“Le Chapeau Rouge”

Officer O’Bannon finds more than he expects after tracking down a mysterious killer


Written by Escoffier of GAB

People often assume cops have seen it all and usually they’re right — tonight was turning out to be the exception.

The bodies lay there, limbs akimbo, throats torn out. Bright red blood shone dully from every available surface. The one thing T.V. and movies can’t convey is the smell, which hung low in the air, redolent of a slaughterhouse. Iron and trash in a disturbing mix.

The bodies themselves showed a level of savagery hard to explain, let alone understand. These were college kids, not gang bangers, found in an alley where they’d been killed in minutes, not tied to chairs in some abandoned warehouse and worked over for days with blow torches and primate-like savagery.

Officer O’Bannon felt that spot in his soul, the one that had been rubbed raw on this damned job, throb like a demon had take a cheese grater to it. Oh yeah, there were demons, as any cop could tell you after enough vino to make the veritas possible.

He ran a shaking hand over his mouth, his mustache a reassuring rasp. He peeked inside that box, the one every cop has, the one you put the bad things in until you could drown them in liquor or burn them up with sex, and closed the box with a sigh. He looked around the circle of officers, each one similarly disturbed, and then around the dank space. Something didn’t add up, and if there’s one thing cops hate, it’s the unexplained. That’s what gets you hurt.

One of the older cops gestured between the bodies. “What are those?” He was pointing at a tattoo both bodies shared of two flags overlapped, one red, one black.

“They’re antifa.” One of the rookies said.

They all knew who antifa were. Every cop did. Trustifarian assholes, college students mostly, that busted shit up and caused property damage for fun. A bunch of goddamn commies who’d gotten more than one cop hurt or fired. To O’Bannon, it was funny how those who talked big about standing up for the working man were usually soft-handed little manlets and blue-haired dykes who’d never actually worked a job. But that still didn’t explain why they’d been chopped up and left like trash.

The alley behind the row of bars on Division Street were eerily silent considering the crush of humanity partying like the damned not fifty feet away. Division Street had been a party destination back when sailors came looking for a good time while in port. It was an old school city street with an alley running in either direction and meeting in the middle.

A group of giggling females soon crashed into the space, noisy as crows and as inappropriate as breaking glass. As they stopped and then drew breath to scream, an eerie wail rose from somewhere south of the location.

O’Bannon and the other officers whirled, hearts beating wildly and guns in hand. One of the rookies discharged his weapon to withering glares from the rest of the group. The first voice had died out to be replaced by another, this one pleading and crying. Too far away to make out any actual words, just the tone of nauseated terror. The chagrined rookie gunslinger was detailed to wait with the bodies as the rest crashed down the alley toward the babbling voice.

Nearing State, they turned south in a junction alley. Unlike the previous alley, this one was only intermittently lit; O’Bannon’s biggest fear at that moment was being shot by a fellow cop.

The sounds of a struggle were clear – grunts, scuffling. A light got bumped sending crazed shadows fluttering across the space, highlighting two struggling shapes. The sleeker shape yanked its arms across the other, smaller shape and then buried its head, biting and snapping.

The officers, O’Bannon included, stood dumbstruck for a moment. Then, almost as if by silent signal, all pushed forward yelling a welter of confused commands. Come, go, stop, drop. No one person could follow all the commands, the purpose of which was to take control of madness and bring order out of chaos. They failed utterly.

He, it, whirled with a snarl. Bright green eyes blazing with intelligence took their measure as inhuman jaws dripped darkly. With regal haughtiness, the creature ignored their yelling, hopped gracefully up onto a dumpster, and then effortlessly up to the roof and faded into the inky darkness, for all the world an enormous house cat. Not one of them thought to take a shot, though O’Bannon was pretty sure he wasn’t the only one whose hands were shaking.

They decided to split up, leaving another officer with the latest victims. As they were preparing to leave, one of the cops pointed. “Look, it’s the same tattoo.” O’Bannon paused and checked. Damned if he wasn’t right. Both bodies sported the doubled flag tattoo. What the hell was going on here?

Two officers headed back down the original alley while the rest headed out to Elm street, hoping to cut off the perp’s ability to escape via rooftop. Two cops, guns out, tended to get people’s attention on a busy street and soon they were attracting a lot of attention. People were pointing, asking questions, and taking pictures with their cellphones.

One of the remaining rookies was detailed to run interference, ’bout the only thing they were really good for, then O’Bannon saw the creature shimmy down the side of a building about halfway up the block like a raindrop on a window pane. It stood for a minute, nostrils flaring, and its head moving this way and that. Ignoring all the people on the street, it stiffened and ran across the street into the cross alley between Elm and Maple.

