Sorry for making you wait. I wasn't happy with the place that I ended this chapter, so I was trying to write more so that I could end it in a slightly better place, and then my husband came home from work and wanted attention, and then I got a couple of phone calls., and finally I realized that the clock was a-ticking and I should just post the chapter with the ending in the place I had originally intended, even though it's not very exciting or cliffy-ish. So here it is, in all its totally worksafe glory.
But first, a bit more about me and my activities! Feel free to skip this part if you want.
I made deep-fried calamari at home tonight for the first time ever. The first batch was great, but the second batch was too salty. I'm so greased out. I'm going to drink tons of water for the rest of the evening. I almost never deep-fry food. I only do it once every four or five years. But I think that tonight's overly salty calamari has managed to kill that particular craving for a while, which is a good thing, because ever since I had calamari during an outing with my coworkers a few weeks ago, I've been craving it. Now I feel that I don't want to think about it again for a long time. I've got a bit of octopus left over in the freezer. I wonder what I'm going to do with it? I bet my husband won't eat it. I'm sure Fluffy won't. He's not crazy about anything fishy. He has turned up his nose more than once at delicious flaky fish and plump, juicy prawns! Besides, he's a puker, so we're usually pretty careful not to get too creative with his diet.
Fake First Year Together: Justice (June)
By Brit Columbia
Chapter Seven: Bruisers and Cruisers
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 Thursday.
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. Lieutenant Mike Abernathy is mine, however, and so is Lindsey Masters, Ryo's lawyer, and his assistant Ephron. Other Brit characters are Officers Cameron Bell and Bernie Roe, Detectives Hugh Clayton and Lonnie Fielding of the 7th Precinct. Bikky's friends Penny and Jill are mine, as is Wayne, who is the boyfriend of Carol's aunt Elina. Let's not forget Lara Shirner of New York One, and of course, Ja Romeo's whole entourage.
Author's notes: In this chapter, we finally meet Ja Romeo! If you have read FAKE First Year Together: A New Day (May), you might remember him as the pimp of the late Tamara Stanley and the current pimp of Bikky's acquaintance, Shantaya. He is also the guy who murdered Eddie Calvetti but only Detective Shaver and Lieutenant Abernathy know about that. I hope you also remember Alan Radley. He was the guy that Abernathy beat up not once, but twice in FFYT: A New Day. Abernathy left his card with Alan's grandma in chapter 42, but it had Ryo's name on it.
Thank you to the_ladyfeather for the beta help.
So far in Justice: Ryo and Dee are on the trail of Ja Romeo, a guy they think will lead them to the evil Lieutenant Abernathy. Earlier today, Bikky was set up for a drug bust, and Dee and Ryo suspect that Abernathy was behind it. Abernathy has indirectly hinted that he will harm Bikky if our two detectives don't stop trying to dig up dirt on him.
Justice, chapter 7:
"My God, the bruises," exclaimed Lindsay Masters, gazing at Bikky's naked torso in barely-concealed delight. "Ephron, get over on this side. Make sure you get this one under his arm."
His assistant's camera duly flashed. "Randy," Lindsay continued in his barking way, "you have a veritable gold-mine here." He looked up at Ryo for a moment, eyes glittering rapaciously. "Two, three million easy! Minus my fee of course. But still, you could retire on two. Whaddaya say?"
"Lindsay, I definitely don't want to sue the NYPD," Ryo said hastily. "I like my work. I believe in it. Just because there are one or two rotten app--"
At that moment, he was interrupted by a loud female voice, greeting one of the two girls that had been involved in this incident with Bikky. Their conversation could clearly be heard through the thin curtain separating Bikky's bed from the adjoining one in the emergency treatment room. "Penelope Janine!" the voice exclaimed. "What the HELL have you been doing?"
"M-Mom!" Penny's voice broke and the sound of fresh sobbing and incoherent explanations filled the room.
Bikky rolled his eyes and hunched his shoulders. Penny had been crying since before they had all arrived at the hospital, which was at least thirty minutes ago. Surely she had cried all the liquid out of her body by now? He wondered how Jill could stand it. Anyhow, he was more interested in what Lindsay and Ryo were talking about. How many million was that? Just for his bruises? He felt his stiff neck again. He didn't need a mirror to know that he looked like he'd been in a fight. But Ryo was saying no to the money, and he seemed to be pretty sure about it.
Bikky's contemplation of a skinned knee was interrupted by the feeling of eyes upon him. He looked up and realized that not only was Jill watching him from the wall-end of the curtain that shielded Penny's bed, but that Dorkhead, from his chair next to the bed, was also looking at him, and with that usual stupid smirk of his. Dee jerked his head ever so slightly in Jill's direction, and smirked some more. Bikky glared at him and straightened up his hunched shoulders a little.
"Ryo," Bikky said, tugging at Ryo's sleeve, "did Lindsay say that my injuries are worth three million?"
"Well, er, um, yes, he did," said Ryo looking surprised. "But these things always get whittled down... ah, why? Do you... do you want to sue?"
"Well," said Bikky, "Three million is a lot of money..." Jill's eyes were watching him; he could see that, very alert and bright.
