Fake First Year Together: Justice (June)
By Brit Columbia
Pairing: Dee/ Ryo
Spoilers: To Volume 7
Timing: Set in June, a month or so after book 7 ended. Dee and Ryo recently became a couple in May. A New Day left off on Sunday night. This chapter takes place a few days later on Wednesday.
Summary: Ryo is coming to terms with what it means to be a gay man in a straight world. He and Dee are also hunting the dangerous Lieutenant Abernathy...but who is hunting whom?
Disclaimer: I am not making any money for the writing of this work of fanfiction, nor do I own Fake or any of the characters created by Sanami Matoh. Andre is mine, however, and so are Brian Webster, John Hambler, AKA Jackhammer as well as Octavio Rojas.
Author's notes: Ryo first met Brian Webster in A New Day, chapter 10. The flashback of Ryo's conversation with Diane is from Poison, the first in my FAKE First Year Together series. Just to confuse everyone, I wrote the second in the series (A New Day) first. And now I'm writing the third.
Thank you to the_ladyfeather, tripple_p and loki_the_fraud for the beta help.
Previously in Justice: Dee and Ryo got an opportunity to do a brief search of Lieutenant Mike Abernathy's apartment, and now they're trying to get a warrant. They are using Mike's cell phone to call his street contacts so they can try to find out more about the Bad Lieutenant's illegal activities.
Fake First Year Together: Justice (June)
By Brit Columbia
Chapter Four: Sins of Omission.
Dee tossed Ryo the list. "Pick one, me fine dandy, and I'll give the man a call," he said in a fair imitation of Mike Abernathy's Irish brogue.
Ryo frowned at the list of names. It was like Russian roulette. They were taking a chance by calling any of Mike's contacts. Some of them had been listed by tags that were obviously nicknames, but they had no way of knowing whether the contacts actually answered to these names or whether Mike had just randomly assigned code names to them.
Eliza's former partner, Allison, had been back from her maternity leave since Monday, and was spending her first week back just helping out others on the squad. She had been more than happy to track down the registered names of all the contacts on the list, plus their service providers. A few of the names even had addresses next to them. But it was clear from the information she had painstakingly compiled that there was only so much that could be gleaned from numbers and names. For instance, the third number on the list, with the name 'Ben' next to it was registered to a 'Dr. Sun Yat-Sen', who was apparently alive and well and living on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx. Allison had helpfully written 'Jian Bing Chinese Restaurant' next to it. The seventh number was registered to a 'Don Duck' and had an upstate address. The contact name was 'GG', which could stand for just about anything. It was hard to know which one to pick.
"How about this one?" Ryo pointed to number six. The contact name, according to Abernathy, was 'Pol'. The registered name was 'Viva Lasvegas'. "It's a cell phone, not a land line. Maybe this person's an LEO. 'Pol' might stand for 'police'."
"Sure, gotta start somewhere," Dee said, as he picked up Mike's cell phone and dialed the number. Ryo crowded close to him to listen.
On the seventh ring, they connected, but it was immediately evident that the person they had called was fumbling with his cell phone.
"Shit!" a muffled voice exclaimed. "Goddamn phone. Shit." There was some rustling and clicking, and then the voice said in a more subdued tone, "Uh-oh," and after a long pause and a bit more fumbling, it came back louder, and with a fake note of bonhomie. "Mike! How you doing? Sorry I forget to call you. Had a couple problems, you know? No good, no good."
Ryo's eyes flickered to Dee's. The guy on the other end of the line was speaking with a Polish accent and sounded apologetic. Ryo hoped Dee would push him a little.
"Don't be givin' me a song and dance, asshole," said Dee. "I'm running out of patience."
"Hey Mike, no need for dat. I got your money. Well, most of it. I gotta give it to you before I get robbed again."
"What the hell do ye mean, 'most of it'? It better all be there if you know what's good for you. I'm comin' to meet you right now. Where are you, man?"
"Right now? Uh...okay, I guess dat is okay. Um, where am I? Uhh... Hey lady, where am I?"
They heard a female voice in the background answer, "Planet Earth, loser," and the guy with the Polish accent called out in an exasperated voice, "I know dat, lady, but what street? Huh? Well fuck you, too!" Then his voice came back louder. "Mike? You dere?"
"Yeah, I'm here," Dee said, still in character as Mike. He made a face at Ryo and twirled his finger in the air next to his temple. "Look around you, what do you see?"
"I see...coffee shop, I see skinny dog with three legs...no wait, he has four. I was wrong. I see..."
"Do you see any subway stations? Street signs?"
"Uhhh...Yeah! Yeah, I see subway. Way down dere. Can't read it, too far away. My glasses--"
"Just start walkin', asshole. I don't have all day."
"Okay, okay! Jeez, Mike, don't be mad. I got your money, like I said." He was obviously moving because he was puffing for breath.
"How much is missin'?" Dee asked, just to keep him talking until they could get his coordinates.
"Only hundred fifty. I got--"
"What the hell do you mean, ONLY a hundred fifty?"
"Wasn't... my ...fault, Mike!" The guy paused to catch his breath. "It was Gerry's boys. Dey....dey jumped me in-- Whooh, I gotta slow--"
"Have you stopped walking?" Dee demanded. "Just keep walking toward that subway sign. Talk and walk at the same time."
"Huh! Jeez, Mike, you hard SOB. Oh-kay--" more wheezy panting-- "I walk now. Talk later."
After a rather tense minute of dramatic puffing, during which the guy never once took the phone away from his mouth and ear, they finally heard him speak again.
"Oh-kay, I read now. Dis place is...51st Street. IRT. You want me stay here?"
"I'll meet you on the platform. Southbound. Got it?"
"Yeah, Mike. Platform."
"Tell me again about the hundred fifty."
"Oh! Well, you know Gerry's boys. Dey jumped me in park. Took my money."
"You mean MY money."
"Yeah, but dey didn't get it all. Only some. I fight! Ha. Big surprise for dem."
"Yeah, yeah. Got black eye. Some bruises. You know? I am lucky they stop."
"We'll talk later. Go wait on the platform. I'll be there in twenty minutes or so. If you have any problems, call me at this number."
"Gotcha. Northbound, right?"
"No, you idiot. Southbound." Dee hung up and grabbed his suit jacket. "Let's go, Ryo."
