So far …
Toa Carter is an agent of Section 17, now forced to make his way alone during a Code Black. Still dealing with the disappearance of a colleague, Carter now deals with the death of a friend. What looks like a drug overdose might in fact be murder. But what did Preston know? Staying overnight in his dead friends apartment might not have been wise, especially with unknown men approaching.
Continuing datastream >>
“Search the place.”
“Search where? Will you get a load of this place?”
Toa waited where he was, feeling cramped inside the shower box. It was dark, and strangely warm. He saw the dark shapes, moving through the plasti slide door. They passed him, probably heading towards the bed.
“Where would he have put it?” asked the second voice again. Toa bided his time. “Don’t look like this guy got much of a life outside the clubs, Frank.”
“I don’t know. Use your imagination!”
There was the sound of things being tossed, and Toa pulled back the door slowly, cautiously. When he stepped out of the shower, he saw the man who had complained, staring back startled. Toa threw a punch down on him like a hammer blow, and his head snapped back sharply, before he collapsed to the floor. Toa stepped over him, staring at the man named Frank.
“No why did you have to go and do that for?” Frank asked, as if it was an entirely reasonable question. He was a well dressed man, but his suit was loose, a little sloppy. He was a gaunt and hard looking older man, someone who was probably used to using a little violence to get his way. “He was just doing his job.”
“And I’m just doin’ mine, bro.”
“Who you work for?”
Toa kept advancing, knowing that his husky size might overshadow Frank’s, but figuring it probably wouldn’t intimidate him. He was right. He noticed the rings on his fingers, the simple cross about his neck. Frank glanced up at him, his gaze level, expectant.
“No one. I work for myself.”
“A fucking freelancer,” Frank remarked. He brushed it off like he could excuse it this once. “Well, given that I’m a reasonable businessman, I’ll give you this one opportunity to walk away.”
“Preston was a close friend of mine, so you’ll excuse me if I don’t feel much shame in doin’ to you what I did to your friend. I don’t care who you represent, and I don’t care if I make enemies doing you over. I don’t have much to lose.”
“This Preston,” said Frank, stroking a little lint off his sleeve. “He’s not too good a friend if you don’t know what he was dealing in. And you’re a worse friend for not advising the little queer assfuck not to try what he did.”
“Tell me what he was doin’ and I’ll help you find whatever he took from you.”
Frank stared up at Toa, as if gadging the validity of that statement. He looked down at one of his rings, his fingernails. “I’m not in the business of hiring freelancers.”
“All I want is the fuck who killed him. That’s it. You’re a businessman, Frank. You know my sort of people.”
“That I do,” he said, glancing up at him. He looked like someones father, with a hidden life. “That I do. I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll point you at the man who sold him the shit that did him in. A man called Sully James.”
“His drug dealer.”
Frank nodded, once. Lightly. “His drug dealer.”
“What’s that got to do with this. You must be feelin’ pretty fuckin’ sore over what Preston did to you.”
“Sore enough. Sore as his ass would have been once we got a hold of him. You’re a big, dumb dog, my friend, but you bright enough to know that we would want to talk to the man. Not kill him. Then I wouldn’t be slumming in his apartment trying to find the stuff he took from me! You need to find a better class of friend to roll with.”
Toa scowled down at Frank. It didn’t smell entirely right that Preston was mixed up in more than a few things. He pondered the chances that this and Preston’s death weren’t related at all. He heard a moaning behind him, sensed that Frank’s sidekick was starting to come too.
“Why does his dealer want him dead?”
“Fucked if I know,” Frank said, shrugging. “Frankly it pisses me off to know that Preston’s dead before I could find my things. After I finish ripping this place apart, I’ll be going to have a quiet word with Sully. If you went and had a word with him first, it’d be no skin off my nose.”
Toa glanced back at the sidekick as he dragged himself up off the floor. He stared at the man, watching the way he shrunk back, the way his nose was busted off to one side. The blood had already soaked the front of his shirt. He looked back to Frank, grabbing his heavy trench up off the bed.
“Link me your details,” he barked. “If I find anythin’ useful, I’ll tell you.”
“No can do, my friend. We pass like ships. You have your business, I have mine, and frankly the less those two cross, the fucking better.”
Toa just shrugged, and slipped his trench on, heading passed the sidekick. He pulled back, but still Toa had to squeeze by him on the way out. He eyed him deeply as he passed, a dead, mad dog stare. It wasn’t until he stepped out into the corridor that he let himself breath. Toa paced down towards the lift, picking up his pace a little. He put a link through once he made it there.
“Garly. I need a favor.”
“Favor is as favor does, that’s what my momma always used to say. What’cha need, big friend?”
“Need you to ID two faces for me. Sending them through now.”
* * *
The Red Bonnet was a fashionable place, wedged deep between two towers on The K, as locals called it. It looked innoculous enough from the front, but any time of the day or night there was almost always a group of queens or transgenders who were camped out front, talking. Some moved on, others caught on whichever group was left.
Toa knew the place by reputation, but he had nothing against transgenders. It just wasn’t so much his scene. As he headed towards the small place, the club was pumping, throbbing Caribbean music that made him thing of fruit hats and sarongs. It took a little to push through those who had gathered outside.
Come rain or shine, and right now, it was rain.
Toa considered how he was starting to smell ripe, and his hunger and lack of real sleep gave him a wired edge that he figured he could use. Better to be busy than thinking on the Code Black. Better occupied than not.
The club inside was a press of bodies that closely enough resembled the smell of his own. Rich with the smell of sweat and drink. Smoke clouded the close ceiling, but most of it was simulated, rather than from cigarettes. Toa felt a little out of place, black against a riot of color and movement. His black locs probably didn’t help either.