"Hey, twerp," Dee said suddenly. "Just so you know, Ryo would have to quit the NYPD if he sued them for damages. Then he'd be home all the time, not only pining away for his lost job, but with all kinds of time for watching everything you did. Food for thought, punk."
"What?" Bikky recoiled. "Really?" he asked Ryo. "You'd have to quit?"
"Well...probably, yes," Ryo confirmed, shooting a quick frown at his partner. "But don't listen to Dee. I wouldn't be pining. If you'd like to sue for the way the officers of the 7th treated you today, then I want you to know that I'm behind you all the way."
Fuck, thought Bikky, then shrugged it off. "Nah," he said out loud. "Sure, those cops screwed up, but it's no big deal. Besides, I got some real good shots in of my own. I'm not the one who ended up with a rearranged face."
"True," said Ryo, "but it could have been a lot worse if Dee hadn't gotten there when he did." His frown evaporated as he threw Dee a look of profound gratitude. "There was no excuse for the way those detectives behaved. You and the girls are all minors! None of you had weapons. Even if you'd all been guilty, their behavior was very wrong."
"Exactly!" said Lindsay emphatically. "No judge would disagree with that. In fact, if you don't send the NYPD a very clear, very strong message that there will be hell to pay if they rough up innocent civilians-- and kids at that!-- they'll just keep on doing it. Three million, easy. I'm telling you, Randy, this is a sure thing."
Ryo just blinked at him unhappily, a fact which was not lost on Bikky.
"Nah," said Bikky again. He folded his arms. "No suing. If we sue and Ryo has to quit, who's gonna watch dorkhead's back out there? The idiot would probably get himself shot on his very first day without Ryo." He smirked at Dee, who gave him a 'yeah, right,' kind of look, but didn't say anything. Bikky looked back at Ryo. "Money isn't everything, right?"
Lindsay looked at him in surprise. Jill's face flashed contempt and disappointment before disappearing back around the curtain. But it was Ryo who glowed with pleasure and pride. For a moment there, he looked all moist around the eyes.
"That's true, Bikky," he said. "A lot of other things are way more important. I'm glad that you understand that." He squeezed Bikky's hand. "Most adults don't."
"Ahh, well, you know." Bikky shrugged, blushing at the way Ryo was looking at him. Goodbye three million, he thought. Never knew ya, don't miss ya. He squeezed Ryo's hand back, and felt Ryo lean into him. The camera flashed one more time, and then Lindsay's voice could be heard saying, "That's enough, Ephron. I don't think we're gonna be needing any more pictures. But we'll keep them in the file just in case Mr. MacLean changes his mind. Or-- "he continued looking sharply at Bikky-- "if people later find out that those cops were actually in on the sting."
Bikky wilted slightly under that gimlet gaze. He still found the lawyer that Ryo had hired for him kind of intimidating.
Dee found Detective Hugh Clayton in a waiting area on the same floor, looking disheveled and dispirited. He was holding an unlit cigarette and watching the news on a wall-mounted TV. The sight of the cigarette awoke all of Dee's long suppressed nicotine cravings. It had been more than two hours since he had last had a smoke, maybe closer to three.
"Too bad we can't smoke in hospitals, eh?" he said, by way of a friendly overture.
"Or anywhere," Detective Clayton said absently, without moving his eyes from the TV.
"Hey, where can I find your partner?"
"He's having his nose set," the other man replied. "Shh. We're on TV." He waved the cigarette in the general direction of the TV screen.
Dee glanced over at the screen, and saw that this was indeed true. There were the Chinatown scenes of two hours earlier, replaying for the eyes of everyone in the city.
The Commissioner stood there in his expensive suit, treating the whole sorry incident like an impromptu PR opportunity, jawing about the brotherhood of the NYPD and how misunderstandings sometimes happened, but with teamwork and goodwill, blah, blah, blah.
Then they cut to a scene of Dee shaking hands with Detective Hugh Clayton and Officer Bernie Roe in exactly the brotherly way the Commissioner had been espousing. Lara Shirner of New York One had tried very hard to get Lonnie Fielding to agree to appear on camera, but since he had a broken nose and a fat lip, he had flatly refused. Dee didn't blame him. There was just no way that guy could come off looking good in this situation, especially if Lara asked him on camera to explain how and why he had received his injuries.
Much was made of the 'misunderstanding' about the bag of Doritos that had turned out to contain heroin.
Bikky and the two girls were shown both together and separately, uttering four-second sound bites like, "We had no idea!" and "We were so scared!" and "We totally thought it was Doritos!"
Then Lara Shirner was back on camera, her black curls quivering with the earnestness of her delivery. "Was it a set-up? Or just a case of three kids being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Only time will tell. Lara Shirner, New York One. Back to you, Lewis."
"The Commissioner is so banging that chick," said a voice with a Bronx accent behind them, and Dee turned around to see the huge gorilla cop sneering at the TV screen. His little eyes fell on Dee. "I'd say he was banging you too, pretty boy, 'cept for the fact that he looked at you like you were roadkill. But if I think about it, roadkill or no, he sure came runnin' to save your ass, didn't he?" He hawked and spat behind a chair. "What is it about the Commissioner's love affair with you boys at the 27th? He takes an office at your old precinct, follows you all to the the 51st after some nutcase blows up your building and then dogs you back to your new building a year later. I mean, what the fuck? You guys give good head over there, or what?"
