Friday, November 11, 2016

November Update

One more story down and I have reached the end of what I am tentatively calling the first volume of Samuel Sloan, PI. As that is the case this blog will be going on hiatus while I edit and compile Sam’s adventures to date into one coherent document. Depending on how the editing turns out I may have some exciting news in the coming months. Thank you for joining me and Samuel Sloan PI will return next year with the beginning of a new caseload of hardboiled detective fiction

On another note if any of my readers have any artistic talents I am still on the lookout for artwork of Sam and/or Sarah. Any other questions or comments the blog email is on the right. Enjoy your holidays everyone.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Crime and Gravity Part 7

“What do we have on Burke?”

Sarah called up a data file as she slowly paced around the office. “The combination of tailing him for two days and the research I have done online has given a well detailed profile. What were you looking for?”

I scanned the file as the question mulled over in my mind. “Let’s start with his home. His death has not been reported as a murder yet so there is a chance no one has bothered to lock it down yet.”

“Address is locked into your GPS. Research suggests that Mr. Burke’s home has an out of date security system.”

I made my way out of the Regency Bright office building, speeding along the freeway as the streetlights flashed by my window one at a time, distracting from the full moon outside as I headed into the northern suburbs. I slowed down to avoid attracting attention as I approached the subdivision, stopping to plant a small tracker by the most likely way in. That should let me know if anyone was passing by this late at night with a few minutes notice to run for it if I felt the need. Taking in the view of how the better half lived as I passed by pristine white houses one after another until I made it to Burke’s address. It appeared being a crooked lawyer paid fairly well. Working for Kimura carried a lousy retirement plan though. The area was far too open to hide the car anywhere and sneak in so I went with plan B and drove into the driveway like I belonged there.

I took a moment scanning the area before exiting the car. Either no one had noticed my arrival or they just did not care. A short walk to the back door told me Sarah had been right. This security system was slightly more technologically advanced than barricading the door, but not much. It took me thirty seconds flat to disable the electronics on the alarm and another twenty to force the lock. I didn’t even beat it up too badly. Closing the door behind me I started to search the rooms one by one. The kitchen was pristine, black and white tile matching the outside view and giving the place a cold, empty look. Burke didn’t strike me as the domestic type so I was guessing a cleaning service. That could give me one more avenue to check if I came out of this with a big pile of nothing. I slipped around the back into the master bedroom. My experience told me if there was anything to find, it would be here. The place had the same just cleansed look as the rest of the house. The closet was a whole different story. At first glance I thought someone had tossed it, but as I searched through the pile of clothes I started to get the feeling Burke had packed in a hurry and was considering never coming back. I Wasn’t sure how much time I had and going through this one hiding spot at a time was taking too long. I turned on a slow infrared sweep of the room that led med right to a hidden panel in the closet. Gently sliding it open I found several pages of handwritten notes, and a small data disc buried in an almost imperceptible hole in the wall.

Sarah’s familiar voice came in. “Multiple cars approaching, the police are on their way. I would say you have about three minutes before you are discovered.”

“Perfect timing as always.” I flipped on the camera in my artificial eye and copied the pages in one by one before turning my attention to the disc. I slid it into a ship reader. “Can you get me a copy of this.”

“It has not been encrypted, copying files now. I have a clone of the disc Detective.”

I shoved the evidence back in it’s hole but did not bother to cover it up. Hiding evidence in a murder case was a bit farther than I liked to push Bruno. I didn’t waste any more time, dashing back to the car and pulling out of Burke’s driveway to begin a nice slow tour of the area away from the advancing law. As soon as I was clear I kicked the car back into auto drive and turned my attention to Sarah.

“So what do we have.”

“I cannot fully verify this information without the help of the police department. However at first glance it appears to exonerate our client and connect Burke to a Miss Lindsey Williams. Miss Williams matches the description on the woman you saw Burke with in the alley.

“That’s our girl then. Can you get me an address?”

“Already done. Auto drive locked in to new location.”

I flicked the auto drive off and stepped in the gas. “I’ve got this one, we are only a few minutes ahead of the law tonight.” I could almost feel Sarah’s eyes roll as I listened to my tires sliding across the pavement.

It didn't take me long to find Miss Williams' apartment downtown, and even less time to realize I was not the first one here. The door had been kicked right off the hinges. My left hand dipped into my jacket, slowly slipping out the revolver and pulling the hammer back. The slow creak of the door echoed through the hallway as I slid what was left of the door open. I stepped through the threshold cautiously the revolver held low as I took in the scene. The place had been trashed. Tables overturned, broken glass scattered across the floor, and four holes in the wall that unless I missed my guess were the result of bullets. The final bit of evidence was in the next room. A young Japanese man laying face down in a pool of his own blood. I knelt down at a safe distance and stared into his lifeless eyes. The poor bastard almost looked surprised even now. "Were you alone, or just the unlucky one who took the bullets?" After a moment to study the scene I was firmly convinced the latter was true. Assume Williams was in the corner. Then when they came into the room she filled the first one in full of lead. Judging by the mess there was more than one and she emptied the gun on the first . Either Williams was in the wind or had been taken. Probably the second unless she could take down two or three heavies with her fists and an empty gun.

I heard the metallic footsteps just outside the apartment as I relaxed the hammer on my revolver and holstered it. From the sound of the approaching law, Lindsey Williams was about to become someone else's problem. Four BULS units came through the door on cue, their glowing red eyes focusing on me after they saw the dead body.

I raised my hands in surrender. "Samuel Sloan, Licensed private investigator. There is a gun in my jacket but it has not been fired."

The mechanized voice responded from the lead BULS unit. "You will surrender your weapon then be taken in for questioning."

I handed over the revolver just as the one of the BULS got that weird look that happens when their orders are being updated. "New instructions, you will be taken to Lieutenant Bruno. He wishes to conduct your interrogation himself."

Just what I needed, several hours of getting worked over by Anton Bruno. Whatever else you could say about him, the man had a sense of order and tended to get upset when dead bodies started appearing. As I was shoved into the back of the police cruiser I mulled over in my mind that it could have easily been worse then two dead bodies. I suspected Bruno would not find this argument compelling.

The BULS let me out of the car at the front door of abandoned warehouse. Just looking at the place made me wonder when my last tetanus shot had been. Bruno was waiting for me just inside the front door.

