I thought my husband would never go to work and let me get on with this. It's very hard to concentrate when he's around, for reasons both good and bad. ;) Anyway, he finally took himself off, which meant I was able to finish making the adjustments that the betas had called for.
In other news, I have once again been very busy at work recently. Lots of clients with deadlines and issues. I have not been able to make a start on Justice Chapter 32. But on the bright side, it's the Labor Day weekend, so I might be able to get a couple hundred words in today and tomorrow, provided my husband doesn't get up after four or fewer hours of sleep and proceed to get underfoot for the next several hours, while complaining that he can't sleep. (He's bad for that)
There's a neighbor's cat who doesn't seem to be allowed out very often, but occasionally escapes and only ever seems to have encounters with my husband. I think I've seen this cat exactly once from a distance about 6 months ago. Anyway, last night I phoned my husband from the gym to find out what he wanted me to cook for dinner, but he interrupted me excitedly to say, "You'll never guess who is here!" That's right; I couldn't. But it was that cat. It had come to our kitchen deck where the door is always open in summer, and had invited itself in. My husband obligingly opened a tin of sardines and gave it half. I begged him to keep the cat in the house until I got home, but by the time I had arrived back in a tearing hurry from downtown, the cat was gone! :( My bad luck.
As of the time of posting this chapter, the kitchen door is still open even though it's almost midnight.
Here, Kitty, Kitty...
By the way this chapter is worksafe. Go ahead and click if you're at work or your parents are in the vicinity.
FAKE First Year Together: Justice (June), chapter 31
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 starting to close in on him. Unfortunately, he has a gang of crooks and crooked cops who are helping him go after Dee, Ryo and Bikky.
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 write fanfiction with no expectation of monetary reward.
Author's Notes: Elena’s friend Karen, her neighbors Chloe and Gemma, and her missing employee Pedrick are all my characters. So are Mike Abernathy, Thomas Abernathy, Tahawney, and Detectives Clayton and Fielding.
***Re HORSES: Everything that Bella did, and I mean everything, has happened to me personally when I was about Bikky's age, or maybe a couple of years younger. More on that in the Author's Notes at the end.
Thank you to ladyfeather and tripple_p for beta-reading this chapter for me.
Previously in Justice:
Ted discovered some fake videos created by a few bad eggs in Internal Affairs. The videos could damage careers at the 27th Precinct, or even lead to police charges. It’s up to Ted, with his awesome cyber-skills, to prove the videos are fakes. He has identified the three hacker-admin people, but the third one is missing and the FBI will want to move on all three at once.
Bikky is plotting how to escape from the horse ranch long enough to get back to NYC and accompany Thomas Abernathy to a meeting with Tahawney, the strange wheelchair guy. Tahawney has the laptop that once belonged to the late Eddie Calvetti, and Bikky wants it back. Tahawney is a mysterious character who knew Mike and Thomas Abernathy back in Ireland.
Detectives Hugh Clayton and Lonnie Fielding of the 7th Precinct arrested Bikky, Jill and Penny in Chinatown a couple of weeks ago. Later, it was Hugh and Lonnie who showed up at Ryo’s apartment with a search warrant after Shantaya had gone to the police and sworn out a complaint about Ryo.
It’s a bright Monday morning in June, one week before Gay Pride.
FAKE First Year Together: Justice Chapter 31 Hopefully I will be able to think of a suitable chapter title later,...
Bikky rolled over in bed when a ray of sunlight from the crack between the two curtains fell across his face. The slight stiffness in his buttocks and legs woke him up further, and the memories of last night came washing over him. Those neighbor girls, Chloe and Gemma, had been patient and funny as they taught him about horses. They were actually pretty good teachers, both of them.
“See, Bikky,” Gemma had said, “You hold the reins like this… and put your foot here…” She placed her booted foot in the stirrup that hung off Bella’s saddle. “Can you do that?”
“Um,” croaked Bikky, then took a deep breath. “Sure. I think so.”
“Do it, then. Go on, don’t be nervous. Chloe’s holding Bella still. She won’t run away when you’re halfway up, or anything.”
