By Brit Columbia
Pairing: Dee and Ryo
Timeline: Set after my big story FAKE First Year Together: A New Day (May). Both Justice and A New Day are set after Volume 7 of FAKE
Summary: Dee and Ryo are hunting the dangerous and corrupt Lieutenant Abernathy, and they are hoping to catch him soon. But Abernathy is after them, too, and he doesn’t have to play by the rules! Bad guys never do.
Rating: This chapter is worksafe.
Disclaimer: FAKE, featuring Dee, Ryo, Bikky, Carol, The Chief, Ted, Drake, JJ, and FBI Agent Diana Spacey, was created by Sanami Matoh. I make no claim on FAKE or Ms. Matoh or any of her characters. I just write fanfiction about them because I love the FAKE world so much.
Author's Notes: Eddie Calvetti, his aunt Rosa, Elena’s friend Karen, Pedrick, Detective Linda Ehrman and Leona the Chief’s secretary, are all my characters. So is Helen, the Commissioner’s secretary. Sorry, but Dee and Ryo don’t make an appearance in this chapter! They’ll be back in the next one.
Thank you to ladyfeather and tripple_p for beta-reading this chapter for me.
Previously in Justice:
Recently Ted discovered that a few bad eggs at Internal Affairs have been compiling videos of members of the 27th precinct and doctoring them so that the interviewees all look like dirty cops.
Liam Hennessy is Mike Abernathy's boss, and the Commander of Internal Affairs. Liam and the Commissioner are bitter enemies who used to be friends.
Not long ago, Bikky opened a letter from his recently murdered friend Eddie directing him to a house in Queens where Eddie’s aunt Rosa was looking after Eddie’s stuff. Eddie had written the letter because he had a feeling something might happen to him. He owned a laptop he wanted Bikky to have. Lieutenant Mike Abernathy is very interested in that laptop because he believes that Eddie may have sound-files on it that could shed light on his corrupt activities. Abernathy sent three men to intercept Bikky and his two friends, but a mysterious guy in a wheelchair rolled up to help Bikky at the last moment. He then disappeared with the laptop (Chapter 12). Coincidentally, Thomas Abernathy, Mike’s son, has noticed a guy in a wheelchair following him and he doesn’t know why. Frightened, he confided in Bikky, Dave and Kenny, but he has only seen his mysterious wheelchair ‘stalker’ following him when he was alone. Thomas’s home life with his father has begun to deteriorate once more.
Bikky has been sent out of town for his protection and is currently staying at a horse ranch in Pennsylvania. Pedrick, the nasty groom, has suddenly disappeared, so Bikky has to help Karen, the ranch-owner, with the chores.
Diana is trying to find out the identity of Abernathy’s secret spy at the 27th precinct.
Justice, Chapter 29
Green OJ wasn’t online when Thomas went looking for him, but he got distracted by YouTube for long enough for Green OJ to pop up about twenty minutes later.
Ab_brat, how RU?
Not bad, replied Thomas. So bored.
Bummer. Me 2.
U still in NYC? Thomas felt bold asking that.
Maybe we cn meet up. Now Thomas felt a surge of shyness and regret. He couldn’t untype those words. What if Green OJ blew him off? Or turned out to be a weirdo? He didn’t know which would be worse.
Luv 2. When?
2day? typed Thomas. If u hav time.
Sure! Like I said, Im bored. Got nothing 2 do. Coffee?
Which boro u in?
Me 2. How about McD in Times Sq? That was about as public a place as Thomas could think of. It would be easy to leave if Green OJ ended up being a sex maniac or just plain totally uncool.
Works 4 me. What time?
How bout 30 min? Thomas was ready to go. He knew if he made the meeting too far in the future, he would think too much and then chicken out.
Make it 45.
Sure, Thomas responded. How will I no u? Cn u send a pic? He felt nervous again. He and Green OJ hadn’t discussed pictures before. They hadn’t yet gotten to that stage in their intermittent online chats. He wondered if Green OJ would send him a real picture. He’d been fooled that way in the past. None of the others had sent him a real picture. Sometimes he wished he had one of Jerry.
