Amber Consulting Firm eventually learned to send us hunters in with some highly illegal devices along the lines of EMP tools that are talked about in books and movies and in secret by the government.
Yeah, that shit does exist. The stuff is wicked cool and cooks chips handled by dips quite successfully. By chips I mean camera and cell phone, backup computer chips, the types of chips put into little things like your ultra-new car that is run purely by computer chips -- you seeing the trend right? As for dips, well, that would be the walking and talking sort of humans that stayed too close to the very monsters they wanted me to disperse from their edge of the world. Electromagnetic pulses came from the instrument.
With one short burst of energy from a small black directional box no bigger than a cigarette package that scrambled many electronic toys (not to mention anyone with a pacemaker would be seriously challenged) if zapped -- was a worthy, and potentially lethal weapon. It pretty much fried cell phones, fancy watches, recorders and a wide variety of electronic things.
The tool that my handlers paid somebody to design kind of looked like a garage door opener. It had a few buttons that had different functions. The first click sent home a short message that the device was in use, and shot a GPS code up to some unseen satellite that immediately relayed the spot to the handlers so they could send help. The second button pushed was what fried everything in an arc around whoever was holding the device in a wide range.
* * *
Sitting on the cot with my back against the cinder block jail cell wall, I remembered an incident when this one guy had been using his cell phone, trying to send a video of the creature that had been menacing the town. He caught with his phone my arriving just in time to get between him and the troll that was ready to pounce and devour the gangly man. The man stupidly stood behind me lining up his shot, while the troll dropped his glamoured features and instantly there was a really scary ass monster. I was standing in front of him with my bag of tricks, and I grabbed out the EMP device. I toggled the buttons while gesturing for the man to move back.
The man's scream had been loud enough to make me a bit jumpy, but from the look on the creature's drooling face, the troll thought he was going to be able to handle both of us. The man ran, and like the idiot he had quickly proved to be, he ran away from my back and towards the rough brush and shrubs that gave way to trees. The troll practically leaped the distance, snarling with excitement at the idea of a chase. The man was still holding his cell phone while running faster, shrieking in an extremely high octave, "Who the hell hit me with lightning?"
It had dawned on me that in fact, lightning was nature's natural EMP. The energy from a lightning strike had the same signature and pretty much equally disastrous results on mechanical devices and humans. The man still bolted for the trees with his hair standing upright and his eyes shock-filled. He spun around just as the troll reached out with claws. Sadly, the man didn't continue to try to reach the trees, and before I could line up my shot to kill the troll, the human was cut off mid-scream and his neck was fatally snapped.
Then I was able to get off a shot or three and the troll fell. For once, some of my threadbare luck had held. The troll, in his human form, was more along the lines in appearance of a mild-mannered insurance adjuster. Balding, squinting myopically through thick eye glasses while fish belly white skin sloughed around the edges -- which is not a single bit of how he appeared without his glamour. And to my happy surprise, when I killed him he was still gloating from slaughtering the man, and didn't fully adjust his glamoured feature. His true nature had been somewhat visible on his face -- his eyes were dirty yellow-green with flecks of black in the irises making him look more than a little demonic. His skin wasn't pure fish belly white, but molted with some shades of green and disturbing bits of gray that were flaking off around the edges. Not a good look for humans, dead or alive.
So I had ended up only with a brief stay in that jail, because the small town coroner refused to do an autopsy on the troll. It was a very small township and the coroner was also the local pastor. The terrified man had declared the troll to be possessed by the devil and walked out of the autopsy room with the sheriff tagging after him. The coroner was also the sheriff's brother-in-law, again reinforcing that it was a tiny town -- giving Sam the chance to send in a cleanup crew. I was still locked up when Sam had cleaned up my mess. The human was also snagged at the same time. No bodies, no crime.
