"Leona, where's the Chief? I want to talk to him before the meeting."
"Randy. Well, hello there. I'm fine thank you. And you?" Leona spoke these words with a small smile, but the annoyed sarcasm in her voice effectively canceled it out.
"Pardon me, Leona," Ryo said in more chivalrous tones. "That wasn't much of a greeting, was it? I'm glad to hear you're doing fine. I am too, except for the fact that it's my day off today, and I'd naturally rather be taking care of my own personal business than attending staff meetings." Leona could be annoying, but he was always nice to her on principle. First of all, if possible, he tried to be nice to everybody. Secondly, she reminded him of a more persnickety version of Mrs. Fontayne, his grade five teacher. Mrs. Fontayne had been a very kind person.
"Well, the NYPD asks a lot of us sometimes, doesn't it?" she said tersely, and then a moment later, relented and gave him a real smile. "I forgive you of course for that momentary lapse. I shouldn't be so picky. You're by far the best of a mannerless bunch."
"What the hell's that supposed to mean?" asked Dee, appearing at the entrance to Leona's little cubicle outside the Chief's door. As he was wiping his mouth, Ryo assumed that his partner's doughnut-seeking foray into the break room had been successful.
"You know exactly what it means, Dee." Leona lifted her chin and shuffled some papers around. "Anyway, I don't want to keep you. The meeting's been moved for the Commissioner's convenience."
"What? How come no one told us?"
"I guess because you weren't here to tell. It was kind of a last minute decision anyway."
"Well, where should we go?" Ryo asked.
"One Police Plaza, of course. You should check with the desk over there. No one told me which room."
"Hell, this just stinks." Dee turned on his heel and stomped away.
"Good-bye to you, too!" Leona called after him with a certain amount of sarcasm. "Have a nice day, now."
"See you, Leona," Ryo said and hurried after Dee, who was muttering imprecations about the brass and their highhandedness.
"Did you find any doughnuts or muffins in the break room?" Ryo asked him.
"Nope, only crumbs. But I found something else that was almost as good."
They were almost at Dee's car when they heard a shout behind them. "Hey guys, wait up!" It was Ted's voice. "Going to the Palace?"
"Yeah," said Dee. "Didn't they tell you either?"
"Tell me what?"
"Ah, nothin' but the usual shit. What are you looking so pissed off about?"
"My fucking chocolate milk, man. Some asshole keeps drinking it. Got my name on it and everything. What more do I have to do? Put a lock on the goddamn carton?"
"That sucks, man." Sounding bored, Dee gazed up at the sky as if assessing how likely it was to rain. "Who would do a shitty thing like that?"
"Who indeed?" muttered Ryo, but neither man heard him.
"I don't know, but when I catch him--" Ted smacked one fist meaningfully into the palm of his other hand-- "Pow! I can't wait."
"Maybe it's not a dude. It could be a chick. Did you ever think about that?"
"Huh?" Ted looked at him in genuine surprise. "Uh, no, I just assumed it was a guy."
"Well, I'm not saying I know who's doing it or anything, but a couple of times I saw Janet putting chocolate milk in her coffee..." Dee paused to give that piece of calumnious information a chance to sink in. "I don't know if it was yours, of course, because I wasn't really paying attention, but...."
"Janet?" Ted's mouth dropped open. "I can't-- I can't believe it!"
"Well, don't believe it, Ted," said Ryo impatiently as he opened the passenger door of Dee's car and got in. "There's no proof at all that Janet is the guilty party." He glanced disapprovingly at his partner. "Dee, quit starting rumors."
"I am not! I'm just reporting what I saw."
"Thanks Dee, I appreciate it." Ted was plainly ready to disregard Ryo's sensible suggestion that Janet not be tried and convicted on flimsy evidence. "I'll watch her coffee-drinking habits more closely from now on." He hopped into the back seat and pulled the door closed behind him. "Come on, let's go. We've got ten minutes to get there and find parking."
They walked into the designated meeting room and found a larger than usual crowd awaiting them. Dee's brow lowered at the sight of Detective Tina Greenspan of Queens' 99th Precinct. He and Ryo had some history with her, none of it pleasant. In all honesty, he was not exactly surprised to see her here today, but he didn't feel he had to pretend to be happy about it.