On their way out the door, Ryo stopped at the front desk. "Janet," he said, "Would you please let the Chief know that if we're not back by two, it means we're not coming to the meeting?"
"Sure thing, Randy." She winked at him. "Kick bad guy butt out there."
He smiled shyly and gave her a little wave before hurrying after his partner.
Marianne sidled closer to Janet. "What do you think happened to Randy's suit?" she asked in a low voice. "It looks like he slept in it."
"Yeah, it IS kinda mussed, isn't it? That's not like him. He's always the guy with the knife-edge crease."
Marianne giggled. "Maybe he had to tackle a bad guy before work this morning."
Janet smiled back. "Or a bad girl."
"Randy? Somehow, I don't think so."
"Do you believe the rumors, then? Don't forget he had a girlfriend a while back. Meredith."
"Yeah, Meredith. SO wrong for him. It couldn't have lasted."
"Well, maybe he just hasn't met the right woman yet," Janet said casually, her eyes on her computer screen.
"He probably never will. That guy is married to his job. And if he ever marries a human being, it sure won't be a woman."
Janet opened her mouth to respond, but at that moment the switchboard lit up with two new calls, and Marianne immediately turned away to answer them. Janet shrugged and went back to her work.
Ryo strolled down the platform steps, his eyes flickering over the dozen or so people on the platform. He saw Dee standing by the exit at the other end, seemingly engrossed in a newspaper. Most of the men on the platform did not look like the type of guys who would owe Abernathy money. There were a couple of lone suits, two teenage boys vying for the attention of a multiply-pierced Hispanic girl, a middle-aged sad sack holding a pet carrier and speaking anxiously to an elderly woman, and finally, a grumpy-looking black man in baggy jeans and a white singlet. Ryo's eyes lingered for a moment on him. Could that be the guy? He couldn't quite reconcile the winded voice and Polish accent of the man they had talked to on the phone with this young lion. But on the other hand, this guy did look like the kind of person Abernathy would like to have in his power.
He glanced at Dee, who indicated, with a minute jerk of his head, a drunk sitting slumped on one of the benches. The man looked like a leggy pile of rags. He had wild, unkempt white hair and a scraggly beard with bits of debris clinging to it. As Ryo approached him, he saw that one of the man's eyes was swollen and had dark bruising around it. This had to be the one.
"Hey," he said softly, hoping it wouldn't be necessary to shake this guy awake. His clothes looked like they hadn't been washed in months, and Ryo was not crazy about the idea of touching him. Unfortunately, his soft voice couldn't be heard over the loud snoring noises that were issuing from the old man's open mouth. Ryo took a breath to speak a little louder, when suddenly he heard the rumbling of an approaching train. He closed his mouth and stood back as the train thundered toward the platform, the brakes letting out a long screech as it drew to a halt. The breeze it created stirred his hair and the old man's beard, and the stranger came bug-eyed awake, just like that.
"Wha--who--wha? Oh, you ain't Mike. Hooh, my damn heart!" He put a hand to his chest and closed his eyes for a moment.
"No," said Ryo. "I'm not Mike. But I work with him. We're brothers in blue." He gave the guy a half-grin, hoping he appeared convincing.
"You know Mike? Well, where da hell is he? He say he gonna meet me here."
"He couldn't make it."
"So he send you?"
Ryo shrugged. "I guess I was the only one available."
"Who da hell are you? Mike usually send Maria. No offense, guy, but she more cute than you."
Ryo shrugged. "I don't know what's up with Maria. All I know is it's me, not her, this time. Mike's the boss."
"Mmmm...I don't know 'bout dis." The old man looked wary. "I don't wanna give you da money. Only Mike. I don't want no trouble."
"It's okay," Ryo said. "I'm not here for the money. Mike has a bigger problem right now and he needs our help."
"Uh-oh. What kinda problem?"
"He needs to move some heroin to a safe place, just for a couple of--"
"What?" hissed the old man. "Drugs? No way, man, you tell Mike, I hide stuff, I sell it, okay, no problem, but no drugs! Uh-uh, not me. He never ask me before, why now? Fuck dat." He folded his arms and glared at Ryo with a combination of anger and fear.
"Look, you want me to go back there and tell Mike you said no?"
"He know I don't like smack. Or coke, or any dat hard shit. He know me! He call me 'Crazy Andre', but I ain't dat crazy. Drugs is how a guy get killed."
Ah, so his name was Andre. That would help. Ryo, who had been hoping to steer the old man into a discussion about why Mike had to move the alleged heroin and where he might allegedly keep it, seized on this new opportunity to get some more names out of Andre.
"Look," he said, taking a seat next to Andre. "Believe me, I sympathize." He looked around a couple of times, pretending to be furtive, before lowering his voice conspiratorially. "I think it's just gonna make you a target if you're hanging on to seven K of prime junk. I mean, that's not only a pretty big responsibility, but it's dangerous as hell."
"Damn right, buddy, damn right! Seven fucking K, Jesus Christ. Hey, what you say your name--"
"Shh, I've got an idea," Ryo said, looking around once more. "Mike only wants you on this job 'cause he can't get in touch with some of the others who usually move drugs. If you put me in touch with those guys, I'll talk to them for you, get 'em on board and then pitch it to Mike. Okay? We'll get you right out of this. What do you say?"
"I say yeah, get me da fuck outta dis. You know I don't like say no to Mike. Pretty scary dude, him, you know? But I ain't ready to die right now, either. Since I lose my job, life got pretty damn hard. Gerry's boys, dey always watching me." He shook his shaggy head. "No good."
"Okay, well, who else?" asked Ryo. "I haven't been involved in this racket that long. I don't know all the players yet."
"Hell, me either! Only Mike know all of players. But I know some of dem." Andre reached into the voluminous folds of his filthy grey overcoat and fiddled around until he found a pocket. "Where are you, damn phone! Is dat you? Nope dis my harmonijka." He held it up and grinned at Ryo with gappy, discolored teeth. "I bet you never guess I am musician?" He continued to feel around in his pockets with his other hand. "Ah! I think DIS my cell phone. Yep. Just a minute, okay?"