There was a pause of almost a minute before the reply came back. Sorry, my camera’s busted. But you’ll know me. I’ll B the only guy in a wheelchair.
Thomas stared. A wheelchair? Oh, crap. Could this be the same guy who was stalking him? No way. It just had to be some weird coincidence. There were lots of people in wheelchairs. His fingers hovered uncertainly over the keys, his mind racing. What should he say? He needed time to think.
Apparently he took too long because another line of text appeared from Green OJ. I have a disability. Is it a problem?
Thomas was overwhelmed by a strange combination of guilt and suspicion. Not a problem! he typed. Just… a strange dude in a whlchr follows me alot. Freaky.
I know. U shouldn’t worry.
He knew? Thomas was pretty sure he had not mentioned his problem with the guy in the wheelchair to Green OJ before. Confused and just a little bit alarmed, Thomas typed furiously. Howd u no about whlchr guy?
Green OJ responded after about twenty seconds. It was me u saw. U always run away :(
Thomas felt faint. Green OJ was his wheelchair stalker? But ur stalking me!
I’m trying to protect u.
From what? Thomas felt uncomfortable and excited at the same time. Protecting him? Yeah, right. How could a guy in a wheelchair protect anybody? He regretted confiding in Green OJ about the wheelchair stalker. There was no way he was going to meet up with him now. But he was too curious to end the conversation, even though he knew he probably ought to.
Yr dads friends. Bad ppl.
Well, yeah. Dads a cop. Thomas thought hard. If his dad actually had friends, he would be surprised. No one called or came around nowadays. Of course he knew his father had to deal with ‘bad people’ and criminals in his career as a police officer, and often he had to pretend to be friendly with them. But he hadn’t met any of his dad’s street contacts in the past, with the exception of Karl. At least, not any that he knew about. He had never felt like he might be in danger from criminals before. He had been more worried about the homophobic bullies at his school.
Ab_brat, UR in danger. But you have protection. Pls don’t be scared.
Thomas considered making some excuse and logging off. Green OJ was scaring him. He couldn’t believe his online friend had turned out to be the mysterious wheelchair stalker. Oh, there was another line of text from Green OJ. He leaned forward to read it.
Did whlchair guy (me) hurt u?
Thomas’ fingers reluctantly crept toward the keyboard. Well no.
Why r u scared?
Thomas paused to think about that. Why was he scared of him? Bikky and Dave had sure found it funny that a guy in a wheelchair would stalk someone. Was it possible the wheelchair stalker was not as dangerous as he had thought?
Im not sure. Thomas’ fingers flew over the keys. Sorry but u look like a scary guy. I thought UR gonna hurt me.
Bikky knows me, Green OJ typed. I helped Bikky when yr dads ppl caught him with the laptop. Check with Bikky if u don’t believe me. He will tell u my name.
Thomas felt himself go hot and cold. Green OJ knew Bikky! He wrapped his trembling arms around himself and stared wide-eyed at the screen. Green OJ also knew about the laptop and Bikky’s oh-so-secret trip to Queens. If Thomas had been scared a few minutes ago, he was petrified now. He felt stuck, frozen. He didn’t know what to do.
Ab_brat, u still there? Sorry if I shocked you. Check with Bikky. I want 2 help u.
Thomas reached a trembling hand to the keyboard. He typed, K. Ill talk 2 Bikky.
But not yr dad, K?
Thomas wondered why people were always advising him not to tell his dad stuff. Actually, it made sense. It seemed like every time he told Dad something, Dad got mad and screamed at him. Or worse, whipped his ass. Then he would lose friends, either because Dad’s unfriendly face and voice made them nervous or because Dad ordered him not to be in contact with them. And now Green OJ was the second person after Bikky to warn him that his father was involved in something dangerous.
K, he typed, not dad. But I think I should tell another adult.
How about Bikky’s dad? He’s a good guy, and a good cop.