Bikky couldn’t believe he was about to get on a horse's back for the first time ever. He hoped he wasn’t shaking, but he kind of suspected he was. If the two sisters noticed his shivers, maybe they would think it was happening from excitement, not fear. Looking like an excited little kid wasn’t very cool either, but it was better than having a couple of hot girls think he was scared. He took the reins like Gemma had instructed, and then stuck his left foot in the stirrup. “Like this?”
“Yeah! You got it. Now swing yourself up into the saddle!”
“Um…What if I fall right over the other side of the horse?” Bikky hoped that wasn’t a dumb question, but the laughter of both girls informed him that perhaps it was.
“I won’t let you, City Boy!” Gemma was still giggling. She was standing really close to him. “If you start to disappear over the other side, I’m gonna grab your leg, okay?”
“So go for it. On three. One…two…three… up!”
Bikky wasn’t sure afterward whether he had gotten up on top of the horse under his own power or because Gemma had kind of heaved him up there. But it worked. He was up. He, Bikky MacLean was finally sitting on a horse! The guys wouldn’t believe this when he told them. And, man, would Carol ever be impressed with him. His triumph lasted another two or three seconds before the world slid away and he found himself flat on his back in the dirt outside the barn.
“Bella!” exclaimed Chloe. “You bad girl!”
Gemma was giggling helplessly. “She just sat down like a dog!” She exclaimed. “I never saw a horse do that before!”
Bella the horse had spent the rest of the evening demonstrating new and surprisingly creative ways of getting Bikky off her back. She hadn’t done anything violent, a fact Bikky did have to admit, so he hadn’t been bucked off, kicked, bitten or stomped into the mud. But he had been ‘slid’ off, scraped off— in painstaking slow-motion— against a fence, and finally knocked off by a low-hanging branch that Bella made sure she strolled under in spite of all Chloe’s attempts to stop her. Bikky just knew that damn horse was doing everything on purpose. He was determined not to be dislodged from the saddle today, no matter what she did. He was sure Bella had stayed awake all night thinking of new ways to prevent him from learning how to ride. He certainly wasn’t going to let her win.
Unwilling to get up just yet, he lay in bed, reflecting that although it wasn’t exactly fun to fall off a horse six million times and find himself covered in mud, grass or straw, it was sure not as painful as wiping out off of his skateboard at high speed and then hitting concrete. The ground in the country was mostly softer than the ground in the city. And the good part about the many times he had fallen off Bella last night was that now he was a lot less scared of horses and the kinds of stuff they might do. Sliding off Bella the first time had sort of broken the ice and he had learned that falling off a horse did not necessarily mean instant death, or life in a wheelchair like that Superman guy from the old movies.
The usual morning sounds of the B & B could be heard throughout the house. Karen was yelling for Della, who never seemed to be around when she was needed. Guests were tromping down the stairs. Someone in the house was having a shower because the pipes were clanking. One of the two dogs was barking, and it sounded like the neighbor’s rooster had escaped and come over to the K-Ray Ranch to strut around their henhouse. A couple of the horses seemed to be exchanging insults over at the barn. Bikky sighed. Everyone talked about the peace and quiet of a rural life, but he was finding the country to be one hell of a noisy place.
The smell of bacon somehow permeated the floorboards, and that was what finally got Bikky out of bed. He knew if he didn’t get down there quickly enough, that guy from Akron was going to take the biggest cinnamon bun, plus all the crispiest pieces of bacon. And besides, maybe Gemma and Chloe would be there. Last night Chloe had said, “See you tomorrow, Bikky!” when she and her sister left for home.
Bikky reached down for the jeans he had worn yesterday, but dropped them back on the floor again when he realized they stunk of horse. He wondered how often laundry happened around here. He couldn’t exactly nag Karen as easily as he could Ryo. Padding over to the dresser, he pulled out a fresh pair of jeans and his red Spencer Speedway tee-shirt.
When he opened his bedroom door, a small, fuzzy orange and white form slipped in past his legs. It was that grumpy cat, Buster. Bikky didn’t want to close his door and leave the cat in his room. What if it crapped on his shoes or something? He turned around and went back in.
“Hey you,” he said. “Buster. Get outta here, all right?”