Dee looked him up and down dismissively, arms folded. "Some of us give fucking world-class head," he said. "But not to the Commissioner."
"Yeah, tell me another one. Maybe it's not you but your partner he's sweet on. You two little lapdogs were on TV with him a few days ago for that Shaver guy's funeral, weren't ya?"
"Let me get this straight," said Dee. "You're having a hissy fit because the Commissioner likes the 27th best and never asks the 7th to dance?" He made a disgusted sound. "You guys don't know how lucky you are."
The simian brow lowered and tiny blue eyes lit up strangely under it. "You don't know how lucky you are that I didn't catch up to you on a quieter street with fewer witnesses. In fact, it could still happen, any old night. You won't be so pretty once I get done with you."
Dee kicked one of the plastic chairs savagely to one side and stalked toward him, muscles taut. "Bring it, asshole."
"Whoa, guys, whoa!" Hugh slid between them just in time. "You wanna be on TV again? You both wanna get suspended? Knock it off, both of you!" He stood with a hand braced on each rock-hard chest, looking fiercely from one to the other.
"Dee? What's going on?" Ryo was suddenly standing in the doorway. He lost no time moving around to take a supporting position next to his partner.
"Absolutely nothing, dude," said Dee. "Sir Lancelot here wants to avenge the honor of his little busted-nosed princess, and he thinks a hospital waiting area is just the place for it."
The big man bared his teeth and stared intently at Dee through narrowed eyes, but didn't make a move to attack. Dee noticed that Detective Clayton had broken out into a sweat. He decided to give the poor schmuck a break, and consequently stepped back, dropping his arms and uncurling his clenched fists.
"Look, we don't want to fight with you." Ryo spoke, looking from one man to the other. "We have a job to do, and that is to find the guy who set up my son and his two friends today." He turned to Detective Clayton. "We need to talk to your partner because, as I understand it, he was the one who got the tip."
"Somebody used him like a condom," Dee added. "And we think we know who."
"Well, we wanna help you find that person," said Detective Clayton, nodding intently. "Don't we, Cam?"
Cam jerked his simian head once in what may have been a sign of assent. He still looked like he wanted to tear Dee's arms off, though.
"Well, let's go see if the doctor's done with him," said Ryo.
They found Detective Lonnie Fielding sitting in a side room with white plaster and tape over his nose. A young female physician was stitching the split in his lip with an expression of great concentration.
Ryo experienced an unexpectedly fierce surge of hostility at the sight of the man who had left so many bruises on Bikky. What the hell had been going through his head, smacking around a child like that? Where was his sense of decency, never mind professionalism? Ryo viewed Detective Fielding's injuries with dissatisfaction, and wished he could give the guy a couple more.
"Dee, can you talk to him?" Ryo asked abruptly, having decided that questioning the man who had hurt his son was going to put too much of a strain on his own professionalism. "Bikky's ride will be here any minute and I want to say goodbye to him."
"Yeah, no prob. I don't think he's gonna be able to do much talking, though. Hey, Ryo."
Ryo stopped and looked back.
"Steelshot is onstage in thirty-seven minutes."
Ryo looked pained. "Yeah, I know."
"Don't worry, we'll make it," said Dee.
"Aw, did busting our friend's nose fuck up your social plans?" sneered Cam.
Dee regarded him with impatience. "Stay in Patrol, pal. Your social life goes up in smoke once you make detective."
Detective Clayton sighed and nodded. "Ain't that the truth."
Cam's radio crackled and the dispatcher's voice could be heard asking his location. He stepped away from the other two men to answer.
"Go home and rest," the doctor said to Detective Fielding. "The nurse will bring you something." She gathered her equipment and left the room.
Dee turned to Detective Clayton. "What was your name again?"
"Hugh, I wanna talk to him alone for a sec."
"No," protested Fielding in a nasal voice. "Whatever you godda thay, you can thay it in front of my partner, athhole." It was difficult for him to get the words out around his frozen and swollen lower lip.
Dee folded his arms and gave the guy a stony look. "You sure about that, dude? 'Cause we're gonna talk about a certain Irish lieutenant. If you don't mind having this chat in front of your partner, then I got no problem with it."
Detective Fielding looked away and bought a few seconds of time by lightly touching his taped nose and wincing.
"Try not to touch it," said a pastel-clad nurse, who walked in at that moment carrying a small paper cup with some meds in it, which she handed to him. "Do you have water? Yes, I see that you do. Here you are. Take them whenever you're ready, and ring if you need anything more. The doctor says you're good to go."
Fielding thanked her and eyed his half-full cup of lukewarm water without enthusiasm. "Hugh," he said. "Would you mind gedding me a coke from the machine?" He shifted to get some coins out of his pocket.
"Hey, don't worry about it. I've got change," Hugh replied. "I'll be right back." His eyes met Dee's questioningly for a moment before he left.