Bruno glared daggers at me. "I have so many reasons to throw you in a cell I am finding it difficult to decide where to start."

"I am at your disposal Lieutenant." I generally tried not to aggravate Bruno when he was this angry. I don't think he would shoot me just because he was irritated, but I am not completely sure.

"Let's start with the basics. What were you doing this time? Don't even think of giving me that 'confidential' crap."

I took a moment to try to make sense of the last few days. "Would you believe following a lawyer to see if he was involved in an embezzlement scheme?"

"In your case I would. That is just stupid enough to be true." Bruno slid his hat off, running his fingers through his hair in frustration. "We are going to go through this in great detail later, but right this second why were you searching for Lindsey Williams?"

Fellows didn't pay me enough to cover this up. "I have reason to believe she was a contact between the midnighters cycle gang, a lawyer downtown, and Haruki Kimura."

"Normally I'd call you a lunatic, but that would help explain this place. Follow me." Bruno led me into the open space in the center of the rotted out factory where BULS were collecting images of a dead woman tied to a chair in the middle of the room.

"Lindsey Williams?"

"Got it in one." Bruno held out his hand, stopping me from going farther into his crime scene. "And they worked her over hard. Two broken bones, a couple bullets in non vital places. You can't see the final touch from here. Two bullets in the back of the head for a messy execution."

"Kimura got to her before either of us."

"Looks like." Bruno turned to the BULS. "Take him to holding. I'll get the full story from him after I am done here."

After Bruno made me wait till he calmed down, I got to repeat the events of the last several days five times before Bruno was satisfied that I was telling the truth. Or at least he had determined he wasn't getting any more information.

"Since you haven't given me too much grief during this interrogation I'll give you one bit of information for free. Your buddy Rand of Zeta station security. He just hung himself in a apparent suicide after evidence started to surface that he was on the take."

Four dead bodies, I should count myself lucky Bruno didn't make up something to charge me with. "Did he really kill himself or is Kimura tidying up loose ends?"

"I'm not sure...yet. Get out of here before I change my mind."

I nodded then made my way back to the office, updating Sarah as I I let the car handle the trip. She was waiting for me as I entered.

"Welcome back Detective, I have an invite to the Century Club's New Year's party tonight." Sarah followed me through the office as I found my chair and tossed my hat on the desk.

"Not tonight, I have lost my celebratory mood. I'll make my apologies to Cherry later." A pile of dead bodies and a three day stake out will take it out of anyone.

"Will you tell anyone about Toshiro?"

"Not until I actually know something. I'm not going to bring back the dead unless I am sure."

"Any other instructions.?"

I leaned back in my chair closing my eyes. "Nothing tonight, Happy New Year Sarah."

"Happy New Year Detective."

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Crime and Gravity Part 6

Aiko moved to the left while his partner tried to circle around me. I cut to the right using the wall to stop him from getting around me as I raised my fists to defend myself. After that airlock opening security should already be on the way so I didn’t need to win this fight so much as not get killed. I took a quick jab at laughing boy’s chin but he backed up fast enough that it just glanced him. As he retreated Aiko was on me. I rolled out of the corner as his punch glanced off of my ribs. I managed to get a hold on his arm and use his momentum to swing him around and half toss him at his friend. That should keep them from surrounding me for at least a few more seconds. They immediately gave up the maneuvering and just came at me. I started backing up as I traded punches with the two of them. A solid right hook with my metal fist sent one reeling and I thought for a moment he might go down. Aiko was there to take his place while his friend recovered. He caught me with a quick side kick to the gut, knocking the wind out of me as I staggered back. Number two joined him and they stared at me with an annoyed glare. I must have been more trouble than they were planning for.

The long term of this was what worried me. I was fairly certain I could take either of them one on one. Two was going to be difficult at best. I sputtered out a slow breath and caught their gaze. “Ready to give up yet?”

Aiko gestured to his friend then moved forward with his fists raised for round two. I caught a side door opening out of the corner of my eye as a familiar face walked through.

“Enough!” A solidly built Japanese man in a tailored white shirt and black tie came through the access door. If I hadn’t known his face I still would have known Haruki Kimura instantly by the matched mechanical arms. “You two over here.”

The pair of goons went to Kimura like school boys who were about to be scolded. “Both of you, unable to bring down one American private investigator. I am embarrassed. Now stay here while I attend to business.” Kimura took two quick steps in my direction “Mister Sloan, a pleasure to see you again.”

I inclined my head slightly. “Mister Kimura. To what do I owe the honor?” Truth be told I still owed Kimura several bullets for the death of Toshiro Ishamoto. When he was surrounded by two of this heavies and I had just taken several punches was not what I would call a good time to settle up.

“A simple question only you can answer. Where is Toshiro Ishamoto?”

I took a moment to process the question. “Falling into the Pacific last I saw him. Do you know something different?”

“Know? No. Hear a whisper here and a couple lost men under mysterious circumstances there. Yes.” Kimura folded his hands in front of him. “But I am confidant he has not contacted you, if he does live. Now if you will excuse me I must explain to these two the difference between ‘Accident’ and ‘Attack anyone that shows up.’ Until next time.” Kimura gestured as the two followed him, locking the access door behind him.

Late as always station security wandered into the room with an amazing lack of urgency. I slumped against the bulkhead taking a moment to rest and check that Aiko hadn’t done anything worse than bruise my ribs. I was starting to miss the local criminals. They were in a lot worse shape.

A big guy with a face like an angry ox and a powder blue station uniform that fit like it was made for someone about fifty pounds lighter loomed over me. “You the one who called in the accident.”

“If that’s what you want to call it.”

The Ox gave a puzzled look then returned to the script in his head. “You’ll have to talk to the inspector.”

“Right behind you, help me off the ground and let’s go.” I lifted up an arm which after a moment of thought I am sure was painful he took and helped me up. “Lead on, Macduff.” I staggered momentarily on the way out and ditched my ear mic just in case.

Ox led me to the administrative wing of the station where I was escorted to an out of the way office by a pair of crisp, clean uniforms. I tried to make conversation out of boredom, but these two were all proper haircuts, no chit-chat, and as far as I could tell spent their free time practicing marching in ranks. With that kind of company I took a seat and practiced my twiddling just in case it ever became an important skill.