It was quite a production for Andre to get his phone out of his pocket. The overcoat's pockets must have been two feet deep, and there were all kinds of other things inside them, like watches, jewelry, stale sandwiches, and even cutlery from restaurants. Ryo unconsciously glanced at his left wrist to make sure his own watch was still there. Dammit. It was twenty to two. They weren't going to make it back in time to talk to the DA. But then, he and Dee didn't have any new evidence, either. Hopefully they would get what they needed from one of the new contacts Andre was about to put them in touch with.
"You in hurry?" Andre asked, yanking open his phone.
"Yeah," confirmed Ryo. "I don't have much time."
"Okay, listen, I got my phone, but you gotta hang on while I find dose names. Oh-kay, here we go. No...not him, not him, not him neither, no..uh-uh.. nope, not him too...Yep! Got one guy. Ready?"
Ryo nodded, and prepared to write in his notebook.
"Brian Webster, 212-858--"
"Brian Webster?" Ryo interrupted. He knew that name. He and Dee had taken Bikky to visit a Brian Webster last month. "Isn't he in jail right now?"
"Not anymore. Got out two days ago. Early for good behavior, something like dat. Guy need money, I hear."
"Really, he's out? Okay, give me the rest of the number." Ryo scribbled it down and added, "Better give me a couple more names. Brian may not wanna play ball so soon out of prison."
"Okay, next guy's name... John Hambler. You know him?"
Ryo shook his head.
"He go by 'Jackhammer' for his street name. Real crazy dude. But not good-crazy, like me. Bad-crazy. You know?"
"Does Mike trust him?"
"I dunno. As much as he trust you or me, I guess!" Andre rattled off Jackhammer's number, and then said, "Hmm... Maybe Jimmy, too. Oh shit, no I forget-- he get whacked last week. Over drugs, surprise, surprise! Like I said, dey make a guy dead, one way or other." He gave Ryo a hard look from under his bushy white brows. "You be careful, boy. You don't wanna get killed. Not for drugs, not for Mike." He paused, then laughed nervously. "But don't tell him I said dat last part, okay?"
"Don't worry, I never talk about death around Mike!" Ryo tried not to smile. It was hard not to like Andre.
"Okay, I got one more name for you, but first you gotta give ME a name." Andre paused significantly and waited with eyebrows raised. There was a faint, almost indiscernible touch of dignity in his bearing, which hinted at the man he may once have been. At this point in his life, however, he looked liked Santa Claus after six months on the streets, assuming Santa had lost both his memory and his red suit somewhere along the way. Not to mention about a hundred pounds.
"My name, right?" Ryo really did smile this time. "I'm Randy, Andre." He offered his hand and the old man shook it. "Nice to meet you."
"Likewise, Randy. You ready for da last name I got for you? Ja Romeo, pretty stupid name for a pimp-- what, you know him?"
"Uh... yeah," said Ryo blinking in surprise. "Maybe. I know that's a pretty common street name, though. Do you know his real name?"
"Nah, only Ja Romeo. But dis guy, he do music, like me. Only good thing about him."
"Sounds like the same guy. I've been trying to track him down, but no luck so far. I heard he hangs out in the East Village. You got his number?" Ja Romeo was the name Essien Ibo, the injured leader of the Stone Blood Boys had whispered from his hospital bed. He had hinted that the man worked in a music shop. Ja Romeo was also the street name of one Ricardo Romero, former pimp of the late Tamara Stanley. It hadn't occurred to Ryo until this moment that there was a possibility that they might be one and the same person.
Ryo wrote down the number Andre gave him, and then said, "What do you know about this guy?"
"Not too much. He got some gang connection. He make money three... four different way. He got a whore to pay da rent. He like cocaine. Young guy, black, hothead. Dey say he kill a guy not too long ago."
Ryo tried to question Andre further, but the old man held up both hands. "Look, all I know, I already tell you. You go talk to dese guys. Get me off hook, okay? I ain't right guy for drug job, you know?" He shook his head. "You gotta make Mike see dat."
Ryo's words of assent were snatched away by an incoming train, but he thought Andre understood anyway by the way his head was nodding. They shook hands one more time, and Ryo rose to leave just as a crowd of people spilled out of the train and began rushing along the platform. He moved quickly toward Dee, who immediately folded his newspaper, tucked it under his arm and walked ahead of him up the steps, threading his way among the people all around them. They continued in this way for another block, Dee about twenty feet ahead of Ryo until Dee ducked into a sandwich bar and Ryo followed him.
It was a cafeteria-style restaurant, which meant the customers had to line up to order and pay for their meal at one counter, then pick up the assembled sandwich at another one. Ryo caught up to Dee in the line and said, "Go find us a nice secluded table. Lunch is on me."
"Fuckin' A. Get me the Hellfire Meatball sub, okay? And something cold with caffeine in it."
Ryo nodded and turned his attention to the menu board posted on the wall behind the counter.
When he finally carried his tray to the booth Dee had found tucked away in the back of the long, narrow restaurant, both he and his partner were practically vibrating with excitement.
Dee grabbed the paper cup full of Pepsi off the tray and sucked a long draft of it through his straw. "Okay, dude, spill," he said. "I couldn't catch everything, but what I heard sounded good."
"This guy's name is Andre," said Ryo. "He's a petty thief and a booster. He claims to be currently unemployed." He took a small travel sized container of antibacterial gel out of his pocket and squeezed some onto his hands before rubbing them together.
Dee eyed this little procedure with a straight face. Over the years, he had simply run out of ways to tease Ryo about certain of his idiosyncratic behaviors. "Is our new buddy Andre a junkie?"
"Nope, at least I don't think so. I didn't get that kind of energy from him. No smell of booze, either. Plus, the guy's scared out of his mind of any kind of involvement in the drug trade."
"So he doesn't run drugs for Abernathy?"
"No. I suggested Mike wanted him to start doing that and he freaked out." Ryo twisted the top off his bottle of sparkling green tea and took a couple of quick sips. "I'm pretty sure he just steals for Mike and pays him a set amount a week in exchange for protection, or whatever the hell it is that the Bad Lieutenant does for these guys he's using."
"I heard him giving you some names." Dee unwrapped his sandwich and took a big bite.
"Yeah! I've got a number for Ja Romeo. Can you believe it?"
"Our guy?" mumbled Dee around a mouthful of meat and bread. They had learned in the past few days that 'Ja Romeo' was not the most unique street name that had ever been invented.
