this shit.”
“So? Can you honestly tell me that you don’t think the world would be safer if people who could do stuff like this weren’t behind bars? Or at least back in the forests or Mt. Olympus where they belong.”
“How do you even know it was a demihuman, huh?” Thompson said angrily. “Maybe it was just a bunch of humans messing around with magic they shouldn’t have.”
“Humans couldn’t do something like this,” Cavvy said. “Not without help. It’d take decades to build a ritual big enough to do this, and you’d need to have more money and manpower than all the five families put together.”
“So what, you’d just have us all thrown in prison, is that it?”
“No!” Cavvy said. “But I would make sure the people who were capable of doing stuff like this weren’t allowed to live in places where they could hurt innocent people! I’d make the gods take them back!”
“So yeah, you’re just gonna throw us all in prison, put us in camps! Just like the Spanish!”
“Yeah, that’s seriously not kosher,” Sostene said, talking for the first time.
Cavvy put his arm around the headrest and looked back at me. “Al, back me up here.”
I threw my hands up. “Hey, don’t look at me to back up your crazy ‘build a wall’ plan. I’m a demihuman too.”
“What?” Dante said, acting surprised. “No way!”
I pulled out my card. “Read it and weep. Only… don’t use it as an excuse to have me picked up. My powers aren’t really the type that’d protect me from inside a jail cell.”
I joked, but the threat was all too real. Discrimination against demihumans for… accidents like the ones that seem to follow us around lately accounted for more than fifty to sixty percent of arrests these days. Sometimes it was warranted. Sometimes it was because a cop just needed a target no one would defend.
But not Cavvy, I thought. If he’s anything, it’s so hung up on the rules that he’d never be unfair to anyone.
Cavvy stared at my card. “You’re… a medium, huh? With the power of memory recall. Funny, I could’ve sworn I was gonna look at that card and see vampire. That’s how most of the cases go. When someone who didn’t use to be demihuman turns out to be one, I mean.”
He cast a suspecting eye at Sostene. I raised my eyebrow. Well, maybe not. The city does get to everyone eventually.
“See?” Cavvy said to Thompson. “That’s what a responsible demihuman citizen looks like. He carries his card with him.”
“Oh give it a rest!” Thompson snarled. “I’m a cop! The way I see it, I should get to enjoy certain privileges.”
He folded his arms, pouting. Good. He had the good sense not to say anything about me or Sostene-
“Besides,” he said, pointing at us. “If you only knew what these two chuckleheads get up to when you’re not looking-”
Sostene and I both jumped to shut him up, shoving donuts at his open mouth.
“What’s he talking about?” Cavvy asked.
“Nothing, nothing! It’s nothing!” I said, hoping Bobbie would take the fucking hint. Just a few… rowdy nights out, that’s all. Bobby already cleaned us up, we paid our dues. Isn’t that right, Bobbie?”
Cavvy looked at us funny, then grumbled and folded his arms. “Well, whatever. But you agree with me right? We gotta do something. Maybe a less extreme solution exists, but we can’t just allow maniacs who do stuff like this to keep roaming free!”
“Well… maybe they don’t mean to do it,” I said without thinking. Immediately, I knew I had made a mistake.
“So… maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to judge,” I said. “Maybe we should cut them some slack. They’re not trying to hurt anyone, right?”
I didn’t get it. Why was I defending her? I couldn’t even say for sure if she was really sorry for what she’d done. But something about the whole situation just felt-
“That’s unfair, Alfonso,” Cavvy said. “How do you think the victims of that attack would feel if you told them that? That the one who killed them all, cut their long lives short and ripped their family members away from them, shouldn’t be punished just because they’re ‘sorry’? Because ‘they didn’t mean to’? What if it was you and Annie who’d been in that attack? Would you have forgiven them?”
I bit my tongue. We were in that attack, I wanted to say. But I couldn’t let him know that.
“Why do you think manslaughter is a criminal offense, Al? What you meant to do or the mistakes you might have made are irrelevant. All that matters is the result. The law must treat everyone equally.”
Cavvy sat back in his seat, folding his arms. “This is why demihumans are dangerous. It’s this very line of thinking. That just because someone didn’t mean to do it means we should forgive the crime or alter the punishment. They present too great a threat for unintentional, uncontrolled violence to be allowed to just walk around without any regulations.”
“But we have regulations!” I shot back.
“Then we need better ones!” Cavvy snapped. “Do you know how many people I’ve seen get hurt because of magic and demihumans since I’ve started this job, Al? Since I arrived in this city? I’ve had to clean up more bodies than anyone should ever have to, me and Bobbie both. You think this is unfair? Ask him what he knows about demihumans in this city.”
“Alright Bobbie,” I said. “Waddya got to say about that?”