Thomas gasped again. This guy knew too much about his life. Do u no Ryo? he asked, and then hesitated before typing, U a cop?
I haven’t met Ryo yet. Yes, I’m a cop. We R protecting u. Check w Bikky re wheelchair guy, then come back 2 chat, K?
Thomas agreed to do that and then signed off, almost in a state of shock. He needed time to process everything he had just learned from Green OJ. The guy had expressed willingness to help him on other occasions before, and had always been a sympathetic listener when Thomas went online to complain about being beaten and scolded by his father. But he had never dreamed he might be talking to a cop! He knew he had to be very careful. The guy seemed to know stuff about Dad and he had been quite definite about the fact that Thomas faced some sort of threat from his father’s associates. Green OJ and the wheelchair stalker were one and the same person! He knew Bikky and was aware that Bikky’s dad was a cop. What if he was investigating Dad?
Thomas gnawed on his thumbnail, thinking. If Social Services ever found out that Dad was beating him with an old retractable radio antenna, he’d find himself in a foster home or a group home so fast his head would spin. Thomas stumbled over to his bed and sat on it, hugging his big purple body-pillow tightly. He was still freaked out about what had happened to that kid Yanni in the group home he got sent to. The last thing Thomas wanted was to be trapped in a place with mean older boys who would hurt him and do gross, sexual things to him. Yes, he was gay, and he even had fantasies about older boys, but gentle, handsome ones, not cruel, violent ones. He wanted his first time to be special, not scary and painful.
Maybe he shouldn’t chat with Green OJ anymore. He couldn’t be sure if he could trust him. How on earth could a guy in a wheelchair work as a cop? Thomas had never heard of a paralyzed cop before. He always imagined that disabled people would work at desks, not out on the streets in a dangerous kind of job. Unless the wheelchair was a prop. That could be it.
The person he needed to talk to was Bikky, and tracking him down was going to be a challenge. Everyone said that Bikky had been sent out of town for some reason, but no one seemed to know where. Bikky had made it clear that he didn’t want Thomas to know anything about where he was and what he was doing because he was scared of Dad. If it was true that Dad had sent people to confront Bikky at a train station, then it seemed like Bikky had a reason to be scared.
Thomas realized his hands were sweating, and he rubbed them on his jeans. He hadn’t talked to Carol in a while. He had been kind of nervous to try, as all Bikky’s friends had basically been avoiding him since Thomas had moved back home. But Carol had always been nice to him in the past, hadn’t she? Maybe she knew something about Bikky’s meeting with the wheelchair guy at the subway station, and maybe she would be willing to talk to him about that, even if she didn’t want to tell him where Bikky was.
He picked up his cell phone from his desk and started scrolling through his contacts. He knew he had her number in there somewhere. And she had promised to go to Gay Pride with him, which was next weekend. He hoped she would remember and not blow him off like everyone else.
“Who told you to go poking around in IA’s mainframe, potentially disrupting an ongoing investigation by the FBI?” Berkeley’s tone seemed to flay a layer right off Ted.
“No one did, sir,” protested Ted. “I, uh, went looking on my own.”
“Did it not occur to you to get authorization first?” The Commissioner seemed to want to throw his weight around. “You’ve probably tipped them off that we’re onto them now. The FBI had this little operation under control, and the last thing we needed was an unnecessary fishing expedition by you.”
“Lay off the guy, Commissioner,” Diana said. “He followed a hunch and hacked his way through several layers of top-level heavily encrypted security, and he did it without leaving a trail. Even our people can’t find his tracks. He deserves a raise, not a tongue-lashing.” She ignored the grateful look Ted gave her, and focused on Berk’s anger.
She had given Berk the lowdown in the car on the way over, and he had immediately become tense, the brief couple of hours of relaxation in bed undone. Anger followed hard on the heels of tension, and he had driven the rest of the way to the Palace in tight-lipped silence. Once they arrived in the computer lab, he had first snapped at Lieutenant Smith, and then turned his ire on Ted. Her turn might be coming later, but she wasn’t prepared to take that kind of shit from him, regardless of any personal feelings that lay between them.