When Carol rushed in, her face full of concern for Bikky, Ryo felt relieved. He knew that Wayne or Elina wouldn't be far behind, and he had already talked to Elina about sending Bikky there for the rest of the evening.
He noticed that Carol checked briefly at the sight of Jill sitting next to Bikky on the hospital bed, but it was all okay in the next second as Bikky turned his head and saw her, his face lighting up.
"Cal!" he exclaimed, jumping to his feet and then wincing as he was reminded of some part of him that hurt.
"Bikky! Oh my God! Auntie Elina said she saw you on the news, but I missed it. Why didn't you call me sooner?" She enfolded him in her arms with a rather touching display of exaggerated carefulness. "My God, you're absolutely covered in bruises."
"What? Nah, this is nothing," Bikky said, enjoying being so close to her. She smelled like peaches and vanilla. "You should see the other guy."
Jill snickered, and Carol was reminded of her presence. "Hello," she said, turning toward her and rapidly checking her out. Pretty, slim, long dark hair, blue eyes. Nothing special. Well... except maybe for a certain brittle toughness that Carol had seen once or twice before. You had to watch out for girls like that. "I'm Carol. I don't think we've met, have we?"
"No, we haven't met," said Jill, deliberately waiting a couple of seconds too long before taking Carol's outstretched hand. "I'm Jill."
Ryo was distracted from the unfolding of this little drama by the entrance into the room of Wayne, the long term boyfriend of Carol's Aunt Elina. Wayne was a short, lumbering teddy bear of a man, and he was panting slightly with exertion. His forehead was damp with sweat. Ryo imagined that Carol had been rather hard for him to keep up with.
"Hey, Ryo," he puffed in greeting. "How ya doin'? Never a dull moment, huh?"
"Wayne, thank you for coming. And please thank Elina for me, too."
Wayne shook his head. "Naw, you already thanked her about ten times on the phone. She often works nights too. We know how it is."
"Jill, we gotta go," Bikky said. "Is your mom coming to get you, too?" Penny had already disappeared with her mother.
"No, she's at work," Jill replied coolly. "But I think the hospital probably left her a message."
"I'm sure your parents are worried," Ryo said to her. "You guys have already been on TV once, and they'll show the same story again a few more times tonight."
Bikky and Carol reacted with excitement, but Jill just shrugged. "I doubt it," she said. "They don't really watch the news anyhow. Mom says it's depressing and my step-dad only watches ESPN." She got up from the bed and slipped her purse over her shoulder.
"You want us to drop you off anywhere?" Wayne offered kindly.
"No, not necessary," said Jill, without bothering to smile. "See you at Dundarave sometime," she said to Bikky, and graced Carol and Ryo with a casual little wave before she exited the room.
Carol made a face at Wayne, and said softly, "What a strange chick!"
Wayne shrugged, evidently used to being dismissed by teenagers. "Come on, kids, let's go. And not so fast this time. Give an old man a chance to keep up."
"Look, I dunno thith guy you're talking about," Lonnie said carefully to Dee. "I ain't thayin' it didn't turn out to look like a thetup, but it weren't no cop that gave me the tip."
"That so? Well let me tell you something, buddy. I've questioned a lot of people in my time, and learned a thing or two along the way. Right now, my bullshit-o-meter is going off like a fire bell."
"Fuck you Laytner. You calling me a liar?"
"I'm calling you a guy who's in over his head. And if I were you, bro, I'd be lookin' to myself. 'Cause when the Abernathy train jumps the rails, you're not exactly gonna get thrown clear. You given any thought to that?"
"I don't need to give no thought to that becauth I don't know who the fuck you're talkin' about." Lonnie glared at Dee and squared his shoulders.
"Oh yeah? Well, here's something to chew on. I suppose you noticed the presence of the Commissioner in Chinatown today?" Dee took out his pack of cigarettes and shook one out. "That was one phone call, asshole, and I made that call AFTER I busted your nose for you. Pretty quick response, eh? Fifteen minutes at the outside, if that." Dee produced a lighter and lit the business end of the cigarette, drawing deeply. Gorilla-cop had unwittingly handed him his approach to Lonnie by bitching about the Commissioner back there in the waiting area.
"What the fuck'th your point, cockthucker?" The smaller man's eyes stared avidly at the cigarette.
"You're pretty slow, ain't ya, Lonnie?" Dee blew smoke out in a big, glorious exhalation. Fuck, had he been needing that. "My point is that one of us has access to the big guns and the other one is over a barrel, trying like hell to keep his pants up for as long as possible." Another deep inhale. "'Course, if you end up going to the joint thanks to your work with Mikey, you'll be lucky to keep your pants on even for five minutes after lights out on the first night."
"You know, you're not thuppothed to be thmoking in here. Thith ith a fuckin' hothpital!"
Dee shrugged and blew a cloud of smoke in Lonnie's face. "Who gives a shit? Wanna drag?" He held out the half-smoked cigarette enticingly.
Lonnie hesitated and then snatched it with a shaking hand, jamming it into the corner of his mouth away from the stitches. He sucked on it eagerly, his eyes refusing to meet Dee's.
"So, if I ask the brass to pull your file, and tell me all about whatever shit got you the job of being Abernathy's number one bootlicker at the 7th, ya think they'll say, 'Oh, no, that's classified?' Or d'you think they'll just hand me the file off the record and tell me to go to town on it?"
