Today, I bought a brand new door, but I didn't have to hang around while it was installed, thank God.
My nephews showed up unannounced today, complete with a traumatized baby rabbit that their cat had dragged into their house. Fortunately, the boys had discovered the rabbit before the cat had done too much damage. They brought it here in a shoe box with pieces of lettuce and carrot to keep it company because they couldn't leave it at home alone with the evil cat and his two slightly less evil confederate cats.
Naturally OUR cat was very interested in the baby rabbit (who was black and had been named Jessie), but was not permitted to get close to it by his own irrational fear of children. Considering Fluffy was absolutely no help back when we had rats, I'm surprised that he showed interest in a baby rabbit! When we went door-shopping, we took Jessie along, not wanting to leave the poor creature alone with our suddenly predatory cat, either. I really wish cats didn't have a primal urge to hunt and kill birds and rabbits, or at least, I wish they wouldn't 'play' with them so horribly first.
Anyway, I'm sure you'd like to get on with reading the chapter, so here it is.
Fake First Year Together: A New Day (May)
By Brit Columbia
Pairing: Dee/ Ryo
Rating: Worksafe. Four letter words.
Spoilers: To Volume 7
Timing: Set in May, directly after book 7 ended
Summary: Ryo is coming to terms with his new sexual identity, as well as the changes in his relationship with Dee. Meanwhile, Dee and Ryo are trying to find enough evidence to expose a crooked cop. This story explores homophobic attitudes, but is primarily a love story between two men.
Disclaimer: I do not own Fake or any of the characters created by Sanami Matoh. Essien Ibo, Tyrone, and Frank Rizzo, are mine however, along with Detectives Greenspan and Shaver. Lieutenant Guerrero is also mine. I have not based these characters on any living person.
Author's notes: I believe in a strong and equal Ryo and Dee.
Thank you to mtemplar , Moontatoo and LadyFeather for for doing beta-duty. You guys all catch different things and I'm grateful to each and every one of you. mtemplar and Moontatoo, thanks so much for the help with the hospital scene details. Hopefully now it won't offend any members of the medical profession!
Fake First Year Together: A New Day (May)
Dee sprawled in his chair, his suit jacket on and his tie back around his neck, waiting for Ryo to get off the phone with Bikky. They had been working for the past two hours, and they had to be at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in an hour. Unfortunately, it was rush hour. He didn't think they were going to make it.
"Bikky, cream of celery is good for you," Ryo was protesting. "It's not like there are big chunks of celery in it - " There was a long pause while Bikky evidently interrupted him with a reiteration of his well-known views on the detrimental effects of vegetable soups. Dee was almost sorry he couldn't hear it. Knowing Bikky, it would probably contain convoluted but entertaining twists of logic that all hinged on some basically insupportable point.
"Well, then eat the leftover potato salad." Now Ryo's voice sounded ever so slightly defensive. Another pause. "No, you can't order pizza again! You had it last night. I want you to eat some vegetables."
Dee got up and looked out of the window where a steady stream of traffic crawled past the 27th. All those cars were full of lucky people going home to eat dinner with their loved ones and maybe watch the basketball game on TV. And where was he going? A fucking hospital in Brooklyn to question a slimebag gang leader. And to top it all off, there was no time for dinner. The only person who was likely to get any dinner was the monkey brat, who was bitching about his food options. Dee's stomach growled at the thought of Bikky's despised cream of celery soup. He banged his forehead lightly against the grimy glass of the window. Shit. And whose mouth had made this sparkling evening possible? His own, as usual.
"Fine, make a sandwich then. But put some lettuce in it, do you hear me? And no TV until after your homework is all finished! I'm serious, B. I'll be home around nine, unless something else happens. I love you, Bikky...Bikky? Hello? Hello? Crap." Ryo sighed and replaced his phone in its cradle. "Sorry, Dee. God, look at the time. Let's get going!"
"The Williamsburg Bridge is gonna be stop and go," Dee said.
"That's why we'd better take the subway. We'll come back later for your car."
"What about dinner?"
"If we hurry, we might be able to grab a hot dog on the way."
Dee brightened up at that. He liked hot dogs. So did Bikky, but Bikky wasn't getting one. He started looking forward to rubbing it in the punk's face later.
Essien Ibo lay on crisp white sheets, in a badly lit hospital room, his dreadlocks spread out on the pillows propped up under his head. Even burned, shot, bruised and with tubes going in and out of his body, the man still exuded a subtle aura of danger. Ryo had been dismayed to see an oxygen mask covering his mouth, because it meant he probably wouldn't be able to talk, but Marty didn't seem much put out by it. In fact, he greeted the gang leader with a brisk, but professional smile.
"Good evening, Ibo," he said, and the other man opened his bleary eyes at the sound of Marty's voice. "Congratulations on getting yourself out of that warehouse in one piece. I don't think I could have done the same in your place."
Ibo made no sound or gesture in response. It was clear that he and Marty knew each other, and that there was no love lost between them. His brown eyes slid from Marty to Dee to Ryo and finally over to where a large, light skinned black man, one of his few remaining Stone Bloods, stood on guard in the corner of the room. When Ibo's eyes returned to Marty, it was with a certain wariness in them.
"I'm sure you understand why we're here," Marty went on. "The doctor has, of course, informed us that you cannot speak at this time due to your injuries, and we certainly understand that. We'd still like to ask you a few questions though, of the yes/no variety. You can indicate 'yes' by raising your right hand and 'no' by just moving it against the sheet. If you don't know the answer, just tap your index finger against your thigh. Do you understand?"