After a suspiciously long wait the blond haired, blue eyed head uniform of the brigade came through the door with his face buried in a data pad. He made it to his chair before his eyes rose above the floor. “You are Mister Samuel Sloan. Witness in the death of one James Burke and…” His voice took on a tone of disdain. “Private investigator in Los Angeles. I am station security sub-chief Rand. Are you ready to make a statement in the accidental death of Richard Burke?”

“I am. I have been here quite long enough to compose my thoughts on the matter.” Accident was it? I decided to play this one quietly until I had an idea what this guy was about. “What did you want to know?”

Sub-Chief Rand took his seat behind the desk as he started to read from his notes. “From what we have so far you came across James Burke trapped in an airlock and called maintenance to rescue. Unfortunately they were unable to arrive in time and Mister Burke died when the door accidentally opened and he was cast into space.”

My first instinct was that this guy was bought by Kimura. There was a small chance he was just a complete moron so I decided to lead him along and see how hard he fought. “Very well, I heard a noise coming from the floor and when I looked in there was Burke. He looked confused, like he had no idea where he was or how he had got there. If I had to guess I would say he just became conscious before I arrived.”

“Yes, I am sure the experience was terrifying for Mister Burke. However this does not change my ruling of accidental death.”

Crooked it was then. That explains my Kimura let me go so easily. It was much easier to rely on this patsy to cover up the paperwork than actually deal with me directly. My long wait was probably giving Kimura time to cover his tracks. “Was there anything else?”

“Yes your PI license does not cover investigations off of Earth. I will need to detain you while I verify any legal ramifications.”

“Who said I was investigating anything? I am a tourist. Here to witness the wonders of space. At least that is what the brochures say.” I tipped my hat back, waiting.

“So you are claiming you are not here on a case?”

“I am claiming nothing, but I do not share my client list.” Time to find out how deep Kimura has bought off this organization. “If there is some point of confusion I would be happy to stay until your chief returns and explain things to him.”

“Unneeded, I think I have all we require here.”

I saw a bead of sweat form on Rand’s forehead. He wanted me gone and fast. I decided to help him along, if only to keep myself from being arrested. “You know if your report is done… I think I have seen all I need to of Zeta Station. Perhaps the next transport down would be a good idea.”

Rand was trying to play it cool but I could still feel him relax as he exhaled. “That would be acceptable Mister Sloan. You may go, although I must warn you any independent attempt to investigate the Burke incident will result in your arrest.”

I stood up and readjusted my hat with a smile. “As I said, I am just a tourist. I’ll show myself out.” I stepped out before Rand could think up another reason to arrest me, then slipped down the hallway to recover my ear mic.

After a quick pass around the dome to make sure the security cameras were the only thing watching me, I booked my return trip then sent Sarah the latest updates in the case along with instructions to send a heavily edited account of events along to Cherry and Lieutenant Bruno. Sarah’s response noted that Aiko was a known associate of Haruki Kimura. That would have been useful to know earlier. Then after an hour of waiting I switched my flight plans at the last minute just in case anyone had prepared a second ‘accident’. I will admit to a certain paranoia being a consequence of my chosen profession, however it has kept me alive thus far.

The trip back to Earth was far less interesting than the way up. I still wanted a drink as the air around the nose of the Hawkling turned red with the air resistance as we shook our way through re-entry. After the worst of it was over I turned my mind back to the case. Kimura must have realized I was close to naming him in the case. Which explains why he revealed himself so easily. His man in the security office certainly did a number on keeping Burke’s murder quiet. I wanted to find where Burke was staying and give it a solid search myself, but I was sure Kimura had removed anything of consequence. The Hawkling touched down with a squeak of it wheels on the runway as my communications reconnected with the Los Angeles network.

As soon as contact was reestablished a familiar voice came back in my ear. “Welcome back detective. I am sending the car to you now.”

“Good, suspend all communications on the case until I get back to the office. I want to go through it, but not here.”

“Orders confirmed Detective. There may be a couple cases lined up for you in the new year. Also Lieutenant Bruno wants to interview you over the information we sent him.”

“Of course he does. I’ll be in the office soon then we can discuss it.”

After an hour of fighting my way through a mass of people trying to get out of the spaceport, I climbed into the Fairlane turning the noise dampeners up and the tinting on the windows as dark as possible while I set the destination for home. The trip to the office in real gravity with a proper cigar that I had stashed in the dash for just such an occasion was a highlight of my day.

Sarah appeared as soon as I crossed the threshold of the office. I motioned for her to follow as she peered over my shoulder at the collection of our evidence thus far. “Something of note Detective? It appears to be enough to exonerate our client. At the very least it casts enough suspicion on his guilt to prevent any kind of conviction.”

“Yes, Pack up the relevant information and send it to Fellows. Inform him I will contact him tomorrow to explain the details.”

“Done. Some reason for the delay?”

I spun through the computer files to the picture of the woman Burke was meeting in an alley before the bikers interrupted my nice quiet stakeout. “Her, I would be willing to bet she was Burke’s link to Kimura’s organization. If I can find her before any of the other players…”

“You could lead the police to Kimura, or go after him yourself?”

“First I need to find her.”

“Happy hunting Detective.”

Monday, October 3, 2016

Crime and Gravity Part 5

Traffic was backed up at least a mile away from LA and Up, the most popular launch pad in all of Los Angeles. Of course by that I mean the cheapest, reserved for those who were too poor or stingy to find a better way into space. Still one cannot argue with cheap when you are on a limited expense account. I started the radio playing an old jazz number from the last century as I started to wonder if it would be faster to walk to the blasted station. While I waited, my pistol was quickly stashed in the glove box, no use where I was going anyways. The third guitar solo had just finished as I finally made it to the curb and went into my trunk for a dark leather bag containing enough clothing, odds, and ends to make me look like a tourist. The real treasure in the bag was very well concealed surveillance equipment, small enough to bypass just about any security. At least they had never caught me before.

I tapped the communicator in my ear. “Sarah take the car back to the office, I’ll call when I need it.”

“Confirmed Detective, I also adjusted the schedule for your time away.”

“You’re the best, I’ll make contact after I am safely at Zeta.”

