LOCKUP: “HAUNTED” SCRANTON
My novels in what I call the “Haunted Scranton” series include Hard Spell (2011) and the recently-released Evil Dark (with the third, Known Devil, due out in the fall). The books are set in an “alternate universe” in which supernatural forces really exist, and everyone knows it. Supernatural creatures are “out of the coffin” and accepted (more or less) as members of society. But sometimes even supernaturals (known as “supes,” especially to cops) break the law. When they cross the line in Scranton, PA, they have to deal with my protagonist, Sgt. Stan Markowski of the Scranton Police Department’s Occult Crimes Unit. Now I’ll let Stan speak for himself:
This is the city: Scranton, Pennsylvania. It’s a nice place to live and raise a family, even if your next door neighbor might be a werewolf, or the pale guy down the street only comes outside after dark. It’s not against the law to be a supe, or to act like one. But when a vamp puts the bite on an unwilling victim, or some witch casts the wrong kind of spell, that’s when they call me. My name’s Markowski. I carry a badge.
When a supe is busted in my town, the procedure is the same as it is for humans – more or less. At arraignment (which is a kind of preliminary hearing) the judge will set bail – or deny it, in some cases. The amount of bail (or whether it’s even offered at all) depends on the seriousness of the offense, whether the accused has a criminal record, and whether the supe in question can be considered a “flight risk” who won’t show up for trial. And in my line of work, when you call somebody a “flight risk,” you sometimes mean it literally.
A supe who’s denied bail (or who can’t come up with the scratch to pay a bail bondsman) ends up in the Lackawanna County Jail, until trial. Like every other jail in America (in the whole world, probably), ours is divided into two sections: the human wing and the supe wing. The area for human prisoners is just what you’d expect – a series of small rooms with bars on the door. But the supe wing is a little … different.
For one thing, not all the cells are the same – for the simple reason that not all supes are the same. The cells in the vampire section all have silver bars (and you can imagine how much that costs the county). And just in case a vamp prisoner gets rowdy, recessed into the ceiling, behind silver mesh, are lights that are controlled at the Correction Officers’ station. Flick a switch, and Bela gets a dose of ultraviolet light that’s the exact same wavelength as sunshine. That quiets an unruly vamp down pretty quick.
Now, if your prisoner is one of the fey – whether fairies, trolls, elves, or gnomes -- then he gets a cell with bars made of cold iron (which are a hell of a lot cheaper than silver, let me tell you).
Doesn’t matter how tricky or sneaky one of the little bastards is. Once those doors of cold iron slide shut, he’s not getting out until a C.O. allows him to.
Sometimes you’re confining a witch or wizard. Practicing magic isn’t a crime – heck, we’ve got a consulting witch, Rachel Procter, working for the Police Department. I don’t know what we’d do without her. But the practice of black magic is a felony. You can’t hurt people with white magic, but with black magic you sure as hell can, and plenty of people do. That’s why it’s illegal. So, if you’ve got a magic practitioner as your guest at the jail, the first thing you do is search him or her real thoroughly. You want to make sure that no kind of magical implement, no matter how small, is going into that cell with the prisoner. They once had some wizard who had designed a wand that would telescope down, like an old-style radio antenna, until it as only six inches long. You probably don’t what to know how he tried to smuggle it into the jail – but they found it anyway. Like I said, the search the guards do is thorough.
In addition to taking away all potential magical devices (including any writing implements that might be used to make occult symbols on the floor or wall), the county hired the most powerful wizard in the Northeast to cast an anti-magic spell on those cells. Proof of its power is the fact that no wizard or witch has ever escaped from the Lackawanna County Jail.
These days, all the Corrections Officers wear amulets around their necks designed to combat any kind of magical or demonic influence. That practice began after a succubus managed to escape a few years ago, by making the guards so horny they started fighting with each other over who would get to do her first. While they were so engaged, she walked right past them and disappeared into the night. But nothing like that will happen again.
Scranton has laws, like any other city, and they have to be obeyed. If you’re a human who breaks the law, you have to deal with the police. But if you’re a supe, you have to deal with me. And I will bust you. And you will go to jail. And you will never, ever escape. Count on it.
My name’s Markowski. I carry a badge.
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