Lonnie's eyes flickered up from the hospital blanket and just for a moment Dee had the sensation that he was looking at a frightened animal with its leg caught in a trap. Pathetic, wounded, but still dangerous. Dee took one of his cards out from his wallet and tossed it onto the bed next to Lonnie.
A nurse wearing an outraged expression appeared at the door to the room. "Sir!" she exclaimed, her disapproving gaze swerving from from one man to the other before settling on the obvious culprit, the one with the cigarette in his hand. "You know it's against bylaws to smoke in here! And you a police officer, too!" She snatched up Lonnie's cup of water and held it out to him peremptorily. "Put it out, right now."
"I tried to tell him," said Dee to the nurse, "but he wouldn't listen." He grinned obnoxiously at Lonnie as he backed out of the room.
"Laytner! Get back here, you athhole!"
Dee returned to the room that Bikky and the girls had been in earlier and found Ryo sitting by himself on Bikky's bed. He was holding his cell phone in one hand and it looked like he was checking messages on its small screen. His face looked drawn and pale. Dee had seen how tired Ryo had been this morning, and recalled that his partner had had a very long day yesterday and a short night's sleep last night. Now all this drama with Bikky must have really stomped the last of his energy out of him.
"You okay, dude?"
Ryo looked up alertly and smiled when he saw who it was. "I'll live. Did Detective Fielding have anything useful to say?"
"Nope. He's dirty as hell, though." Dee crossed the room and sat down next to Ryo. "Got him shaking in his boots. He thinks the Commish is gonna let me look at his file." He chuckled nastily.
"What do you think about his partner?" Ryo asked. "Are they in it together?"
Dee frowned. "Hard to say. Clayton's a more cautious type, and nowhere near as scared as Lonnie. Making cooperative noises, you know what I mean? If he's in the shit-loop he's only partway in."
"I agree," said Ryo nodding. "He's the type that could get caught up in it slowly by degrees. What did you think about the big guy? The patrol cop?"
"That ugly neanderthal? He's a bad one. Did you see how protective he was of Fielding? If something's not cooking between those two, I'll eat my badge." Dee edged a little closer to Ryo until their shoulders were touching. "Sure you're okay? It can't have been easy seeing Bikky like that."
Just for a moment, Ryo's eyes blazed. He quickly turned away, his jaw working as he struggled to reassert his calm facade. Dee recognized and understood the rage that burned inside him. He had felt the same way when Mother had been hurt in "S" Corporation's deliberate and consequently hushed-up attempt to blow up the orphanage. He had wanted nothing more than to find the guy responsible and blow his fucking head off. Ryo had been the one who stopped him. But he understood the feeling. When some asshole deliberately hurt someone you loved, someone who was too young or too old to defend themselves, you wanted to make that person pay.
Ryo had always been better at thinking things through to the consequences than Dee was. He knew that cops couldn't just go around beating the shit out of people who had pissed them off. Dee's file, on the other hand, was peppered with all kinds of black marks relating to exactly that issue.
"Hey, look at the time," Ryo finally said, in a voice that sounded almost normal. "I have a potential appointment with Ja Romeo in--" he looked at his watch-- "twenty minutes." He rose to his feet and slipped his phone back into his pocket. "Coming?"
"Whadda you think?" Dee jumped up and started forward.
"You don't have to you know. It's still your day off."
"'Course I don't have to, you dork. I want to, and nothing you say is gonna stop me, so don't bother trying."
"Okay, Dee. I don't have the energy, anyhow."
"Wait," said Dee putting a hand on Ryo's arm to stop him. "Let me give you some energy." He yanked the bed curtain a few feet out from the wall to shield them from anyone who might be walking past the door, and took Ryo into his arms.
There was nothing sensual about the embrace, and for that, Ryo felt grateful. It was a hug of support, of friendship, of affection. For a moment he closed his eyes and let himself rest against Dee, drawing on his partner's strength. He fervently wished that his shift were over and that he could go home and sleep deeply for hours and hours, preferably in Dee's arms.
After a little while, Dee drew back and kissed Ryo's forehead. "Did it work?" He asked hopefully. "Feel better?"
"Actually, yes." Ryo nodded, looking a little surprised. He absently ran a finger under the collar of Dee's shirt, straightening it for him. "Thank you for today-- for saving Bikky, I mean. And I especially appreciate the fact that you broke Detective Fielding's nose. If it had been me, I probably would have controlled myself."
Dee chuckled. "I dunno about that, sweetheart. You're still famous as the only cop who ever dared to punch the Commissioner in the face. I mean, I've clocked a lot of guys, but I've never had that pleasure."
"Don't remind me," said Ryo, looking pained. Punching the Commissioner in the face was not one of his favorite memories. "Anyway, I'm really grateful, Dee. I owe you one."
"Reeeeally?" said Dee his voice low and playful. He captured Ryo's hand and started kissing the inside of his wrist. "Say, is the brat coming home tonight?"
Ryo shook his head. "I don't know what time I'm likely to get home, and I didn't want him to be alone tonight, so I asked Elina and Wayne to let him sleep on their sofa."