She could understand why he was worried. Liam Hennessy was a resourceful enemy, and he and Berk had been locked in silent battle for months. But Liam wasn’t going to win this round, no sirree, not with the FBI on board. Diana thought Berk should just get over it and she fully planned to tell him so (nicely of course) the minute she got him alone again. He had known for weeks, since receiving the results of the bug sweep at the 27th precinct, that something like this might happen and that Liam was probably planning to take action with whatever he had learned from his electronic listening devices. That was why Lieutenant Fox had been ‘transferred’ into IA headquarters, anyway. Now that they had found something, Berk should be celebrating, not snarling at underlings. And he certainly shouldn’t get on the wrong side of O’Neill. Didn’t the man realize that O’Neill could, with one hand tied behind his back, hack his way into Berk’s personal computer, email, banking info, the whole shebang? Diana lacked such skills herself, but had a healthy respect for people who did. She had half a mind to steal O’Neill for the FBI.
“I want this project of Liam’s halted immediately,” said Berkeley. “We can’t run the risk that they’ll use any of these video and audio files. Careers are at stake here.”
“Amen,” muttered Lieutenant Smith.
Diana folded her arms. “We’re not ready to move yet, sir. Hennessy has three specialists with admin status on this project. We only know the identity of two of them. No point springing half a trap. We don’t want anyone getting away with the goods and then using them to bargain for his freedom.”
“Or hers,” said O’Neill, raising one finger, but the Commissioner wasn’t listening, as he was too busy glaring at Diana.
She narrowed her eyes at him, sending him a look that warned him not to take her on in front of his subordinates. He wanted to, she could tell, but he would control himself.
“Agent Spacey,” said Berkeley with formal coldness, “Please be so kind as to arrange a meeting with Lieutenant Fox, ASAP. He probably has a hunch whom the third specialist might be.”
“Maybe not, sir,” said Ted. “One of the administrators didn’t log on from IA HQ. This person is possibly working at a different location.”
The Commissioner set his lips in a grim line and bowed to the necessity of speaking to O’Neill, with whom he was unaccountably and unreasonably annoyed. “Tell us more, Detective,” he commanded.
Bikky made sure the henhouse door was properly latched when he let himself out of it, just like Karen had asked him to. He didn’t want to spend the next couple of hours chasing chickens all over the state.
Karen was kind of all right. He had been at the K Ray Horse Ranch for just over 24 hours and she hadn’t lost her temper with him yet, even though he had accidentally broken a couple of things in the kitchen last night. In return, he had worked as hard as possible for her in the barn today, on the understanding that he didn’t have to go near any horses. Exactly as he had predicted to all his friends, he found himself shoveling horseshit, but at least he did it in empty stalls without having to fight off attacks from large, hostile animals. After he cleaned out a couple of stalls, he had brought fresh hay down from the loft for Karen to put in their stalls. She seemed to be really worried about Pedrick being MIA, whereas Bikky hoped the bastard stayed away forever. He liked this place better without that guy’s bad-tempered face watching him all the time. Maybe Karen could hire someone decent to replace him.
He was just putting the big plastic scoop back into the bin of chicken feed that stood outside the barn, when his cell phone rang. It was Carol. He had already talked to her twice today, and he hadn’t expected to hear from her again until tomorrow. Maybe she missed him as much as he missed her! He could feel his face breaking into a grin.
“Hey, Cal, ‘sup?”
“Bikky! Can you talk?” She sounded really excited.
“Uh, sure, I think so,” he replied, craning his neck to peer into the barn through the open door. He could hear Karen in there doing something with one horse that she hadn’t let out into the pasture with the others. There was something wrong with that one. It was the noisiest out of all of them and it seemed to be extra violent. It kicked the walls of its stall with really loud thudding sounds when Karen didn’t let it go outside. Bikky figured Karen wouldn’t expect him to come near a horse, especially a pissed-off one, so he was probably okay to chat with Carol for a few minutes. “What’s happening?”