Essien Ibo raised his right hand an inch or two and let it fall.
"Good." Marty looked satisfied. "First of all, these are my colleagues, Detectives Laytner and MacLean. They wanna ask you a few questions, too."
Ibo looked at them again, resignation written all over his face. Dee understood what the slimeball was probably thinking. The guy had to talk to the police at some point, anyway, and it might as well be at a time when he couldn't actually say anything.
"We know how many guys you took with you to the meeting last night because we were watching you," said Marty.
Dee and Ryo had been hoping for a look of surprise, or another kind of reaction, but Essien Ibo's face and body remained still and impassive. A monitor on the wall behind him beeped steadily away.
"What we don't know is who. We'll start with a casualty list," said Marty. "Did anyone else make it out, besides you?"
Ibo's hand moved feebly against the sheet. No.
"Okay, I'm gonna go through a list of names of guys we think died in the fire, and you give me the yes or the no signal for each one as I say it, okay?"
Ibo indicated yes with his hand.
"Good. Let's start with Kenny Vargas, AKA 'the Rocket'. Was he with you?"
One by one, Marty read names and Ibo indicated whether they had been with him the night before or not. Then Marty proceeded to a list of known members of Corporate America, and did the same thing, and once again Essien Ibo answered with his hand, his eyes closed.
The young man in the corner, clearly a bodyguard, began to get slightly agitated. Everybody ignored him.
"Were you and Frank Rizzo about to start working together?" Marty's question was simple and direct. Ibo indicated that he didn't know.
"I wanna know who your pick is for Frank Rizzo's replacement. I don't think it's gonna be Reggie because although he's got the balls, the men don't trust him." Ibo appeared to concur, so Marty continued. "Battista has a good shot, so does Nick Contadino. But I think it's gonna be de Luca."
"'Nuff," growled a young voice from the corner. "He need to rest now. You come back tomorrow."
"Fuck off, Tyrone," said Marty without even bothering to look at him. He addressed Ibo again on the subject of Frank Rizzo's successor. Ibo didn't seem to be very interested in any of the men Marty had named. He just lay there with his eyes closed, obviously wishing the police would go away.
"Your organization's almost wiped out," Marty said bluntly to Ibo. "I'm sorry your boys had to die that way. Fire's gotta be a hard way to go, and I know it’s not easy for you to even think about it right now. However, we both know that there's soon gonna be blood in the streets as all the territories get reorganized. CA is still the biggest, but the Devils have got some fight left in 'em yet. One of my contacts saw a couple of 'em dealing only one lousy block from your headquarters this afternoon. Business goes on, you know."
Ibo looked at him through narrowed eyes that seemed to be saying Get to the point, you damn cop.
"Everybody knows that with you stuck in here, no one's steering the ship. You lost your best guys in the blast, and now all you got left is dross like Tyrone over there."
"Fucking pig!" sputtered Tyrone.
"Quiet, asshole," snarled Dee. Tyrone subsided, grumbling, a flush further darkening the light brown skin of his face and neck.
"You need time to heal and rebuild," Marty said to Ibo. It won't be good for you if the Devils or CA get too strong in your absence. We're just as interested in fucking them over as you are. To be fair, we'll fuck you over too, if we can, but right now you're the only leader we happen to have any access to. You following me?"
They could see that Ibo did. There was a spark of something that might have been ambition in his eyes, except for the fact that he also seemed to be in pain.
"Lack of strong leadership will mess them up but good," said Marty, with an evil-looking grin that Dee hadn't imagined him capable of. "As long as they're busy with internal squabbles, they won't have much inclination left over to hunt down Stone Bloods or make any kind of real push for your routes. Now are you on board with what we're tryin' to do here?"
Ibo's response was to ring for the nurse.
"Wait a sec there," Dee said quickly. "We haven't had a chance to ask any questions..." He and Ryo looked anxiously at Marty, who as usual, didn't seem to be perturbed. Marty shook his head at them and waited.
A middle-aged nurse wearing green pastel scrubs appeared in response to Ibo's call. "Yes?" she said.
Essien Ibo tugged his oxygen mask aside, and rasped, "Lozenge," in a hoarse, ugly whisper.
"Does your throat hurt, hon?" She looked at him with concern, not the slightest bit afraid of big, bad Essien Ibo, gang leader and all-round bad guy.
"I'm sorry," she said. "You're not allowed to have anything by mouth yet. Doctor's orders. But I can bring you a few little swabs with a minty solution to dip them in. How about that?"
Ibo agreed with a silent nod.
"Back in a jiffy," the nurse said. She patted his arm gently and left the room.
Silence settled over the occupants of the room for a while. The only thing to be heard was a gentle bubbling, like the sound of a fish tank, that emanated from a rectangular plastic apparatus on the floor next to the bed. Dee noticed that a flexible tube ran from that up toward Ibo's body, disappearing under his pajama top. He thought it was probably something to do with the fact that the man had been shot in the lung, and it looked painful and debilitating. Nonetheless, Dee was both unable and unwilling to summon up any sympathy for the gang leader. He was just relieved that that damn skinhead who had clipped him with a bullet a week ago hadn't plugged him in the lung, like what had happened to this bastard here.
"Damn cops," Tyrone barked suddenly, drawing himself up. He opened his mouth to say more, but Marty forestalled him.
"Let it be, Tyrone," he said in a bored voice, "Or I'm gonna have to start asking you about your mama and her little business..."
The young man immediately shut his mouth and withdrew to his chair in the corner, looking uncomfortable. Marty rolled his eyes at Dee and Ryo.