I switched comms to off before spending the next half hour being searched, scanned, and stared at by a weedy little man in thick glasses who seemed a little too determined to find some contraband buried in the circuitry of my artificial eye. The little man finally gave up and let me through, allowing me the dubious pleasure of strapping myself into a T-37 Hawkling, a frightening hybrid of airplane, rocket and spaceship. I did say I wanted to get there fast though. I felt a strong desire for a stiff Bourbon, but they had stopped drinks on these flights after the first five or six people vomited, a thing you really to not want to witness in zero gravity. After several dull moments of passenger warnings the Hawkling hit the runway and launched into the air. I held onto my hat knowing what was coming in three, two, one. The bird’s boosters fired, pinning everyone in the plane to the back of their seat as we rocketed into the sky. Two minutes later I felt the weight shift to the left as the Hawkling switched to the non atmospheric engines. We started to lock into orbit with Zeta Station as I realized I was going to survive this insane trip at least one more time.

From my seat I could hear the loud click of the Hawkling connecting to the station's dock followed by the hiss of air as our air pressure equalized with the station. One by one we were escorted from the Hawkling onto a small shuttle in the spinning center of the station. I found the motion disorienting and just closed my eyes until we started to move and finally arrived at the artificial gravity of the station’s rim. Zeta station was one of twelve satellites orbiting the globe and handling the majority of the planet's communications. About a thousand administrators and maintenance workers besides the occasional tourist, which was what I was using as a admittedly thin cover. It should hold as long as no one looked too close, and I was hopeful that Burke had not made me yet. Finding Burke was going to be my main problem here, security was tight for obvious reasons and scanning equipment with any power would be picked up. I decided to go with maintaining my cover first and checked into the small closet of a room Sarah had found for me. Just a bed, toilet, and enough room to pace and think, if I didn't mind turning around every two steps. I tossed my bag down and dug into the secret compartment in the bottom, coming up with a specialized ear mic. Then I spent a few minutes setting it to lock in on Burke's voice. That should tell me if he says a word within half a mile of my location. My other advantage was there were only a few decent restaurants on Zeta Station, and my mark didn't strike me as the type for sitting in his room with a frozen food pack. He wasn't smart enough to lay that low. I took the rooms comm unit and sent a message back to Sarah. 'Just arrived, haven't seen anything yet.'

I made a slow tour of the stations public observation areas. One shaded and reinforced window after the other showing anyone who cared to see the vastness of the galaxy. The trick to that of course is too keep your mind on the deck beneath you and just presume the earth is spinning. It's less painful that way. Still I decided I would much prefer the far less vast inside of a shot glass. I made by way back to the middle of the station's rim. It was the only area on the station open to lease by the public, and therefore had virtually all of the station's commerce.

As I was deciding which of these places might have the best whiskey, I got a hit on Burke and he was close. Taking a turn around the corner I made him out sitting in the corner of the not so cleverly named Starlight Lounge. Burke looked terrified. His eyes darting left and right like a trapped rabbit as a glass of booze shook in his hand. I quietly took a booth where I could keep an eye on him and ordered a drink with some form of chicken. It appeared my rabbit was waiting for someone and no reason to wait out the interim hungry. Burke tried several calls as I dug into my chicken and rice, not terrible but nothing ever seems to taste right after you launch it into space.

I was just finishing the meal and taking a sip of the whiskey as a young Japanese man wearing a crisp black and white suit the a bowler hat walked over with a drink in his hand, taking the seat opposite Burke. He spoke softly as he leaned over the table. "Try to control yourself, you are drawing to much attention."

"What does it matter, no one knows I am here."

"That is what I believe you Americans call 'Famous last words’. Now why did you request this meeting?"

"I'm in trouble and need to talk to Ha_"

The young man cut Burke off with a gesture. "You speak to who we say you speak to, now tell me the problem."

Burke swallowed the rest of his drink in one gulp, eyes scanning the room in fear. "I think someone at the Century Club has found me out, maybe even Cherry Azure herself. And the patsy we set up to take the fall found out about the operation. The little twerp is trying to follow me, it can't be long until he decides to go to the law.

Burke's opposite stared right into his eyes without betraying a single emotion. "And you wish us to do what?"

"Either get rid of the people chasing me, or give me enough money to get out of town and stay gone. I know enough to make trouble for you." Burke shook his finger at his quiet companion, about as intimidating as your average squirrel. "I keep records."

"Are you truly sure you wish to threaten us Mister Burke?"

Burke lowered his head. "Of course not Aiko."

"I thought not" Aiko pulled a small device out of his jacket and typed a few words into it. "Meet me in corridor seven in two hours. I can arrange your escape. Until then keep out of sight."

"Thank you, you don't know what this means_"

Aiko cut him off with another gesture. "When I said do not be seen I meant begin doing so now."

Burke slowly caught the drift and slinked out of the place before Aiko had to repeat himself again. I slid slightly over in my booth at avoid attracting any attention myself and waiting for Aiko to make himself scarce before taking my leave. I made my way back to the closet and took advantage of the two paces each way for a bit of good pacing well I thought. I only knew of a couple Japanese outfits that operated in the Los Angeles area and they were both bad news. I sent an update to Sarah with Aiko’s picture and told her to look for known associates and any encounters he may have had with the law. That should get me started. It had been a long day so I took advantage of the gap in time to close my eyes. This was the kind of meeting you wanted to show up fashionably late for.

The alarm went off and I took a moment to splash some water on my face. Readjusting my hat as I made my way down a dull gray corridor and turning the ear mic up to give me advance warning if anyone was lurking in the shadows. I found corridor seven and peeked around the corner. No conversation, not much of anything would be more accurate. Something was not right here. I took a slow stroll down the empty corridor acting like the lost tourist I was meant to be. A single access hatch on the floor caught my eye and I moved towards it with a very bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I wiped a touch of condensation away and peered through the window seeing Burke on the floor of the airlock dazed and trying to rise. He look like he had been either beaten up or drugged and was struggling to rise. I started to search for the mechanism to open the hatch as it occurred to me I should have known his threats would not have been taken lightly.

I managed to raise local security on my comm unit. “Emergency in corridor seven, there is a man trapped in the airlock.”

A response came back. “That should not be possible. Sending maintenance to investigate.”

“I’d hurry if I were you.” I switched the channel off and went back to the window. “Burke! Listen I have people coming to get you out of there.

Burke nodded groggily then stopped in place. I could see the look of horror on his face as the outer door opened and he was drug out into the vacuum around the station. I hit the inner door in frustration getting a hollow ring in reply to my efforts. As I stood up as I heard foot falls behind me and there was Aiko and a man in an identical suit that could be his brother.

Aiko took a couple steps forward and shook his head. “I don’t know who you are, but you picked a bad place to be today.”