"In that case, you wanna stay over at my place later?"
Ryo hesitated. "Mm, I don't know.... I'm really beat, Dee. My tank is on empty right now."
"I know babe, but tomorrow's a day off for both of us," Dee reminded him. "We could, you know, start the day off 'right' tomorrow."
"And it's okay with you if we just sleep tonight?"
"Absolutely!" Dee said emphatically. "No molesting, I swear it. I'll let you sleep in as long as you want, too, although I can't guarantee that there won't be a little bit of molesting after you wake up. Come on, babe. Say yes. I just wanna be with you tonight."
Ryo smiled at him and disengaged his hand. "I want to be with you, too, Dee. Your place or mine. It doesn't matter as long as I can sleep. Now come on, let's get going. We'll have to get a cab to the East Village." The curtain rings rattled on the overhead bar as he slid it back into place.
Dee's heart lifted the way it always did whenever he got any kind of declaration from his normally highly unsentimental partner. Ryo wanted to be with him! Ryo was in a grateful kind of mood, too. Maybe when his baby had had some rest, Dee could finally finish what he had tried to start in bed with him the day before, when he had gotten them both in trouble by making them late for work. "I've got food at my place, remember. I can even cook you breakfast this time." He hurried after Ryo, who was walking out of the room.
"Let's talk about it later," Ryo said. "We've got work to do. By the way, I learned a couple of things from the Commissioner that you ought to know about. You're not going to like this."
Teddy's was about half-full and the crowd was young and pumped. Ryo looked around carefully, but to his relief, there was no sign of Octavio anywhere. He didn't want to lay eyes on that homophobic jerk again anytime soon. He could see Dee surveying the crowd in the same way he had just been doing himself, marking out potential troublemakers as well as noting exits and possible bylaw contraventions. It was noisy and airless and the canned music was already too loud. There were two enormous amplifiers on either side of the stage that hadn't been there the day before. It was already seven fifteen, yet no one was onstage.
"Hey doll," Dee yelled at a passing waitress. "Isn't Steelshot playing tonight?"
"Uh-huh," she shouted back, giving him a strong, affirmative nod. "Soon." She whirled away between girls in slinky outfits and guys in loose fitting clothes before he could delay her with any more questions. Dee looked back at Ryo and shrugged. They would just have to wait.
Ryo could see Dee grinning and waving at someone behind him. It had better not be Octavio, Ryo thought sourly and turned around to see who it was. There stood Ted, his short, thick, spiky red hair glistening with fresh gel.
"How ya doin' guys? Hey Ryo, I brought a car, if you wanna, you know, lose the executive look."
Ryo nodded and smiled. "Good thinking, Ted. Are you parked nearby?"
"I'm in the alley out back. Best I could do. Hey what are you doing here, Dee? I thought it was your day off, man."
"Hasn't the news reached the 27th? It was the Battle of the Precincts in Chinatown tonight. We've been on TV and the whole nine yards," Dee informed him.
"What? No shit! I was at the records building until half an hour ago. What did I miss?"
"I'll let Ryo fill you in on the details. Come back soon, guys." Dee glanced at the stage again. There was a dude standing near it who looked familiar. Where did he know him from?
"Come on Ryo. Let's go stash your jacket and tie. What the hell happened? Dee didn't punch anyone out, did he?"
"Well, Ted, come on. You know Dee..." Ryo could be heard saying. Dee didn't catch the rest because he was heading toward the stage where he could see that young guy who had arrested his attention. He seemed to be checking the extension cords. Dee was pretty sure he knew that kid from the old 'hood. Medium height and slim build, black, a smaller 'fro than he'd had a few years back. Except he wasn't so much of a kid anymore. He even had a mustache and a small beard now.
"Alan, is that you?"
The young man turned toward him looking almost apprehensive, a thing Dee didn't blame him for in a joint like Teddy's, but his face cleared when he saw who had hailed him.
"Dee! Holy crap on a stick, brother, what the hell are you doing here?"
"Came to hear Steelshot. Looks like you might actually be in the band; am I right?" Dee gestured toward the portable synthesizer that Alan was easing out of a black zippered case.
"Yeah." Alan looked down at the instrument in his hands. "I'm fifty percent of it, anyway. My buddy's running late." He lifted the synthesizer up onto the stage and set it in its stand. As he did so, his long sleeves fell back from his wrists a little, and Dee caught a glimpse of some pretty ugly bruises.
"I saw a poster of you guys," Dee said, "but it was shit-quality. I didn't recognize you at all."
Alan shrugged. "You know how it is when you're a starving rap artist. No budget for promotion or even transportation."
"Hey, you still go by... Was it Al-Radical?"
"Was. Good memory you got there, brother. Now I'm just plain old Alan Radley. Not so radical anymore."
"Say, your partner's name is Ja Romeo, right? AKA Rick Romero?"
Alan looked at him a little sceptically. "Jeez, full of questions, ain't you, Dee? You're quite sure you're not working tonight?"
"I swear on the orphanage lunch-budget that it's my day off today," Dee said, grinning and raising one hand. "The NYPD is definitely not paying me a cent for being here."