Buster hissed contemptuously at him and disappeared under the bed. That was a challenge Bikky couldn’t ignore. With the light of battle in his eye, he advanced on Buster’s last-known position.
True to his word, Detective Clayton came downstairs at exactly eight-fifteen. Unfortunately, he had his partner stuck to him like a barnacle. He didn’t seem too happy about it. Dee and Ryo, who had been sitting on one of the 7th Precinct’s uncomfortable lobby benches, rose to their feet.
Clayton eyed them warily. “Okay, guys, you got ten minutes.”
Dee folded his arms and looked down at Lonnie. “You weren’t invited, Fielding. This meeting doesn’t concern you.”
“The hell it doesn’t! You’re gonna talk all kinds of trash about me to my partner. Don’t think I don’t know that.” Lonnie’s eyes flashed between Dee and Ryo defiantly.
Ryo tried the polite approach. “Detective Fielding, please excuse us for ten minutes. We want to talk to your partner about personal things that he may not wish you to be present for.” He glanced at Detective Clayton, hoping for support.
Clayton turned to Lonnie, a slight frown between his eyes. “Look, Lonnie, I don’t see what the big deal is. I mean no disrespect, as I told you, but it’s not necessary for you to be present for this. If they tell me anything that’s pertinent to you, I’ll share it with you after. Okay?”
“No way, Hugh. Don’t trust these guys for a second. I ain’t budgin’.” Like Dee, Lonnie folded his arms and tried to stand solidly next to his partner. Unfortunately, he couldn’t pull off Dee’s easy confidence. Instead, he shifted from foot to foot like a twitchy sentinel.
Dee smiled down at Fielding, doing his best to let the guy know with his face and attitude that he was right: they sure as hell were going to trash-talk him to his partner. Dee was looking forward to it, in fact. But it would have to wait until later. Right now it was time to find out if the overly diplomatic Detective Clayton could be convinced of the necessity of standing up to his cockroach of a partner.
“Fine,” Dee said. “Detective Clayton, you used to be married, didn’t you, to a woman named— ”
Clayton’s hand flew up. “Stop right there,” he barked, and then turned to his partner. “Please go upstairs right now.”
“They’re right. This meeting doesn’t concern you, Lonnie. Don’t make me say this to you any harder. Just give me some space, all right?”
For a second, Lonnie looked like he might either burst a blood vessel or burst into tears. Dee gave him a broad smirk, hoping to tip him one way or the other. But Lonnie didn’t lose it. Instead, he directed a look of intense reproach at his partner and turned on his heel. Dee didn’t think he had gone far. He was probably lurking just out of sight in the stairwell, listening for all he was worth.
Detective Clayton must have been thinking the same thing because he turned back to Dee and Ryo and indicated the door. “Let’s get out of here.”
After several not very successful attempts to assert his authority over Buster, Bikky gave up. He stopped off at the bathroom down the hall to brush his teeth and put his unruly hair in a ponytail before going down to hit the breakfast table. He was glad he had paid these small attentions to his appearance when he spotted Gemma and Chloe sitting in the dining room drinking juice and laughing with Karen and the other guests. Their big brown eyes and happy smiles brought a new life and energy to the room that hadn’t been there yesterday morning.
“Sure I can teach you to ride,” Gemma was saying to the lady who couldn’t speak English. “It’s not hard at all!” Just then she looked up and saw Bikky loading up his plate at the buffet board. “Is it, Bikky? “
“Agh?” he mumbled around a mouthful of cinnamon bun.
“It’s not hard to ride, is it?”
Bikky could sense that his nice sessions with Gemma and Chloe in and around the barn were about to be spoiled by the presence of that annoying Canadian woman. Both the woman and Gemma had their eyes on him, waiting for his answer.
He swallowed his bite of food and said, “Nah. Not after you fall off the first two or three times.” He raised his arm and showed the assembled table a fresh bruise on his elbow from where Bella had kind of rubbed him against a large bush until he fell off her. Naturally, there had been a rock in the center of the bush. Not exactly a soft landing.
“Mais, non! C’est terrible,” exclaimed the woman, staring in round-eyed horror from Bikky to Gemma.
