Four Smokers of the Apocalypse, Part 1

(by, 23 February 1998)

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Four Smokers of the Apocalypse (Part 1 of 4)

   "What has she been doing ?" Sarah asked.
   "Just sitting there, smoking cigarettes and trying to stay out of the light,
same as yesterday. Says that she'll only talk to you, of course. And to be
honest, no one else wants to go in there."
   Sarah frowned. "Come on, Lance. You know she's not really a vampire."
   "I know. But- well, don't take this the wrong way, but half the guys on the
squad are divorced and most of them have had all the exposure to blood suckers
they can handle."
   "Hey, I'm single. It doesn't bother me. I'm going in."
   The truth was Sarah wasn't overly thrilled about doing this, either. Not so
much because she was afraid of Monica Carla Jones- she wasn't. No, it was the
simple fact that they really didn't have enough evidence to hold her, and she
had a feeling the woman knew that. Why else would she avoid lawyering up ? All
they had was some circumstantial crap which, in theory, linked her to six
slayings in the suburbs in the last five months.
   They weren't murders in the traditional sense. No weapons. Just goring,
mutilation around the throat area. Massive blood loss.
   The dental records didn't match out to the suspect.
   To any human suspect.
   Not unless one was willing to believe that someone was running around with
very vampirish looking canines.
   It wasn't a theory that Sarah was in love with.
   The first thing she noticed as she entered the room was the smell of smoke.
Fresh and stale.
   Her breakfast sat uneaten on the table.
   Not smart, that. If you wanted to believe that she was a vampire, well, not
eating normal food was a good start.
   Then there were the sunglasses. Like the other three interview rooms in the
precinct, IR 4 had the sort of fluorescent lighting straight out a cyberpunk
movie. Half working, decaying strips that hadn't been serviced in three or
four years. Add the smoke from the woman's Marlboro Lights 100s and the place
was like a miniature dungeon.
   Which didn't explain Monica's dark sunglasses.
   "Hello, Monica."
   The woman looked at her, or at least she supposed she was being looked at.
The just lit cigarette came to her mouth, was drawn on. A slow smile crept
across the lineless beauty of her twenty-eight year old face.
   She exhaled.
   Sarah was shocked again at the utter pleasure this woman seemed to derive
from the simple hedonistic act of smoking.
   "I was afraid you weren't going to come see me," Monica said after she
   "Why's that ?" 
   "I thought you might be- I don't know- offended by what you think I am. And
that would be a shame. I like you."
   "And what do I think you are ?" Sarah asked, intrigued as she'd been last
night by the woman's odd combination of frankness and deception.
   "Tell me something. Are you Catholic by any chance ?"
   "No," Sarah said, seeing perhaps where this was headed. "I don't have any
   "It must be hard believing in anything, with no faith."
   Sarah laughed. "What I believe is that you've developed the mistaken idea
that being an accused murderess is fun. What I also believe in is my job. It's
like a pure science. I'm not here to prove you are a murderer. If you are,
well, it makes my job easier, but there's no vested interest on my part to
prove anything but the truth of the matter."
   Monica inhaled deeply, and that same self-satisfied smile crept across her
young, pretty face. Watching her smoke was driving Sarah mad for some reason
she couldn't explain.
   "That's very noble, Sarah. But all you have is that I was the only teacher
who had all three of the murdered students in my class, and the murders, as
you call them, were committed close to school grounds."
   "You had all those students last period, which means you knew more about what
they were doing than anyone else."
   "And my connection to the others, besides knowing them casually ?"
   "You tell me." Sarah didn't like that Monica knew just about every ounce of
circumstance they were counting against her.
   "There isn't any. And I know that I don't fit your profile of the murderer,
either. You must have a big, strong man with an history of psychosomatic
disorders on your short list. One look at me would tell you I lack the
strength to have murdered those people."
   "That's why you didn't call a lawyer, am I right ?"
   "Yes. What would an innocent person like me need with a lawyer ?" 
   "You tell me."
   "Nothing. In an hour or two, you'll let me go. And someone from plainclothes
will follow me around and learn nothing, and eventually you'll write me off
your list. Am I right ?"
   "Maybe. It depends on what you do after I order you released, doesn't it ?"
   "I suppose it does."
   "Well, if you don't have anything else to add-"
   Monica just shook her head, inhaling on her cigarette as she did, looking at
though that burning tube of tobacco was the only thing in the world which she
   Sarah walked out without saying anything further.

