Red Harvest
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Previous: The Long Goodbye

Lakewood is a long stretch of nothing leading no where. The resort town got hit hard by the Spanish Influenza in 1916; all that's left now is a few empty homes and a whole lot of graves. It's got a cemetery twice the size of the whole city.

Couldn't ask for a better place to finish this.

I flip my coat collar up against the brisk morning chill and fish around in my pockets for another foil-wrapped stick of gum. The .45 is a reassuring lump against the back of my knuckles. It doesn't count for much — not against what's coming. But it's something.

The first automobiles show up early. Too early. Two topless Buicks; dark burgundy. Their engines growl with irritation as they approach the cemetery's gates. I don't need a crystal ball to know who sent them.

"Mr. Capone is not taking visitors at this time."

Twenty-four hours before I'll be standing in the middle of a cemetery, I'm sitting in a ridiculously expensive leather chair worth more green than I'll see in the span of my career. The rest of the office is just as fancy. Full of things I want to grab and smash just on goddamn principle.

The lawyer is one of the Outfit's front-men; a freshly shaven baby-face plopped between Capone and his illicit dealings. Between him and men like me. I eye him up while chewing on a fresh stick.

"That's fine." I pull the gum-wad out of my cheek and flatten it down on the chair's fancy upholstery with my thumb. "I thought he might want to know about the meat-monger helping Weiss muscle in on his territory. But if he's not concerned about some Sarkite hocking miracles to the Northsiders, I guess you're right. Ain't got a thing to chat about." I turn to go.

I just lobbed three or four key-words right into his face. For a moment, he just stares at me — slack-jawed — as his brain tries its hardest not to fry itself inside his skull.

"Wait. Ah, wait," he finally manages, voice trembling. "Just, um, wait a moment, and let me —"

I stop and fold my arms around my chest. When I turn, I 'accidentally' bump an expensive looking vase with my elbow.

The sound of it shattering on the floor is the third best thing I'll hear all day.

The Buicks circle like vultures around a carcass. They finally slip through the cemetery gate and settle on a spot about ten yards ahead. Five suits step out. The man in front is the lead; he's large and burly, with a dark coat and a painfully bright red tie.

They approach as one, weaving their way through the maze of crooked, tilted headstones. Ol' Red-Tie gives me a solid once-over.

"Mr. Hartliss, I presume."

I unwrap the stick of gum and pop it into my mouth. "That's me."

"I was told you had some information that might be of use to my employer."


Silence follows. I can feel Red-Tie's patience wearing thin. But I've got to stall — the timing on this is critical. If I get it wrong, I'll be joining the bones under our feet.


"Weiss is working with a meat-monger. He's the reason you've been having so much trouble with the North Side Gang — the Sarkites have been giving him support."

Red-Tie scowls. "Yeah? And what're the meat-mongers getting out of this deal?"

I hold my breath and lift my eyes toward the distant horizon. When I see what's coming, I start to smile.

Two cream-white Cadillacs. Both of them coming in fast.

"Why don't you ask them yourself?"

The assistant's face is perfect. Too perfect. Everything about it makes me want to rearrange it with my fists — from that chiseled jaw to those baby-blue eyes, all the way up to that ridiculously well-coiffed hair.

"Dr. Reinhardt sees no one without an appointment," he informs me, lifting that square jaw up into the air. Like he's just daring me to take my shot.

Twelve hours before I'll be standing in the middle of a cemetery, I'm in front of a door in a ritzy office building tucked away in Chicago's bustling Loop district. I've been waiting two hours to have a face-to-face with Reinhardt; after three secretaries and four referrals, I've finally managed to track him down. The only thing between him and me is this 6-foot-5 slab of beef.

"I just want to give him a message." I pull out the letter.

He holds out his palm.

"It's a three-parter. The letter gives him a time and a place. Part two is a name: Aaron Lisowski. Can you remember that?"

He snorts.

"Repeat it for me."

"'Aaron Lisowski'. Now hand it over."

I hand him the letter. He slides it into his pocket.

"Ready for part three?"

He rolls his eyes. "Yeah, sure. Whatever."

I reel my arm back and take my shot. When it connects to that solid jaw, a jolt of pain stabs down through my shoulder and straight into the socket. The sound of his skull cracking against back of that door is worth it, though. Second best thing I'll hear all day.

"Tell him Volodya says hello."