There was a woman sitting next to her that he didn't know. She was African-American, about forty or so, spare build, no make-up or jewelry except for a wedding ring. She was wearing a sensible navy-blue pantsuit, in marked contrast to Detective Greenspan, whose short pink skirt required her to sit very carefully indeed.
The chairs were arranged in a semi-circle around a meeting room easel with flip pages on it. Several members of their team looked over their shoulders and greeted the newest arrivals with the usual friendly cracks and putdowns. Dee took care of delivering appropriately insulting rejoinders, while Ryo glanced covertly at his watch. They were two minutes late, but it didn't seem to matter because the Chief was nowhere in sight.
Sheldon gave them a sympathetic look. "Here on your day off? Hope you clocked in."
"You bet we did, damn it," Dee replied. Sheldon was the oldest detective on Lieutenant Smith's crew, and for reasons that no one seemed clear on, had passed up the chance to retire with a full pension several years running. An injury many years ago had pretty much confined him to desk work. Sheldon was famous for being able to quote the procedures manual, chapter and verse.
"Boys!" It was Eliza, her hair slowly escaping from a half-hearted updo as usual. "How are you doing? Dee, there are pastries over there, but I think Drake's eating all the good ones." She nudged Allison, and they giggled together.
"Oh, is that so? Well, I think Drake needs to be saved from himself." Dee winked at both women and, accompanied by Ted, made straight for the side table, leaving Ryo behind to chat.
At the coffee and doughnut station, Dee hip-checked Drake out of his way and surveyed the remaining treasures in the Krispy Kreme boxes. He saw there was one maple glaze left, a doughnut Ryo had occasionally been known to be partial to. He glanced over at his partner just in time to see him receive some information from Eliza and then hustle his sexy butt out of the room. When Dee looked back at the box, the maple glaze had been whisked away by Drake. Oh well. Ryo probably didn't care, anyway.
"Say, wasn't that hot number in the mini a guest at the 27th a little while back?" Ted whispered to Dee. "Who is she again?"
"An airhead who got lost on the way to beauty school and accidentally became a cop," Dee replied loudly.
Ted elbowed him and blushed for Dee as well as for himself. "Man, do you have to be such a dick?" he hissed. "I suppose there's no point asking YOU to introduce me."
"Not unless you want her to hate you, too." Dee snatched an apple fritter right out from under Drake's hovering fingers and took a quick bite of its sugary softness. "She probably thinks you've got gay cooties anyway, just from standing next to me."
"Go get her, Ted," said Drake encouragingly, and he and Dee shared a look of amusement behind Ted's back.
Detective Greenspan held up one finger. "Um, excuse me, Eliza, but that's Greenspan."
"Oh, wasn't that what I--"
Before Eliza could finish speaking, the Chief strode in with the Commissioner at his side and a subdued-looking Ryo a couple of paces behind them both.
"All right," said the Chief. "First up, I'd like to introduce our two guests from the 99th. Please say hello to Detectives Ruth Massey and Tina Greenspan."
Detective Greenspan flashed the Chief a brilliant and grateful smile, possibly for not mangling her name, while her partner, Detective Massey, lifted her hand in an amiable wave to the room.
"Lieutenant Smith, sir, we already met," she said. "Excellent squad you got here. Thanks for inviting us to your meeting." Detective Massey nodded respectfully at the Chief. "My partner has been bringin' me up to speed since I got back from vacation, but there's a lot we still don't know about how our murder case interfaces with one of your investigations."
"And we're looking forward to finding out," added Detective Greenspan with a rapid nod that caused the heavy waves of her hair to ripple in a way that couldn't help but attract notice. "Detectives MacLean and Laytner dropped some intriguing hints about a case they were working on, but they didn't seem to be...well... at liberty to give me any real details. Unfortunately, this has been hindering my ability to make progress with the Calvetti murder."
"Well, that's why we're here, boys and girls." The Chief folded his powerful arms and surveyed his team with confidence. "Detectives MacLean and Laytner have been working a sensitive case for the past month, but it's gotten too big for them to successfully go it alone. We've decided that it's time to bring you all on board."
We've? Dee glanced sideways at Ryo. Despite the fact that his partner was trying to look as tranquil as possible, Dee could tell that Ryo had been caught off guard by the Chief's decision to bring the whole CI team into their case, not to mention Detective Greenspan. Maybe he had half-suspected it and that was why he had been so gung-ho to find the Chief before the meeting. 'We've decided' probably meant that it was the Chief and the Commissioner who decided.
