Sunday, January 24, 2010

Golgotha: Chapter 3

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.”

“Still ick.”

“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.

* * * * *

Wade Granby had spent the day researching Butch Kerns. He knew every associate the man had. He knew where he liked to hang out. He knew where the man did his business. He had studied the police reports from top to bottom. He also knew Dennis Yi and Sharon Montessi were on the case. If something was going to go bad, he wanted to be able to protect them from it. They were damn fine police, but there were some things even the best police are not prepared to handle.

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.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Golgotha: Chapter 2

Dennis was all right with freezing weather. He also did not mind having to be working in the middle of the night. It was the combination of the two that bothered him. At that hour there was no getting a good cup of hot coffee, even in Quadesport. The freezing slush on the sidewalk mercifully had not soaked through his shoes yet as having cold, wet socks would be the final barb that would drive him over the edge and possibly lead to him assaulting one of the colleagues.

Then again they were in the same boat he was in. All of them were standing in an alleyway shivering and wondering why a known gangbanger was lying face down in slush that was dyed red around him. Officers responded to a call from residents in the apartment building adjacent to the alley reporting shots fired and someone screaming. The forensics officer was already hard at work and Dennis was not sure why he had been called in on the case. He and his partner Sharon, who was no doubt curled up in a nice warm bed, usually caught special cases. Special in this case meant the type of cases no one else would want to deal with for the sake of their sanity. Dennis would not have even gotten the call if not for the fact that he happened to have been in the neighborhood when the request for SCU assistance went out.

The officers at the scene told him that the man who called the police had witnessed part of what happened. Dennis was happy to hear it, not only since it would help the case, but also the apartment building had to be more pleasant than being outside in that weather. Another officer was already talking to witness when he got to the apartment. The witness was a trim man in his mid-twenties who looked like he really needed some sleep.

“Detective Dennis Yi.” He said as an introduction as he showed the man his ID. “I understand you saw something, Mister…”

“Constance. Kevin Constance.” Kevin and Dennis shook hands briefly. “Yeah. Am I going to have to go to the station tonight?” Kevin looked like he dreaded the thought and the fatigue on his face made it obvious as to why.

“Hopefully not.” Dennis said with a smile to try to comfort the man. “I know you went over everything already.” The officer gave a nod and held up his notebook. Dennis gave him a nod back. Even in the middle of the night everyone was on the ball. “Would you mind going over things one more time for me and then we’ll leave you alone to get some rest.”

“Sure thing.” Kevin answered followed by a small sigh that came out more like a yawn. “I was adjusting my window when I heard yelling from the alley.”

“Adjusting your window?’

“Yeah, this building is pretty old and my bedroom window sometimes slips a little and lets in a draft.”

“I see. Please go on.”

“Well, I hear a guy screaming ‘you’re dead, you’re dead’ and that’s when I heard the gunshots. I looked out the window real quick and saw the guy in the alley struggling with another guy.”

“What did the other guy look like?’

“I didn’t get much of a look, because once I saw what was going on I went for my phone to call 911. It looked like a thin guy with long black hair. I looked again after I had grabbed my cell phone, but by the time I had gotten it and got back to the window the guy was just lying in the alley and the other guy was gone.”

“Any idea which of them was threatening the other?”

“What do you mean?”

“The person screaming ‘you’re dead, you’re dead’.”

“Oh. That was the weird part.”

“How so?’

“Whoever was yelling that didn’t sound like he was threatening anyone. He sounded scared to death.”

* * * * *

Javier came to in a bathtub. He was lying on his side and the first thing he was aware of was the smell of vomit and feces. He was sore all over and his body complained as he moved to right himself. He realized that the vomit and feces were his own. He started to pull himself up and out of the tub. He recognized the bathroom. It was Pilar’s, and much cleaner than the last time he had been there.

He peeked over the edge of the tub he saw a black garbage with a note on it.

“Don’t you dare come out of there until you put your filthy clothes in the bag and bathe yourself.”

He stripped down and tossed everything into the bag except his wallet, which luckily was not damaged from him soiling himself. He knotted off the top of the bag and turned on the shower. The hot water pounded him back into something resembling human. Washing himself was a chore. He still had a lot of trouble moving, but he managed to get himself cleaned up. He could not remember the last time he had a good shower and felt that clean. He emerged soon and dried off. He wrapped a towel around himself and peeked out of the bathroom.

The apartment had been completely redone since he had lived there. The furniture was new and everything was neat and orderly. The wall-mounted flat screen television was on the morning news show. It hardly seemed like the same place. Pilar was in the kitchen, already dressed and sipping a cup of coffee. She immediately saw him and glared at him.

“There’s some of your old clothes next to door.” She said coldly and went back to sipping her coffee. Javier looked down and there was some clothes folded neatly on a table.

“Th-thanks.” He stammered and quickly grabbed the clothes. After dressing himself, he emerged and walked slowly to the kitchen. Pilar continued staring icily at him. Javier sheepishly returned her look. “Thanks for…”

“Save it. You’re not staying.”

“I understand. I’ll get my stuff out of there and go.” His stomach growled audibly.

“Jesus. When was the last time you ate something, Javier?” She pulled a bagel out of a bag on the counter and tossed it to him. He caught it, which seemed to surprise them both.

“I don’t remember. My head’s… really fuzzy, right now.” I began quickly devouring the bagel.

“That’s nothing new.” She jabbed at him, but something was new. She saw something in Javier that was different. It was his eyes. There was something there again. “You’re still using.”

“I am. I was. Something happened last night. I can’t really remember.”

“I don’t want it or you around me anymore.”

“I know.” He said after finishing the bagel. “I know that. I’ll get my things and get out. Thanks Pilar.” She tossed him another bagel, which he also caught, before going to the bathroom and retrieving the trash bag with his soiled clothes. He was moving a lot easier now. There was still a weight on him as he walked but it was something different than what Pilar remembered. Before, the chemicals and poisons that he filled himself with to escape his existence chained him. Now there was something different upon him with every step.


* * * * *

The cell phone rang in the middle of him pounding away on a heavy bag. Even after pounding away for several minutes his breathing was still even. He took a break from the bag to answer, but was eager to get back to work.

“Hey. Dad.”

“Get to a safehouse, Wade. Something’s up.”

About the artist: This month's artwork is courtesy of the very talented Amy Lou Kirner.