Bikky wasn’t sure if she had understood his words about falling off horses, or was just reacting to his injury.
“Bikky, are you bleeding?” Karen got up and came toward him.
He glanced down at the fresh claw marks on his forearm. “Oh, uh, yeah, I guess I am.”
The Canadian woman raised her eyes to the ceiling for a moment. “Mon Dieu!” she exclaimed. “Zis place, it ‘as… it ‘as les dangers, n’est ce—I mean, eet ees… yes?”
“What?” said Chloe. “No, not at all. It’s not dangerous here, is it, Bikky?” She shot him a warning look that seemed to be saying Quit scaring Karen’s guests.
“It can be pretty dangerous if you don’t let Buster hang out in your room whenever he wants,” Bikky retorted, and popped a piece of bacon into his mouth.
“Oo ees zis ‘Bass-tair’ personne?” the Canadian woman whispered fearfully to Chloe, who looked nonplussed by the question.
“Come on, Bikky,” said Karen. “Let’s get you patched up.” She indicated the hallway which led to the big bathroom on the main floor. “Who won, by the way? You or Buster?”
Bikky sighed. “Buster. But I let him win.” A guy had to pick his battles. He had a horse to take on today.
Ryo had been surprised when Detective Clayton had hailed a taxi and herded them into it. He had initially figured that they would all end up at the little coffee shop just half a block down from the 7th precinct, but mention of the man’s ex-wife obviously made him want a little more distance from his workplace.
“How long you been partnered with Fielding?” Dee asked during the taxi ride.
Clayton was silent for so long that Ryo thought he wasn’t going to answer at all. Finally, the detective said, “Fourteen months going on fifteen.” He didn’t make eye contact. He seemed to be scanning the streets. He spoke again, but this time to the taxi driver. “Right up there on the next block. Just past the light.”
They all got out in front of a bar with a hanging sign that read Morley’s. That surprised Ryo. Detective Clayton wanted to go to a bar? At eight thirty in the morning?
The bartender seemed to know Detective Clayton, because he gave him a nod and a scowly kind of smile.
“Coffee, Hugh?” he asked. “It ain’t too bad today. We put some extra motor oil in it to thicken it up.” His voice had a faint accent Ryo couldn’t identify.
Clayton shook his head. “It’s always bad, Duff.” He glanced at Dee and Ryo. “OJ okay with you guys?”
Ryo accepted for both of them, and they took a table as far away as possible from the only other customers, both of whom were nursing beers at opposite ends of the counter.
“Okay, tell me what you know about her.” Clayton looked like a man who was bracing himself to hear bad news. He obviously had experience with his ex and her propensity for getting into trouble.
Dee was the one who answered him. “Lovisa Clayton, formerly Lovisa Ekroth, born in Stockholm, Sweden, obtained US status by marrying you. Are we talking about the same woman, or do you have any other ex-wives we don’t know about?”
Clayton sighed and sipped his juice. “She’s the only one.”
“Do you know where she is?” asked Ryo.
“You’re, er, aware she’s on parole, right?”
“Of course.” Clayton looked ten years older all of a sudden. “What’s she done?”
“Maybe nothing.” Ryo tried to sound reassuring. “A police computer has been hacked into and personnel files altered.”
“Aw, hell.” Detective Clayton gazed morosely down at his half-finished orange juice. “Which precinct?”
“I’m sorry, Detective.” Ryo shook his head. “We can’t divulge that. But as far as we can tell, she hasn’t gone after your files. We don’t think it’s personal.”
Dee set his glass of OJ down with a grimace that made Ryo smile inwardly. Dee was not a juice in the morning kind of person.
When Dee said, “We think she’s either doing it for money or else she’s being coerced,” Ryo watched Detective Clayton carefully to see how he reacted, and he could see Dee doing the same.
“Coerced?” Clayton frowned. “By whom?”
Ryo shook his head. “Sorry, but we can’t tell you that either.”
“We have no way of knowing you won’t go straight to your partner with case details,” added Dee.
Detective Clayton’s eyes sharpened with interest. “Look, I get it that something’s going on between Lonnie and you guys. What the hell is that about?”