"I'm pretty sure. Don't talk with your mouth full." Ryo turned his attention to his own sandwich. It smelled really good, and his stomach growled in response. Oatmeal with Bikky had been a lifetime ago. He took a small bite so that he could talk again as soon as possible.
"Dude," said Dee, looking speculatively at his sandwich, "this is so not a Hellfire Meatball sub."
"No, it's not," Ryo agreed. "Those things don't have any vegetables in them, and I think they're far too spicy to be good for anyone's digestion. We're both having the steak bun with sautéed bell peppers and eggplant."
"There's no such thing as too spicy," grumbled Dee, but he took another bite and chewed it appreciatively. It was pretty tasty. And it hadn't cost him a dime, so what the hell.
"Look, the last time you ate one of those stupid things, your nose got all red and I had to try to eat my lunch while watching sweat pouring down your face and soaking into your collar! As far as I'm concerned, you can save eating those disgusting subs for when you're alone, or with Drake or Ted." Ryo took another bite of his own sandwich.
For a moment Dee looked like he had more to say, but then his desire to eat won over his desire to complain, and he applied himself to the rest of his meal. As usual, he was finished long before Ryo.
"Hey, is that salad for both of us?" he said, eyeing it with an interest that he hadn't felt when he still had a hot sandwich to eat.
"Yep," said Ryo. "I got two forks. Go for it."
"Show me the names," Dee said and Ryo put his notebook on the table between them.
"Holy shit, he gave up Brian?"
"Yeah, it's got to be the same guy we all went to see with Bikky and Dave at Brooklyn Correctional. According to Andre, he's out earlier than expected because of good behavior."
"I didn't know Brian was involved with Abernathy." Dee frowned. "He said it was Christopher who got him into trouble last time."
"Well, we should certainly ask him a few questions when we see him. Do you know this 'Jackhammer'?"
Dee snorted. "Jerkhammer is what I call him. I busted him for assault about four years ago. My first bust as a rookie detective." Sighing nostalgically, he licked some salad dressing off his fork and grinned at Ryo. "Needless to say, he hates my guts."
"Okay, I think I'll do the talking if we can get a meeting with that one."
At that moment, U2's 'In the Name Of Love' erupted in Dee's left pocket. Abernathy's cell phone. Their eyes met in a shared flash of alert curiosity.
"It's Andre," said Dee, checking the call display. "Maybe he's checking up on you." He pressed the talk button and said, "Hello, what is it, Andre, me man?"
"Mike! I still got your money, you know? It make me nervous, what if something happen? When you gonna come get it?"
"Soon, man, soon. I've got a few things I have to deal with first. Did you meet with the fellow I sent?"
"Uh, yeah. Randy, right? You send him, right?"
"Yes, and he's a good fellow. We can trust this one. Oh, and Andre? Something very important."
"Yeah, what?" The old man's voice was guarded.
"Your phone may be hot, man. You'll have to take the sim card out. A couple of cops are watching me. That's why I couldn't come today."
"Coorva, Mike, pretty bad! But why I gotta dump my phone?"
"They know the numbers I called. I don't want them to find you. But don't dump the phone yet, okay? Just take the sim card out right after you hang up, is that clear? I want that phone you've got. Randy will bring you a new one tomorrow to exchange for your old one, same time, same place."
"Uhh... okay, Mike. So tomorrow at 1:30 again?"
"Yeah. Now do what I say, Andre. Don't delay. Every minute counts. You don't want to get a call from the police, do you? Hang up now." Dee snapped his phone closed and smirked at Ryo. "Sorry, dude. You don't mind starting work an hour and a half early tomorrow, do ya?"
"Good thinking, Dee. But it would have been helpful if you told me to get his phone off him before I went ahead and met him today."
"Sorry, I didn't have that brilliant idea until it was too late. This is what happens when I start the day without caffeine!" He finished off his Pepsi and rattled the ice in the cup. "Anyway, when you were talking to him, I thought about how it would suck if Abernathy got to Andre before we get a chance to talk to him again, so I wanna make it harder for Abernathy to get a hold of him. Remember what happened to Eddie? He ran; we lost him, he got murdered. We're going to provide Andre with a brand new phone, one with a GPS chip in it so we can find him again easy."
Ryo froze in horror. "Does that phone have one of those?" He gestured toward Abernathy's cell phone.
"Nope, I checked. Come on now, do you think ol' Mike would ever fit himself out with a phone he could be tracked on?"
"No, I guess not." Ryo suddenly felt a little foolish for not thinking of this earlier. "So, I can understand your not wanting Mike to be able to reach him after our little performance today, but seriously, who's going to pay for Andre's new phone?"
"The Rat Bastard has okayed all kinds of funds for this investigation, so we're gonna expense it."
"Confident, aren't you? The NYPD doesn't even buy us decent computers. What makes you think the Commissioner is going to let us expense a phone for a half-crazy street contact?"
"Well, I'll get Helen to sneak it in with a pile of other papers and he won't even notice he's signing off on it. But just in case he does, it would, um, be better if it was your name on the expense form, not mine."
"Don't look at me like that, dude. You think I've never done this before?"
"With my name?"
"Well, no. But I still got away with it."
"You're incorrigible." Ryo tapped his notebook. "Come on, let's try our luck with another phone call while we're still in a reasonably quiet place."
"Brian. You call him, but as yourself, not Abernathy. If Brian hasn't started working for Abernathy yet, maybe he can help us by wearing a wire or something. Before we call that Jackhammer guy, I want to run his stats." He got out his own cell phone and opened it up. "Maybe someone on the squad can give me a quick rundown."
"Ja Romeo is the most important one, but since we know next to nothing about him, we need to do our homework on him, too, before we actually contact him. Incidentally, I think this is not only the one Ibo meant, I think he's also the same guy who was Tammy's pimp. He's still pimping, according to Andre."
"Blow me! You sure this is the same guy Eddie told you about?"
"Just a sec. Janet? Hi, it's Randy. Can you put me through to the CI room? Allison, if she's there." After a moment, Allison answered and Ryo asked her to run background checks on John Hambler and Rick Romero. "Call me back on my cell," Ryo said, rattling it off. After he had thanked her and hung up, he turned his attention back to Dee.
"I don't know for sure if this Ja Romeo is the same guy Eddie and Ibo were talking about. But they seem to have two things in common: pimping and music."