"I'm gonna give you guys a little bit of background, and then I'll let Randy and Dee take it from there." The Chief caught Ryo's eye and then Dee's, and they nodded at him resignedly. It wasn't like they had a choice.
"About ten years back, in my last year as a beat cop in the projects, I worked with a fellow by the name of Mike Abernathy. Irish American. Charming, savvy, bit of a temper. Same age as me. We both made detective around the same time, but worked in different precincts. Finally, he went to IA and stayed there. We never completely lost touch, but those IA people..." The Chief paused and shook his head. "It's hard to be friendly with 'em. You guys know what I'm talking about."
Heads nodded around the room. "Hell, yeah," said Marty. "Never met one who wasn't an ass."
"Yeah, but they're usually not dirty, are they?" In the shocked and expectant silence that followed these words, the Chief went on to explain that Lieutenant Mike Abernathy was strongly suspected of using his status as an IA agent to coerce the NYPD members he was sent to investigate into helping him run his various rackets in exchange for exoneration.
"No shit, even IA's dirty now?" Sheldon's eyes leapt from the Chief to Dee before he folded his arms and sat staring up at the ceiling with a 'Lord, kill me now' expression on his face. IA being dirty was definitely not covered by the manual.
"NYPD's gotta clean house," said Marty grimly. "It's bad enough out there on the streets without our own guys after us, too."
"And that's what this meeting is all about, Detective Danes," said the Commissioner.
"Anyhow," the Chief continued, "a few weeks back, I get a call from Mike. His kid, Tommy, has run away, not for the first time, and could I help him out? So I send Randy and Dee out to run him down, and sure enough, they do. But when they catch up to him, the brat's in the middle of a little shoplifting job with a junkie pal of his." He looked over at Detective Greenspan. "If you guessed it was your Eddie Calvetti, you'd be right on the money."
Detective Massey looked thoughtful. "So Abernathy's kid was chummy with Calvetti. He never mentioned that to you, did he, Tea?"
Detective Greenspan shook her head. "No. He's been insisting from the beginning that it was Detective MacLean's son who was involved with the vic."
"Calvetti..." murmured Ted thoughtfully. "Hey, that was the vic who was found in a freezer in Queens, right? Ryo, didn't Detective, um... Green-- um... Didn't this lovely lady from the 99th, um, come to our precinct to question your son about that murder?" Ted asked.
Dee rolled his eyes and snickered at the frosty stare that Detective Greenspan instantly turned on Ted, AKA Captain Clueless.
"Yes," said Ryo brusquely, his eyes flashing.
"And a right fiasco that was," added Dee, tilting back in his chair.
"It's certainly never going to happen again without my lawyer present," insisted Ryo, whose face was now getting quite red, presumably at the mere memory.
"We thought she knew what she was doing," announced Dee in his best troublemaker style. When everyone turned to look at Detective Greenspan's reaction, he tossed a lightning-fast smirk at her.
"B-but wasn't it the guy, you know, that guy she came with?" Ted was belatedly trying to make a save. "He was the one who caused the trouble, right?"
"Now, now, Detective Laytner," the Commissioner looked sternly at Dee. "We'll have none of that, if you please. Detective Greenspan did an excellent job of questioning Bikky MacLean. It's not her fault that another detective from her precinct allowed his own cynicism to carry him away while questioning Bikky's friend, Miss Baker, in another room." He slid his eyes sideways to Detective Greenspan who gazed at him in silent gratitude. "In any case, Detective Massey, Tina's partner, is back now. She has over twelve years' experience as a detective, and will, I have no doubt, be a thousand times more helpful than Detective Saunders was." He made an encouraging gesture toward Ryo. "Go on, Ryo. Please explain the connection with your son. As I'm sure you already know, we're all friends here and we're all in your corner."
Dee caught Drake's carefully blank gaze from across the room. He knew that Drake understood the bullshit as well as he did. Oh yeah, the Commish was a great pal.
Ryo summed up the relevant background details for everyone, from how Bikky and Thomas had both been friends with Eddie Calvetti for years, but without ever getting to know each other until recently, to Thomas' reasons for running away from home, and finally, to what Thomas had told them about his father's involvement with Eddie.
"I don't think Thomas had or has any idea that Eddie sold drugs for his dad," Ryo said. "He just thinks that Eddie was some kind of informant or helper."