“We’ll get to Fielding in a minute,” Dee said. “We’re not done asking about Lovisa. Are you in contact with her?”
Detective Clayton hesitated. He didn’t seem to want to answer.
Dee pressed harder. “You almost lost your job once before for protecting her. Don’t go down that road again without thinking real hard about it.”
Detective Clayton stared off into space, his expression bleak. Just like in the taxi, he was silent for a really long time. Ryo drained the last of his juice. Dee watched Clayton’s hands. Nobody spoke.
Finally, Clayton seemed to realize that he couldn’t just will the problem away by refusing to talk about it. “She promised me she wouldn’t do it again,” he said softly. “She swore to me….”
“Maybe she wasn’t given a choice,” Ryo suggested. “If that’s the case, she can be saved. It’s time to come clean with what you know.”
“I don’t want her beaten or bullied,” Clayton said suddenly, a jut to his chin. He directed his statement toward Ryo, which immediately pissed Dee off. While they had been waiting in the lobby of the 7th Precinct, there had been a couple of guys who had walked past and glared at Ryo before whispering to each other. Obviously his partner’s name was mud in that neighborhood, and all because of a lying hooker and a pack of scheming, dirty cops.
“Contrary to what your stooge of a partner has told you, my partner and I ain’t that kind of cop,” Dee snapped. “Besides, it’s the FBI that wants her, and the agent who will be making the arrest is a personal friend of ours. You want the kid-glove treatment for your ex? Then you better start being helpful now, not later.”
Another silence fell, during which Detective Clayton turned his empty glass around and around in his hands as though seeking an answer to his quandary from its smooth, unyielding surface. Ryo felt that the man knew exactly where Lovisa Clayton was to be found, and was weighing her chances.
Finally, he looked up at them, his expression anguished. “Give me a break, guys! What would you do in my place? I can’t betray her.”
Dee swore softly, and Ryo quickly reached out and tapped his forearm in warning not to go off on Clayton. Dee knew that signal very well after their years of working together.
“Detective,” said Ryo gently. “You took an oath and swore to uphold the law, just like we did. There are cops all around us who fail to do that on a daily basis. Once you take that step and start failing to uphold the law, then the next step is breaking it, and then you not only lose your self-respect, but you lose the respect of your peers. We said we just want to talk to her, or rather the FBI does, but you’re acting like you know she’s guilty and you know she’s going to be arrested.”
Clayton tried to look defiant, but they could see he was shaken.
“The way I see it,” continued Ryo, “is that this is her chance to tell her story. This is her chance to try to clear herself. As we keep saying, we have reason to believe she’s being used for her skills, and if that turns out to be the case, it’s better for her to get out from under whomever is forcing her to do this.”
“She obviously didn’t feel she could tell you about it,” put in Dee, still glowering. “Maybe it’s because of the company you keep at work.”
“Lonnie again!” Clayton seemed glad for a chance to change the subject. “He tried to warn me you’d be talking behind his back.”
“Not without reason,” said Ryo. “We have several good reasons for not trusting him.”
“Do you trust him?” asked Dee.
Detective Clayton hesitated just a moment too long. “What would you have me say?” he blustered. “He’s my partner for Christ’s sake!”
“Yeah, and Lonnie really goes through partners, doesn’t he?” said Dee.
“Where are you going with this?” Clayton’s tone was distinctly unfriendly, but there was a note of uncertainty there as well.
“What we’re wondering is where you fit into Lonnie’s plans.” Dee took out his lighter and started flipping it end over end, one-handedly.
“Your partner’s not his own man,” added Ryo in his soft voice. “He’s got things he needs to hide, maybe even from you.”
“What do you mean, he’s not his own man?” Clayton gave them a look that was frankly disbelieving. “Look, I know there’s been some recent trouble with your kid, MacLean, and also with whatever the hell happened between you and that hooker, but Lonnie and I don’t take orders from anyone except our lieutenant.”
“Detective,” Dee said, “Let me lay it out for you. Your partner has a drug problem, one that goes way back. The NYPD is a good place for functional addicts like him because they have a lot of legal access to product. But the bad guys know how to make use of a cop with a habit. That’s what’s goin’ on.”