"Hmm. Not only does Ibo name him as a crony of Mike's, but now it's looking like Ja Romeo can maybe link Mike to Tammy's murder."
Ryo nodded. "So, if this were a perfect world, we'd track him down, catch him in the middle of an illegal act, take him back to the station and offer him leniency in exchange for giving up Mike. He would then willingly give us all kinds of useful information and agree to testify..." Ryo hesitated, correctly reading the expression on Dee's face. "I know, I know. Just let me enjoy my fantasy for a moment, all right?"
"Well, what the hell. Why not? Besides, you might be right about the first part. If he's pimping out another girl or two, plus doin' odd jobs for Abernathy, we probably got a fifty-fifty chance of catching him with his finger in the wrong kind of pie."
Ryo smiled at Dee, but it wasn't a sweet smile, Dee noted. It was his hard smile, his 'Let's fuck over the bad guys' smile. Despite the fact that he regularly teased his partner about being an airhead, he knew that Ryo was a one hundred percent committed and capable cop, and for the ninety-ninth time, he felt lucky to have this man as his partner. The partnership had been a success practically from day one. They had a sympatico that really worked, and together they had brought down and put away a lot of criminal scum from the heights to the depths of the food chain. Mike Abernathy was just one more. They'd get him at some point-- it was all about time and effort, plus a certain amount of luck. Dee grinned back at Ryo, and a feeling swelled between them, a companionable sense of running on the hunt together.
"Wanna listen while I talk to Brian?"
"No, I'm sure you can handle that by yourself. While you're calling him, I'll check in with the Chief," said Ryo. "We didn't get our chance with the DA today, but maybe we will in a couple of days, if we can get one of these contacts to say he thinks Mike keeps drugs at his home."
"Ja Romeo?" the mohawked young woman behind the counter echoed. "Jeez, that's only like the 'John Smith' of street names." Her considerable black-clad bosom heaved in an exaggerated sigh, no doubt at the way her time was being unconditionally wasted. "Yeah, sure I know him! I got about nine regulars with that name."
"And how many of them are musicians?" Ryo asked politely.
"All of them! No-talent wannabes."
"How many of them are pimps?" Dee wasn't bothering to turn on the charm. He had pegged her for a dyke the minute they had walked in the door.
"How the hell would I know? That's not exactly a subject I wanna bring up with my customers."
"Okay, how many do you suspect are pimps?"
"About half." Her eyes narrowed as she looked at a point behind them. "Hey, asshole! How many times do I have to tell you? No food and drink in here. Get outside with that damn slurpee. You're getting wet blue shit on the CD's!"
The guy she was yelling at flipped her the bird as he slouched out the door, his lips firmly fastened to the straw of his drink.
"How many are young?" Ryo asked.
"Most of 'em. Look, can't you guys come back with a photo or something? That would help a lot." She gave them a pointed look. "As in, it would save time. Mine and yours."
"All right, miss." Ryo handed her his card, which she accepted with a monumental lack of interest. "Thank you for your time. Call us if any of the Ja Romeos come in." The corner of his mouth quirked in a smile.
She didn't smile back. "You bet," she said in a bored tone, which Dee took exception to. Translation: Why the hell would I bring a bunch of cops charging into my store to scare away paying customers? Dream on, losers.
"Make sure you do, toots, or you're gonna be seeing a lot more of us."
"I SAID I would," she snapped. "What more do you want?"
"She's right, you know," Ryo said to Dee when they got outside. "A mug shot or two would speed things up considerably. I can't believe he doesn't have a record." He was glad to be out of that stuffy, musty little shop. The sunlight was beating down on them, but there was a gentle breeze blowing down this East Village street that lifted his hair and soothed the back of his neck.
Allison had run the name Rick Romero for them back at the station, but it came back clean. There was no mention of him even in the sealed juvenile records. Although it was impossible to believe, it appeared that Mr. Romero had been a very good boy all his life.
"He must be lucky," Dee remarked. "Or fast on his feet."
"Or good at pointing a finger at others," Ryo added, hopefully. "If that's the case, he'll maybe help us bring Mike down to save himself."
"When we finally catch him with his hand in the cookie jar." Dee scowled. "Maybe I should just call him and pretend to be Mike."
Ryo shook his head. "I'd advise against it. I've got a feeling Mike knows his phone is gone. If so, he's probably warned Rick. It could be we just got lucky with Andre."
Dee got out Mike's phone and flipped it open. "It's worth a try, Ryo. We don't even know what this dude Rick looks like. We coulda walked right past him three times today. If we can sucker him into showing up for a meeting, we can at least get a look at him, maybe snap a few shots."
As Ryo looked thoughtfully from the phone to Dee's face, the phone started vibrating in his hand and then the U2 song started up again.
"Who is it?" he asked quickly.
"Mike's home number," said Dee.
"But I'd kinda like to torture him."
"No, don't do it. I mean it!"
"Oh all right. I hope he's leaving a message for us. He must have noticed by now that his passcode has been changed."
"I'm surprised it took him this long, if so." Ryo gazed uneasily at his partner. "Dee, if Abernathy and his lawyer ever find out that you stole his cell phone from his apartment...well, that's just the kind of slip-up the Chief was trying to warn us about."
"Come on, bro, 'stole' is kind of a harsh word," complained Dee in tones of affront. "And don't forget I 'found' it outside in the street, not in anybody's apartment. And of COURSE I would have returned it right away if he'd ever bothered to register it in his own name. But since he uses, correction, used, this phone exclusively for chatting with gang guys, thieves and drug dealers, he sure didn't want his own name anywhere near it."
"We have to be careful. He may claim the phone was NYPD property, and that he used it for undercover work or something."
"Yeah, well if he asks nicely, I'll be sure to FedEx it right to his doorstep. But if he's smart, he'll disavow all knowledge of this phone." He grinned at Ryo. "Think he's had enough time to leave a message?"
"Yes, I'd say so. Let's find out how smart he is."
Mike had left a message, all right.
"This is a message for the walking dead man who is currently usin' my phone. When I find you, I will gouge your eyeballs out with a grapefruit spoon and grind them under the heel of my shoe. You'll just drop that phone off at the lost and found department of Macy's if you know what's good for you."
"What the hell is a grapefruit spoon?" Dee asked Ryo, perplexed.
"It's a spoon that's partially serrated, you know with little teeth on one side," Ryo informed him.
