Chapter 29, Part Two
Dee banged on the door a second time, as the first time had yielded no response. "I know you're in there, Detective," he called out. "C'mon, I just wanna talk." He paused, listening for a response. He thought he heard a faint creaking sound, but he couldn't be sure that it had come from Detective Shaver's apartment. This was a pretty noisy building. It sounded like the walls were made of particle-board or maybe something even thinner. A phone rang nearby and a man's voice could be heard laughing somewhere down the hall. It sounded like Shaver's next-door neighbor was watching Bugs Bunny on TV, unless that was Shaver, which Dee doubted. He couldn't imagine that sourpuss engaged in any activity that might require smiling.
"You want me to go flash my badge at the manager? Bet he'll let me in."
The door abruptly opened and Ned Shaver stood there, scowling. "Keep it down, for fuck's sake. What the hell are you doing here?" He stood aside and Dee, taking that as an invitation to enter, stepped through the door and into the cheerless little apartment. His keen eyes had taken in every detail of the man's battered and disheveled appearance, including the fact that he held a 9mm pistol loosely in his right hand, and another gun lay on the coffee table with a couple of clips next to it.
"Can't be too careful in this neighborhood," Shaver muttered, not quite meeting Dee's eye. He turned away and opened a cabinet in what Dee presumed was the kitchen area of what had to be the smallest and most depressing bachelor apartment he had ever been inside in his life. "I'd offer you coffee, but I don't fucking have any. I got water and... Kool-aid."
"I'm good," said Dee. "Mind if I sit down?"
"Go for it." Unsmiling, Ned indicated the sofa, but Dee seated himself on an old wooden chair instead.
"Who got you?" Dee asked. He could tell from Shaver's stiff movements that the man was probably bruised all over his body.
"A bust put up a fight, that's all. I took a tumble."
"Don't gimme that crap. Was it the Devils, the Stone Bloods, or something to do with Abernathy?"
Fuck. The Bronx detective turned back to the sink and filled a large mug with water. He wasn't sure if it would be in his best interests to tell Detective Laytner what had happened, but he felt the stirrings of temptation. After all, he hadn't been able to talk to anybody about this crap for so long. The pain of it, the bitter injustice, festered away inside him all the time, and there had been no one he could go to for advice. After a few moments of silence, during which Laytner waited expectantly, Shaver finally decided that it couldn't hurt to tell him a little. Not everything, of course, but just enough to get some of the poison out of his gut.
"The Devils. Fucking sons of bitches."
"You still in with the Stone Bloods?"
"We're off the record here, right?"
"Right. But I still need a statement from you, the sooner the better."
Dee hesitated. Play him, the Commissioner had said. Somehow, he just couldn't do that. It was one thing to use half-truths to trick a suspect into making a confession, but if this was going to turn into a potential long-term investigation, there had to be a certain amount of trust on both sides. Their lives might depend on it someday. "We're still working on a deal. We're think there's a real good chance we can keep you out of jail."
"A real good...chance? A fucking chance? What the hell is this?" Shaver felt himself go cold, and it wasn't from the tap water he had been drinking.
"Hey, come on now. Nothing's written in stone at this point. If you give us something good enough, we can get you immunity."
"Detective, I told you I was not prepared to do a day in jail. You can forget about getting any cooperation from me, if that's where this is headed. I gotta think about survival, and if taking the high road means getting hung out to dry, then I really can't be throwing in my lot with the police. Did you even talk to the Commissioner like you said you were going to?"
"Look, the Commissioner's thinking about the public image of the NYPD and how what looks like a fairly widespread case of police corruption is going to affect funding. He's acting almost like he fucking wishes we'd never stumbled upon this. On the other hand, he doesn't want it to blow up down the road, particularly on his watch. I'm sure when he thinks about it a little more, he'll realize the benefits of us having a guy who's got an 'in' to Abernathy's twisted little operation. You gotta give us something good, do you understand? You gotta make yourself indispensable to this case. Right now, you don't have any bargaining chips." Dee was doing his best, but Shaver looked unconvinced.
"Lemme remind you, Detective, that the guy with no bargaining chips is actually you. Calvetti's gone from this world, and in practical terms, you ain't got shit on me. No witnesses, no warrant. Nothing but a bunch of off-the-record crap that you can't use. And if you put a tail on me today, it's kinda like closing the barn door after the horse has gone. Mike knows I'm too hot to touch right now; so do my other...associates. Even the Devils know, though they still seemed to feel it was necessary to half-kill me on Saturday night."