Detective Clayton stared at him for a moment, then his brows drew together and he exclaimed. “That’s bullshit! What about the drug tests?”
Dee rolled his eyes. “Come on, man. I could tell you at least ten ways a cop can get around that. It happens every day all over the country.” He took out his cigarettes and laid them on the table, a sign that he wanted to go outside and have a cigarette soon.
Detective Clayton, also a smoker, got the hint and did the same. His hand, where it rested on his pack, seemed to tremble slightly. “Do you have any proof?” he demanded.
“Open your eyes, buddy. You’re the one who works with him. Mood swings, odd behaviour, I betcha it’s all right there. He probably keeps a kit in his car. Look at his pupils.”
“Lonnie’s eyes were damaged by pesticides a few years ago. He takes legit meds for that!”
“Uh-huh,” drawled Dee sardonically.
There was silence between them for a moment; then Dee tapped his pack of smokes. “Let’s go out and smoke.”
Ryo joined them because he didn’t want to miss the next part of the conversation. He was used to standing around with Dee as his partner smoked with street contacts and other cops. There seemed to be a high number of smokers on the force.
Dee and Detective Clayton lit up at the mouth of the alley adjoining the bar. Dee took a couple of deep, much-needed puffs before he elaborated further for Hugh Clayton.
“Lonnie and his group specialize in making people fall guys. Look at Officer Cooper, partner of Lonnie’s close friend, Cameron Bell. If you get a chance, check out Lonnie’s former partner, Iona Smythe. Lonnie got her sent up for 15 years, and all to please his suppliers and protect his own ass.”
Clayton blew smoke out. “That’s a load of crap. Lonnie was right. You’re just trying to drive a wedge between us.” His voice seemed to hold a lot less conviction than it had earlier.
Dee shrugged. “It’s your funeral. He’s had one point five partners in between Sergeant Smythe and you. Do you know what happened to them?”
“I do,” said Dee, “but if you don’t wanna take it from me, I suggest you find out before you go running to Lonnie. Everything I’ve said is a matter of record. John Alten and Corrinne Bowdrie. Bowdrie wasn’t officially his partner for longer than five hours. Check it out, and ask yourself if you see a pattern forming.”
Clayton’s confidence in his partner seemed to waver for a moment. “All right, I will check it out, but I’m sure I’ll find out you’re exaggerating.”
Ryo spoke up. “Detective Clayton, if you’re heading down to Records later, I’d appreciate it if you’d check me out, too. I have nothing on my record even remotely similar to the incident with the hooker—who, incidentally, is the girlfriend of a man we have a warrant out on for murder. He forced her to lodge a false complaint about me in the hopes of derailing our investigation. I think you’ll eventually find that your partner, Detective Fielding, knows the man very well.”
Detective Clayton blew out smoke and frowned at Ryo. “Why do you even care what I think?”
“I care about my reputation,” Ryo said simply. “And I don’t think you’re the same kind of person as your partner.”
“Now tell us where we can find your ex,” Dee said. “If she has to go for questioning by the FBI, it can happen like a takedown, or it can happen with her dignity intact. The thing you can take to the bank is that we will find her, and it will affect your career if you block us.”
Detective Clayton took a last desperate drag from his cigarette before pitching it to the ground. It fell in a tight arc and lay on the filthy pavement of the alley, smoldering.
“She’s at my place,” he said, his voice flat. “Do me a favor and ask that personal friend of yours not to bust down the door. The manager will let you in.”
“Would you like to be present?” Ryo asked quietly.
Clayton shook his head, his eyes curiously dead. “Not this time,” he said. “I’ll be trying to raise the bail money.”
“Dino Varras?” The store owner, a surly, balding man in his fifties, handed the photo back to Dee. “No, he don’t work here no more. I fired his ass.”
Dee tucked the picture into his breast pocket. “How long ago?”
“Maybe three weeks back. Fricken’ junkie. Said he was tryin’ to beat the habit. Said he was in a methadone program.” He made a sound of disgust. “I shouldn’t have listened.”
“Were you aware when you hired him that he was a member of the Millbrook gang?”