   "What'd she say ?" Lance asked once the door had closed behind her.
   "That you have the cutest eyes, Lance."
   He looked at her as though this somehow wasn't funny.
   "Come on, Sarah-"
   "It's a game to her. She knows what we have, what we don't, and she knows
that physically, she doesn't match the profile. Nothing's come back on the
background check ?"
   "She smoked pot a few times in college, but nothing which would put her in
serial country, no. No priors, no history of mental health care. Nothing much
more than that she was born, graduated high school and college, and that
Mendon was her first teaching job."
   "What now ?" 
   "Process her release. Leave the paperwork on my desk. Get a plainclothes unit
on surveillance. The usual."
   "And you ?"
   "I'm going to go home and get inside her pretty little light-adverse head."
   "What ?"
   Sarah walked away without further answer.

   "You've been coming in here since you were eight, Sarah. I know you. You
don't smoke."
   "Look, Joan, I know three things. One, you've been smoking for twenty years.
Two, this store does actually sell a wide variety of cigarettes and other
tobacco products. Three, I'm over eighteen."
   "Fucking detectives are all alike," Joan said with mild irritation.
   "So, box of Marlboro Lights 100s ?"
   "Why, Sarah ? Trying to get inside the head of your latest subject ?"
   There were times that Sarah wished Joan had come straight to work for her
father running the store out of high school instead of picking up a psych
degree at State. She held that knowledge in reserve for moments like this when
she could use it against Sarah.
   "Yes and no, Joan. The truth is that part of me wants to know what this woman
sees in smoking for what it will tell me about her. But I'm also curious on a
personal level, and that doesn't happen very often. I'd rather not have
something like that be a distraction, so I'm dealing with it by getting it out
of the way."
   "It doesn't work that way, Sarah. Smoking's not something you work out of
your system by doing it."
   "Maybe for me it will be-"
   Joan shook her head, thought carefully, and then lit a Marlboro Ultra Lights
   "You're too smart for that. You light that first cigarette, take that first
real inhale, and you'll realise how awesome smoking is, and that will be it.
You'll be a smoker for the rest of your life."
   "You never hesitated selling my sister cigarettes."
   "No. Paula started when she was fifteen, though. And I never had any problem
selling to your mom, either."
   "Mom used to smoke ?" Sarah asked, shocked.
   "I'm forty-nine, just like your, Mom. We started together when we were
fourteen, and she smoked until she was twenty-four. She quit when you about
three, so you don't remember, but Paula did. I guess they made a deal. Paula
was never to tell you that she smoked and in exchange, when she was old
enough, your mom let her smoke. But your mom swore she'd never smoke again
unless you started. So if you start now-"
   "You don't have to tell her-"
   "She'll know, Sarah. She's too smart not to figure it out, you know, and then
she'll start again. You should think very carefully about what you're about to
do and make sure it's right for both of you to start smoking."
   "I wish that I'd gone somewhere else to buy my cigarettes," Sarah said
   Joan inhaled, blew a thick cloud of surprisingly sweet smoke in Sarah's
   "Now you're just hurting my feelings. Besides, isn't this something that
you'd want to know ?"
   Sarah thought about that for a long time before answering. "Did mom enjoy
smoking ?"
   "More than you could possibly imagine. I've never known anyone who was sadder
to have quit."
   "And she did that for me ?"
   "Yes. I can't explain it, but you were always- There was something which
happened to you when your mother lit a cigarette. If it's possible for a three
year old to act horribly depressed, well, that was you. I never saw a child
react so negatively. It broke her heart to quit, but she felt as though it was
something she had to do."
   "And now ?"
   "Well, I think she'd be very happy to start again. Your father never gave up
his cigars, after all. I know that every know and then she sneaks a puff or
two, although she's always said she's never quite gotten the enjoyment of it.
You can't really inhale and it takes forever just to smoke one, but-"
   "If I start smoking-"
   "She'll join you. Personally, I'm glad you came to me. But I won't let you
buy cigarettes here. Not yet."
   "Joan-" Sarah said ominously.
   The older woman took a box of Marlboro Lights 100s off the rack overhead and
handed them to her.
   "Try these. If you really like it- and you will, I'll sell you some next
time. But you have to promise me you won't go anywhere else and you'll tell me
all about it. I remember how much I used to enjoy talking about smoking with
your sister. Now that she lives at the other end of town and goes to my
brother's place, I never see her."
   "I'll tell her you said hello, Joan."
   Sarah took the pack, opened her purse as if to settle the gift and leave, but
Joan caught her gently by the wrist.
   "Uh uh. Smoke your first one here."
   Sarah undid the protective cellophane as Joan added a lighter to the non-
purchase. She cracked back the box top and very carefully unfolded the foil.
Paula said that they didn't get stale as quickly if you left the foil in
place. She lifted the open pack to her nose and sniffed. The tobacco had a
very pleasant smell to it, and Sarah found that smell exciting. In a moment
she was going to know exactly what her suspect saw and felt in smoking and she
liked the vaguely sexual nature of the anticipation.
   Joan snatched the lighter up and held it out as Sarah placed the cigarette in
her anxious mouth.
   She lit it for with a smile on her face, enjoying this moment when one flick
of a lighter wheel would make two friends into smokers.
   "I can't tell you how glad I am you did come to me, Sarah."
   Both women smiled as Sarah drew the first smoke of her life into her mouth.
It had a sweetly indescribable taste which she found herself enjoying
   She let that smoke escape from her mouth and inhaled again, this time
allowing the smoke to trickle into her lungs.
   Immediately she began to cough, almost spitting the smoke back out.
   "Take it easy, girl."
   But Sarah was not to be so easily deterred. She inhaled again, pulling more
smoke into her lungs past her already raw throat. This time she did not cough.
The smoke expanded in her lungs and she felt the sensation which put that
wonderful smile on her suspect's pale face.
   "Oh my god, Joan."
   "Wonderful, isn't it ?"
   "I feel like I could climax right this second."
   "Wait until you get home for that, okay ?'
   Sarah promised that she would.