"Oh," said Dee and looked at the phone with his eyebrows raised. "That's a good one. You can always trust the psychos to think up the most colorful threats."
Ryo stared at the phone, too. "I can't believe he left a message identifying this phone as his," he said. "It's always so hard to know what's going through that guy's mind." He frowned, his expression puzzled. "Sometimes he takes risks and just flings info at us. Other times he's careful and crafty."
"I think the bastard enjoys playing games."
"If this phone number isn't registered somewhere in IA's files, we may be able to use his message in court later." Ryo glanced up at Dee. "IF we're gonna own up to having the phone, that is. It's pretty clear at this point that he hasn't figured out exactly who's got it."
Dee shrugged. "I guess it's decision time, ain't it? Once he knows we have it, he's gonna claim I stole it-- which I will naturally deny, especially since he and Siobhan won't be able to produce any witnesses to back that up. But if he never finds out for sure that we have it, we can play with it for a while and then toss it under a train."
"Hmm. Let's think this through. He may later claim you impersonated him in order to ruin his credibility with his street contacts and manipulate them into incriminating him with hearsay or something."
"Me? Impersonate him?" Dee grinned and shook a cigarette out of its pack. "Impossible! I'd have to shed at least eighty percent of my natural hotness to do that, not to mention about a foot in height." He tried to light the end of his cigarette, but the breeze, which had turned aggressive, wouldn't cooperate. Dee felt a little rush of pleasure when Ryo's hand came up to cup helpfully around the lighter. It looked like Ryo had forgotten all about how late for work they'd been today, and whose fault that was.
"Besides," Dee added, blowing out smoke. "Did I at any time identify myself as Lieutenant Mike Abernathy? No I most certainly did not. I can't help it if people assume things and then tell me stuff."
"It would help the evidence trail we're building if we're able to admit we have the phone," said Ryo slowly. "And we didn't technically know who it belonged to until just now." He frowned. "But now that we know, we kind of have to give it back, don't we?"
"The hell we do. We're busy. We're working. It's not our problem if some putz who sicced his lawyer on us this morning can't keep track of his own phone. We'll think about giving it back to him when our shift is over. If we're not too tired that is." Dee snickered to himself with such evident and wicked delight, that Ryo couldn't help joining in.
"And in the meantime," added Dee, "we're gonna be nice, and take all his messages for him, 'cause that's just the kind of upstanding and helpful LEO's we are!"
"Ja Romeo? Little Ricky Romero?" the grey-haired woman in the too-tight orange dress said. "Haven't seen him in a couple days. But he and his dawg are doin' a concert on Thursday night at Teddy's."
"Teddy's is still open?" Dee looked at her, surprised. "I thought that place got shut down last year."
"Well, it did, hot stuff!" exclaimed the woman. "But they got some kind of certificate saying the rats were all gone, and then they opened right back up again. Under 'new management'." She made quotation marks in the air with her fingers. "At least until a developer comes along with the right amount of money and a plan to put up another trendy little bistro in place of the last dive bar from the old neighborhood.You know how those things work. Couldn't do nothin' about the human rats, though." She grinned and winked at him. "They were all still there, last I checked."
"Sounds like the same thing that happened with Blue Planet, that club on--"
"Uh, thanks for the comprehensive history," said Ryo politely to the woman, while shooting a quick frown at Dee. "The concert is Thursday night, you say? Do you know what time?"
"'Fraid not, sugarboy. You ought to go ask 'em about it. Same way you're goin', two blocks further on. Watch out for the clientele, though. You're a little pretty for these parts after dark." She swept her eyes over Ryo in such a way as to convey both appreciation for his physical attributes as well as doubt about whether he would be able to handle the aforementioned clientele of Teddy's.
He felt irritated, first with her, and then with himself as he felt the familiar heat of embarrassment on his cheeks. He hated it when anyone referred to him as 'pretty'. "Thank you," he said stiffly, "but I'm sure I'll be fine. East Village is not exactly the Bronx."
She cackled uproariously at the look on his face before shaking her head and sauntering off in the opposite direction, leaving them wondering if the East Village had suddenly become a disputed territory in this time of upheaval amongst the gangs.
They proceeded to Teddy's, a poorly populated dive bar with shabby furnishings and a deeply ingrained stench of spilled booze, old cigarette smoke, and despair. There was an unpainted plywood stage with a couple of microphones on it at one end of the room, situated as far as possible from the single pool table the place possessed.
Further inquiries brought them the news that Ja Romeo was half of a duo called Steelshot. A sullen bartender produced a poor quality photocopied poster depicting two young black men standing back to back with their arms folded and 'fuck you' expressions on their faces. Dee dismissed it as beyond lame and turned away to begin a wistful study of the rows of liquor bottles on the wall behind the bar.
Ryo squinted at the poster and held it at arm's length from his face so that he could read it without having to don his reading glasses. "It says they're on at seven pm," he said to Dee.
"Uh-huh. But not til Thursday, according to that grandma cougar."
This comment produced a snicker from the bartender, who might have guessed whom Dee was talking about.
"Thank you very much," Ryo said to the man and returned the poster. "Come on Dee, quit looking at the whiskey. We need to get back to the station to update our files before our break."
"Okay, whatever. And I was not looking at the whiskey. Hey, don't you wanna get a copy of the poster? It's like the only picture we're likely to get of Rick until we actually find the dude."
"You're right." Ryo turned back to the bartender and asked if there was a photocopier in the building. He ended up being sent to a small office to one side of the bar where a chain-smoking, bespectacled harridan manned an incredibly untidy desk. Ryo briefly considered citing her for breaking the anti-smoking bylaw, but gave it up in favor of just getting a copy and getting out. He had had more than enough of dealing with unhelpful and/or hostile people for one day. It seemed like no one ever wanted to help or even talk to the police, but if there was trouble, everyone expected the police to just drop whatever they were doing and provide assistance on demand at any hour of the day or night.
Meanwhile, Dee asked for a glass of water, and was just raising it to his lips, when a voice greeted him cheerfully by name from the open room behind him.
"Dee Laytner! Is it really you?" The smoky, masculine voice sounded delighted, rather than pissed, which was what made Dee turn around with a ready grin.