“Was is the key word there, Detective.” The man turned away and casually rang up a customer’s purchase. “Thanks man, see you next week,” he muttered and then turned back to Ryo and Dee. “They kicked him out when his habit got outta control. They knew what I shoulda learned a long time ago: you can’t trust a Goddamn junkie.”
Dee somehow refrained from grinning at Ryo. Varras was a drug addict like Detective Fielding, but obviously farther down the road of addiction. There was a good chance he’d sell out his old pal Lonnie for the price of a fix.
His face sober, Ryo addressed the pawn shop owner. “Do you know where we might find him?”
For the first time, the man looked wary. “What kind of shit is he in?”
Ryo shook his head. “He isn’t. We just think he might have some information for us about someone else.”
“Are you goin’ after the gang?” The man’s eyes took on a calculating look that Dee didn’t like.
“No,” he replied firmly. “We’re not gang specialists— we leave that to the guys who are. We just think Varras knows something about one of our cold cases.”
The man was silent for a moment, considering. Finally he spoke. “I heard he goes to the methadone clinic on Lenox. You might find him there tomorrow morning lining up for his dose.”
“Do you have any idea where he lives?” asked Ryo.
The man shrugged. “When I hired him, he was staying with some old bat over at Hope Gardens in Bushwick. I’ll give you the address, if you like. But I heard the woman kicked him out after Varras apparently hocked some of her belongings so he could shoot up. That loser could be anywhere now. I suggest you try some of the flophouses.”
Dee gave the man his card. “Thanks a lot for your help. If you hear anything, give us a call.”
“Sure.” His face impassive, the man took the card and dropped it into a drawer.
Dee thought it was probably the shop’s junk drawer. The guy likely wouldn’t call unless Varras reappeared in his life to bring gang trouble to his door, or rip him off. From the resentful way the man was talking, it seemed a good bet that Varras had already done one or both of those things. Dee and Ryo took their leave and walked out into the sweltering sunshine.
They had similar luck at the methadone clinic. The staff knew of Varras, but he wasn’t there.
“If you come back around ten tomorrow morning, you can probably talk to him,” said the earnest young woman at the counter. Her name tag read ‘Heather.’ “He’s been coming pretty regularly the past couple of weeks.”
“Thank you, Heather.” Ryo smiled at her, and Dee could see the effect it had on her. She blushed and her face got all melty. Misunderstanding her expression, Ryo added, “And you don’t need to be worried for him. He’s not in trouble. We just want to talk to him.”
Not for the first time, Dee counted himself lucky that Ryo was so clueless about how attractive he was to women. If he wasn’t, he probably would have been snapped up a long time ago by some overbearing chick with the same dreams of picket fences and babies that he suspected still lingered somewhere inside Ryo. Ted’s comment yesterday about Dee wanting to have Ryo’s babies had made him remember that a very large part of Ryo’s personal identity consisted of his being a father. They hadn’t really talked about it, but Dee thought there was a possibility that Ryo, and hopefully himself in partnership with Ryo, might end up adopting another child someday. Bikky was growing up fast. The brat would be heading off to college in a few years, assuming he ever got his grades up enough to be accepted.
“Thanks, Detective,” breathed Heather. “I won’t worry if you say so.”
“Dream on, Heather,” muttered Dee to himself as they left the clinic.
“What was that?” Ryo asked, squinting at him in the bright sunshine.
“Nothin’,” said Dee. “I just hope Heather doesn’t tip him off.”
“She won’t get the chance to if we get here early enough tomorrow.” Ryo looked at his watch. “I think it’s time for lunch. Shall we head back to the Palace? Our sandwiches are there.”
The mention of their home-made lunch reminded Dee that he had to talk to Ryo about last night’s exchange with Ted. He had been putting it off. He didn’t know how Ryo might take it, but based on what he knew of his partner, he figured Ryo would be upset and would want to blame the whole mess on him. He felt he wanted to have the coming conversation in a neutral place that didn’t have any reminders of work or their co-workers.
“Let’s save those sandwiches for later,” Dee said. “I’ll spring for hot dogs in the park. We should enjoy the summer while it’s here, you know. We’ll be eating indoors all winter.”
“True enough,” agreed Ryo. “Well, if you’re buying, let’s go.”
