The factory had been a Crew headquarters for just over a year. It originally had been used to make engine parts for ships, but had closed down two decades previously. There had been some attempts to move a new company in, but refitting the old building was not considered cost effective. As such, it sat waiting to eventually be demolished when someone finally got around to it, but in the meantime it served the Crew well. They kept the operation there small, only keeping what they needed there. Mostly it was a spot for getting drugs in, sorting them and getting them to the dealers.
Despite a bitter cold outside, business was going quite well. The Crew had some of their people working that evening. Mostly they were sorting a shipment of cocaine they had just received. They mixed the cocaine with baby powder to get more volume to sell. There were fires burning in fifty-five gallon drums to provide warmth. Hip-hop music emanated from a radio that sat on a table next to packages of drugs. The bass from the stereo filled the air. Amazingly enough, the people in the factory were still holding conversations as business was being conducted despite the noise that passed for music.
There were guards there, and they were armed. They displayed their pistols openly. Despite knowing everyone that was at the factory they still had their guard up. A few did so because that’s what they were paid to do. The rest were more interested in maintaining their tough persona. It was no surprise that it was one of the former who saw it coming.
It was just glimpse. Just enough out of the corner of his eye to get his attention. Just enough to get him to aim his gun at what he saw. Just enough to get him to pull the trigger after he called out to what he thought he saw and all he got in response was low laughter that he still heard somehow over the music. He was chilled to the bone when the laughter continued after he fired. The burn barrel near him did not help at all. Others were flocking to him. There were questions yelled at him. Guns were drawn. Everyone was on edge. The noise drowned out the laughter, but that first guard knew it was still there. His demands that everyone be quiet fell on deaf ears.
No one else heard the laughter until the radio was silenced. None of the crew had turned it off. They did not see what had, but they all heard the laughter then. It echoed off the walls making it nearly impossible to figure out where it was coming from. The gang began to murmur. Some thought it was the police. Some thought it was the Night Rain come for them. It was one of the younger gangbangers, still a teenager, which fired the first shot. It was the opening of the chorus of gunfire. Bullets flew in all direction, hitting walls and crates. They ricocheted off the old machinery. It didn’t stop until one of the ricochets clipped someone in the arm. Miraculously, despite well over a hundred rounds being fired, no one was killed.
None to the gang members there walked out of that building. The ones that survived said they were attacked. They said it looked like a man with long, stringy black hair. None of them said it was actually a man.
Dennis Yi was sick of coffee. He made a mental note to buy out the store of their supply of green tea. He and Sharon had been through over a pot of coffee since they returned to the station. Despite that, he was still ready to go to sleep right there at his desk. This was mostly due to fatigue and sleep deprivation, but the thought that sleeping would be more productive than what he was doing at the station was the dominant thought in his head.
Butch Kerns had plenty of connections and most of them had records. There was nothing obvious, and the thought of tracking down the dozens of scumbags to question them was not an appealing thought. None one on the list seemed like the type to willing to tell the police where they were at any given time, much less the night of a murder.
Dennis was hunkered over his computer. Sharon was standing next to him in the Special Crimes Unit office moving files and pictures around on the wall touch screen by her desk, sifting through all the data looking for anything that may help. They were both about to call it a night when two more of the detectives shambled in. Phil Escobar and “Lurch” Rollins both looked tired. Phil’s expression seemed like his mood matched Dennis’s. Lurch rarely showed much emotion on his face and that night was no exception.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Phil said as he checked his watch. He set his coat over the back of his chair, and them flopped down in it. The thick, scruffy looking Cuban was never really one to mince words. “And what happened to the coffee? Did Jack drink it all again and not brew another pot?”
Dennis and Sharon glanced at each other briefly. Jack Wesley was one of the newer unit members and drank enough coffee that it was theorized that a blood transfusion from him would keep a normal person awake for three days. “Yes.” They answered in unison.
Lurch did not say a word before heading off into the adjoining room. Dennis cocked an eyebrow knowing what the unit kept in that room.
“We’re working the Kerns homicide, and getting nowhere fast.” Sharon said, answering Phil’s first question. “How about you two?”
“I’m here because God hates me and sent Lurch to torture me for all my sins and misspent youth.”
“I can hear you.” Lurch called from the next room.
“I know.” Phil snapped back, reminding everyone that he is cranky when he is tired. “Lurch says something’s up and hauled me up here to dig some stuff out of the Voo Doo Locker.” The Unit did indeed handle specialized cases. Most of the force knew that there were plenty of things out there that haunted the shadows of the city. Dennis learned the hard way after he had emptied a full clip of bullets into a man who was attacking a woman in an alley, only to have that man jump right back up and run like hell. The Unit had been put together years before to handle things like that, and their equipment for doing so was by no means regulation. Lurch emerged with what looked like some scrolls and a brown, leather satchel.
“Something is up. Every Ley Line in a hundred miles fluctuated. That doesn’t happen for no reason and there were no reasons scheduled.” Lurch was very well versed in these matters. When asked how he knew about these things, his answer was always ‘college’. He was a tall imposing man, which was the main reason he had gotten his nickname. He was always dressed professionally. It was rumored that Phil had seen him without a tie on once. “There’s plenty of things that could cause this, and the vast majority of them shouldn’t be ignored.”
“So, when did this all happen?” Dennis asked as his bloodshot eyes tired to focus on his computer screen.
Javier did not remember how he gotten on the rooftop he found himself on. The night cold grabbed him immediately. He quickly found the fire escape and descended down into the alley and out of the biting wind. He did not notice a small red stains on his hands and jacket. His head hurt and his vision was still a little blurry, but that passed soon enough. By the time he had reached the pavement, he felt completely coherent. This was new. He had not felt that way in years. His mind was racing, wondering how he had gotten there. He recognized the street he was one once he emerged from the alley. The building he was squatting at was only a couple blocks away.
He was halfway there before he realized that he was not thinking about shooting up.
Javier’s knew something was happening to him, but he did not know what. He had blacked out before, but not like this. He could remember bits and pieces, but it was memories of the sensation of movement. He knew he had been doing something, but he did not know what. He thought about visiting the free clinic to see if they could help, but spontaneous sleepwalking seemed a bit out of their league.
The building he was staying in was a dilapidated, six-story, brick monstrosity with featured that could be improved with high explosives. There were still a few apartments in it that functioned and some poor souls actually paid money to stay in them. Javier stayed there to keep a roof over his head and to keep the winter wind from cutting through him. He ascended to the fourth floor. The building was quiet at that hour. His door was unlocked just as he had left it.
The room was only illuminated by the streetlights that shone dimly through the window. The apartment had no electricity, but it did have running water most days. Javier was tired and was eager to get to the dingy mattress he slept on. He hoped that another junkie had not decided to crash there and claim it.
There was someone else there. It was not another squatter. Javier could barely see him as he stood in the middle of the dark room. He thought for a moment that he was imagining it until two red eyes flashed in the darkness. A voice that could not possibly be human pierced the cold air.
“I have questions for you, Javier Santiago.”
About this month's artist: Bridget once snorted orange-flavored Pixie Stix dust when she was younger, simply because someone dared her to. Not only would she be sneezing orange for a week after the incident, but many would blame the act for her current mental state. All evidence suggests otherwise, proving she was never the brightest sandwich in the galaxy even before the lapse in judgment.