The cell phone had also 'disappeared,' along with both of the bodies. At that time Amber Consulting Firm had yet to be reborn with its current name, but it didn't matter, since the names of the agency of my handlers was changing all the time to other somewhat-clever names as the tides turned on their generic branding choices. They really were bad at finding names for each reincarnation of the company. Nevertheless, the family of the man who had been slain by the troll found themselves the unexpected recipients of a rather obscenely generous life insurance policy sent out by the company, to keep them from prying too deeply into the graphic death and subsequent box of ashes handed over with the check. The man's mom had expressed her stunned disbelief, saying something along the lines of "How the fuck did my loser son get two nickels together much less hundreds of dollars to get such a payout?"
There wasn't anything to reply to such a comment, but I gathered from what I'd read in the files later that the mom pretty much summed up her own flesh and blood as unemployable and undesirable to most folks -- of which I was pretty sure she included herself as one of his few 'loved ones' just because of the payout, as she had called the life insurance. It seemed that her son had been one of the fringe sorts of amateur photographers who were constantly scrabbling for attention from the world by any means. The YouTube hopeful pretty much secured his own tragic history by not fleeing when he got a chance. To the rest of the world his death was written up by a local rag as a horrific death in a cabin out in the woods that went up in flames after a thunderstorm rolled through with many lightning strikes. I'd found that touch a tad overwrought, but at the same time it was somewhat true if you left out the claws. Sam pulled out all the stops when making a good back story, and he had known the locals weren't going to challenge him after all that happened.
Grumbling, that little town had sprung me and I barely resisted sketching the cops a jaunty wave as I rapidly fled. And I did flee. I called up Sam from some archaic pay phone around the corner from the cop shop (since I'd fried my own cell phone with the EMP gadget which was a major part of the job hazard) and he had quickly arranged for me to leave town. But not until asking, "Delilah, how is it you always get in these situations?"
The cops had reluctantly returned most of my confiscated belongings, but later it had turned out that some of the high tech stuff mysteriously disappeared from the locked evidence room. At the time I didn't care, because I knew perfectly well that Sam would send someone in to collect the missing weapons. Breathing the static-storm filled night air had been great, and I hadn't been planning on sticking around to see what was going to happen. Soon I'd caught a ride out to the nearest local small Piper-and-Cherokee-friendly airport, which had allowed a small company plane to land. Not everyone in the town had thought I was evil, and one of the bartenders had been called by Sam and paid well to drop me off on the edge of the tarmac after I gulped down a vendor machine water with a packet of crackers. I didn't waste any time, I grabbed my carryall and flew out in the late evening a few hours after I'd been released.
The logistics of returning my rental car and checking me out of the motel had been in Sam's capable hands. While I was stuck flying in a nearly claustrophobia-causing small plane, I was also avoiding any pesky paper trail. Even not being a fan of small planes, I didn't complain at all with the huge storm rolling in the distance, active amounts of lightning chasing each other to hit trees, and from what I could see, the ground. The town was minus one citizen of a murky background and one nasty troll who'd just stopped off to feed for a few weeks in their town.
* * *
San Diego was shaping up to be a small town dressed up like a real city. I'd been pretty much ignored for the first three hours, edging into the way o'dark hours, when a somewhat rumpled man showed up outside my cell. He mumbled his name after making sure to pronounce the title Doctor rather clearly. He didn't offer a card or an explanation of what sort of doctor he was. He took out a small notebook and a small pencil. It looked like one I'd seen golfers use on score sheets. I wasn't sure if he was trying to make an impression that he was just off the golf course in the middle of the night or he was afraid to have a pen near a prisoner. I figured him for a shrink once he started asking me questions of a curious nature.
I didn't offer much in the way of explanations or observations. I stuck to vague and non-threatening replies, not over-sharing. I'd never found it worth my time to chit-chat with those who could lock you up indefinitely. Homeland Security leaving everything wide open to terrorism interpretations -- for anything that was hard to explain -- gave cops far more leeway with stuffing folks like me away in a cell for years.
He kept nodding and sketching out some words from his fuzzy-headed brain near as I could tell. It didn't really matter what he wrote, because Sam, or whoever was in charge, would make it disappear. It was not like the cop shop shrink would ever get to see this little scrap of nothing report show up in court much less a trial. I just had to pretend that I was reluctantly complying with the commands. Because I knew sooner or later, the local cops would come in and look like they just thrown up in their mouths, and hustle me out of this crappy ass shithole.