"What exactly do you expect?" Dee leaned forward and rested his elbows on his spread knees.
"Like I told you in the bar, standard deal for informants in high profile cases. Immunity from prosecution in exchange for my cooperation with your investigation. Through me, you can nail Abernathy and the other guys he's dealing with. You said you wanted me to wear a wire. Okay, I will. And I'm willing to compromise on testifying. I want out of the NYPD when it's all over, but quietly-like, not drummed out. No criminal record. But you fucking come here talking about jail when you know as well as I do what my life is worth if I go to the joint? You know what? I got a lotta shit on a lotta people. From an investigative point of view, I'm a fucking gold mine. But why should I take the road that leads to a sure death in prison when I got nothing to lose by keeping my mouth shut?"
Dee sat silently for a moment, wishing that Commissioner Rose was on another planet presiding over a police force of aliens, because that fucking bastard sure seemed to be better fitted for managing matters of alternate reality than real life cops who were laying their lives on the line in New York City every damn day. Yes, he could understand why the man wanted Shaver to go to jail. The Bronx detective had done a number of reprehensible and patently illegal things, all ostensibly under the aegis of the NYPD. Why should he get away with it? It wasn't right. But on the other hand, he was the key to bringing down a much larger threat. Dee could just imagine the damage that Abernathy and his team of currently unknown dirty cops did to the credibility of the NYPD in an average week. Abernathy's position as an investigating lieutenant in Internal Affairs gave him a unique platform from which to recruit new underlings, guys who were desperate for a way out of whatever trouble they'd gotten themselves into. Only they didn't realize how much worse their new troubles were going to be once Abernathy put them to work. Thereafter, he was always holding his knowledge of their crimes above their heads like the sword of Damocles, ready to feed them to the sharks at any time if they displeased him. It went against the grain, but Dee believed that sometimes it was necessary to cut the minor bad guys some slack if you wanted a shot at taking out someone higher on the food chain. Abernathy was a far greater threat than Shaver would ever be, and this was one of those cases where he felt it was worth handing the guy a break. But unfortunately, the Commissioner seemed to think he could have his cake and eat it too. It had obviously been a long time since he had done any front-line work.
"I hear ya," said Dee, "and I really think we can get you what you need. It totally makes sense to me and my partner, even our lieutenant."
"But not the Commissioner." Shaver's voice was hostile.
"He's not dead-set against a deal, he's just behaving like the brass always do, trying to get as much as possible for as little as possible."
"Like everybody," Shaver said morosely. "But not me. I know you think I'm a piece of shit, but I'll deal fair with you if you do the same with me."
Dee nodded. "Okay," he said. He did not deny the part about Shaver being a piece of shit. However, he did think it was a strange thing for the man to say. Perhaps it represented an opening. "Hey," he said, trying his luck. "You seem like a regular guy. How the hell did this happen to you?"
"I suppose you think this couldn't happen to you," Shaver growled, thrusting his chin out belligerently.
"Well, yeah, I guess every cop thinks that. Until it happens to him, that is." Dee's face assumed a thoughtful expression and he looked at Shaver as though hoping he might elaborate.
Shaver did not disappoint him. "Yeah, that's what I thought too. Even after the first couple of offers. Thought I was fucking untouchable."
"How'd they get you?"
"First off, they got me out of a jam, saved my cojones big time, which got me feeling grateful and almost...beholden. Of course they probably set me up in the first place, but I didn't think of that at the time. But one good turn deserves another, you know? And I don't like to be in anyone's debt. I figured that if I bided my time, I could find an above-board way to return the favor. But my partner and I started working a real tough case around that time, and Ibo provided us with the information that helped us nail it. We both got commendations, Roy and me. And I still didn't see anything wrong. It was like having a standard relationship with an informant, only this informant had a pretty high up position in the local crime scene. He was basically using us to cut the legs out from under his enemies, but we were scoring busts so we didn't care. It was good for both sides for a while."
"Ibo?" Dee asked. "Essien Ibo?"
"Yeah," said Shaver. "You had any dealings with him?"
"Nah," said Dee. "Even when we were based in the Bronx, our territory was still Manhattan. I don't get over to Brooklyn much. But I've heard of him. The Stone Bloods are a little bigger than they used to be."
"Yeah, they are, and that had a lot to do with me," growled Shaver. "Fucking ungrateful cocksuckers."
"So, how did they hook you?"