"Well... Okay, then. But I can't help but notice you're packing." Alan nodded toward Dee's jacket, which was held closed by one button despite the heat of the bar.
Dee looked at him, his expression serious. "I'm pretty much always packing, dude. Every time I've ever gone out without my piece I always ended up regretting it." He hesitated then decided to level with Alan. If the guy really was Ja Romeo's music partner, then it wouldn't pay to alienate him. "Listen, Al. I'm not working tonight but I'm with a couple guys from my precinct and they are."
"Oh." Alan's back stiffened and a wary note entered his voice. "Expecting trouble?"
"No, no, nothing like that. We just wanna talk to your buddy."
"What, you wanna talk to Rick?" Alan's voice squeaked up involuntarily on Rick's name and he looked slightly alarmed, but Dee noted with interest that he didn't exactly look surprised. "What the hell for?"
"We need some information from him, that's all."
Alan frowned at the floor, chewing on his lip. "He ain't gonna be happy about this. It's probably gonna wreck his performance. Hey... do you think you could just sorta keep a low profile until we're done our set? It took us weeks to get this gig."
"Sure, no problem. I'll let my partner know. Hey man, did you ever meet my partner?" Dee had just spotted Ryo and Ted returning through the side entrance that he presumed led to the alley.
"Uh no, can't say I did. I think you were still in the academy the last time I saw you."
Ryo's a great guy. Let me introduce him." Dee waved to catch Ryo's attention. "He helps out in the orphanage all the time. You ever go there anymore?"
"No, not since I moved to Brooklyn. How's Penguin doing?"
"Good. The same. She never changes. Well, except for the fact that she's been a little slower since the explosion..."
Dee grimaced and shook his head. "Long story, bro. I'll have to tell you about it sometime." He was watching Ryo and Ted threading their way toward the stage. Ryo looked a lot less like an executive now. In fact, he looked like a total schlep. Ted had lent him some kind of shitty satin baseball jacket to cover his shoulder holster. The look on Ryo's face revealed that he was beyond embarrassed to be seen in such clothing, and Dee smirked wickedly to himself, planning to tease his normally fashion-conscious partner about it later.
"Ryo!" he said. "This is my old buddy, Alan. Turns out we know each other from the 'hood. He's half of Steelshot."
Ryo's eyes sharpened with interest, and Dee could see that he understood they'd just been handed their first serious break in the tracking of Ja Romeo.
"Alan? Pleased to meet you." Ryo extended his hand. "I'm Detective Ra--"
At that moment there was a commotion by the door and a ragged cheer went up. Everyone, with the exception of Alan, turned to look.
Ryo started forward to talk to Rick, but Dee stopped him and let him know that Alan had asked him if they could wait until after the set. "I kinda wanna stay on Alan's good side right now," he added.
"Yo, people!" he shouted with a flash of very good, white teeth. "My brothers and sisters! How ya doin' tonight?"
Shouts of affirmation and approval immediately came back to him from various locations around the bar.
Ryo turned to Ted. "Um, Ted..."
"Tell him not to worry," said Ted, who, considering the noise level, apparently had mind-reading abilities. "I never dance when I'm on the clock."
In the middle of the fifth song, another band arrived, which appeared to have a few more bucks behind it than Steelshot did. Roadies actually carried in their equipment which left the three fashionable young people who strolled in after them with their hands free to wave at their fans. At least half the crowd promptly switched their interest from the incumbent entertainers to the new arrivals.
It was evident that this pissed Rick off because after stumbling on one of his verses, he signaled to Alan to turn down the music a few notches, so that he could address the new arrivals.
"Well, if it ain't Rockit Fear," he sneered, "here to interrupt another band's set. Can't you people show a little more respect?"
A frizzy-haired older woman in a suit who had come in behind the band lifted her head sharply at Rick's words.
"That's Rockit Fire, you moron!" she yelled back. "And if you guys were any sort of pros, you wouldn't still be playing during another band's set-up time. Steelshot was supposed to be off the stage five minutes ago!"
"We ain't done yet, so you and your little no-talent posse can fucking chill and wait on us, Ramona," retorted Rick maliciously. "We got started a little late, so we gonna play through 'til we done."
"Like hell you are," Ramona replied, and told one of the roadies to go and unplug Steelshot's amplifiers. He made it to within ten feet of the amps when Rick's two girls in the white hot pants sprang hissing into his path and brandished their acrylic nails at him. Faced with such a daunting sight, he naturally withdrew, which Dee thought was very prudent of him.
Rick laughed into the mike and began rapping freestyle.
"I know an old ho and her name was Ramona.
She got ugly and old, couldn't get no guy to phone her.
They took one look at her, and couldn't get a boner
Hey but we understand
So she can't get a man!
Now she got a new game,
Thinks she can manage a band!
Come on boys and girls, why don'tcha give 'er a hand?
Gotta give 'er points for trying
But she gonna go home crying.
A scattering of laughter and applause from Steelshot's fans rose up from the floor but was immediately mixed with boos from Rockit Fire's supporters.
"What is this guy, eight years old?" asked Ted. "Look, if you two wanna talk to him, you'd better do it before someone pitches a beer bottle at his head."