Toa elbowed his way passed towering queens and transgenders from the range of not so, to entirely convincing in both directions. Who could tell if some of them weren’t straights or either sex down for the thrill.
By the time that Toa had got to the bar, the DJ had tossed the set over to some retro-Jackson, crossmixed into some more modern interpretations. The Girl is Mine. Toa leaned onto the bar, and waited for one of the bartenders to notice him.
“Looking for Sully.”
“Popular boy, that one,” smiled a girl with a clean cut look about her, and a dress just as cut, but low. “There was a bunch just looking for him. Just sent them upstairs. Way he’s going he won’t even need to go over to the Fruit Salad tonight.”
Toa frowned, but just nodded and telegraphed a tip straight to the girls wetware. She smiled in appreciation, but it was lost on Toa as he headed towards the wide stairs that headed to the upstairs areas. He let himself passed the Staff Only rope. When he got up to the less crowded corridors, he thought he heard something over the smooth thump of the music. He saw someone disappear around a corner.
Toa headed forward at a jog, watching as the group disappeared into one of the side rooms. His wetware counted about four, five. A flush of public information showed him the fifth, who was being barrelled backwards, was Sully.
“Hoagie,” Toa heard from just outside the door. “Don’t rough up the goods! We need him back in one piece, that’s the order. You and me, Sully, we gonna take a lil ride over to Northside.”
Toa shoved open the door, feeling the thump of the music beneath his feet. Sully was a white boy, dressed in the ridiculously oversized styles that the Maori and Islanders had borrowed from the Americas decades ago. He looked scared shitless, manhandled by an ape who Toa guessed was Hoagie. Their leader, a rattish, hunched looking man stared at Toa.
“Who the fuck are you?”
Toa tossed himself into the room, taking the direct approach. He hoped that his first blow would fell the first of the men, but it felt like hitting a brick wall. There was a crash as they both toppled back over furniture. Toa cursed his bad footing, struggling to get himself back up. He stood in time to take a blow straight to the face. He staggered back, crashing into a flimsy service, feeling it buckle under his weight.
In the confusion, he managed to deal in a good boot or two, swaying back against the tide. He felt his fist connect, crack into one of the men who went down and stayed down.
There was a deafening explosion that felt as if it shook the room.
For a brief second, it seemed as if the room stood totally still, breath held. The rat man stood with a hand cannon in his hands, smoke trailing up from its barrel. Toa threw himself forward as the gathered of them digested the implications. Toa gave them all about a minute tops.
The rat man panicked, but not before Toa grabbed the cannon by its muzzle, seized it off him and pistol whipped the guy with it. Toa hunched forward, as another grabbed him from behind. Toa tossed himself backwards, aiming for the wall, but hearing the concussive sound of glass exploding outwards. The weight on his back vanished along with the man.
Assessing things quickly, Toa scanned the room, and grabbed Sully, shoving him towards the broken window. The kid let out a yelp and stumbled forward, almost tripping on the length of his purple shaded camouflage pants. Toa grabbed him by the belt as he tumbled passed, and hauled him through the broken frame. The men were starting to regather themselves.
“Fuckin’ try me,” Toa said, as Hoagie advanced. He bought the huge pistol up. “Black and Whites are on their way, I don’t fuckin’ care if I fire a second shot.”
Hoagie was held at bay by the threat of the massive weapon. Toa wondered if he knew that the weapon was only coded for the rat man. He could feel his wetware coming up against a brick wall when probing the gun. It wouldn’t activate and fire without it. But Hoagie didn’t know that.
Backing towards the window, Toa kept the gathered at bay. He put a boot back into Sully’s ass, making the guy scramble out onto the fire escape. Toa backed through, a little more graceful. The guy he had tossed through was moaning against the metal frame. Sully was standing, gawking across the windows.
Toa bought the cannon up, pointing it at the lanky kid who stood just outside the window. He was handsome, with a buzz cut and the sinuous look of an athlete about him. The baseball style shirt, unbuttoned on a tight tank top, and the baseball bat in his hand completed the look. He gave Toa a smooth, unbothered look, smiling sweet and looking innocent in a way that wasn’t. He had some Maori blood in him, but his tone was pale, peppered with freckles.
Toa heard shouts from inside, and Hoagie poked his head out the window, just in time to get hit in the head with the bat for his troubles.
“Better get moving,” the kid commented. “Black and whites.”
Toa lowered the cannon, watching as the others tried to pull Hoagie back through, and get out in his place. None of them could see the kid, hidden in the shadow. He just gave Toa a staunch nod and waited. Toa tossed the gun down into the alley below and focussed on getting Sully and himself down the escape.
Toa ignored the shouts from above, as they both clattered down. He heard the sound of sirens, and the dark alley filled with the flashing red and blue of a police Jenny. A floud of clean white light followed, illuminating them both as Toa thumped to the ground.
Toa froze, just briefly. He grabbed a fistful of Sully’s oversized camo top and shoved him back, shouting to him to run. He didn’t, just standing and staring. Toa knew the thing was flashing his image straight back to police control.
“CITIZEN TOA CARTER. HALT.”
Toa did the only sensible thing in his situation. He grabbed Sully again and started to run down the alleyway. He didn’t need to look back, knowing by the way that the things lights dappled the walls in red and blue that the thing was following him. He didn’t stop until he broke back out onto the street, right into the path of a parked police conveyance.
The masked officers did a good job of looking startled, before grabbing at their sidearms, commanding his halt. Toa kept Sully close, and finally surrendered.