A minute or so later, the nurse returned with the swabs. She unwrapped one for Ibo and put it in his hand, then fussed over his pillows, arranging them so that he was able to sit up a little higher in bed, all the while urging him not to try to talk too much.
"You need your oxygen, dearie. I know you have to talk to the police, but make sure you keep taking breaths, all right?"
Ibo nodded and gave her hand a grateful squeeze before she left. Then he tugged his oxygen mask down under his chin, and met Marty's eyes with a purposeful gaze. He still looked like death warmed over, but his eyes were more alert.
"Pick up De Luca," he wheezed, rubbing his throat. "He'll rally them... if you don't."
"Then who'll step into Frank's shoes?"
"Reggie. That'll... divide them."
"How about Battista?"
Ibo shook his head dismissively. "No guts."
"Reggie's successor. But not soon."
"We don't have anything on De Luca at the present time," Marty said. "If we pick him up, we can't hold him."
Ibo smiled a dreadful smile. "I can fix that."
"Good. Devil's next guy in line?"
"LeRoy. Cokehead. Temper." Ibo winced and put his hand on his throat again.
"Hogan. Good man. Don't let... in."
The discussion went on a little longer, while Marty and Ibo quite openly discussed necessarily abbreviated ways and means of destabilizing the remnants of the Dyre Street Devils and Corporate America. When Marty had taken down the particulars of Essien Ibo's damning information about De Luca and Hogan, it was clear that the leader of the Stone Bloods was starting to flag.
"The body had just better be where you say it is, Ibo," warned Marty darkly. "If this is just a load of shit you're feeding me, I swear I'll point the whole task force in your direction, and the Stone Bloods will be just another defunct gang of mostly dead losers by this time next year."
"It's there," rasped Ibo, and closed his eyes. He let the swab the nurse had given him fall out of his mouth.
Yeah and you know that because you probably put it there, thought Dee with a shiver. This Ibo was one scary customer. But scary customer or no, the guy looked like he was about to pass out, and they still hadn't had a chance to talk to him about their own concerns yet.
"Hey Marty, you done with him?" he asked.
"Yeah, for now," Marty looked up absently from where he was scribbling in his notepad. "He's all yours. See what you can get out of him."
Dee and Ryo glanced at each other wordlessly. Marty was known as the 27th's best expert on gangs. He worked with different partners on different jobs, never the same partner for too long. He also headed up a multi-precinct task force that had been created specifically to crack down on organized crime in the five boroughs. They hadn't witnessed him dealing directly with gang members before, and now they looked at him with a new respect. He really knew the players and the scene inside out, that was for sure.
Dee couldn't help wondering if anyone had a hit out on him, somewhere, while Ryo felt worried about Marty's wife and parents. They could so easily be used against him. Both detectives pushed these thoughts to the backs of their minds, however, and focused on the task at hand.
"Mr. Ibo," said Ryo with professional courtesy. "We know there was a police officer in that warehouse with you last night. Detective Ned Shaver of the Bronx 51st."
A flash of something terrible appeared on Ibo's face for a moment, and the man's hands jerked on the sheet in front of him, instinctively curling into claws. He relaxed his face and hands with an effort, but the oxygen monitor that he was hooked up to began beeping slightly faster, and numbers started to flash as they changed on its tiny screen.
"We want information about a dirty cop we heard recently started working with the Devils... Internal Affairs lieutenant. You know the guy we mean?" Dee said, speaking quickly, with a nervous glance at the door. In his experience, when machines in hospitals started making alarm-noises, nurses appeared and ejected visitors fairly soon after.
"Yeah." Ibo raised the mask to his face and took a couple of deep breaths. The monitor settled down and stopped beeping and flashing.
"He's got a finger in a lot of pies," said Ryo. "He and Detective Shaver had a... relationship, but I'm sure you're aware of that."
"Tired..." Ibo closed his eyes, his voice a faint whisper.
Ryo noticed that Ibo’s fist knotted on the tubes that were attached to the mask, pulling it askew. He couldn't be sure whether it was because of the second mention of Shaver's name, or because of the man's need for oxygen.
"The IA guy," said Dee. "Give us something. We wanna nail him."
Ibo's eyes and mouth remained closed, and they waited, nerves taut, to see if he would answer. Unfortunately, the silence was broken by the monitor, which began noisily indicating that once more, some threshold had been crossed within Ibo's body. This caught the attention of Tyrone, who had been answering questions for Marty. Becoming aware of Ibo's condition, he jerked his head up, exclaiming, "Hey! Time to quit! Fuck, man, he got a lotta damage from that fucking fire! Nearly died in there like the others, nearly died in the fucking ambulance, give the guy a fucking break, you fucking pigs!" His voice rose significantly on the last sentence; that alone would have brought the nurses running, even if the monitor hadn't. Running footsteps sounded from the hall.
"Detectives, please go," insisted the same fifty-ish nurse who had attended last time. She began nervously checking Ibo's vital signs. Just then another nurse hurried in. "I paged Doctor Rahman," she said to the first one. "He's on his way."
"Good. Everybody out," said the first nurse authoritatively. "Not you," she added to Tyrone, "but stay out of the way." She turned back to Ibo, her anxious eyes fixed on the monitor. "Oh, I don't like the look of the heart rate, Nora. And oxygen's at 84. We might have to intubate him again. Essien, dear, your O2 lines are all twisted..."
"A name!" Dee urged.
"Let's go, guys," said Marty. "He doesn't look too good."