“Remember you told me about the laptop and that guy with the wheelchair?”
“Yeah. Did you hear something about him?” Bikky was suddenly alert. Tahawney still had Eddie’s laptop and he had been wondering how he could get it back.
“Sure did,” Carol said. “It seems like he might be a cop.”
“Huh,” said Bikky, his tone doubtful. “Who told ya that?”
“Thomas is with me right now,” she began hesitantly, “and he wants to talk to you about his wheelchair stalker. Don’t worry, I didn’t tell him where you are. But I really think you guys should talk.”
“Yeah, we should, but Cal— let me talk to him on your phone, okay?” A paranoid feeling crept over Bikky as he thought about Tom’s dad. Tom’s creepy old man probably had some way of listening in to any calls Tom made on his cell phone, or pinpointing the location of the person he was talking to. The police probably did that all the time. Bikky’s imagination supplied him with a vision of returning to the B & B house to find Lieutenant Abernathy waiting for him with handcuffs and a cop car. And possibly those asshole cops who came to search the apartment. He didn’t ever want to be alone with any of them.
“No problem, sweetie,” Carol said, her voice light. “Here he is.”
“Bikky?” That was Tom.
“Yeah, man. How’s it going? Did you see your stalker again?”
“No, not yet.” Thomas’s voice sounded subdued. “But I just found out I’ve been chatting with him online for months!”
“It’s true, Bik. He said you knew him and that he helped you out when those cops my dad sent caught you and your friends at some train station. He said there was a laptop.”
“Holy shit!” Bikky exclaimed and then looked around guiltily, hoping Karen hadn’t heard him say ‘shit,’ even though the manure pile outside the barn was heaped high with it. “Hey Tom, what does this guy look like?”
“Well, you know, I never saw him close-up because every time I spotted him, I, uh, didn’t stick around.”
“But you musta gotten a good enough look at him to know it’s the same guy every time. Is he white or black? What color is his hair?”
“Grey, I think. But sometimes he was wearing a hat when I saw him. He’s a white guy. He always wears sunglasses.”
“That’s right, he was wearing sunglasses when I met him, even though we were underground. So, what did he tell you? He’s a cop?”
“Yeah. He wants to meet up with me.”
Bikky took a few steps further away from the barn, looking around him at the fields and the tree line, his nostrils full of the weird, musty smells of horses and chickens. He wanted to be back in the city so bad it almost hurt. He wanted to go meet Tahawney with Tom. He wanted that Goddamn laptop. It would suck if, after everything he had been through for that laptop, Tom ended up getting it because that would be like handing it straight over to his asshole of a father. “Are you gonna go see him?” Bikky asked, knowing his voice sounded a little strange.
“I dunno. Do you think it might be… a trap?”
“Could be.” Bikky frowned, wondering what kind of trap Thomas was thinking about. With all this talk about cops and laptops, he was now pretty sure the ‘stalker’ was no ordinary pedo or freak. Who else knew about the wheelchair guy? Just Dave and Kenny because Tom had told them at school, and also maybe that transit cop. “Did he say why he’s been stalking you?”
“He said he was protecting me. He said Dad is spending time with dangerous people and I’m in danger.”
Bikky thought that was probably true, although in his private opinion, Tom was in more danger from his own father.
“Tom,” he said. “I don’t know what to tell you, man. He seemed like an okay dude to me, but I don’t know him, and neither do you. If you go meet him, you’re taking a risk.”
Thomas sighed. “I wish you could come with me.”
“Me, too.” Bikky considered his chances of getting the hell out of here and sneaking back to the city for a day. It wasn’t do-able. He had no transportation, it was 200 freakin’ miles, and Karen would be sure to notice and call Ryo.
“Bikky, the wheelchair guy mentioned Ryo. Do you think I should ask Ryo to go with me?”