O’Bannon took off after it; what other officers could followed as quickly as prudence allowed. Screams trailed after them as people finally reacted to the sight of the beast. Why hadn’t the monster attacked the people on the street? Was it hunting certain people? The antifa? Why? Another scream put some hustle in their steps, though they turned the corner just in time to see the creature drop another body and scamper up the wall again. Clearly it liked traveling by rooftop.

They split again, leaving O’Bannon on his own, traveling down another dark alley. There was a scuffling ahead of him, so he crept down the cramped space, sweat trickling down underarms, into his vest, making it itch. Ahead of him was a line of five dumpsters; the action was behind the last one in line.

Edging around the final dumpster, officer O’Bannon confronted a horrific scene. The creature had torn open the stomach of its latest victim, and was rooting around in there for the tasty bits. Then it froze, before turning to face him and slowly rising to its feet. The blazing green eyes drank him in, intelligence evident. Being a cop in a big city meant seeing some weird shit, but even in O’Bannon’s case, he never got entirely used to it.

It took him a moment to find his voice. “What…Who are you?” O’Bannon felt foolish. Why did he assume it could talk?

The creature studied him for a moment more before doing the oddest thing, something Officer O’Bannon had seen done in movies a hundred time before. It swept an imaginary hat off its head and bowed forward gracefully. Exactly like in the Three Musketeers.

Because the mouth wasn’t entirely human, and the creature had a heavy accent, it was hard to understand. “I am the Comte De Sprague.” It stood again.

“You mind telling me why you’re eating college students?”

It had the decency to look mildly chagrined. “Merde. Sometimes…the instincts, they are quite, how you say…strong. But my mission tonight was not merely to sate my belly but one of revenge!” Its eyes roared with hatred, and Officer O’Bannon took a step back without realizing. His hands tightened on the grip of his service weapon. He made sure his finger was off the trigger.

“Why are you killing innocent college kids?”

“Innocent?” It barked out a laugh. “Non, monsieur, non, these innocents, these antifa!” He spat. “They are murderers and worse. They have killed her…my Louise.” He choked back a sob. “And now I am doomed to wander this earth alone. Forever.”

O’Bannon could see something, some realization, creep into the things eyes. “So they killed someone you loved?” O’Bannon was trying to keep him, it, whatever, talking until the other officers rejoined him.

“Oui, monsieur, they killed my life, my love, and now I am alone.”

“But why? Why did they kill her?”

“Because we were at La Grande Affair! C’est magnifique! C’est bon!” The creature was waving like the Queen of England and tossing kisses to imaginary admirers.

“The what?”

“Your new president. Monsieur Trump. We attended his coronation with the great pride, and we each wore le chapeau rouge. It is how they recognized us as supporters. We were not as this…” He gestured at his lean furred body. “I have another form; it is how you say…the prosaic? I am two hundred and fifty years old so I am not appearing the young. Those ‘innocents,’” he laid a top spin of sarcasm and loathing on the word, “assaulted us, the nice old couple, oui? They beat us with the plumbing and took our hats. And then they laugh and call us Nazis. Us? I fight the Nazis! But my Louise, she did not survive.” He choked up again and seemed to lose the narrative thread.

“So why today? Why are you killing them today?” O’Bannon wondered where the hell everybody else was.

“Ah, oui, today they ‘beat the rap’ as you say, that phrase tres enchante, no? Today they walk free as a bird, oui? Their fancy lawyers say we call them names, what you say? Racist? Like we call them monkeys? But no monsieur, we were the happy, celebrating and from nowhere they strike and today they walk free. I could not live with this so I come, I take my revenge.”

He straightened, a strange light in his eye. “I have lived for many years monsieur gendarme, I have what you call the tired. I saw the Grand Revolution in my country go so very badly and I escaped, my ‘eart breaking. I went to Russia but again the Revolution, it went so very bad. But here, here it was different. And again, I am hoping it will return to what God himself intended.” He began to slowly walk toward Officer O’Bannon.

“Stop! Dammit! Stop or I shoot!” O’Bannon backed away slowly.

“I never knew why I was like this. If God were cruel or perhaps it was my many sins. But without my Louise I am already dead.” The creature crouched. His back arched and jaws spread impossibly wide.

O’Bannon was never able to recall the moment his finger found the trigger. The moment his sights acquired the creature. The exact moment he fired.

It wasn’t like in the movies, but death never was, after a couple of minutes a wizened old man lay crumpled in the alley. Apparently, plain old nine millimeter bullets worked just fine. No silver required. Where the hell did those old wives tales come from? They were almost never true. Almost.

Suicide by cop. Every cop had a story. After kids they were usually the saddest ones. O’Bannon sighed and got back to work.