   Paula was standing on her front step, looking, well, like Paula.
   She was pulling hard on a long DeMaurier Light, the special cigarettes she
bought at a tobacconist two towns over. She smiled at her sister and then
turned her head politely to exhale.
   "What's so urgent, sis ?"
   Sarah inclined her head and Paula stepped into what Sarah called her
`starter' house, an eight room dollhouse on the corner of one of the Pittsford
suburb's quietest streets. It was the sort of neighbourhood where bankers and
doctors lived, not city detectives, but the house had been sold on the cheap
because of-
   Events that the real estate would have been compelled by law to divulge even
if Sarah hadn't the luxury of studying the case files of.
   "Well," Sarah said as they walked into the living room, "I wanted to know why
you never told me that Mom used to smoke."
   Paula sat down on the corner of the couch closest to the ashtray which was
always there for her, as well as Sarah's friends from the force, most of whom
were smokers. She tapped the cigarette with her index finger and ash floated
off of it, perfectly trimming the DeMaurier as she always did. She then took
another pull.
   "It wasn't a big deal. Besides, I had something to look forward to in keeping
that secret. How'd you find out ?"
   "Joan told me. But are you seriously telling me that at the age of four, you
knew that you wanted to smoke ?"
   Paula laughed, then paused for another inhale. She then filled the room with
her exhale- Sarah had long ago told her there was no sense not smoking the way
she was used to when she came here, even if it took days to clear the smell
from the house.
   "Of course. Don't ask me how, but I was old enough that I was constantly
asking Mom when I would be old enough. That's why she quit. She didn't want
you turning out the same way."
   "That's stupid," Sarah said, "but I still can't believe that you wanted to
smoke when you were four. I mean, get real."
   "I did. And when I was five, and six, and I never thought I'd turn fifteen,
to be honest. By then I'd been sneaking cigarettes for a year and an half-
with Mom's occasional permission. But why do you care ? And why in hell did
Joan tell you ?"
   Sarah reached into her loose fitting khakis and extracted her pack of
cigarettes and lighter.
   She was looking forward to lighting her fifth cigarette ever. Although she'd
struggled with the first one, the whole drive home had been consumed with
thoughts of getting home, walking out on the back porch, and lighting another
one. By the time she was done smoking it, the urge to masturbate had become so
uncontrollable that she'd rushed upstairs and done exactly that.
   No sooner had she climaxed than she lit the fourth one, just to see if that
old myth about nothing being better than a cigarette after an orgasm was true.
Not only was it, but by the time she'd finished it she was compelled to
masturbate again. It had been almost three months since she'd done it even
once and the first time she'd ever done it twice, but it felt delicious, and
the entire time she'd savoured the smoky taste in her mouth and the strange
smoky smell of her skin, the bed, and the room.
   "You smoke ?" Paula asked, both shocked and- very- pleasantly intrigued. "And
I thought Hell froze over because the Broncos won the Super Bowl. Christ, what
happened ?"
   "I- I just decided to try it." She pulled a cigarette from the pack, placed
it between her attractive, pouty lips, and lit it with an hand which she hoped
wasn't trembling.
   The sweet taste of the smoke in her mouth was so wonderful that she only
moved the cigarette about an inch away from her mouth, exhaled, and inhaled
again, enjoying the nicotine rush for all it was worth.
   "And you obviously enjoy it. Wait `til I tell Mom. We used to talk about you
starting after you went to college- when you choose Geraldine as your roommate
sophomore year knowing that she was a pack a day smoker, we thought sure you
were going to start. Mom was very disappointed you didn't. But you're twenty-
eight- people like you just don't start smoking because they were curious
about it. What really happened ?"
   "I-" Sarah thought about this. Did she really want to tell the truth ?
   Of course she did. this was her sister, after all.
   "I had this suspect in last night and this morning. All she did was sit there
and smoke- it was as if she didn't care what happened as long as we let her
smoke. She had this look on her face-"
   Paula inhaled, held the smoke, and as she did a slow smile crept over her
   "-just like that. After a while, I felt like I had to know-"
   "That's an odd reason to start-"
   Sarah inhaled again and admitted the feeling which washed over her was a much
better reason to start after all.
   "I know. But I'm glad I did. I can't believe that Mom gave this up and didn't
start again, say, when I went to college."
   "She thought about it, and I tried to get her to start again, but she was so
fucking adamant."	
   "Well, that's not an issue anymore, is it ?"
   Paula smiled at her sister. "Judging from the way you look, I'd say not. Tell
me what it's like, to start at your age. I'm really intrigued."
   Sarah thought about it. Inhaled, enjoying the rush. "It's a great feeling of
freedom. I think subconsciously I've always been curious, you know. But until
this morning, the thought of trying it hadn't crossed my mind in seven or
eight years."
   "Are you sorry you waited ?"
   "No. Imagine getting to my age and then stumbling on something so- right, you
   "That's the nut I can't wrap my mind around. But it sure is cool. So, are you
going to tell Mom, or am I ?"
   "You want to do it together ?"
   Paula nodded and they left immediately.