Bikky gritted his teeth. Tahawney sure seemed to know everyone! So far, Ryo had no idea about the laptop, or about the trouble at the Lexington and 53rd station. But if Ryo and Tom were in the same room together for even five minutes, Tom would be sure to blab. That kid just couldn’t help himself from blurting things out. He was even worse than Dave.
“Are Ryo and this guy working together?” he finally said. If they were, it was just a matter of time before Ryo would find out about Bikky’s trip to Queens and the way he had lost a key piece of evidence. He didn’t know why the laptop was so important to Tom’s dad, but he had gone to a hell of a lot of trouble to get it back. The transit cop and his street muscle hadn’t been interested in anything else Bikky, Dave and Kenny had been carrying.
“I don’t think so, but I’m not sure,” said Tom. “He said he hadn’t met Ryo yet, but he thinks he’s a good guy.”
Bikky relaxed a little. Okay, so Ryo didn’t know his secrets yet, and he still had a chance to maybe get that laptop off Tahawney and find out if the guy could be persuaded to keep his mouth shut. Probably not, but it was worth a try.
“Bikky, are you still there?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah.” Bikky realized he had been standing lost in thought.
“The wheelchair guy is Green OJ online, but he told me you knew his real name,” said Tom. “What is it, Bikky?”
“Tahawney,” Bikky answered. “That’s all he said. I don’t know if it’s his first name or his last name. I think it’s Irish.”
“Irish?” Tom’s voice faltered. “Um, did he have an accent?”
“Yeah, a pretty strong one. I thought he sounded Irish or maybe Scottish.”
“Oh no, he probably does know Dad, but if that’s true, he sure doesn’t like him. He told me not to tell Dad about him.”
“I wouldn’t, if I were you. The less parents know the better.” Bikky lowered his voice and moved away from the barn a short distance. “Listen Tom, if you go to meet this guy, do me a favor and don’t take Ryo. Go with someone else.”
“Why not Ryo?” Tom sounded bewildered.
“Did you not hear what I just said about parents? Don’t tell your dad and don’t tell my dad. Adults are bad news. They’re just gonna freak about you talking to strangers online, and someone will tell your dad. Remember what he did last time?”
“Oh... Yeah, you’re right. But who should I go with, then? Carol?”
Bikky felt a stab of alarm. “What? No! You already said you thought it might be some kind of trap.” Tom was really dense sometimes. “Don’t go dragging her into trouble, you hear me?”
“Look man, if you can hold off for a couple of days, I think I can find a way to get back to the city. Just, you know, temporarily. Then I can come with you.” Bikky had no idea at this point how he was going to achieve that, but maybe he would think of something.
“Really? That would be awesome!”
“Yeah, but it’s gotta be a secret, so don’t tell anyone, okay? Ryo said if I ran away from this place, I’d be grounded until Christmas.”
“Sure Bikky, I won’t tell anyone. Just Carol, okay?”
“Yeah, you can trust her.” Bikky then asked Tom which chat boards he might find Green OJ on and ended the call without going back to talk to Carol. His mind was full of thoughts of escape. He needed transportation and his roller blades weren’t gonna cut it.
A loud whinnying sound issued from the barn, and Karen’s voice could be heard making soothing noises.
A minute or so later, she came to the barn door. “Heads up, Bikky. You might want to stand clear. I’m bringing Apollo out this way so he can go into the north pasture by himself.”
Grateful for the warning, Bikky scrambled out of the way. He climbed into the bed of the farm’s battered, white pick-up truck, which he figured was the safest place he could get to in a hurry.
Karen led Apollo out of the barn, keeping a tight hold on his halter, close to his head. The horse tried to toss his head and break free, but she somehow controlled him. Man, she had guts. Bikky had no doubt that Apollo could stomp her into the ground if he wanted to, and it kind of seemed like he wanted to. The horse had weird marks on his sides, like scars. He was really skinny, too, skinnier than the other horses. You could see his ribs. Bikky wondered what his deal was.
He turned to look over to the main pasture where all the other horses were. There were six of them, and they all seemed normal. Well, whatever was normal for a horse. He watched two of them break into a run together, like they were racing. With their long legs, they really covered the ground, but the fence at the far end of the field made them slow down and change direction.