The pair of Cadillacs settle some distance away from the Buicks. Two men emerge, each flanking the third.

Reinhardt. He's a short, handsome looking fellow with an easy smile. Light-skinned, light-haired. Perfect nose. Looks a lot like the muscle-head I clocked in his office.

He shows no fear. Reinhardt's not the sort of man who's afraid to come to a meeting like this in person. It's no wonder why; I can smell the magic on him. He's the real deal — a regular Harry Houdini. Just like Volodya.

Capone's men aren't panicking — not yet. Still, they're none too happy about this new development. All their guns are out. They keep their distance, watching Reinhardt as he approaches with his two flunkies.

"The hell is this?" Red-Tie asks.

Reinhardt stops a few yards away. Capone's boys have guns; Reinhardt has magic. And me?

I've got a fast mouth. Time to use it.

"This is Doctor Reinhardt, born Aaron Lisowski." I keep one hand in my pocket, squeezing the grip of my .45. "He immigrated here in 1918, right after the war. Part of a wave of Sarkites who came over from Europe, stealing people's identities."

Reinhardt's expression is cold, but there's a hint of amusement. Capone's men can't decide which one of us to point their pistols at.

"But he hit a snag. Sarkite magic can steal your looks, but it can't steal your past. That's where Weiss comes in. He uses his criminal connections to falsify documents and clean up the details. Reinhardt brings them over and gives them a new face; Weiss gives them a paper-trail. In exchange, Reinhardt helps Weiss with his little war."

"Very good, Mr. Hartliss." Reinhardt's smile is thin and sharp; it exposes both rows of teeth. All of them perfectly white, straight, and tiny. Just like his pecker, I wager.

Red-Tie takes a step back. I don't blame him. Capone's not a fan of magic — can't imagine any of his boys signed up to deal with face-stealing flesh sorcerers.

"One thing I don't get, though. Volodya. What you did to her — it was personal. Why?"

Reinhardt lifts one immacutely plucked eyebrow. "Personal?"

"You locked her away in a dingey apartment, carved out her tongue, then spilled her guts — all without so much as giving her a stiff drink. There's ruthless, then there's cruel."

Reinhardt laughs. "I suppose you could phrase it that way."

"So why? Fill me in."

Reinhardt tilts his head. "Do you know who she was, Mr. Hartliss? What she was?"

"A Sarkite. Like you."

For one moment — just one moment — that perfect face of his is twisted up with something fierce and baleful. It's gone as fast as it comes; a brief ripple across a tranquil pond. A pond filled with piranhas.

"Not like me." Flat and hard. "Nothing at all like me."

Looks like I touched a nerve. "So, what. You're not a Sarkite, now? Could have fooled me." I sniff the air. There's magic on Reinhardt's flunkies, too. They're just as steeped in the art as Reinhardt is. Both of them are big, rough looking bastards — probably just as hard to kill as Volodya.

"Her kind is a dying breed — stagnant and obsessed with the old ways. We represent the new ways, Mr. Hartliss. A new Sarkite for a new century. We apply scientific rigor to rote and ritual, separating truth from superstition. We cull the weak from the herd."

"Alright," Red-Tie interrupts. "Look, boys, you've clearly got some issues to work out, so we'll just leave you —"

Reinhardt laughs. "None of you are going anywhere." He and his men smile. Those teeth are no longer white, small, and straight. There's also a lot more of them than there ought to be.

The ground under my feet stirs.

"That's right," I tell them. "No one's going anywhere. Not until everyone's had a chance to speak their peace."

Everything that's happened up until this point — everything — is worth it. Just for that one moment. That one moment when Reinhardt's expression goes from smug condescension to puzzlement, followed by confusion — followed by dawning horror.

Reinhardt's used to being the monster. He's used to being the thing in the shadows; he's used to being the thing that terrifies you.

But Wilhelm Reinhardt has never met Richard Chappell.

Three hours before I'll be standing in the middle of a cemetery waiting to die, I'm staring across the bar at a man with a mouth full of rusted nails, razor-blades, and broken glass. Each jagged piece replaces a tooth; when his mouth closes, their edges lock together to form a splintered, horrible whole.

Another man sits next to me, nursing his drink. Neither he nor his companion are armed. For them, carrying a gun would be like throwing matches at a forest fire.

The man ahead grinds his jaw. Sparks flash. The screech is not unlike that of a train's brakes squealing across steel. I try not to grimace.