   Sarah sat down at her desk and pulled up her e-mail. A joke from her friend
Geraldine. Ironically, it was about anal behaviour in non-smokers. The punch
line had her laughing for almost a full minute. Then she pulled up the
surveillance report on Monica. She'd gone home, called the school to confirm
that she'd been suspended with pay until the school was satisfied she was not
involved in anything untoward, and then sat home and watched television until
about two in the morning. 
   Very boring.
   It wasn't enough to make Sarah start wondering if she should find another
suspect- if only because she was always of the opinion that another suspect
never hurt a case, after all, and that was what she'd spent last night
thinking about, preparing for all possibilities.
   She looked at the pack of cigarettes sitting by her keyboard. One good thing
about the precinct was that it would probably never go non-smoking, but even
though the mere presence of those cigarettes told everyone what they needed to
know about her status as a smoker, she had yet to light one. She'd had one
before she'd showered this morning and two more smoked while reading the
paper, but that was it. It had been almost an hour now, an hour without a
cigarette and without coffee.
   "What's the big fucking deal ?" she asked herself sotto voce and then picked
the pack up. It was half-empty but it felt good in her hands. Right.
   She pulled out a cigarette and lit it as casually as her nervousness allowed,
then walked calmly over to the coffee cart.
   Tamara was standing there. She was the second female detective on the squad,
just a year younger than Sarah and nowhere near as high up on the pecking
order, but she did good work and Sarah had always liked her.
   "Sarah ? What's with the cigarette ? Hangover ?"
   Sarah poured her coffee into her Think Different mug and laughed. "Nope. Just
decided to start smoking, that's all."
   Tamara frowned, as though this was some mark of weakness.
   "I hope you know what you're getting yourself into," she said quietly,
pouring about six teaspoons of sugar into her coffee.
   "What do you mean ?" Sarah asked pleasantly. She was determined to be that
way, letting others know that she was happy with her decision.
   "I started smoking when I was thirteen. By the time I finished college, I was
smoking a pack a day. I had a bear of a time quitting and I've been miserable
ever since. Nine months without a cigarette and my car still smells funny."
   "If you're miserable, why did you quit ?"
   The question caught Tamara off guard, as though she'd simply decided to quit
for no good reason and hadn't thought the whole thing out.
   "I- I don't know. I just made a New Year's resolution and for four months I
worked to keep it."
   "that must have been right before you got your gold shield. I don't think
I've ever seen you smoke."
   "You haven't. But I still miss it, you know."
   Sarah thought about this. After watching Mom light that first cigarette last
night- and knowing that she was responsible for it- the strangest thought had
occurred to her. She enjoyed knowing she was responsible. It felt like- oh, it
was bizarre, she knew- like she'd successfully corrupted her mother, and while
that should have made her sad, there was a thrill to it which was delicious to
   "Well, there's an open pack on my desk. You're welcome to indulge yourself
   Tamara's expression was a cross between a smile and a grimace.
   "I couldn't-"
   "Why not ?"
   "Because- oh hell, I don't know-"
   Approaching it the same way as her work, Sarah tried to find the right angle.
What would put Tamara over the top ?
   "Just one, Tamara. You know you'll enjoy it. We can take a walk and talk
about the Lester case you're working on. I hear that you've done some
successful digging- who'd have thought that guy was a Green Beret once."
   "I know. Those sealed military records blow about a dozen holes in his
   "They aren't secret now, are they ?"
   Tamara smiled. "You should have seen his face when I told him I knew what he
did when he was in San Francisco. He looked like he wanted to strangle me-"
   It wasn't exactly funny, but Sarah laughed. "That is his modus operandi- not
that a look is admissible in court-"
   "Just one ?" Tamara asked timidly. "I mean, I'm used to non-smokers trying to
get you to quit, but I don't think I've ever had someone try to convince me to
   Sarah inhaled deeply, then let her exhale was over Tamara, who breathed it in
   "I promise. No pressure. But you said that you miss it- stop torturing
yourself, girl."
   Tamara drained her coffee. "What the hell !"

