Detective Dennis Yi was still in a bad mood. He had not gotten much sleep. His morning regiment of tai chi managed to get him through the early part of the shift, but as the afternoon wore on he found himself weary and ready to call it a day. Fortunately his partner, Sharon Montessi, was well rested and was nice enough to buy Dennis what was to be the fifth cup of coffee of the afternoon.
They had spent the morning looking up information on the victim. James “Butch” Kerns had recently done a stretch in prison for possession and assault. Seems it did not take him very long to get back together with his old crew once he got released. A Glock was found at the scene. It was currently being checked for fingerprints, but there were traces of gunpowder on Kerns’ hand so it was most likely his. His neck had been snapped and that was likely the cause of death. Hopefully there would be more information soon.
Kerns was big man. His size, muscle and disposition to use both worked him up the ranks in the Crew, which was one of the street gangs that were looking to try to get control of the narcotics racket in Quadesport. Kerns was labor, not management. Seemed the management liked him though. There were a lot of rumors and allegations about Kerns but not a lot of evidence.
Dennis and Sharon had revisited the crime scene. Forensics still had not found either of the bullets from gun, which was bit surprising since there was not a lot of room in the alleyway. It was just another piece missing to the puzzle.
“This is getting us no where.” Dennis said between sips of coffee.
“Relax Den. It hasn’t even been twenty-four hours yet. We’ll have something soon.” Sharon was looking at the surroundings as she spoke to her partner. There had been rumors as to their partnership. Sharon was an olive-skinned, buxom brunette who knew how to use her looks and charm to her advantage. Dennis was a trim man and not very striking in appearance. He had heard repeatedly how lucky he was to have Sharon for a partner. He was indeed lucky. Sharon Montessi was third generation police and one of the finest detectives Dennis had ever worked with. She was certainly easy on the eyes, but when Dennis looked at her all he saw was the best partner he’d ever had.
“I’m just not seeing this.” Dennis said as he looked at where it had marked where the body was found.
“I’m having trouble walking through it myself. Kerns is confronted here. He’s armed. He shoots, but we can’t find the bullet. There’s blood, but that’s from Kerns.” She looked to Dennis. “He hemorrhaged, right?”
“That’s what they’re saying. His neck broke and something burst inside him. It caused blood to come out of his mouth and nose as he was lying there.”
“We’ve seen worse.”
“But how did his neck break? Our witness said the man confronting Kerns was trim. Kerns is a big bastard. I don’t think the other guy broke it.”
“It’s pretty icy out here. He could have slipped. Broke it in the fall.” Sharon did not bother looking at Dennis and cut him off before he could reply. “I know. That’s ridiculously thin.”
“I think we should shelve the ‘how’ and try to get at the ‘why’.”
“You’re just saying that so we can get back to our desks and out of the deep freeze.”
“Is that a problem?”
“Hell no.” She answered. “It’s freaking freezing out here. Let’s go see what we can dig up on our dead guy’s friends list.”
Javier spent the day scared. He was afraid to go back to the building he had been squatting at. While his memories of the previous night were hazy at best he remembered enough to know that people were not happy with him. He knew there would be risks selling drugs for the Crew, but their money was good they had plenty of heroin not only for profit, but also for his own personal habit. He knew it was stupid to use what he was told to sell, but he did not think they would try to kill him for it.
His thoughts bounced back in forth between wondering how he was going to survive his angry employers and trying to figure out where his next hit would be coming from. Most of the other dealers he knew already worked for the Crew so it would be stupid to go to them. He sat in a church basement eating surprising decent vegetable soup as he pondered this. He was surprised how hungry he was, and how good everything tasted.
He knew the church well. He would come into their soup kitchen on a regular basis. Seemed that no matter how much dope he sold he never had enough money to feed himself and his habit. The staff typically gave him his food and left him alone. When he first started coming to the soup kitchen councilors would come and try to talk to him. The attempts became less frequent as the months went on.
Javier looked up from his soup to see one of the councilors looking at him. He knew the man from his previous visits, but couldn’t recall his name. The councilor looked at him curiously. The man was stout and appeared to he in his fifties. His deep dark eyes peered at Javier over his glasses that rode low on his nose. His black hair was gray at his temples and a bit of the gray had crept into his mustache. The man approached, and Javier felt immediately uncomfortable.