I sat back, confident that Thompson would back me up here. He and Sostene both. Nayeli was a pain, but she was still a part of the family as far as I was concerned.
But they were quiet. Both of them. Even Sostene, who I was sure I could count on to defend one of our own.
“Hey, come on,” I said, slightly less confident. “You… don’t actually agree with what he’s saying, do you Bobbie?”
Thompson sighed. “I won’t say if I agree with him or not. But…”
“But he’s got a point,” Sostene said. “And we both know it. Bobbie, you’ve got your harnesses all fixed up for you and your little girl, right? Full moon’s coming soon.”
Officer Thompson lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply, breathing out a cloud of rough smoke.
“Yeah. Had to adjust little Mary’s this year. She’s been growing so much. You want me to fix up yours too?”
“Please,” Sostene nodded, taking a cigarette from Thompson. “Maybe you can make it a little tighter this month?”
“Hold on, hold on,” I said. “Slow down. What do you mean ‘harnesses’? What are you talking about?”
“Protection, Al,” Sostene said, fruitlessly spinning the ignition wheel of his lighter. “For us and everyone else.”
I looked to Officer Thompson to explain. He sighed.
“Look, kid, you’re a medium, and one with a pretty harmless power to boot. Do you have any idea how lucky that makes you?” Thompson said. “You can take a walk down the street and nobody’ll know what you are. Nobody can finger you in a case you had nothing to do with it and say, ‘I’m sure it was him! That freak killed my husband!’ just because you got the same claws or the same fangs or the same magic as some other bozo. People don’t like you, but they’ll never be able to blame you. The rest of us aren’t so lucky.
“Those harnesses me and Sostene were talking about? They’re for lunar madness. Guys like me and my little girl who are a little furrier than the rest of you, we get a little stir-crazy around the full moon. If we don’t straitjacket ourselves, people might get hurt.” Officer Thompson smudged the butt of his cigarette against his palm, wincing. “You were right about one thing. We can’t help it. But we can take responsibility for our actions. If we say we don’t want to hurt nobody, we damn well better act like it, something this mook has clearly never heard of doing.”
“You see? Prohibition exists for a reason, Al. It’s the only reason we haven’t ended up like Africa yet, or worse, Australia.”
I bit my tongue. It’s not like that, I wanted to say. It’s not the same. We tried, we did everything we could to minimize the damage. But I couldn’t rightly say that. Not without admitting to being there.
“What if they were fighting someone else who kept pushing them to the limit?” I said. “What if things just escalated really quickly?”
Cavvy raised a suspicious eyebrow. “That’s… an awfully specific scenario you’ve concocted there. Mind telling me exactly how you came to that conclusion?”
I froze, stuck to my seat like glue. It was like waking sleep paralysis. Oh crap. Oh crap oh crap oh crap.
“Well…” I started without knowing where I was going with this. My pupils dashed around the car frantically, looking for a point to latch on to.
I gulped. “… the thing is, it’s like feedback.”
“Yeah, like in an electrical circuit. You couple part of the output signal into the input circuit and it amplifies the output. It feeds into itself. A feedback loop. So in this case, if this mage or demihuman was fighting another mage or demihuman, or maybe even some kind of monster, we can model the input as aggression from party A to party B. The output would then be turned into violence, which would circle back and amplify aggression. When the next circuit or attack is complete, aggression is higher, so violence becomes higher, for both of them. They just keep feeding into each other until one of them breaks and the circuit is disrupted.”
Cavvy considered this. “Interesting… but it still doesn’t explain why you’re assuming this was a fight at all. Why couldn’t it just be some random act of terrorism? In fact, that’s what this person should be labeled. A terrorist.”
Sostene ribbed me, hard. This was my cue to stop. But for some reason I didn’t want to. I wanted to see this through. Allesandris look out for their own.
“So Al? What’s your explanation?” Cavvy interrogated me.
“Humans and demihumans act based on self-interest. Anything we do, we do because we expect that it will benefit us somehow, either in the immediate future or the far-off one. What would anyone stand to gain from this? There’s been no statements or admissions of guilt from the perpetrator, so this isn’t an act of terrorism meant to further some agenda, and as far as we know, there was nothing at the bottom of that crater worth having. Just magma. So if a demihuman was involved, it had to be a fight.”
Sostene ribbed me again, even harder.
“What?!” I hissed, still pretty pissed off that he didn’t have my back here. He tapped the face of his wristwatch. I checked mine, and remembered the feeling I’d just experienced trying to explain myself to Cavvy.
I swung open the door, dinging it on a lamp post.
“Hey!” Thompson shouted.
“Sorry fellas but I gotta beat it! I’ve got an appointment I gotta keep!”