Bikky watched them run back the way they had come, his expression thoughtful. Karen had been telling the guests at the breakfast table this morning about how in the old days before the invention of cars, horses were a type of car. Riding horses or riding in wagons pulled by horses was how people got around. Horses were transportation.
A little light seemed to flip on inside Bikky’s head. He needed transportation if he was going to sneak out of here and get back to New York City for a few hours. But could he actually climb on top of a horse without being kicked, bitten or trampled to death? He felt terrified at the very thought. But it was either that, or trying to hotwire Karen’s pick-up, and he didn’t think he would be able to get more than twenty miles over to Route 202 before someone noticed that a kid was behind the wheel. But a horse wouldn’t arouse suspicion, especially if he rode it cross-country and kept off the main roads. He wondered how fast horses could go. Not as fast as a car, that was for sure, but he might be able to get to somewhere where he could buy a bus ticket for the rest of the way. He sure couldn’t see himself riding a horse into Manhattan.
As soon as he saw that Apollo was deposited safely in the north pasture and the gate was closed behind him, Bikky hopped out of the pick-up truck and walked determinedly up to Karen. He was going to ask her if she could maybe teach him to ride. But when she looked at him expectantly, he felt his resolve start to crumble.
“Did you want to say something, Bikky?”
“Um… uh… I’d like to… um…” He trailed off, hating himself for being so scared.
“Are you wondering why Apollo is so thin and beat-up looking? I assure you, it didn’t happen here.” Karen had a very disapproving expression on her face.
“Did someone hurt him?” Bikky asked.
She nodded grimly. “His last owner. Harley Crabbe.” She said that name as though Bikky should know who he was.
“Why’d Harley Crabbe hurt Apollo?”
“Because Apollo didn’t win a big race for him. Crabbe lost money, got mad and took it out on the horse.”
“He sounds like a jerk,” offered Bikky.
Karen pressed her lips tightly together for a moment as though she could think of a couple of worse ways to describe Harley Crabbe than ‘jerk.’ “He is,” she said. “He’s got more money than sense. He treats horses like commodities. He doesn’t understand that they’re flesh and blood, and if you train them too hard, or break their spirits, they’re not going to be able to run competitively.”
“Uh, like when someone redlines a car engine too many times and then the car runs like crap?” said Bikky, thinking of his first dad’s boss, Gonzalo, the leader of a minor gang that ran drugs into the state using the front of being a moving company. Gonzalo had liked fast wheels and heavy women, and he always drove the shit out of his cars. It was interesting that he never got busted for drugs. Instead he got sent up for being DUI when he crashed into a city bus at 50 miles over the speed limit.
“Sort of like that,” Karen said, breaking into his reverie. “But no one beats and starves their car, do they?”
Bikky thought that was actually debatable, but he didn’t say so. Instead he changed the subject. “What are you gonna do about Pedrick?”
“I’ll give him another day,” she said, a shadow of worry crossing her face. “But if he hasn’t called by this time tomorrow, I’m going to have to hire a replacement. I can’t run the B & B and look after the barn and the animals by myself.”
Bikky knew he ought to say something like, “Don’t worry, I’ll help you out,” but he kept his mouth shut. There was nothing he hated more than household chores. Except maybe the smell of horseshit as you shoveled it. He didn’t mind helping out here and there, but he didn’t want to commit himself to a whole crapload of boring work. Suddenly he had a great idea.
“Can you call someone from a temp agency?” he asked. “My friend Carol— that’s what her aunt does. She works as a temp at a lot of different places.”
Karen gave him a look like she was trying not to laugh. “I don’t think there are many temp agencies out here in the countryside,” she said. “But I’ll ask my neighbor if her daughters can come and help us out this evening.”
Bikky perked up at the word ‘daughters.’ “Cool,” he said. “Um, how old are they?”
