Today’s post is going to be a bit odd. Today, for whatever reason (God only knows why, really), I envisioned Joshua and Senator McCarthy fighting it out over the status of vampires in America. McCarthy questioned large numbers of people, from government workers to celebrities, while on his communist witch hunt. Why not my vampires? The highest levels of the American government were aware of the existence of vampires prior to WWII. I believe I have already mentioned here that Anselm, Micah and Isaac end up in Tennessee because they specifically came over to work on the Manhattan Project, and Rose—whom they met there—asked them to stay after the War was over.
I envision a scene where McCarthy, who finds out about the vampires, has the audacity to call Isaac forward for questioning. Of course, Isaac forwards this request right up to Joshua, who is the only Canichmeh who openly deals with people outside their group—namely other governments. Joshua decides to present himself in Isaac’s place and stop the questioning once and for all.
I think it makes for a fun scene, and it’s Joshua made over. I decided to post it here because it’s not terribly long (only about two and a half pages, which is short for me), and because I honestly have no idea where I might use it. Likely I will never use it. I keep a collection of scenes I’ve written but cut out, and if I ever get really, really popular one day, I’ll publish them and a bunch of my background research (a la Tolkien and The Silmarillion) for the geek-value. But, other than that, this scene is likely to never be published, because I have no plans for showing anything in the 1950’s. So enjoy it here.
Oh, and I should point out that I just did this scene today, and I have not done any actual research on the McCarthy-Era. If I was going to put this in a book, I’d do some research and make sure my assumptions about that time, place and people are correct. But, generally, this is how I write things: I make a contained scene like this, then I start pasting scenes together, and then I research what I’ve written to make sure that it’s accurate and tweak if necessary (if I’m writing something I don’t know anything about at all, though, I do at least some research before I write; if I have some knowledge beforehand, I’ll write to the best of my knowledge and clean it up later).
A silent, unsmiling man showed Joshua through a door and shut it behind him. The gray room was empty except for a large metal table, an empty metal chair, and three men sitting gravely on the opposite side. Joshua had sat on the other side of the table too often not to know this was a trial.
“Please have a seat,” the man in the center said coolly. Joshua felt his distrust and dislike rising in equal measure. These were not men who could be charmed. For that matter, they didn’t look entirely reasonable. Joshua had a sneaking suspicion that they were there to flex their muscles and prove how powerful they were, and if there was one thing that irked him to no end, it was people in power who bullied those who weren’t. Worse, they didn’t have the clout over him that they thought they did, which made them arrogant on top of everything else.
Joshua sat down and the man in the middle looked down at the papers in front of him. “You are Isaac ben Samuel?” He looked up. “A Jew?”
“No, I’m Joshua Cohen. But I am a Jew… not that I see that it’s any business of yours,” he said, his own voice as cold and unfriendly as his inquisitor’s.
“Everything is my business, Mr. Cohen.”
“I was under the impression that America was a free country, and that people were not to be brought to trial without adequate evidence? Or, so it says in your Constitution. I have heard you play fast and loose with it, Mr. McCarthy.”
“Sometimes we have to go around the Constitution in order to preserve it. And besides, this isn’t a trial, Mr. Cohen.”
“Bullshit. I am myself a judge, and I know what a trial looks like when I see it.”
The man on the right spoke up. “I thought we were supposed to be talking to this Isaac person?”
“I am Isaac’s superior,” Joshua answered quickly. “You don’t talk to him; you talk to me.”
“We will talk to whomever we need to talk to,” McCarthy replied, his voice dropping several degrees.
Joshua leaned over the table. “No, you will not. I speak for all of my people—every last one of them. You will come to terms with me, or none of us.”
McCarthy leaned back in his chair. “I don’t like your tone, Mr. Cohen. Maybe we don’t need your kind in America.”
“That’s not what you were singing in 1942. Your government specifically approached me about using my people for your Manhattan Project.”
“Jesus, this is classified,” the man on the left said. “This is not up for discussion.”
“Like hell it isn’t,” Joshua said angrily. “You wanted us to help you win the War, and we did. One of my kind even died in Tennessee, at an accident in your facility—not that the government ever acknowledged that. Not even so much as a ‘we’re sorry’ letter to his widow—who was the one that had to dig his body out of the rubble—much less any sort of medal. Luckily we take care of our own, and she doesn’t need any sort of benefits to live on, but an acknowledgement of his sacrifice—and hers—would have been appreciated. It would have been the humane thing to do,” Joshua said, emphasizing the irony of the word.