Blood dribbles from his mouth.

"He's asking what you want to say to Chappell."

I take a long breath and close my eyes. "Weiss and Capone are having a meeting."

Corroded iron clashes against glass. I can feel the sound in my molars. My fingers squeeze the edge of that bar so hard that I expect to leave divots.


When it comes to men like this, you choose your words very carefully. You keep your head down; you play it straight. And you never, ever tell a lie. Not to men like this. Not to men who work for Chappell. Not to the Chicago Spirit.

Not unless you know precisely what lie to weave.

Something in my throat slides up and seizes hold of my tongue. When I speak, the words are not my own — but someone else's.

"They're joining forces," Volodya tells them. "Capone and Weiss want to work with Reinhardt to take down the Chicago Spirit."

The ground erupts beneath us.

Hands — wet, red hands, glistening like the moistened skin of a beached whale — tear their way out from the earth below. Capone's men start firing wildly; they scream as the hands grasp and clutch at them. I feel a brief pang of pity.

They might be bastards, but they're not magic bastards. They deserve to go out the way they expected. I slide the .45 out of my pocket and stride toward them, unloading five shots; one for each temple. As their screams are silenced, Red-Tie's slackened face looks up at me with something between gratitude and fury. The hands drag their corpses down into the splintered, cracked earth.

One bullet left. I turn to Reinhardt and his men. His flunkies are just screaming, but Reinhardt's trying to spit out some sort of spell. Won't do him any good — all the magic in the world couldn't stop what's coming. His chant is interrupted by viscera-glazed claws gouging deep into his flesh. Strip by strip, his outer shell is torn away — the expensive suit, the stylish hair, the perfect skin. Until all that's left is something wet, pink, and screaming.

The smell of rancid meat fills the cemetery.

Wisps of smoke rise from the graves. Several tombstones creak and list to the side. As Reinhardt's men go under, the doctor lunges forward to grab fistfuls of dirt. He paws frantically at the soil, trying to pull himself out. I step forward and aim the pistol at his forehead. For just a moment, our eyes meet.

I see his terror — his desperation — his fear. Silently, he begs me for the one thing he's probably never shown a single living soul in his long, miserable life. Mercy. Please.

I point the pistol away and fire.

He sinks — shrieking — into the spoiled bowels of the earth.

That final howl is the best goddamn thing I've heard all day.

The hole closes. The cemetery stills. I can still hear Reinhardt's muffled, anguished screams. Five minutes later, the screams are just whispers.

Twenty minutes later, I stop listening. In pace requiescat.

I pocket my pistol, spit out my finished wad of gum, then help myself to the brand new Cadillac waiting for me at the cemetery's gates.

"Last night, Capone left Chicago in a hurry. Nobody knows why." September doesn't bother to mask her annoyance on the other end of the phone line. "I'm guessing it might have something to do with how twenty six people disappeared in the space of a few hours, though. A few doctors, a few public officials, some business owners, seven police officers —"

"Sarkites," I tell her. "Or, I don't know. 'New Sarkites'."

"'New Sarkites'?"

"Reinhardt was babbling about it right before the end. I didn't stop to take notes or see if he had a pamphlet. Anyway, he and Volodya had some sort of falling out — I imagine she didn't take kindly to her grandson abandoning the old ways. Giving up his face, his accent, his culture —"

"His own grandmother? Are you sure?"

The lump in the back of my throat throbs.

"Yeah. Pretty sure."

"So what happened?"

"I told them to go to hell."


"They did."

"Hartliss —"

"Look, September. You wanted me to figure out how Weiss was pulling off his magic tricks, so I did. Now Reinhardt and his meat-mongers are gone. What's left to talk about? Besides where you ought to be mailing my check."

She pauses. "Mr. Gallant would prefer it if you didn't —"

"Tell Michael Gallant he can go sit on a flagpole and spin."

She sighs. "Alright, Mr. Hartliss. Thank you for your services."

I hang up the phone, flip up my collar, and fish around for another stick of gum.

Capone will be back, probably. I doubt the Outfit is done with the Windy City. As for Weiss? Without Reinhardt's help, he'll be easy pickings for men like Capone. And Chappell?

Well. The less said about him, the better.

All in all, not a bad way to make 350. Ought to keep the landlady happy for another month. I make my way down the street, chewing away at my gum — trying to ignore the burning lump that lingers in the back of my throat.

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