Ibo turned his head and looked at them, the ghost of a smile twisting his lips. "Ja Romeo," he whispered. "Music shop. East Village."
"Please leave now!" The younger of the two nurses actually shoved Dee away from the bed.
"Mr. Ibo," said Ryo urgently, "did Detective Shaver die in the fire? Did you see him in there?"
The abhorrent expression once more distorted Essien Ibo's face. He turned blazing eyes on Ryo. "Dead!" he hissed. "Burned. Fucking traitor." The heart and oxygen monitor seemed to pick up a burst of speed and flashed wildly. The nurse who had been fiddling with the oxygen mask clamped it down over his nose and mouth.
The doctor entered the room at that moment, shouting instructions, and Dee and Marty dragged Ryo out into the hallway.
"Is he dead?" asked one of the two uniforms on guard outside the room. He looked hopefully at the three detectives from the 27th.
"Not yet," said Dee.
"Damn. Guess we're not getting out of here then," the other one said.
On the elevator ride down to the main floor, Marty was shaking his head and looking worried. "Fuck, I hope he doesn't kick it," he muttered. "There'll be shit all round if he does."
"He won't," said Ryo calmly.
"How the hell do you know?"
"He wants revenge really bad, and he's gonna make damn sure he stays alive long enough to get it," Ryo answered.
"Huh," said Marty, looking at Ryo with interest. "That makes sense, actually. Yeah."
The minute they got outside the hospital doors, both Marty and Dee shoved cigarettes into their mouths and lit them.
"Freaking heavy scene," remarked Dee, pulling smoke deeply into his lungs. "Every time I think I might quit smoking, something like that happens."
"Sounded like you got some good information back there," Ryo said to Marty.
"Yeah, if he's not lying." Marty took a long drag of his cigarette and held the smoke in his lungs for a moment before releasing it. "Times sure have changed. "Fifteen years ago when I was a rookie, you never would've seen gangs ratting each other out to the police like this. They'd shoot each other up, carve each other's guts out, but it was total taboo to talk to the cops. Now they see us as just another tool to get rid of their competitors in a dog-eat-dog world. If the details Ibo gave me pan out, Tony De Luca will likely get sent up for 25 years, and maybe his brother too. It's basically the end of CA if that happens. And Vik Hogan may or may not remember starring in that particular video I'm supposed to be picking up, but I think he'll blow town for good if we show him a clip. Ibo plays hardball like no one I've ever seen. If he manages to live through the next six months, he'll be running this town in another ten years."
"Well, let's hope the next six months don't go his way," said Dee.
"Maybe Ibo will get his turn too, if, as you say, they're all using the police to get rid of each other," remarked Ryo, trying to stifle a yawn. He needed to sleep more than he had ever needed anything in his life. Now, if these two would just finish their cigarettes and refrain from lighting another, they could start moving in the direction of home. At that moment, his phone rang in his jacket pocket.
"Nah," said Marty, in response to what Ryo had just said. "Ibo is freakishly smart. He doesn't make mistakes often, and if he does, he makes sure someone else takes the fall."
"Chief!" said Ryo into his cell phone. "What's up?"
Dee listened with trepidation to Ryo's side of the conversation. He would have been willing to swear that that fucking badger took a secret joy in dumping new work on them whenever they were just minutes away from knocking off for the day. He hoped that wasn't about to happen now.
"What? You're serious? Shaver?" There was a pause, and then he said, "Okay, we'll see you back at the precinct."
When he had hung up he turned toward Dee, who was looking at him and shaking his head sadly.
"We're not going home, are we?" Dee asked.
"Dee, you'll never believe it. The ANFO car bomb..."
"What about the car bomb?"
"It was Shaver's car. A bomb on wheels. The trunk was apparently already packed with a mixture of ammonium nitrate and diesel when he drove it into the warehouse last night."
"Thanks for coming back, boys," said the Chief. "I'll try not to keep you for too long, but we've got to talk about this. The Commissioner already announced Shaver's upcoming funeral in his press conference today. The media will be there in force on Sunday. It's gonna be on the six o'clock news right across the country."
"So it's gonna be pretty embarrassing if it turns out that Shaver pulled a stunt worthy of a suicide bomber." Ryo sat in his chair, drooping with exhaustion, but his mind was working busily on this new information about Shaver.
"Exactly. And we'd better find out what the hell happened before the press gets wind of this."
"How many people know already?" asked Marty, who had given them a ride back to the precinct.
"Too many. Lieutenant Guerrero's team from the bomb squad, and the arson investigation team, which pretty well means the whole of the FDNY. I even had a suit from Homeland Security leaning on me about it today."
"How about the 51st?" Ryo asked.
"Not so far. At least, I haven't told them. But I probably should."
"There's no doubt about this?" Dee looked troubled.
"None whatsoever. By the process of elimination, it had to be his car. They got VIN numbers for all the other vehicles, and they all checked out. The only one we don’t have a VIN number for was the totally wrecked piece of scrap metal that was the source of the explosion."
"I guess the main question is: who planted the bomb?" Marty said.
"Yep, that's the main question, all right. That's really why I dragged you back here tonight. Sunday is only three short days away. We need answers and we need 'em fast. Laytner and MacLean, you guys know more about Shaver's troubles and motivations than anyone on his own team. So I ask you. Whaddaya think? Did he do it?"
"No," said Dee at the same time as Ryo said, "Yes." They looked at each other, then back at the Chief.
"Okay, both of you give me your reasons, but make it snappy because we all want to get home at a decent hour tonight. You first, Dee."