"Yeah, you're right, Ted." Ryo looked at the stage where Rick was now performing an equally unflattering number about another member of the new band. "But I don't think it's going to be easy to get that mike out of his hand. He's having a hell of a good time up there."
"I've got a plan," said Dee. "Ted, you go watch the front exit and get ready to tackle him if he runs. Ryo come with me."
"What's the plan?" Ryo looked at Dee suspiciously. "I hope you're not planning to punch anyone. I was hoping we could do this without violence."
"Nah, unless I have to take down that bodyguard, but I'm betting that guy's slow as molasses. Nope, all I'm gonna do is hit on those girls who are guarding the power outlet. While I distract them, you sneak up and pull the plug. That'll shut up our pal Ja Romeo. At least I hope so."
"Okay," said Ryo. "It's worth a try. Let's do it."
Dee walked confidently toward the two women who had arrived with Rick, while Ryo followed in the same general direction, but on a more roundabout route.
The two girls were seated at a small table to the right of the stage. They watched Dee's approach with baleful eyes.
"What you want, white boy?" one of them said.
"I wanna talk to the two hottest things in the room tonight," Dee stood before them with his thumbs hooked in his belt and his legs a little apart, his body language inviting them to check him out. "But talking is only the first of many things I want to do." He forced himself to look them up and down appreciatively. He had rated them as average when they came in; now that he was closer, he saw that he had in fact been a little too generous.
"We wit the band, white boy," the same woman said. "We don't wanna talk to you."
"Aw come on, Debbie," the other one said. "He got a nice body on him. Who cares if he's white?"
"Yeah, who cares?" said Dee with a grin. "You know we men are all the same in the dark."
Both girls giggled at that, and shook their heads emphatically. "Not true, not true!" they insisted, and giggled some more.
Dee played along, teasing them a little and pretending he didn't understand. He could see Ryo out of the corner of his eye, moving casually in the direction of the power outlet.
"Yo, white boy wit yo lil' white pencil dick-- you think you can handle this?" The second woman shook her breasts at Dee.
"I can handle all that and more," he assured her seductively, leaning down to toy casually with one of her hair extensions. He was waiting for the moment when Rick's derogatory rapping came to an abrupt end. Right now he was singing about a member of Rockit Fire who would never be a singing sensation because it was his farts, not his art, that rocked the nation.
"How about this, pretty white boy?" The one called Debbie turned partially around and slapped her ample, white-clad butt. "This ain't no ordinary jello."
Dee pretended to stare hungrily at her ass. One could say that this was going well, since they were both vying for his attention now. "Way too luscious for jello," he agreed, thinking Dammit Ryo, pick up the pace here. The one with the extensions was running a red-taloned fingertip up and down his thigh, and they were both looking him over like he was the last Dolce & Gabanna bag on the half-price table.
Suddenly, Rick's amplified voice dropped to a third of its volume in the middle of a line, and he said, "What the fuck?"
Dee looked around to where Ryo was standing near the electrical outlet with a plug in his hand. Dee's two female companions followed his eyes and looked at each other in alarm.
"Oh shit, we got trouble now," muttered Debbie. "Yo, Catfish!" she called to the big bodyguard, and pointed exaggeratedly at Ryo, who had crouched down again to pull out more plugs.
Catfish was evidently not the kind of guy who processed change quickly. His big, blank face looked from Debbie to Ryo and back to Debbie again. What should I do? he seemed to be saying with his eyes.
It was Rick who reacted first. Flinging down his microphone with a curse, he jumped off the side of the stage and made for Ryo. That prompted immediate action from several other people.
Alan was yelling down at Rick not to hit Ryo because the man was a cop, Dee was right behind Rick, ready to ram his head into the amp if he laid a finger on Ryo, and Ryo, who had rapidly risen to his feet, was now facing Rick with his badge out.
At the sight of the badge, Rick's eyes widened with panic; he whirled to flee, and nearly ran into Dee.
"I'm another one, Ricky. Wanna see my badge?" he asked.
It was at that point that the big bodyguard belatedly realized that his employer needed his help. With a roar, he lumbered forward and bore down on Ryo, Dee and Rick.
"Catfish baby, no!" shrieked one of the girls. "They po po! You gonna get shot!"
Catfish's suddenly scared face showed that he had indeed registered this fact, but his momentum was such that he couldn't stop. Rick sprang forward onto Dee to get out of the big man's path, and Ryo jumped onto the stage. Catfish rebounded off the corner of one of the giant amps, and stumbled off balance. He struck the stage hard, taking down a standing light rack and landing with a heavy crunch on one of the synthesizers, practically at Ryo's feet. Alan stood nearby, staring open-mouthed and clutching the smaller of the two synthesizers in his trembling arms.
Dee, who had been sent sprawling by Rick, leaped to his feet and looked around in time to see his quarry sprinting for the side exit.
"Ryo!" he hollered, before taking off after Rick.
Ryo bounded from the stage and ran after him.
-end of Justice, chapter 7
Additional Author's notes: I did my best with the rap slang. Although I lead a very multicultural life, I don't know anyone from the rap scene or the gang scene in NYC!