Truer words were never spoken. I sized the two crooks up getting ready for a fight.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Crime and Gravity Part 4

I considered trying to pick one off before making a run for it, but at this range and with my electronic eye on the fritz I would probably just miss. No need to let them know I am armed until absolutely needed. It might even keep them from shooting back, for a little while. I ducked my head down and bolted a block down for an alley, just in case they were clever and had the one next to me covered. There was a loose bit of pipe on the way by that I leaned down and snatched up, never know when such a thing might be useful. I could make out the cycle engines gunning behind me, they weren’t in a hurry and wanted to play a bit first. Good that gave me some room to maneuver.

I hung the first right then a left as the rain started to come down ducking behind a corner as my shoulder impacted with the old brick. Just a moment to catch my breath as I caught a single headlight cruising my way. If he was just overconfident enough…I stepped out of my hiding spot taking a wild swing with the pipe as he came by. There was a solid ring as I glanced his head, the bike winding off into the wall with a crash. Damn, better aim and I would have taken him out completely. Fighting with one good eye is harder than you might think. I could hear more cycles closing so I took off in the other direction rather than stopping to put him own for the count. Call it a learning experience for him, I doubt he will make that mistake again. The sound of the ganger trying to start his bike while righting it and swearing up a storm echoed off the bricks as I doubled back and grabbed the first right turn I could find. The roar of cycles started in the distance from several directions at once. My pursuers were circling the main roads and if I was really unlucky calling for backup. I usually just assume I am going to be unlucky, it saves time.

Judging by the noise there were at least five maybe six bikes out there. I twisted and turned through the back alleys, taking a deep breath before sprinting across an open road and back into the relative safety of the alleys. As a small blessing my eye began to reinitialize, the world coming back into depth and color, and more importantly infrared. A pair of bikes made the turn into the alley, carrying a biker staring me down from under a pony tail, and a bald man with more weight than was really good for him. They revved up the throttle and sped in my direction to run me down. I kept an eye over my shoulder as they closed the gap between us then threw the bit of pipe at the last moment, diving to the edge of the alley. This time it was a perfect throw hitting pony tail right between the eyes. His bike veered off sending the both of them crashing into the opposite wall of the alley. The ear splitting sound of twisting metal filled the alley and I could hear the sickening crunch of at least one broken bone as they hit the pavement. The bald pile of trouble manged to throw his bike off and rush me as I lifted myself off the cold pavement, knocking me back into the wall. I dropped low and hit him with a quick one-two in each side of the gut, backing him off me with a stagger. He came back with a wild haymaker which I easily ducked and countered with a right handed uppercut, watching his eyes roll back in his head as my metal fist connected right under his chin and sent him sprawling to the floor. I didn’t have time to make sure he was down for the count. I turned to his friend, unconscious and trapped in the bike crash. Even at a glance I could tell the bikes were not going anywhere, at least not fast enough to matter. I saw a small comm unit laying next to his unconscious form and grabbed as I focused my mind back on the task at hand and kept running further into the dark.

A welcome voice lit up in my earpiece just as sirens started to sound in the distance. “Contact reestablished Detective. Was that an EMP?”

I ducked down behind a corner. “And a big one, and chance of finding me a way out of here that does not involve being shot, beaten, or both?”

“There is no local surveillance in the area I can access, the best I can do is a map and a call to the police…wait, they have already been alerted. The EMP and the noise you have been making attracted some attention.

Sure enough I could hear the sirens in the distance and the sound of cycles breaking off and making a run for it. I found a quiet corner and hid, as they were looking for bikers there was a fair chance they would pass me by, and I was too busy at the moment to spend four hours being grilled by John Law. I saw the last of the police cruisers pass by in search of bikers too dumb to run, before I stood up from by hiding spot. “The car back online yet.”

“Online and a block away Detective.”

“Perfect, let’s get out of here before I get myself arrested again.” I slid into the Fairlane, making a tight U-turn as I sped out of the area and back into the sane parts of Los Angeles, well less violent anyways. I set the auto drive and mulled through the night in my head. That was not a chance encounter. They wanted me for something and alive. Either they wanted to know why I was tailing their guy, or someone paid them to make my life difficult. Leaving the other question of who would be crazy enough to give those idiots military grade hardware. Let’s hope it was a one time deal or there might be blood on the streets before long. “Sarah check surveillance and the car, make sure no one is making a clever attempt to follow us.”

“There was a small device placed on the car, most likely right after you left. It was not well concealed and has already been neutralized.”

After verifying the state of the car, I took a shortcut back to the office and Sarah was waiting for me as I came through the door. “Are you in need of any medical attention Detective?”

“No” I plugged the communicator from the goon into our computer. “See what you can make of this.”

“Appear to have been several messages on here forwarded from another person. The text has been deleted. I may be able to recover the point of origin.

“Start on that.” I opened Burke’s file scanning it for an reason he would be having clandestine meeting , besides the obvious. Their back alley get together in gangland did not strike me as particularly romantic. I loaded the pictures I had of her into our case database, tapping my fingers as the machine tried to match her to public records.

“Have you figured out why someone tried to harm you this time detective?”

“I have a few working theories, the two most likely being that Burke has more protectors than he knows or the small possibility that Timothy is taking an early swipe at me by drawing some violent attention my way. It would be a perfect set up. His hands are clean and I go away. I don’t think he has worked himself up to that point though, at least not yet. Since they were trying to take me alive it is a fair assumption they are not quite sure what I am doing there. Any working ideas on where they came up with an EMP of that grade?”

Sarah sat on the edge of my desk looking over my shoulder. “None of their known contacts would have access to that kind of hardware. They must be making new friends.”

I spun around in my chair to face Sarah. “That’s what worries me. If they can get their hands on that, they may have other high end weapons, possibly of the armor piercing or explosive kind.

“Someone is entering the building Detective.” My hand went into my coat resting on the automatic pistol I had stashed their earlier. “Wait, police access. I do not recommend shooting at Lieutenant Bruno.”

“I don’t think a bullet or three would kill him, he would just get mad at me, more than usual anyways. Let him in.”

The front door of the office slid open and in came Lieutenant Anton Bruno. Only one robotic BULS unit stood outside the door, so he probably wasn’t planning to arrest me this time. I stood from my desk. “To what do I owe the pleasure Lieutenant?”