Before him stood a stocky, handsome, light skinned black guy Dee recognized from his patrol days about five years back. Octavio Rojas, a male prostitute. "Tavio, hombre, is that you?" He looked him up and down, taking in the loud silk shirt open to the waist, tight but artfully shredded jeans, boots that were a little too high in the heels. "Still in the business?"
"My answer to that depends on whether you are here to arrest me," Octavio said carefully, joining Dee at the bar.
"Nah, ain't got the energy today. Been walking for hours looking for some dude nobody heard of until now." Dee swigged down half his water.
"I am sorry to hear that, but of course I am happy that you do not think to ruin my evening by busting me. May I buy you a drink?"
"Jesus, I wish! But I'm still in the middle of my shift, so you go ahead. What the hell are you doing in this neighborhood anyway? Didn't you use to work a little closer to 7th Avenue?"
Octavio sighed and signaled to the bartender who poured him a measure of Jack Daniels. "My friend, I have worked all over the five boroughs for longer than I care to admit. But business has never been worse. There are very few places left for an independent like me. My old territories are now taken over by men who are nothing more than musclebound slave-masters, pimping out soft and pretty boys." He sighed and picked up his drink, swirling the amber liquid in the light reflected by the mirror at the end of the bar. "It seems like the boys, they get younger every year."
"You were on the street that young, Tavvy. You told me you started in your country when you were in your teens."
"True, but I was never a boy." Octavio raised his head proudly, and his eyes briefly narrowed at Dee. "I was always a man, even when I was sixteen."
"I know there's still a big market for your kind of services," Dee said. "Why don't you join an escort agency? Wouldn't it be safer?" Despite his NYPD-mandated responsibility to arrest prostitutes, Dee had always had a soft spot for them, having grown up on the same streets where such women--and the occasional man or boy-- were a nightly fixture.
Octavio shrugged. "Marginally so. But the loss of independence... I don't think I am ready."
"Well, I hope you're at least thinking about it. Or at least servicing a clientele indoors. The streets are more dangerous than they used to be. Too many gangs now. Too many bullets flying."
"Ah, but my steady clientele-- they got older, they got scared, they got married. It is not like before. So I work in places like this." He glanced quickly at Dee and shrugged as if trying to justify it. "Just now and then."
Dee eyed him skeptically. "If you say so."
Octavio gestured contemptuously to a pair of aging queens at a booth near the stage. "Look at them, my friend. Viejos verdes. This is what I am reduced to these days."
One of the men waved tentatively, having taken Octavio's gesture for a greeting. He hesitated and then gave them a curt nod in response.
"What, is Teddy's a gay bar now?" said Dee looking around in surprise.
"Only in the early evening. A rowdier crowd comes in after ten, ten-thirty. For the music." Octavio's mood seemed to be rapidly turning morose.
"Oh, well, it's your life, buddy. Any women come here? Ones that aren't dykes, I mean."
Octavio sighed bitterly. "The women customers, they are not as many, but they are almost as bad as the men." His hand tightened on his glass for a moment before he tossed the remaining mouthful of whiskey back. "I take out my anger on them sometimes, but they still come back for more, the filthy bitches!"
"Hmm, sounds like it's maybe time to think about getting out of this line of work." Where the hell was Ryo? Dee was hoping to be rescued from this depressing conversation.
"Perhaps you are right. I cannot believe I have descended to buggaroneria, just to keep working."
"Fucking faggot ass," Octavio stated flatly.
"Oh. Well, next time just say so. Had any trouble here?" Dee indicated the bar.
Octavio shook his head. "Not recently, my friend. Only...Three, maybe four times, one man... Well, he worries me a little bit. Filthy hijo de puta! He wants me to pull down my pants for him. Me, bend over? Ha! I explained to him more than once that I am an activo, a man who fucks. I will not be used like a woman, not for any price. He tried to give me $500 but I would not stoop so low to take dick in my ass!" He dropped his voice to an angry hiss, looking around quickly to see if anyone was listening. "Maricons, those faggots, they have become like women. Their manhood is gone forever. Finished!" He drew himself up. "But I--"
"Now, come on Tavvy, you know that ain't true."
"In my culture, it is. Your culture, too, whether you admit it or not." He tapped two fingertips hard on the perma-stained surface of the bar between them. "It's true. You know this, Detective Dee. Now give me a cigarette and let us talk of women." Octavio flashed a white grin at him. He looked much more attractive when he was smiling, as opposed to bitching.
Just then, a harsh female voice sounded on a speaker hidden somewhere nearby. "Tell him to stop wasting time on the cop and go talk to the customers!"
The sullen bartender came to life and glowered at Octavio. "You heard her," he growled, gesturing to the only occupied booth. "Go get those two queers to spend more money on drinks."
Octavio flushed angrily and his smile disappeared. "Duty calls, as you can see," he said acerbically to Dee. "It was nice to see you again. I hope that life is treating you well, my friend." He shook hands briefly with Dee, then strolled over to where his two elderly admirers awaited him.
Dee shrugged, and watched him go. He knew he couldn't change Octavio's disparaging attitude toward gay sex. First of all, not only was the guy a sex trade worker, but he also hailed from the Dominican Republic, a very macho culture. His sexual experiences with men had likely all been transactions, acts he performed for money and for no other reason. But all that shit about guys who took the catcher role being inferior to pitchers, well, that was just plain homophobic. Dee was glad that Ryo hadn't heard any of that, or his partner would probably have been upset. He looked over at the door Ryo had disappeared into. How long did it take to make one photocopy, anyhow? If he wasn't out in one more minute, Dee was going to walk in there and drag him out. It was close to seven pm, and Dee's stomach had just emitted its first tentative growl. And of course they still had meetings with Brian and Jerkhammer, respectively, before their shift ended at eleven.
Meanwhile, in the office, Ryo was staring, red-faced, at what looked like a baby monitor on the harridan's desk. She obviously kept it there to keep tabs on what was going on at the bar. Talk about low budget. The old woman had had half her attention on the conversation between Dee and that other fellow the whole time she had been fighting with the ancient fax machine to make a copy of the Steelshot poster for Ryo.
"That ungrateful asshole," she muttered to Ryo. "He gets all his drinks free, but he don't wanna work. Well, I don't give a shit about what my clientele does in their bedrooms at home, as long as they spend money while they're here in my bar. A paying customer is a paying customer. We all have to work in this shitty world, even that shithead Octavio!"