   They were walking up East Main. Tamara was lighting the first cigarette from
a pack she'd bought at Mike's General Store. It was her third since they'd
bugged out, and each one seemed to be more enjoyable. She looked at Sarah and
   "You're evil, you know that ?"
   Sarah waited for to finish lighting the Virginia Slims and then paused to
light her own cigarette.
   "You're enjoying it, aren't you ?"
   "Almost as much as you're enjoying getting me started again."
   "Do you think that's weird ?" Sarah asked.
   "Not at all. When I was in high school I used to do the same thing. You
should see my diary. I picked my friends off one by one. It was all very
scripted. I'd think about the best approach, work my in slowly, and sooner or
later, whomever I'd targeted gave in. I'd say there's about fifteen smokers
that owe their habit to me."
   "And yet you quit ?"
   They stopped over the bridge and watched the river rush towards the canal
   "I wasn't honest before."
   "What do you mean ?" Sarah asked, seeing a dark cloud pass over Tamara's
eyes. Then she inhaled and it passed.
   "I- I was in a relationship. Beat cop from the third precinct. He had a
temper- you know how some of those guys are. Came into the force straight out
of the academy, kind of an hard ass."
   "Kind of ?"
   "All right. He was a jerk. A non-smoking jerk. I used to hide it from him
when I could, but he liked to hit the bars at night and I could never drink
without smoking too. He would get pissed off, we'd go home, fight, and
   Sarah sighed. The fun of getting Tamara to actually walk into a store and buy
cigarettes was fading fast.
   "You don't have to-"
   "No. You know, the captain suggested I go into therapy, but psych services-
it's like talking to moles- everyone starts to avoid you. I just broke it off
and sucked it up-"
   "And you quit anyway ?"
   "It was such a nightmare, Sarah. I reported him and they kicked him off the
force, slapped a restraining order on him. He's a freaking night watchman now
and all I could think off was maybe if I hadn't been a smoker-"
   "It would have been your clothes or your hair or the way you drove."
   Tamara took a sharp inhale, held the smoke, then let it drift out over the
icy river.
   "You know, lighting that first cigarette at your desk made me realise that. I
know, it's stupid- if I'd gone to psych services I would have realised it
months ago, but that cigarette made me realise that it wasn't about me.
There's just some switch in his brain that should always stay off which gets
flipped on sometimes."
   "Exactly. He's the one who needs therapy. If you weren't a cop, he'd never
have gotten the boot, either, you know that. Maybe it was good for him. He's
the one who has to look in the mirror- and I know that I'd be pretty upset
with myself if I drove a charming young woman like yourself away from me
because the brain link to my fists was busted."
   "That's a nice thing to say, Sarah, but I'm nothing special."
   Arching her head, Sarah blew smoke high into the windy air, watching it dance
under the grey sky.
   "We're all special in one way or another."
   Tamara held up the cigarette. "Thanks for this. You've given me back an
important part of myself."
   "You're not mad ?"
   "Mad ? Right now I want to take the rest of the day off, go home and lie in
bed and-"
   "Smoke while you masturbate ?'
   "You don't think that's gross ?"
   Sarah smiled. "It's what I did yesterday. As soon as I lit that first
cigarette, I was hooked in more ways than one. I felt like I was going to
   "I do have some days coming-"
   "Interesting way to put it," Sarah said, and the two women dissolved into a
giggling fit.

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