"He was a guy who'd lost his honor," Dee said, with another glance at Ryo. "It was eating him up inside. I can't see him committing murder on that kind of scale. Also, he didn't strike me as much of a thinker or planner. He was more of a 'reactor'. Shit happened, he reacted."
"Even 'reactors' sometimes get proactive if they're pushed hard enough," the Chief reminded him.
"Well, don't forget, his car was left unattended for about eight hours yesterday in front of Cafe Bruno in Little Italy. We know he was being followed by gang members. That's why he asked for my help."
"So, you're saying anyone could have tampered with it without his knowledge?"
"Okay, good point. Randy?"
"I think he did it because he saw it as the only way out. He was caught between the expectations of two gangs, Abernathy had him running illegal errands every time he snapped his fingers, and he couldn't even support his family properly. Getting himself killed in the line of duty was the best solution to his various problems. Now he's a hero and his wife and child get his pension and an insurance payout. Abernathy can't call his tune anymore, and most of his enemies are dead." He paused for a moment. "If we'd been able to offer him a deal, it might have been different."
Dee looked at Ryo, feeling a sick sensation in the pit of his stomach. He knew his partner was right, but he didn't want to believe it. "But his kid..." he said. "The guy really loved his son. And Shaver was a fighter. Why would he just give up like that?"
Compassion for the other man flooded Ryo's heart, but he was careful to keep his face neutral. He couldn't be sure, but he thought that Dee was perhaps remembering Jess, his long-dead 'father' who had once been in a similar predicament to Shaver's. Jess had been working on the side for the largest mafia group in the city, and when one of their members had tried to recruit Dee as a boy prostitute and errand-runner, Jess had shot the guy dead. Of course he must have known that by doing that, he was essentially committing suicide. He had died in Dee's arms, surrounded by Gianni Bruno and his sneering thugs, his blood soaking through his own clothes and Dee's. Perhaps Dee was also remembering the boy he himself had been, the boy that was left behind.
It had been a turning point in Dee's life, that much was certain. Dee had glossed over the aftermath, but Mother Maria had been more forthcoming. There were some parts of Dee's past that he didn't want to talk about, and Ryo respected that. But sometimes he wondered.
"Do either of you know if he was perhaps afraid for the safety of his family?" asked the Chief. The question was ostensibly for both of them, but it was Dee that he was looking at.
"Yeah. Maybe," Dee answered, looking down at the floor.
"Okay, boys, this means we've got a problem. The Commissioner is dead set on this funeral. It's damn good publicity for the NYPD, makes us look like hardworking heroes, increases funding potential, all that jazz. Maybe Shaver did it, maybe he didn't. The guy ain't around to ask. If there's evidence out there that he blew up that warehouse himself, we've got to find it before the press does, and then find a way to change the spin."
"Are we proceeding on the assumption that he did it, then?"
"Yeah, and we're going to hope like hell that we don't find any evidence to support that."
"Are we gonna float the theory that someone set him up?"
"Absolutely. That's what the Commissioner wants."
"What if we find incontrovertible evidence that he did it? We're not going to suppress it, are we?" Ryo asked, looking at the Chief with a slightly stubborn set to his jaw.
The Chief gave him a level look. "I'm not in favor of suppressing evidence, ever," he replied. "That shit has a way of coming back to bite a guy in the ass. It's the kind of thing that can get a whole precinct a bad rep. If we find incontrovertible evidence, it goes to the Commissioner and the PR department."
"If someone loaded MY car with a bunch of garden fertilizer mixed with fuel oil, I think I'd notice," remarked Marty. "Just by the smell, if not the extra weight."
"It's possible he knew what was in his trunk and that he was being compelled," ventured Dee.
"Yeah, that is a possibility." The chief nodded and picked up his half smoked cigar from the clean ashtray that he kept on his desk as a souvenir from the good old days when they had still been allowed to smoke inside public buildings in the city. Now if he wanted a few puffs, he had to go stand outside in the rain with the rest of the losers. He stuck the unlit cigar between his teeth, anyway.
"There's a flaw in that theory that we should consider," Ryo said. "If it was a third party who turned Shaver's car into a bomb, detonation would've presented a logistical problem, especially with ANFO being so stable and all. Even if the bomb was detonated remotely and not by Shaver, himself, he would've been caught in it. Would he have consented to die?"
"He might, if they had his family or something," Marty said. "But it still begs the question of who wanted to take out the Stone Bloods, Corporate America, and maybe the Devils all in one go."
"You're the guy with the best shot at answering that one," said the Chief. "What do you think?"
Marty's brow furrowed in thought. "Hard to say. They were the three biggest. It could be that whoever set it up didn't know the Devils were gonna crash the party. Or maybe they did. Could've been a rival faction of the Devils, although I can't imagine LeRoy being able to think up and carry out something like that just to get himself a promotion. He's likely already installed himself as the next leader," Marty added for the Chief's benefit.
The Chief turned his hawk like gaze on Dee. "Didn't you say Shaver had been beaten up by the Devils recently?"
"Yeah, he was. Pretty badly, too." Their eyes met, and both were thinking the same thing, though it couldn't be said out loud with Marty in the room. Abernathy. He was involved with the Devils, or so Shaver had said. Could it have been him?
The Chief leaned back in his chair and folded his arms. "Food for thought," he said. "Marty, were there any smaller gangs that might have wanted that blast to happen?"
Marty emitted a single snort of laughter. "Yeah. Like, all of them! Last night's massacre of gang personnel has been the best thing that ever happened to the small gangs. Prices and profits have practically doubled overnight."