Karen smiled at him. “I’m not exactly sure, but I think they’re fifteen and sixteen. Or maybe Chloe is seventeen now. She may have recently had a birthday. You’ll like them; they’re nice girls. Fortunately they’re crazy about horses, so they might be willing to help me.”
“Hey Boss, we got a live one!”
Diana turned away from her laptop to glance at the computer terminal on which her assistant, Phil, was viewing the most recent digital footage from the hidden cameras that had recently been planted in the Commissioner’s secondary office at the 27th Precinct. Phil had been fast-forwarding, but had stopped when he saw signs of activity. There on the screen was a woman viewed from behind. The angle wasn’t showing her face yet, but Diana had a pretty good idea who she was. The ill-fitting polyester skirt was a dead giveaway.
She pulled up a chair next to Phil. “That’s Leona, the Chief’s secretary. What the hell is she doing?”
On screen, Leona appeared to be tidying some things neatly from the surface of the Commissioner’s desk. She picked up his desk calendar and his phone and put them on the floor at one end. Then she did the same with his pen stand.
“It’s gotta be her,” muttered Phil excitedly. “She’s our spy! She must be getting set to plant another bug.”
“I don’t think so.” Diana looked thoughtfully at the image on the screen. Leona was now perched on the edge of the desk. She didn’t appear to have gone near the bug, which was under the Commissioner’s desk, wedged up in a corner. Nor had she brought anything with her. Wait, she was unbuttoning her blouse.
“She’s got a bug stashed in her bra, I betcha!” said Phil. “Or batteries for the old one.”
Diana thought he was getting altogether too excited about this. But it could have something to do with the fact that Leona’s bra was a black, lace, demi-cup trimmed with shiny ribbon, and when it came to lifting and separating, it was doing a hell of a job.
Just then, Leona looked up from her buttons and smiled. The smile utterly transformed her usually stern and disapproving face and made her look more attractive than usual. Diana started shaking her head. What was it about Berk’s desk? She’d had a couple of amorous experiences on it herself. It must be imbued with Berk’s high-octane testosterone, or something.
Phil tapped her arm and pointed to the feed from the secondary camera. It was installed outside Berk’s office and its job was to reveal the identity of anyone who came to the door, whether they went in or not. “That’s Ehrman, that narcotics detective, right?” Phil asked.
“Yup.” Diana hid a wry smile. She had a damn good idea what was going to happen next. Phil was going to enjoy the hell out of it. She glanced over at him and saw how bright his eyes were.
“Maybe she’s going to plant the bug?” Phil suggested.
Diana got up and returned to her laptop just as Detective Linda Ehrman pushed Leona down on Berkeley’s desk and began kissing her passionately. “Make sure you watch it through to the end,” Diana said to Phil. “If either of them produces batteries for the bug under the desk, I want to know about it.”
“Yes Ma’a— I mean, Boss,” said Phil, his expression carefully wooden. “I’ll watch real carefully. And then again in slow-mo. No batteries will sneak past these eagle eyes.”
Diana grinned to herself, and left him to it. It was her personal opinion that neither of those two women in Berk’s office knew anything about a secret listening device in there. They had just found themselves a handy trysting place, especially with Helen being over at Berk’s main office at the Palace nowadays. They were going to be horrified later when she told them about the hidden cameras. But of her four suspects, it meant that both Linda and Leona could be crossed off her list. That left Ross and Marianne. She frowned thoughtfully. Ross was cunning and sneaky enough to do it, but he was also fiercely loyal. Marianne was as dumb as a brick, but she was also madly in love with Berk. Which one could have planted the bug? And more to the point, which one would be more likely to be in thrall to Mike Abernathy?
---end of chapter 29--
Additional Author's Notes: I hope my attempts to represent texting didn't sound too strange. I am trying to walk a fine line between using the kind of texting abbreviations a teen like Thomas would use, and not making the words too incomprehensible to readers who are unfamiliar with texting.
Justice Chapter 30 is about two thirds written. It ought to be up in either two or three weeks, depending on whether I can get it to the betas by next weekend.
Thanks for reading!