Bella accepted a carrot from Bikky’s outstretched hand with her usual innocent expression. Her calm and humble face and body language gave away no clues to the seething passive-aggressiveness of her true nature. Bikky wasn’t even scared this time. Last night when Chloe had given him an apple and urged him to feed it to Bella, Bikky had been afraid that the horse might take his arm off at the elbow. But she hadn’t. That wasn’t her style. She was all about lulling people into a false sense of security.
Bikky, Chloe and Gemma all stood in the riding ring with Bella, Ju-Jube and another funny little horse which seemed to be some kind of midget. His name was Wilson. He kept making those funny snorting kind of horse-noises, asking for more carrots. Gemma was scolding him softly and reminding him that it wasn’t lunchtime yet and he needed to lose weight anyway.
The Canadian woman watched them from behind the fence, unconsciously chewing on her nails. Bikky figured he’d better try to fall off Bella spectacularly with as much noise and fake pain as he could manage so as to make her change her mind about hanging around. That would work out well for his plans anyway. Maybe he could lull Bella into a sense of false security and make her think that pitching him off her back would be just as easy for her today as it was yesterday. Then he planned to surprise everyone, Bella included, with how much he had improved.
Ten minutes later, Bikky was lying on his back, howling, and the Canadian woman was nowhere in sight. Gemma was kneeling beside him looking down at him with concern.
“Bikky, where does it hurt? I hope you haven’t broken anything.” Her face anxious, she felt carefully along both of his legs, checking for damage. Bikky had been ready to stop his performance a minute or two ago, but for the fact that he was enjoying Gemma’s concern and gentle hands on him.
Chloe, however, being older and wiser than her sister called out, “Bikky, you can stop goin’ after an Academy Award any time now. The coast is clear.”
Bikky raised his head and checked. Gemma reared back on her heels, looking outraged.
“You mean you’re not hurt?” she demanded.
Bikky had the grace to blush. “Well, it doesn’t hurt anymore,” he mumbled.
She wasn’t mollified. “You’re going to learn the true meaning of pain if you pull anything like that again,” she informed him and stood up quickly, brushing dirt off her knees.
Bikky apologized abjectly and promised to spring for cola slushees later, and that seemed to do the trick. With Gemma, anyway.
“Ooh, maybe we could all ride there!’ Gemma said, looking excitedly at her sister. “We can tie the horses up at that little park across the road.”
Chloe looked skeptically at Bikky. “Only if City Boy here learns how to stay on a horse for longer than three minutes.”
“I’m gonna do it, Chloe,” Bikky declared. “Today’s the day, just watch me.” He thought to himself that if he could get the hang of riding today, he might be able to leave this place as early as tomorrow. Or Wednesday at the latest. He would have to be on the alert for opportunities.
~end of chapter 31~
Additional Author's Notes: all of Bikky's experiences with Bella are based on my own experiences with horses. There is this one female horse that stands out in my memory, and I based Bella on her. My neighbors owned her, and my siblings and I were friendly with that family. We had moved from the city and they wanted to teach us how to ride. I was a child (I had quite a rural child-and-teen-hood from age 10 to 17), and I was scared of horses and other large animals. My family had a lot of farm animals, but never horses. Our animals were food animals. But several of my friends had horses.
The real-life horse I based Bella on was brought out to help fearful-me to get over my terror of horses. She was purportedly gentle and old, and my friends promised me she wouldn't run away with me clinging to her back. Well, okay, she didn't do that! However, over the course of one afternoon, that horse (whose name I forget) did everything to me that Bella did to Bikky, including the part where she 'sat down like a dog'. If you don't believe horses can do this, I suggest googling it. Everything this long-ago horse did, she did gently and in slow motion. I don't know if she was being careful not to hurt me, but it seemed like it.
Needless to say, everyone got a good laugh about the many ways she found to remove me from her back without employing pain, terror or violence. I did actually learn to ride a horse, by the way! But it was never my idea of fun. They truly were a form of transportation, especially for kids, in the place I lived. I confess I never got over my fear of them, even though no horse ever did anything awful to me. But they sure know when you're scared, and they act up, just like that 'old, sweet' horse did to me!