"But they'll be fighting amongst themselves, now."
"Yeah, but what the hell," Marty answered. "That's what those assholes do. It's all part of the job description. And to the winner go the spoils."
"Marty, this is what I want you to do. Take some guys from your task force and get out on the streets tomorrow. Tonight even, if possible. Talk to the gangs. See if anyone wants to, indirectly-like, take credit for the explosion. Try to bring me back something that PR can use."
"Yes, sir. I gotta go pick up a very special gangland video from Stone Blood territory, anyway. Is there anyone I can take with me?"
"James should still be upstairs. If you can't find him, do NOT go alone. The gang situation is too volatile right now. Until it settles down, no one works alone. That's an order."
"Well, worst case scenario, I can go tomorrow. But I think I'll be okay. Ibo really wants us to have this particular video."
"Take at least one other guy with you," the Chief repeated. "You might run into trouble with other groups moving in on Stone Blood turf." He looked at his watch. "You got a few more hours left on your shift. Get on it now."
"Yes sir." Marty stood up, relieved to be leaving. He was a man of action, when all was said and done. "Good night, everyone."
"See you, Marty," said Ryo. "Thanks for the ride."
When the door had closed behind Marty, the Chief turned back to his remaining two detectives.
"Well?" He said. "Did you get anything outta Ibo?"
"Yeah, we've got a name. Sounds like a street name, but it's a start," Ryo told him. "Ja Romeo, East Village. We're supposed to ask at music shops."
"Good. Now about Abernathy..." The Chief paused, the lines on his forehead more deeply etched as he thought. "Do you think it's possible he had a hand in the explosion? You were there Randy. You saw him, talked to him."
"I honestly don't know," Ryo replied. "He was certainly nervous about something. It's a possibility of course. But if he did it for the Devils, he certainly screwed up by killing twenty-two of them. In any case, it's something to keep in mind."
"Exactly. Now before I let you guys go, I wanna talk about detonation. You heard Lieutenant Guererro this afternoon. They're not sure what kind of detonation system was used. If it was Shaver who was behind the blast, he probably would have used a different method than if it was someone on the outside who was setting it off. Randy, what can you tell me?"
"M-me, sir?" Ryo suddenly sat up straighter in his chair, discomfort apparent in every line of his body. "I...um...er..." He was leery of discussing explosive devices with any of his commanding officers. His past experience had taught him to be wary. But this was Lieutenant Smith, who had always been fair with him. He forced himself to relax. "Sir, it would be possible to rig up a vehicle with a remote detonation device, although it may not be very reliable," he said. "I've...um, read about such things."
Dee had never forgotten about how Ryo had blown up Richard Feldman's house a few years back, and he was pretty sure the Chief hadn't, either. Ryo didn't often bring it up. It was a black mark on his record that might never go away. Ryo was a straight arrow, rule loving, by-the-book cop, rock-steady during a crisis. But once in a while he had been known to do something totally off the wall, usually as a result of panic. That had been one of those times.
"I'm sure you have, Randy," said the Chief, one eyebrow raised. "Tell me how it might be done."
"There are several ways. If it was Shaver, rather than an outsider, and if he didn't really know any other way to do it, the easiest way would be if he...um... let a fuse dangle out of the car and ignited it. He would have been committing suicide for sure, though." He watched the Chief anxiously, hoping he wasn't talking his way into a whole world of trouble. "The fuse would have burned its way up into the trunk, where it would have caused an initial explosion of, say, a stick of dynamite or a source of dry gunpowder. The blast from that would be enough to set off the ANFO mixture. ANFO needs a big blast because it's a pretty stable mixture compared to other explosives. But the fuse would be noticeable, and that would be the main problem."
"Not necessarily if there was a gun battle going on," grunted the Chief. "What are the other ways?"
"Well," said Ryo, looking nervously at the Chief. "Some sort of timer. Or something electronic, where someone presses a button on a radio unit that sends a signal to detonate. But the person would have to have a fair bit of knowledge and experience."
"And that could've been done from outside the warehouse, couldn't it?" asked the Chief, looking pleased.
"Yeah, it could've. But a lot would depend on the range. There wouldn't be much of a delay. An explosion that size could easily catch the guy who triggered it."
"Well, we know there was someone there," said Dee. "We know someone got away on a bicycle, if Lieutenant Abernathy is to be believed."
"We still gotta check out the idea that it was Shaver who prepared the bomb," said the Chief, and sighed. "I'm gonna send Ted to Shaver's apartment tomorrow to look for traces of ANFO bomb materials. Hopefully the landlord will let 'em in without a warrant." The Chief put his cigar back in the ashtray again.
"Chief, maybe we should..."
"No Randy, not you. You're way overdue for a day off. Don't want you getting sick on me. I don't wanna see your face here tomorrow, nor Saturday either. You're back on for Sunday, second shift. Do me a favor and get some rest."
"What about me?" Dee asked.
The chief flipped open a binder and consulted the new schedule. "You're off tomorrow, but back in at three PM on Saturday. You guys are both on second shift for the next two weeks."
Ryo glanced at Dee to see if he was smiling. He knew that his partner liked second shift because he liked to sleep late in the mornings. Dee, however, wasn't smiling. It was as though all the energy had gone out of him during this meeting.
"Let's go, Dee. We're done, right Chief?"
"Yeah. Go the fuck home. "
Dee was unusually silent on the drive back to Ryo's place, not even bothering to curse when another driver cut him off. Ryo was too tired himself to try to cheer him up. All he could think of was to invite him in for a snack, which he did. Dee probably needed a little affection. Ryo hoped he wouldn't need more than that. He was really too tired to think.