Bruno adjusted his suit taking in the view of the office with a mild disdain. “The usual, trouble that I think you might know something about.”

“Oh, What did I do this time…hypothetically.”

“A car matching your description was seen near the midnighter’s territory. BULS units and a few officers cleared the area as multiple motorcycles were discovered in a search pattern. Which means to me they did not find what they were looking for. My bet is it was you.” Lieutenant Bruno walked up to my desk staring down at me. “Care to enlighten me?”

“I don’t think I match the description of any kind of car Lieutenant. That being said I was working for a client last night, and cannot give you information on my activities without proper warrants.” I returned the good Lieutenant’s glare with a smile. “Because I do like to help the police when I can, I will contact my client and see what information I can give you tomorrow.”

“Ok play it that way Sloan. We both know I don’t have enough for a search yet. Hope that does not change. If it does I’ll be back with a pack of BULS to turn this place upside down until I find something I like. I might even have them turn you upside down just to be thorough.” Bruno turned around on his heel and headed out the door. “You spend to much time talking to the air Sloan. It’s making you more difficult then usual.” I could just make out the sound of the door sliding closed behind him.

Sarah tilted her head. “Was that directed at me? How rude.”

I turned my attention back to Sarah. “I am afraid the Lieutenant is a traditionalist. Back to more important matters. Do we have anything on Burke.”

“Actually yes, He is on his way to the Greater Los Angeles Launch Pad. In a related note several messages from your captured communicator lead to Zeta Station.”

“If I move now how far behind will I be?”

“Scanning schedule…4 hours is the best I can do.”

“Then let’s hope Burke can wait a few hours before doing something interesting.” I am going to stash this comm unit then head out.”

“Ticket booked detective.”

I made my way to the car and headed off to be launched to Zeta Station. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Crime and Gravity Part 3

I took deep breath as the Fairlane made it’s way over to the Century Club. Cherry Azure being involved in the case ranked pretty high on the list of things I did not need. Timothy was waiting for me as I slid out of the car. He must have been practicing the annoyed glare he usually uses on me. It only took a moment for me to realize I was not wanted. I walked straight up to him turning my head up to look Timothy right in the eye. I gave him my best formal tone. “Mister Samuel Sloan to see Miss Cherry Azure.”

Timothy turned his annoyed glare up several notches. “This way. Miss Azure is waiting for you.” I followed tall, dark, and irritated through a back passageway to a small room in the back area of the Century Club that most of it’s clientele did not know existed. Cherry was waiting there, sitting demurely at a table with a bottle of wine sticking half way out of an ice bucket and two empty glasses. I have to give it to her, Chery has style.

Cherry turned towards me wearing a tight dress of deep red that showed off her every curve perfectly. She tossed her blond locks over her shoulder like a woman without a care in the world. “Sam, always a pleasure. Why don’t you close the door and pour us a drink?”

I quickly obeyed, if only for the small pleasure of slamming the door in Timothy’s face. The wine I took my time with, enjoying it’s scent before filling the glasses in front of us. “May I join you miss? Or did you just call me for my services as waiter?”

“Do sit down Sam. Have a drink and then explain to me why you were following my people.”

I took a seat and lifted up the glass in Cherry’s direction. “To your health.” Then took a slow sip, enjoying memories of older times as the smell filled my nostrils. “I only recall following one person. Was he yours?”

“Don’t be coy Sam, it is not in your nature.” Cherry daintily picked up her glass meeting my gaze across the table. “Now why were you chasing James Burke.”

“The usual, a case running though his law firm. One of your informants besides whatever else he may be up to?”

“You could say that. His firm has a few clients I like to keep my eyes on. I wouldn’t call him a valued member of the family, but I would be annoyed if you shot him for anything other than absolute necessity.”

I gave her my best grin. “So you are saying you do not want him killed, but a minor wounding or a couple good punches about the head would be acceptable?”

Cherry shook her head in mock resignation before string right at me. “Sam if Burke is giving away information on my establishment I need to know about it.”

“You know I will not spill on one of my clients. I think I am safe telling you there are some questionable money dealings going through his business. A person of interest asked me to look into it.”

“Fine be mysterious, I like that in a man.” Cherry swirled her drink around staring into the red ripples. “Just let me know if the case gets too close to me.”

“That I can do.” I took a drink using the break in the conversation to think up a change of subject. “Is Asiru finding your employ suitable?”

“Oh that girl is a delight, brilliant and just easy enough on the eyes that no one expects it of her. I may actually owe you a favor for introducing us.”

“Just take care of her, if anything happened to her, that I would take personally.”

“You perfectly know my favorites are well cared for.” Cherry was interrupted by a knock on the door. “Oh what is it now? Enter!.”

Timothy swung the door open. “The mayor has entered and seems to expect a personal audience.”

Cherry gave a theatrical sigh. “Give a man a little power and he thinks I am going to bow to him.” She touched her finger to her chin in thought. “He likes redheads, send Veronica with a drink to keep him busy until I arrive.”

“Yes Miss Azure.” Timothy stepped back outside the door and relayed the lady’s orders.

Cherry rose slowly. “It appears the work of a hostess is never done.” She turned her back to me slowly. “Am I all in place?”

I stepped behind her helping to place a rogue strap back in position. “There, everything in a perfect place.”

Cherry flashed a smile back at me. “A gentleman as always.” Slipping a pair of jet black heels on as she made her way for the door. “For the record if our dear mayor should ever end up on the wrong end of one or your investigations I would not mind at all. I am sure you know the way out.” Cherry then lit up the red lights implanted in her skin and went out to put on a show.

I made my way through the back hallways of the Century Club. Footfalls hollow on the wooden floors as I ran into Timothy yet again, blocking the way out. I stopped just a couple feet in front of him. “Miss me already?”

Timothy placed a hand on my shoulder with a merciless grip. “We don’t need you causing trouble around here again Sloan. Why don’t you do us all a favor and get lost somewhere far away? The moon would be a good start.”

I took a moment to consider the man in front of me. “Just as a word of advice, if you are nursing a crush on Cherry. You are not the first and this is not the way.”

Timothy glared back down at me. I always thought he lacked a sense of humor, and his murderous stare was in full effect today. “If anyone ends up in jail because of your antics, I am going to hold you personally responsible.” Timothy tightened his grip.