“Hello, Javier.” He said softly in a deep baritone voice. He stood across the table from Javier and gripped the back of a chair as if he was preparing to pull it out to sit, but was waiting for an invitation.
“Hi… um… how do you know my name?” Javier stammered. The confusion was obvious on his face.
“We’ve spoken many times.” The man said after a heavy sigh. “I’m Silas. I’m one of the councilors here at St. Gregory’s.”
“Yeah. I know that much.” Javier was feeling nervous and embarrassed. “Sorry, I’m not very good at names.”
“It’s alright. May I sit?” Silas asked gently, fully prepared for Javier to tell him ‘no’.
“Um… sure… I guess.” Javier felt bad. He knew he was in for a lecture and to be bombarded with information about support groups. Silas sat down across from him and looked Javier over as if he was studying him.
“How’s the soup?” Silas asked as he clasped his hands together and placed them on the table in front of him.
“Its… really good. Thanks.”
“Good. You look like you needed a good meal.”
“I was really hungry.” That felt weird. Javier did not usually think about food. The contents of his stomach usually took a back seat to the contents of his veins.
“Good. When did you stop using?”
“What?” The question hit him like a punch. He pushed his stringy black hair out of his face.
“It’s been a few weeks since you’ve been in here, and I barely recognized you.”
“What are you talking about?’
“Relax, son. I’m not here to preach to you. I’ve seen a lot of people come through here. I know addiction when I see it. You don’t have to be ashamed. In fact, you should feel proud that you’re trying to get cleaned up.” Silas was smiling, but Javier felt a bit scared.
“Why do you think I’m trying to get cleaned up?”
“You’re actually talking, for one. And I can see it on you. You look a lot healthier than you did.
There’s new life in you, young man, and that’s something to be celebrated.”
Javier sat silently for a moment. Despite looking calm, he was freaking out internally. He wanted to run. He wanted to flee that church so badly that his legs twitched. He slowly put down the spoon he had been eating the soup with, and stood up slowly. It took all the effort he could muster not to bolt for the door. He needed a hit. He wanted one so badly at that moment that he thought his brains were going to explode.
“I have to go.”
“Are you sure?”
“If you ever want to talk, you can find me here.”
Javier left quickly. The freezing night air assaulted him. He headed into an alleyway to get away from the wind that was attempting to cut through him. His head kept hurting. He felt like he needed to keep moving, so he did. He did not know where he was going. As he walked briskly through the icy alleyways of Quadesport the cold was bothering him less and less. He was not thinking about where he was going, but he was obviously heading somewhere.
He wanted to stop, but he didn’t. He could not feel the cold air, or his feet sinking into the dirty slush on the pavement anymore. He could not see where he was moving anymore. Finally, he could not see nor hear nor feel anything anymore. He felt fear, but that got pushed away. He wasn’t the one pushing it away.
He did not know what was happening, but he knew he was moving.
And when Carson Rogers calls from Laslo University and tells his father to look into something, it was going to be bad.
Wade was in his armor as soon as the sun set. The Night Rain armor was cutting edge and allowed him to make his way across the city undetected. The theatrics that went into convincing people that a person is an urban legend, or even better a vengeful spirit of a slain thief, were easily accomplished by the armors many features. It was designed not only to protect the wearer, but also to scare the hell out of people.
It did a good job of that. Wade had visited over a half dozen associates of Kerns. They all talked, some quicker than others. Some showed a bit of backbone, but Wade quickly convinced them that it was easier and healthier to answer his questions.
The last time Kerns had been seen he was going to run and errand for the Crew. That errand was to take care of a two-bit junkie dealer that was using product instead of selling it. Wade Granby was the Night Rain, and the Night Rain was looking for Javier Santiago.
About this month's artist: Kat is a doodler from Texas. She likes comics, monsters, and an assortment of old stuff. Someday perhaps she'll get off her lazy duff and make one of them thar comic doohickeys. For now, though, it's all about the random sketches. She thinks that Hellboy is awesome and believes that you should think so too.