"Nah, thanks anyway, dude." Dee kept his foot on the brake, his eyes flickering from Ryo's face to the rear view mirror. "I've stayed over too many nights in a row already. Don't wanna wear out my welcome. I'll just go home and scramble some eggs."
"Are you sure, Dee?" Ryo put a hand on his arm and gave his partner a searching look. "You're more than welcome to stay."
"Thanks, but I think I should go home. Bikky hasn't seen you for two evenings running and I'm pretty sure he won't be happy to see me again so soon. But we're on for tomorrow, right? After my stitches come out?"
"Um, yeah..." Ryo suddenly found his face getting warm. "What time?"
"Call me around ten on my cell."
"Okay." Ryo hesitated, wondering if Dee was expecting a good night kiss. They were directly in front of his apartment building, though, and people were still walking on the sidewalk, very close to the car. Dee was making no move to kiss him...Was his partner expecting him to do something? He felt he should at least give Dee a hug after what had happened.
The sudden honking of the driver behind Dee's double-parked vehicle jolted him out of his anxious and indecisive thoughts.
"I'd better go, Dee. Thanks for the ride." He gave his partner's upper arm a squeeze before getting out of the car and hurrying onto the sidewalk. He turned around to wave, but Dee was already moving. He felt vaguely disappointed, but Dee was probably right. Bikky would be needing his attention tonight of all nights. The funeral would have been on his foster-son's mind all day.
Tomorrow, he would give Dee all the affection he needed.
Ryo stood outside Bellevue Hospital, waiting for Dee. He wasn't quite sure how he had been talked into this, but somehow he had agreed to go with Dee to the hospital to pretty well hold his hand while he got his stitches taken out. And now, to top it all off, his idiot partner was late. Irritably, he looked at his watch for the third time. He had things to do. Bikky had eaten a week's worth of cold cuts last night, and there was practically nothing left in the fridge with which to make dinner tonight, anyway. He'd been too busy lately to pick up groceries. And if he didn't do laundry soon, he and Bikky would both run out of clean socks.
"Ryo!" It was Dee, jogging up to him in black jeans and a blue shirt over a black tank. He was carrying a paper bag of groceries in the crook of one arm, and with his other hand, he was pushing a pair off sunglasses up on top of his head. The bright sunshine slanted into his green eyes and lit them like emeralds. There was unfeigned happiness on his face at the sight of his partner.
"About time," said Ryo sternly, trying to resist this vision. He turned to face Dee with his hands on his hips. Didn't you say you had an appointment at 10:45?"
"Ah, so what if I'm a few minutes late? I wanted to pick up some groceries for you, since I'm always mooching off of you." He handed the bag to Ryo, whose demeanor instantly changed. Dee looking startlingly handsome, he could maybe resist. But Dee looking startlingly handsome while handing him groceries was quite another thing altogether.
"What did you get?" Ryo couldn't help smiling at him before looking curiously inside the bag.
"Bread, milk, coffee, ground beef, tomatoes..." Dee was counting on his fingers as they walked into the hospital together.
"And cold cuts!" exclaimed Ryo, who was rooting around at the bottom of the bag.
"Yeah, I thought we could have sandwiches for lunch. At your place," Dee added with a meaningful look. "Or mine."
"Let's go to mine," said Ryo, smiling at him. "I...um...I put fresh sheets on the bed this morning."
Dee's face lit up and he moved as though to hug Ryo, catching himself in the nick of time. Ryo's eyes had just flashed a warning at him, but the smile was still there.
"What time is the brat due home?"
"He said he'd be back around five. He's going to watch Carol play field-hockey after school today."
"Okay, here's the schedule," said Dee, leaning in as close to Ryo as he dared. "First we're gonna - "
At that moment, a strident and all-too familiar voice rent the air. "DEE LAYTNER! How dare you be late for your appointment?"
The two men whirled around in alarm, and no little fear. It was Nurse Emiry striding toward them with the light of battle gleaming in her piggy little eyes.
"Come with me, right now! How dare you throw our schedule off just because you're too inconsiderate and selfish to bother to show up on time?" Nurse Emiry seized Dee by the arm and started dragging him away.
"What the - ? You're supposed to be in Brooklyn! Ryo! Help m- "
"QUIET! This is a hospital!" Nurse Emiry gave Dee a good shake that rattled his teeth in his head. "If you must know, I transferred here for a promotion."
"Not fucking likely. I bet New York East fired you for killing the patients!"
"I won't stand for your nonsense! Others need their rest. You're supposed to KEEP your VOICE down!"
"Me? You're noisier than a family of inbred rednecks at a monster truck rally, and you're telling me - "
"Save your pathetic insults, Mr. Laytner! Now get into that room and STRIP!"
Ryo had been following at a safe distance as the large and powerful Nurse Emiry pulled Dee down a hallway and was thus in time to see her propel him into a treatment room. He heard the sound of Dee colliding with a chair or some other item of furniture, and then a clattering sound, as though a tray of metal implements had just crashed to the floor. More shouting ensued. Ryo had absolutely no desire to go into that room.
There was a vinyl-cushioned bench outside the room, which he sat down on to wait. It was amazing to him that Nurse Emiry was still employed after years of behavior like this. He figured that she was either a member of a strong union, or she was damn good at her job. Or maybe she reserved this over-the-top behavior strictly for Dee. They sure seemed to arouse the worst in each other. In any case, Dee had snapped fairly early on like he always did, and now they were going at it hammer and tongs. Ryo tried to block out the escalating exchange of insults by burying his nose in a magazine, but it just wasn't working. He wished Nurse Emiry would hurry up and get Dee's stitches out so they could go.