Shaver sighed and rubbed a hand through his short, slightly stubbly hair, but stopped, wincing, when he evidently touched a sore spot on his scalp that he had forgotten about.
"The usual way, I suppose. I was having financial problems. My sister got cancer and needed treatments, but a huge chunk of my salary was and still is going toward child support. Things were really tight for a while there. And the only one who seemed to give a shit was Ibo. He was smart enough not to start with cash, though. He sent round gifts. A bottle of good scotch here, a box of Cuban cigars there. He gave me the use of a Cadillac when my mom and my sis came to visit for a week. Said I could keep it longer, but I declined. Next was a Playstation for my kid. Baseball tickets, concert tickets, real good seats. How could I say no? All small things, but they added up."
Dee nodded, fascinated. "Yeah," he said. "I could see that happening to anybody. Did Ibo set you against the Devils?"
"You bet he did. It took them a while to catch on, so they kinda came late to the party. They made me a couple of offers, too, but I was still mostly a good boy then. I said no. I had a friendly relationship going with Ibo and his gang, and I didn't think it would be good for my health to play both sides of the fence." He shook his head ruefully and sighed. "I don't know if you've met Ibo or not, but although he's a snake, he's a very charming snake when he wants to be. He was always friendly, always...respectful. I guess he made me feel important. I was such a fucking idiot." He took a swig of his water, wishing it was something stronger. "Finally the day came when Ibo asked me for something. Something small. Wanted me to run some license plates and give him some names. I figured it couldn't hurt, so I did. But then the guys those plates were registered to started turning up dead. They were all crooks in the drug trade, so I can't say I really gave a shit about them, but that's when I knew I'd turned a corner. It was the work of a couple of minutes. I couldn't think of a reason to say no. And look where it fucking got me."
"That's shitty luck, man." Dee tried to sound sympathetic. "How about your partner? Was he in it with you?"
As he had in the bar the other night, Shaver immediately clammed up. He got up and went to the sink, where he ran the water for a long time. Dee waited, hoping he would be able to get more information.
Finally, when Shaver had refilled his mug and splashed some water on his face and neck, he came back to the sofa and sat down, looking at Dee, with the water running down his face like tears. "No," he said. "Roy was a straight arrow. He figured it out-- I was on Ibo's payroll by then-- and disapproved. He gave me a month to wrap things up with the Stone Bloods, or he was gonna turn me in. Fuck, I wish he had."
Dee didn't speak. He was pretty sure he knew what was coming next.
"I... God help me, I confided my problem to the gang. They said they'd take care of it, that they'd put a real good scare into him..." His voice trailed away and the water in his mug began dancing as a tremor took the power from his hands. He quickly set the cup down and knotted his fingers together across his midsection.
"They killed him, didn't they?" Dee asked softly. It wasn't really a question, even though it sounded like one.
Shaver nodded tensely, his expression anguished. He appeared to be holding his breath.
"And they involved you, didn't they?"
A tiny, trembling flutter of air, almost like a gasp, escaped Shaver's lips for a second before he went back to holding his breath. His eyes were tightly shut and his color didn't look so good. It made the bruises stand out even more starkly on his face than they had before.
"Come on, man, you gotta breathe. Have some of your water."
Shaver bolted out of his seat and went back to the sink, where he once again ran water and splashed it all over himself. It seemed like about five minutes before he returned to the sofa, appearing somewhat more composed, if soaking wet.
"Roy Bannerman was a family man. Had three teenaged daughters," he said in a low, hollow-sounding voice. "One of 'em was quite a pretty little thing. All the gang would have had to do was threaten his family, and he would have packed them all up and transferred the hell out of the NYPD." Shaver picked up his mug and twisted it around and around in his beefy hands. "They wouldn't have had to DO anything, just say it. The suggestion would've been enough. Those shitheads told me I should get out of the warehouse once they had him in place and they would talk to him." His voice rose indignantly on the last sentence, only to crack on the next one. "But the bastards talked with their guns. Fucking shot...shot him to pieces. Roy wasn't my favorite person, you understand, but he didn't deserve that. His blood is on my hands. I think about that poor SOB all the time. He was a regular Joe, just like me. He died hard, and it's my fault."
Shaver stared out the window for a moment, looking like such a lost soul, that Dee couldn't help but feel sorry for him. However, he felt far sorrier for Roy Bannerman and his bereaved wife and daughters. Sometimes it really sucked to be a cop.
"That's a heavy load you've been carrying," he said quietly to the other man, and offered him a cigarette.
Shaver nodded and accepted it. Dee lit it for him, and then lit one for himself.