“Are you telling me what to do, Mr. Cohen?”
“No, I’m telling you what your government ought to have done.”
The man on the right cleared his throat. “This isn’t why we’re here, is it, gentlemen?”
“I don’t know why I’m here,” Joshua snapped, “but I want to find out.”
“You’re here,” McCarthy replied, “because we’re interested in finding out where your loyalty lies. Or rather, where the loyalty of your people in America lies. Are you currently living in America, Mr. Cohen?”
“No, I’m not. I have never lived here.”
“Where do you live?”
“None of your business.”
“What about your people living in America?” the man on the right hastily interrupted. “Are they loyal American citizens?”
“Every one of them?” McCarthy asked, staring at Joshua as if he would bore a hole through him.
“Yes,” Joshua said, meeting his gaze with the same intensity. “By our own rules, our people are not allowed to flagrantly violate the laws of their country of residence. They’re not allowed to cause trouble or otherwise draw attention to themselves. We live peacefully in the background wherever we are.”
“This isn’t about living peacefully in the background. This is about loyalty.”
“Do you question the loyalty of men and women who served your own country? Your own veterans?”
“I question the loyalty of everyone. Washington may not have said we’re at war, but we are. We’re at war against communism. Against the Russians and the rest of them. And when you’re in a state of war, everything’s suspect. Because all that matters is winning the war.”
Joshua leaned back in his chair. “I pity you.”
McCarthy looked surprised. “You pity me?”
“Yes, I do. It’s no kind of life to live, always doubting everyone, always suspicious. Our culture puts a great emphasis on trust. And people who demonstrate their loyalty to us are never questioned. Our trust is what they get in return for their sacrifice. What do you give your veterans in return for their sacrifice?” Joshua asked, perking his brow.
“What we do and don’t do isn’t up for discussion here, Mr. Cohen.”
“Ah, I see. You are putting my people on trial for crimes which they have not committed, but you are not willing to answer for your own questionable practices.”
McCarthy jumped up out of his chair, slamming his hands on the table. “How dare you talk to me like that! I can have you and every one of your vampires,” he hissed the word, “put out of this country! Or should we just sharpen up some stakes and get out the garlic?”
Joshua stood up and brought his face close to the other man’s. “You,” he said slowly and carefully, “are an idiot.” McCarthy looked shocked, as if no one had ever dared say such a thing to him. “And do you know how I know you’re an idiot?” Joshua continued, his voice low and angry. “For one thing, you clearly haven’t read up on us, or you wouldn’t threaten us with ridiculous fictional mumbo-jumbo. Of course, if you had done your homework before trying to call one of my people in here, you’d know better than to try and threaten us at all.”
Before McCarthy could reply, Joshua glanced at the man on his left, and then to the one on his right. Both men stood up and began wandering around the room, clucking and pretending to be chickens.
Joshua sat back down and glared up at McCarthy. “Do you like chickens, Mr. McCarthy, or would you rather your colleagues impersonated some other farm animal? A cow perhaps?” One of the men began lumbering around the room slowly, mooing plaintively; the other one continued to cluck and scratch at the floor with his feet.
McCarthy stood frozen, silent, his eyes wide in shock and fear. Joshua knew he had his full attention now, and he decided to toy with him to make his point. He leaned on the table again, looking up at McCarthy. “Or maybe you’d prefer something you know better?” The man pretending to be a chicken suddenly began striding around the room, speaking Russian and gesturing angrily.
Joshua looked the terrified McCarthy directly in the eyes. “I can make even you look like a Russian agent, Mr. McCarthy. I can make you confess to doing things the Russians can only dream of actually accomplishing. Not only that, but every one of my people has the exact same ability. And I’m going to put them on notice that if they have problems with your government, they have the right to use any means necessary to defend themselves. Do I make myself absolutely clear, Mr. McCarthy?”
He slowly nodded. “Yes,” he said quietly.
“Good,” Joshua said, standing up. The two other men walked quietly back to the table and sat down, as if nothing had happened. Joshua started for the door, then turned back to look at McCarthy, who was still standing there in shock. “Maybe you should appreciate the fact that we prefer to live peacefully in the background, Mr. McCarthy. I actually consider it pretty loyal of us that we haven’t taken over, wouldn’t you agree?” Joshua opened the door and quietly left.