When the screaming started, he knew she was doing just that.
Dee grumbled and cursed all the way back to the parking lot, rubbing his injured side and looking quickly over his shoulder a couple of times as though he were afraid that Nurse Emiry might actually be following him. Ryo listened to him patiently and tried not to smile. There was something about a good fight, physical or otherwise that seemed to energize Dee. Ryo had observed this phenomenon in his partner countless times and he still didn't understand it. Of course, it went without saying that the effect was lost if Dee ended up shot or unconscious.
"Do you feel up to driving or are you in too much pain?" Ryo asked, completely deadpan.
"Yeah, sure I can drive! My scar just stings like a sonofabitch thanks to that - that sadistic mistress of torture masquerading as a nurse! At Bellevue, now! Fuck, just when I thought I was safe. How the HELL does she get away with this shit?" He went on and on, hurling invective and imprecations against the character and behavior of the evil Nurse Emiry as he unlocked the doors of his car and popped the trunk open for Ryo to stow the groceries. Still complaining, he slid into the driver's seat and angrily jammed the key into the ignition. "It's probably just her thwarted dominatrix fantasies - if that she-gorilla had been born just twenty percent less ugly, she might have..." He trailed off, realizing that Ryo had not joined him in the car. He glanced in the rear view mirror and saw that the lid of the trunk was still up. What the hell was his partner doing? He swung the driver's side door open and joined him at the back of the car.
Ryo was examining the wiring of the trunk light at close range with that familiar little frown of his, the one that usually indicated great concentration. His reading glasses were on, and his rump was stuck out in such a way as to make all of Dee's ill-feeling toward Nurse Emiry dissipate like fog being suddenly burned off by the appearance of sunlight. Ryo was wearing a pair of thin, microfiber slacks that clung to the curves of his perfect little male ass, and Dee was suddenly reminded of the fact that he had sworn last Sunday to fuck that ass on Friday, and Ryo had not only acquiesced, but had indicated in his shy, roundabout way that he was looking forward to it.
"What's up, baby?" Dee asked softly, longing to run his hands over his partner's irresistibly outthrust buttocks and down his hard thighs, but naturally not daring to in a crowded, well-populated parking lot.
Ryo straightened up, holding the tiny light bulb from the trunk light. He was peering at it through the lenses of his thick-framed reading glasses. "I think..." he said thoughtfully, "I think I've figured out how Shaver blew up his car."
"The Chief and the Commissioner would be WAY happier if you didn't tell them," said Dee. "But you can tell me, if you want. While we drive toward bed - er, I mean 'home'."
Ryo's eyes met Dee's and he opened his mouth to say something, but before he could get the words out, his cell phone rang.
Dee swore under his breath. Please don't let that be the Badger, he prayed.
Ryo flipped open his cell phone and frowned briefly at the sight of the number before answering. "Detective Greenspan, hello."
Dee clenched both fists and glared at Ryo. It was all he could do to prevent himself from snatching the phone out of his partner's hand and hanging up on the bitch. He knew trouble was coming; he could feel it. And her timing totally sucked.
"What, right now?" Ryo said into the phone. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Dee rolling his eyes, and grinding his teeth. "It's just that I'm on my day off and I'm in the middle of plans. I have many things to accomplish before my son comes home from school."
Dee stared at his partner in amazement. Was Mr. Workaholic actually blowing her off? He wanted to start grinning, but a little voice in the back of his mind warned him that that would be premature.
"Who?" Ryo sounded quite surprised. "Are you...are you with him right now?" There was a pause. "Good morning Commissioner. Very well, thanks, and you?"
Dee's mouth dropped open. Detective Greenspan was with the Commissioner. And any second now, they were both going to blow his day to hell.
"At Bellevue Hospital," Ryo said, sounding somewhat doubtful. "Kinney parking lot. We'll wait. See you in a few minutes."
"FUCK!" Dee roared, shaking his fist at the sky.
An elderly couple passing near the car flinched and shrank away from him.
Less than five minutes later, The Commissioner's sleek black Lexus rolled up and Detective Greenspan got out of it, laughing. She waved, and to Ryo's relief, the Lexus drove off without her. She walked toward them on kitten heels, a pretty summer skirt swirling about her knees. She looked younger and happier than she had the last few times they had seen her, but as she got closer, her eyes found Ryo's face, and her smile faded.
"Detective MacLean." She gave him a grave nod, and totally ignored the glowering man at his side. "I'm sorry to disturb you on your day off, but I said this was important, and it is."
"Will it take long?" demanded Dee.
"Perhaps, perhaps not," she said coolly, sparing him the briefest of glances. "Detective MacLean, as I said, Lieutenant Abernathy contacted me again. And once again, he wanted to talk about your son."
Ryo stiffened. "What did he say this time?"
"Not much. He brought pictures. He said they would speak for themselves." She opened her stylish leather briefcase and partially withdrew a large manila envelope.
Ryo felt his heart start to beat faster. What the hell could it be? A short time ago he had prevented Bikky from buying marijuana from Eddie. What if it was something like that again? He felt Dee's hand reassuringly squeeze his shoulder, and it steadied him.
Whatever it was, they would face it together.
end of Chapter 40
Additional author's notes: I think I can squeeze something citrusy into the next chapter. If not, I have an almost-finished extra lemon one-shot that I can throw you, just to tide you guys over. Thanks for reading Chapter 40!