I glanced back nonchalantly at the death glare. Trouble with Timothy was the last thing I needed but I was not about to give Timothy the satisfaction of blinking at his intimidation tactics. “So what happens next? You going to be kind enough to step out of the way or would you prefer to kill each other in the hallway.”

Timothy gave me a shove out of his way before continuing down the hall. “Not today Sloan, not today.”

I climbed back into the Fairlane mulling over the latest pile of complications in my mind as I stomped on the gas and flew out of the garage. Much as I try to stay on Cherry’s good side I was not about to let a client go that easily. Timothy also appeared to be very close to causing ten kinds of trouble that I did not need. Botany is a nice career right? Plants are quiet, keep to themselves, and never shoot you in the back. Could even keep schedule by an almanac. As I was not going to trade my fedora in for a straw hat today I decided to return my attention to one James Burke, lawyer and possible criminal scumbag. I turned my attention to the dash.“So what has our boy been up to while I have been making peace with the locals?”

“Mr. Burke has not yet left the Century Club, or at least his car has not.” Sarah’s voice came back at me.

“I am going to clear the area before I make Cherry any angrier than she already is. I doubt he will do anything of interest at the club anyways. If he is going behind her back, he cannot possibly be dumb enough to try it in her club.”

“Haven’t you always said to never underestimate stupidity?”

I set my hat down on the passenger seat of the car. “True, but I think if he was that much of an idiot he would be dead. Keep me informed.” I turned the car in the direction of a halfway decent drink.

“Confirmed Detective.” The speaker went quiet.

After a short drive I decided for a bit of nostalgia with my liquor and quietly made my way into Sue’s bar. The place had cleaned up nice since my last visit and I could not even see the bullet holes anymore. I took a seat at the bar and realized clean might be overstating, but they did clean up the blood.

The barkeep’s hulking form turned at my entrance. “Haven’t you caused enough trouble here for this year?”

I leaned over tossing far too much money on the bar. “Whiskey and my heartfelt apology?”

The big man poured me a double and set it on the bar then pocketed the bills I had offered. “Since you did check on me in the hospital, you are forgiven just this once. As long as there are no gunman following you this time.”

I gave one look behind me. “Just me and a thirst tonight.”

He set a beer on the bar. “Last warning though, you cause one more shootout here and I am banning you.” He turned back to me as his attention returned to his more regular customers.

I made it about halfway through the beer before the call from Sarah came. “Burke is back on the move, looks like he is not quite done for the night.”

I threw a tip on the bar and downed the rest of the beer in one gulp. “Work is never done. Thanks for the beer Sue.”

I just made out the grizzled voice behind me. “Still not funny” as I made way back to the car and reacquired the trail of James Burke. He was easy to acquire and I slid in behind him as he made no indication of even keeping an eye out for a tail. Cherry must have been kind enough not to rat me out. After a direct path to one of the less populated areas of downtown Burke hopped out of his car. Walking around to meet a short brunette in thick framed glasses. The woman didn’t get out of her gray sedan,so I could only make out the outline of her pale features as Burke handed her a small package. I snapped a few long distance pictures in the hope Sarah could clean up the images later. Burke made his way back to the car with a scared look in his eye I hadn’t seen before.

The cars sped off into the night as a splitting scream filled my ear piece. My eyes blurred as communications shifted into emergency shutdown mode and the car went dead. I turned behind me and saw a pair of Midnighter’s mounted on bikes with a military grade EMP device. The lunatics were moving up in the world, as they didn’t come in shooting they wanted me alive, probably. A quick sweep showed at least two more. The upshot is a device that powerful burns out after one shot. At least it was the upshot if I could make it through the next few minutes. I slid the automatic out of my glove compartment and got ready to run.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Crime and Gravity Part 2

I cleared the LA docks and hit the freeway with a few hours to burn before there would be anything worth seeing downtown. Being in no rush for once I took the slow way to the office so I could think, stopping the car in an old parking lot and making my way on foot through a small doorway decorated in red and orange lanterns. Inside was one of the smallest restaurants you have ever seen, including a bar with a pair of balding Asian men drinking their sorrows away. I grabbed the first open chair and yelled into the back. “Chula! Have a special back there for me?”

Chula walked out from the back dressed in a stained apron and hat. He started waving his fists erratically as he limped in my direction. “Sloan, you go now. You eat too much, drive poor old man out of business. Look you getting so fat the chair bends!”

I set my hat on the bar, rolling my eyes at the old man as he gesticulated about.“No one is here to watch Chula, save the act for the tourists. You are about as decrepit as I am. Also I am still waiting for my noodles.”

Chula stopped, his eyes flicked left to right, then he slipped into a perfect English accent and lost two thirds of his limp. “The customers expect a certain, ethnicity. You can’t blame an old man for trying to drum a few more people in.”

“Yeah, and I normally don’t mind playing the fool for you, but there is no one to watch.” I hung my jacket on the back of the chair before folding my hands in front of me on the bar.

“You’re a good sport Sam. Let me throw together a bowl for you.” Chula stepped in back while he sent his daughter out to give me a small bowl of soup. After a few minutes Chula came back with a giant bowl of Thai noodles and unceremoniously dropped them off in front of me. “There I gave you a little extra, just don’t tell anyone. I have a reputation to maintain.”

“Your secret is safe with me.” I dove into the noodles as Chula wandered back into his kitchen. I had helped the man with a few outstanding legal problems a few years back. The old man came up short on his expense account and offered me a few free meals at his restaurant as recompense. Normally I would have said no but I was feeling sympathetic. That was before I found out he made the best Thai noodles in LA. I may owe him a refund truth be told. There was not enough information yet to make heads or tails of the case as of yet, so I employed the old Zen technique of ‘Clear your mind and eat noodles’. After the meal I left a nice tip for the waitress and made my way back to the office.

Sarah was already waiting for me when I entered the office. I held up a single finger. “Unless someone is going to die, not yet. I coaxed the ancient coffee maker to life, getting a fresh cup out of it before returning my revolver to my desk and sitting down. Sarah tilted her head at me, tapping her foot soundlessly on the tile floor.I took a long slow slip of my coffee then spun in my chair towards Sarah. “I am ready now, what is it?”

“I have been monitoring your communications on the case thus far and prepared information for on on the Midnighters Cycle Gang. They seem to occupy an area slightly north of downtown.”

