Oliver introduced the primary Evils: Rational, Active, and Passive. We also looked over their subtypes, and combinations thereof. I’m all about making characters work for their pennies, so let’s look at a couple of examples, ways to put Evils to work.
Again, it’s easy as hell to spot these evils in the fantasy genre. It’s all about archetypes, and fantasy has a way of boiling down non-essentials, of distilling ideas until we’re just looking at ideals. And that’s awesome. There’s a great post over at The Athele Series about the fantasy genre that goes further into this idea. But what if you want to push these ideas out of fantasy and into another genre, something that maybe muddies the waters a little bit more?
Well, I’m bringing out my Sleazy Detective again, Mr.Hood. You may have seen his meeting with Kitty De Haviland, the Golden Maiden. I’m going to throw some Evils at him, and see how he does. I’m guessing, not well.
I stood in front of Joey Francis’ building, looking up and down the street. Joey made good scratch- well, dirty scratch, but lots of it. He kept his wife in a nice four-bedroom in the suburbs, but the mistress was camped out at his swank place in the city. Unfortunately, money means protection, and my old home, the fourth precinct wasn’t more than two blocks away. More of the cars on the street were cops than cabs. I pulled my hat down low over my eyes. (Cops are a passive evil here, believe it or not. Currently, they are no different than a sand trap on a golf course. They don’t CARE about Hood, they just exist. They are as much trouble for him as they are for his enemies, the gang of Arnold Two-Shoes)
The doorman gave me a cold, hard look; one that knew the off-the-rack brand of my suit, my unpolished shoes. It was a look that told me to keep moving. I slipped down the alley and circled behind the high rise. I jimmied the service entrance in a heartbeat. I guess money doesn’t buy protection from guys like me. The back stairs were dim, lit by naked light bulbs. Joey’s place was on the fifteenth floor. That’s a lot for my wrecked knee, but I lit a cigarette and made the climb.
I put my ear to the door for floor fifteen. Someone was listening to music nearby, some sultry crooner. I eased open the door and slid into the hall. The carpet was deep plush, the kind that soaks up noise, footsteps in particular. The wallpaper was spendy and the light fixtures all gleamed. I guess if you steal enough money, you can stop living like a rat, even if you still are one.
Joey’s mistress, Melinda Kay, was in 1503. If she was home, we’d have a little chat about Joey’s business and his battle with Arnold Two-Shoes. If she was out, then my lockpicks would get their second workout for the evening.
I’m good with locks, always have been. No self-respecting private dick would be caught dead without their lockpicks. Now it looked like I was going to be caught dead with them.
I was bent over, just starting to try to lift the tumbler when the door whipped open. I looked up. All I could see was the barrel of a gun, as black as midnight, pointed right between my eyes.
“Great timing, Bertie boy,” said Hobbes. “Imagine seeing you here.”
I raised my arms slowly and looked past the gun to my former partner. “Officer Hobbes, long time no see.”
“It’s detective now,” Hobbes smirked, pressing the gun to my forehead. He pulled me into the apartment by my lapels. “Look who I found,” he called out.
Lenny Reed peeked his head in from the kitchen. “Oh, Bertie. Two-Shoes said we should expect you. Right on time.”
Lenny, that smarmy rat, must be his new partner. Hobbes… There was a time when I’d have taken a bullet for him. Now he looked like he wanted me to take one from him. I wouldn’t trust Lenny to watch my suitcase in an airport, let alone my back. Now, Hobbes and Slimy Lenny, the crookedest guy in the department, were all buddy-buddy, and working for that sack of shit, Arnold Two-Shoes. It turned my stomach. (Corrupt cops are Active Evils, working for the Rational Evil, Two-Shoes)
Hobbes dragged me into the living room and threw me at the couch. Melinda Kay lay face down at my feet, her satin slippers in the dormant fireplace, her long, beautiful black hair spread out around her like a fan. Blood pooled under her, soaking her white satin nightgown. There was a tiny hole near her shoulder blade, a rip in the gown and a spill of blood. They’d shot her in the back.
Lenny the rat entered from the kitchen, carrying a pistol in a tea towel and a highball glass. “How about a drink, asshole?” He handed me a gin and tonic.
Normally, I’d throw my dear old grandmother down a flight of stairs for one. Not tonight. “I’m not thirsty,” I said.
“I don’t give a shit,” he said, pushing it into my hand. “Everyone knows you drink these. I just need your prints.”
I looked over at Hobbes. His smile was so greasy, I was surprised it didn’t just slide off his face.
“Did you think you were just walking out of here?” Hobbes asked. “Do you really think Two-Shoes got to the top by leaving loose ends?” He gestured at the dead girl at my feet.
I was stricken silent. I’d toasted Hobbes and his wife, Anna, at their wedding. I’d held his son at his christening. Walking the beat for the fourth precinct, we’d talked about striking out on our own, when the hours got too long or the wanderlust struck. We’d talked about hanging up a shingle: Hobbes and Hood, Private Investigators. I guess all wasn’t forgiven between us.
Lenny Reed picked up the telephone and dialed, murmuring quietly. I looked down at the ruined beauty at my feet, draped almost gracefully across the floor. Melinda Kay wasn’t anyone’s idea of a good woman; she was crooked and easy and drunk more than she was sober. But she still deserved better than sucker-shot by cops on the sly. I raised my blackmail G&T to her and took a drink.
Reed hung up the phone. “Time to go.”
Hobbes nodded and turned to me. “Drink up, Bertie.” He took my empty glass and set it on the mantle, barely touching it with his black leather gloves. “My partner just called in a man fitting your description, seen fleeing from this building. Our buddies at the fourth already got a call about shots fired. They’ll be here any minute. We’ll be first on the scene, of course, and make sure your prints get found lickety-split. So why don’t you run along, Hood? We’ll take care of things from here.”
It was all moving too fast. “That doesn’t make any sense, Hobbes. If you’ve got this case all wrapped up, why not leave two bodies, not just one?”
He cocked the pistol. “Don’t tempt me.”
Reed called out, “Remember what Two-Shoes said.” (Two-Shoes, again, the Rational Evil. He’s calling the shots, but these Active Evils allow him to keep his hands clean)
Hobbes nodded at his partner and gestured with the gun. “Run or don’t, Hobbes. Either way works for me. If you run, we all have fun watching you lead the cops on a merry chase. If you stay, they book you, convict you, and chair you, lickety-split. No one will believe you’re innocent, not you.”
Diversion…they set me up to divert the cops from…what? I tried to bend my head around it. Two-Shoes had something in the works, something big. You don’t kill Joey Francis’ girl and not expect some retribution. If Joey thought I did it, if the cops thought I did it, I wasn’t going to last long on the street. I wasn’t going to find out what was up if I was in the slam, either, and I’m sure Joey had boys on the inside that would pay me a sharp-ended visit.
“Besides,” Hobbes said. He smiled, more a spreading of lips across teeth than anything else. “Everybody knows when the stakes get high, Bertram Hood cuts and runs. So run, weasel. Run as fast as you can.”
I heard the rising wail of sirens. My description…shots fired. They were headed this way. (The street cops were Passive Evils before, a generic hazard. Now they’re Active Passive Evils, because they have a specific task to accomplish, and they’ll stop for nothing) I admit it, I panicked. I played right into Two-Shoes’ hands. I tried to be cool, to think it out, but I did just what Hobbes wanted. I fled Joey Francis’ place with his girlfriend’s blood on my shoes and my prints all over the scene. Poor girl. Poor me.