At that point she had leaned in close to the monitor and yelled for the bartender to send Octavio off to hustle the customers into blowing more money on drinks. Then she turned her bad-tempered glare on Ryo. "Copies ain't free, either," she snapped. "That'll be a dollar."
He sighed and paid it, noting with satisfaction the sudden flicker of dismay in her eyes. She was clearly regretting she hadn't asked for more. He snatched the copy out of her hand before she could change her mind and abruptly walked out of the office and back into the bar to collect Dee. He could feel a headache starting and the sooner he could get out of this stifling and awful place, the better he would feel.
"Come on, let's go," he snapped, ignoring his partner's smile of greeting and walking right past him toward the door to the outside world. He felt pissed off with all the men on the planet, and Dee was definitely not exempt. He wished he hadn't overheard Octavio's derisive views on the diminished masculinity of men who, to paraphrase him, 'stooped so low as to take dick in their asses.' And Dee, his partner, his lover for God's sake, just sitting there, nodding and not saying a word! But then why would he? Not that they had ever discussed it, but Ryo had it on reliable authority that Dee was allegedly not too keen on the idea of getting a dick up his ass, either. In fact, he was probably sympathizing with poor Octavio's dreadful plight! Ryo wanted to strangle the pair of them.
"Are we gonna get dinner?" Dee asked him.
Ryo gritted his teeth. Typical! After all that, Dee's mind was back on food. He banged the door of the bar open with considerable violence and strode into the street without answering or even so much as looking at Dee.
His expression grim, Ryo walked swiftly down St. Mark's Place, remembering the time he had accidentally found out some illuminating details about Dee's former sex life. A couple of months back, before he had finally told Dee he loved him, he and Dee had been working on a case involving a pair of teenage brothers who were in some serious trouble. At that time, Ryo had interviewed Diane Demora, a woman who worked at a non-profit homeless shelter for youth. It turned out that she and Dee had grown up in the same neighborhood and attended the same high school, and had even dated for a couple of weeks. She was more than happy to reminisce about the old days.
In his mind's eye, he could still see her tiny little office, piled high with boxes of donated clothing and household goods. She had made him Rooiboos tea and had opened a packet of cookies. She had a loud voice and a ready laugh, and remembered Dee with affection, as well as feelings of awe at the various audacious things he had done. Ryo was always fascinated to learn about the exploits of Dee as a child and teenager, and although Mother Maria had already told him some good stories, Diane had a completely new fund of information. She regaled him with a few escapades Dee would never have let Mother find out about. The story that was standing out in his memory today was how Dee had broken the news to his friends that he was bisexual. Apparently, he had shown up for an eleventh-grade school dance with not one, but two dates, one on either arm. One was a girl, of course, but the other one was a boy. According to Diane, Dee led his dates up to his friends and introduced them. Then he said, 'I got something to tell you guys', but instead of speaking, he French-kissed first the girl and then the boy, and then winked at his stunned buddies before sauntering off, an arm around each date.
"He blew us away!" exclaimed Diane. "So cocksure, so confident. He really didn't give a shit what anyone thought." She and Barry and Tommy had been quite surprised, though, especially considering what had happened to Arnon. "You know about Arnon, right?" she asked. Ryo confirmed that Dee had in fact told him about Arnon and Jess, but he didn't see the connection to Dee's bisexuality.
Diane explained that because of the various ways in which Arnon had been exploited by certain members of Bruno's gang, Dee thereafter equated any kind of sexual passivity with 'being used'. But when his group of friends quizzed him about the details, he had aggressively insisted that in bed, he was the one who called the shots. "I dish it out, but I don't take it," was the way he put it.
She had gone on to tell Ryo that in her opinion, it was possible Dee might have mellowed with age. "Dee's crazy about you, honey," she said knowingly. "I've known him for half my life and I've never seen him act like this about anyone. If he was ever going to change his 'take charge' ways, it would be for you, you know what I mean?" To Ryo's horror, she had actually winked at him and then added, "If you ask him nicely!"
Ryo had been so embarrassed and was relieved when she changed the subject.However, he was very glad to have gotten this information from her, because he was, at that time, contemplating starting a relationship with Dee and he realized that he didn't really know what to expect, sexually. The conversation with Diane had clarified for him that if he got involved with Dee, he could pretty much bank on being the guy on the bottom. After all, if Dee had feelings of lingering trauma and discomfort about the sexual abuse and murder of his boyhood friend, then Ryo certainly wasn't going to be the one to demand that he get over it just like that.
But recently, he couldn't help wondering if Dee would ever consider taking a passive role in bed for a change. With him. But since Dee hadn't brought it up, and Lord knew Ryo wasn't ever going to bring it up, it would have to remain a mystery.
It would have been nice if Dee had told Octavio to shut his mouth, however. He wished Dee had more firmly demonstrated respect for the guy on the bottom. But he hadn't.
"Hey Ryo, let me see the copy." Dee's voice came from just behind him. Ryo, who had no intention of slowing down for him, just kept on moving.
"Okay, fine. Don't show it to me, then. Jeez, what the hell crawled up your ass?" Dee grumbled resentfully.
Ryo gritted his teeth and rapidly rejected several hurtful answers that leapt to his lips one after the other before he finally settled on one that he thought would do the least amount of damage.
"Dee," he said impatiently, "I have a lot on my mind right now. Would you mind not talking to me until we get back to the station?"
Dee was silent for a moment and Ryo wondered if perhaps his feelings were hurt. At this point, he didn't much care. He almost hoped Dee would snap back at him so they could have a fight. But as usual, Dee managed to control himself. Deep deep down, Ryo did appreciate that. It hadn't escaped his notice that Dee never bothered to hold back around anyone else.
"Fine," was all Dee said in response, sounding slightly subdued. "Just let me know when it's okay to talk again, all right?" He put his sunglasses on, which was his own form of retreat.
Many shops were still open, and as it was the dinner hour, the street was full of groups of animated friends and hand-holding lovers on their way out for a bite to eat and a little entertainment. The vibrant energy of the neighborhood flowed toward Dee and Ryo, but passed them by, unable to pierce the shroud of disappointed silence each man had wrapped himself in.
end of Justice chapter 4
Thank you for reading. *Waves at Twiyah* I think I've managed to stay on the 'chapter-wagon' one more time.