“And make a living with extortion rackets, smuggling, and the occasional public beating if someone pays their fee. They usually stop short of outright murder though. Also police surveillance equipment has a tendency to either go missing or turn up broken very shortly after being placed. The only upside is with the dark blue on black bikes they cruise around on, they can be spotted a mile away.

“You have dealt with them before.”

“An old case before your time ended in a fight. Couple of the bikers tried to rough up a client of mine. The brawl ended with a few broken bones, one cracked skull, and far too close to me being on the receiving end of several bullets. They were looking to even the score for a while, but after the guy with the cracked skull ended up getting dead in a shootout with the police they calmed down.”

“I am sometimes amazed you survived as long as you have.” Sarah sat on the side of my desk glancing at the files. “I prioritized their recent activity and the information the police have chosen to make public.”

“That will make a good place to start. Get a tracking device ready as well. I want eyes on this Burke, preferably sooner than later.” I opened up the files to see what the Midnighters had been up to since last I crossed their path. Aggravated assaults, extortion, plus whatever the law didn’t care to share with John Public. Just as charming as I recalled.

After picking up a simple tracking device, I went for a slow afternoon drive bringing me to the firm of Pratt and Hawlire. Even at a glance I could see the lawyers were doing well for themselves. The skyscraper gleamed casting a bright reflection from on high to us lower beings at ground level. I flipped on the cameras and began scanning the building while I stopped for coffee and a hot dog from a street vendor with the wild hair of some crazed scientist out of a bad movie. He has clearly been in the sun too long, but who am I to judge a man with food and coffee. I left crazy to his work and slid back into the Fairlane, yelling at the dash between bites of hot dog. “What do you see Sarah?”

The dash answered back. “Unhealthy food and bad table manners.”

I finished the hot dog and made a perfect toss of the wrapper into a nearby garbage can. “First, there is no table so it does not count. Secondly, you perfectly well know I was asking about the building security.”

“Are you after entry to the building itself, or just trying to get to Mister Burke’s car?”

“Let’s start with the car for now. Do an analysis of building security and save it for later use though. Hopefully this won’t turn into petty larceny of the rich and famous, but I like to keep my options open.” I started the car and circled the rest of the building to get an infrared scan of the back side of the skyscraper. Interesting thing about security, unless they go back to using absurd mechanical booby traps everything uses power that can be detected by the right equipment. It isn’t as good as say, bribing a employee for the building plans. Is a lot cheaper however and will give you a fair idea how tightly locked down a building is.

“Confirmed Detective. I have security information on the building stored. Breaking in would be a significant undertaking. The parking garage is much less secure. Only a keypad controlling entry and and cameras at the entrances.”

“Any chance you got the code during my drive-by?” I pulled the car over to the side of the street a safe distance away from the firm.

“One person used the keypad during your drive by. Attempting to reconstruct code from images…Seven…Seven…Five…Three…Six. Ninety two percent chance of accuracy.”

“It’ll have to do.” I slid out of the car, pulling my hat low. “Send the car for me if anything goes wrong.”

“Beginning monitoring of communications in the area.”

I made kept my head sightly low as I made my way quickly down the side of the road. People trying to be polite and unobtrusive often try to place their surveillance out of the way on the ceiling. This makes it fairly easy to slip underneath without leaving enough of you to identify. A proper camera should be right in someone’s face. AS soon as I made it to the door, I punched in the numbers Sarah gave me hearing a satisfying ‘click’. My footsteps echoed as I made my way up the empty stairwell. I was afraid electronic scanning might be picked up so I was left with searching the old fashioned way. Luckily for me the lot was almost abandoned as I made my way through like an idiot who had forgotten where he parked. Eventually I found the black BMW belonging to one James Burke and after a quick check to insure I was not being observed, I affixed a tracker right next to his gas tank. I made it out of the building without a hitch and the car caught up with me a couple blocks away.

“One job down.” I turned the car back towards the office. “Let’s give this one some time and see where he goes tonight.”

“I’ll keep track of his location and let you know if he goes anywhere interesting.”

This left me a couple dull hours of paperwork while I waited for my mark to get out of work. Dusk finally came and I slipped into the fairlane taking a long circle around the Midnighter’s territory. I only made out a couple of their bikes from a distance, must be a slow night. On the second pass around the outskirts I heard Sarah’s voice break up the monotony of watching a few bikes do nothing.

“Detective, I am picking up Mister Burke’s tracking device in your area.”

“Give me his location.” Sarah lit up a small dot on my local GPS map and I spun the car around, following Burke into gang territory at a reasonably safe distance. He certainly was not worried about being followed as he pulled up right next to a pair of Midnighters idling at a street corner and passed a small package out the window. I pulled a fast right as my only other option was to stop the car right behind the idiot. As I rolled up to a stop sign a pair of blue on black bikes pulled up on either side of my car. They didn’t look primed for a fight, so I rolled down my window and turned to face a tall, gaunt girl staring down at me. Not hard on the eyes even if gang tattoos and bleach blond mohawks aren’t quite my thing. I will say this for the Midnighters, they do not discriminate. All violent antisocial criminals are welcome.

“You don’t look like you belong here mister.” The blond spoke as I caught the rider of the other bike out of the corner of my eye. A well muscled guy sat testing the swing on a heavy chain. I can generally spot a follower and was reasonably certain he wasn’t going to make a move without his partner’s say so.

I lifted my hands up off the wheel and waved them around. “Hey I am not looking for any trouble. I was supposed to met a guy name Jose at his bar and I think I am in the wrong neighborhood.”

Blondie nodded at her friend as he brought the chain over the hood of my car with a loud metallic bang. “Idiot ,get out of here before I have Hugo drag you out of the car.”

“Yes ma’am. I stepped on the gas speeding out into the night. I find that people always like to think that others are either stupid or cowards and am not above playing to expectations when it gets me out of a fight I do not want. I wonder if I can charge a paint touch up to Fellow’s expense account.

I picked up Burke on his way out of gangland and got back on his tail. He was driving slow and casually making me certain I had not been made. I turned out of his path as he pulled into the valet parking area of the Century Club.

As I considered my next move, Sarah’s voice lit up. “Detective, I have a message for you from Miss Cherry Azure. I think you will want to hear this.”

“Go ahead.”

“Miss Azure would like you to come around back and explain to her why you are tailing her clients.”

This was the last thing I needed. “Tell her I am on my way.” I was stuck by the feeling I was about to get scolded as I spun the car around.