Shaver took a deep drag, sucking the smoke thankfully into his lungs. "It got worse after that," he continued, blowing out the smoke into the short distance between himself and Dee. "They paid less and wanted more. And then Mike got his hooks into me. You know the rest."
"What was this beating for?" Dee indicated Shaver's face and arms. Judging by the stiff way the guy was walking, he was bruised all over.
"The Devils are trying to convince me to stop helping the Bloods. And now Mike wants me to do the same thing: abandon the Bloods and switch over to the Devils."
Dee looked sharply at him. "Abernathy's with the Devils?"
"There's a lot you don't yet know about Abernathy," Shaver said and tapped his ashes onto a cracked saucer on the coffee table. "Tell that to your pal the Commissioner."
Suddenly, he sat up straighter and cocked his head, his whole body alert. The sound of heavy boots could be heard tramping up the stairs at the end of the hall.
"Fuck!" he hissed. "Get in the shitter now! If they find you here, we're both dead!"
"What the--?" Dee had drawn his weapon the minute he saw Shaver snatch up one of his handguns.
"No time!" The normally noisy apartment building seemed to have fallen silent as the sound of several pairs of heavily-shod feet came stamping inexorably down the corridor toward them.
Shit-kicking boots, Dee thought, feeling like a rat trapped in a hole. His injury was burning, and he hoped it wouldn't come to a fight. What the hell? He shouldn't be allowing himself to catch some of Shaver's obvious fear. The man had never struck him as a coward, though, whatever else he might think of him. If he was scared, there must really be something to be scared about. As the footfalls stopped in front of his door, Shaver propelled Dee into the bathroom with an urgent look of warning and a finger to his lips.
"Open up, Shaver, you motherfucker!" shouted a deep male voice.
"Is that you, Ibo?"
"No it's Princess fucking Diana back from the dead. Open this fucking door."
Dee heard them file in. He couldn't be sure, but it sounded as though there were at least three of them, possibly four. The wall he was listening at shook as someone was slammed against it, most likely Shaver.
"Tell me," Ibo's voice continued. "Give me one good reason why I should waste my time on a fucking useless piece of dogshit like you. First you call me crying because the Devils caught you snoozing and laid a beating on you. Then you fail--" the wall shook again as Shaver was presumably re-slammed against it-- "You fail to show up at a very important meeting it took me weeks to set up! And after that, you have the TEMERITY to decline to answer my phone calls! You have ten fucking seconds to explain yourself before Jimmy fucks you over like you’ve never been fucked before."
Low, ugly laughter issued from the henchmen. Dee felt surprised that a low-life gang leader like Essien Ibo used words like 'temerity' and 'decline'. Shaver could be heard clearing his throat.
"I'm already fucked over, man. Look at me. I couldn't get off the sofa until today. Still pissin' blood."
"That's no excuse for not answering your goddamned phone!" They smashed Shaver against the wall again, and this time he made a retching sound.
"Boss, I don't think he's lying. Look at the poor sap. The Devils sure did a number on him."
Shaver muttered something that sounded like it came from lower down the wall. Dee didn't catch what it was, but it made them angry. Essien Ibo raised his voice and released a stream of invective that made no secret of his low opinion of the abilities, intelligence, forebears and general worth of Detective Shaver. The Bronx detective was bounced against the wall several more times, and by the sounds of it, against the opposite wall too.
There was suddenly a loud banging noise against the inside structural wall of the bathroom, accompanied by angry shouting. To his horror, Dee realized that the next-door neighbor was protesting about the noise coming from Shaver's apartment. Fuck, if that didn't stop, Ibo's men would be in the bathroom in a minute! Maybe they hadn't heard. He held his breath.
But his heart sank as he heard one of them say, "Hey, what the hell was that?" Another one responded with, "What?" and the first one said, "That noise in the john." His voice was now just outside the bathroom door. "You got someone stashed in the crapper, man? I'm gonna check it out."
Heart pounding, Dee pointed his gun at the door and braced himself. The only person who knew he was here was Andrea, as she had been the one to provide him with Shaver's address, but she had no reason to believe he might be in danger. He wished he had told Ryo where he was going today. Sure would be nice to know there was perhaps back-up on the way.
He wondered how many of them he would be able to shoot before they got him.
end of chapter 29
Additional author's notes: I seem to have caught cliffy fever lately! I should be able to get the next chapter out in two weeks, maybe less if I work hard this weekend instead of perving all over yaoi_daily