"Well, how did Eddie end up on ice?" Allison asked.
Dee took over at that point and explained what Eddie had done to upset Lieutenant Abernathy. According to information from both Thomas and Eddie, there had first been the phone video of Mike beating the crap out of his son Thomas and then, more incriminatingly, the multiple episodes where Eddie had taped his phone calls with Mike and uploaded them to his laptop for safekeeping.
"Mike didn't realize this was going on at first, but when he found out, and we believe he found out from his son, he was about ready to shit himself. That's probably when he decided Eddie had to go."
"What do you have for proof?" asked James. "Anything?"
"How about witnesses?" added Drake.
Ryo looked at Dee and then shook his head. "Nada. One dead junkie and one dead cop."
Bikky sat on the steps of Wilson Lloyd Junior High School with his friends Kenny and Dave. Despite its name, Wilson Lloyd was essentially a middle school, and had been since Carol's high school, Delancey Manhattan, had been built pretty much just behind it, but facing onto another street. The two schools shared a state of the art gym, a large outdoor track and a cafeteria. He wondered where Carol was and what she was doing. He hadn't seen her in the cafeteria or the computer lab. But it wasn't like he had been wandering around looking for her, or anything. He just liked to keep an eye out whenever he was walking through the common buildings.
"Yo, what's goin' on over there?" Dave waved his juice box in the direction of a scuffle that had broken out near the front gate.
"Hey, that's Tom," said Bikky, starting to rise to his feet. "And that asshole Brody." His voice rose in surprise on Brody's name. He thought he had put that dickwad in his place already. Obviously he hadn't put him there hard enough.
"What's Tom doing here?" asked Kenny. "Doesn't he go to some Catholic school in Little Italy?"
"Yeah. Maybe he's ditching school today. Let's go check it out." Bikky headed over to the gate with Kenny and Dave in tow.
"Screw you, Brody," Thomas was saying with desperate bravado. "It's not for you to say whether I can come in here or not. You're not a student here, either! Shouldn't you be over on your own side at 'D'ancy'?"
"Who the fuck are you, you fucked up little turd, to tell ME where I should or shouldn't be?" Brody bellowed, giving Thomas another shake. He had Thomas' private school tie twisted tightly in one fist. "Go the fuck back to your own neighborhood. You ain't welcome here, fucking queer. Get lost before I kick your skinny punk ass."
A weaselly-looking kid, whom Bikky recognized as Brody's newest sidekick, laughed unpleasantly, and echoed, "Punk ass!"
"Lay off, Brody," said Bikky behind him, "'cause you're cruisin' for another ass-kicking yourself. Or wasn't one time enough for ya?" He wished he could crack his neck in that tough way he had seen Dee do sometimes, but he didn't bother to try. He had practiced in the mirror a hundred times and had never succeeded in getting one little cracking sound to come out of his neck. He settled for standing with his shoulders back and his arms folded, looking at Aaron Brody like he was some kind of insect who could be stomped into the dirt without too much effort. He noticed that Weasel-guy was pretty much melting himself into the background scenery.
Brody jerked around and looked at Bikky with dislike and a kind of wary respect. "Fuck you, MacLean," he said sullenly, "I'm just kicking out some St. Patrick's trash."
Bikky's lip curled in response. "You're a big talker, Brody. Everyone's noticed how you're always goin' after the little guys. Why don't YOU get the fuck back across the way to your own school? Or are there too many guys your own size there?"
Brody sneered and said, "Nah, there are just more slutty girls over here at Wilson." But he let go of Thomas and gave him a shove toward Bikky. "Fun's over, fag-face. Your boyfriend's here."
"Watch it, Brody," said Bikky, laying a protective hand on Tom's shoulder. "I mean it. If you don't shut the fuck up with that homophobe shit, everyone's gonna start wondering if you're a closet case."
"Everyone's already starting to wonder about that," Dave said loyally, looking from Bikky to Brody.
"Fuck you, losers." Aaron Brody strolled off with his buddy.
"Brody sucks cock!" yelled Kenny after him.
"Brody bends over!" added Dave. He and Kenny shoved each other and snickered, confident that their status as Bikky's pals would protect them from retaliation.
"Thanks, Bikky," said Thomas breathlessly. He lifted a shaky hand to his brow and tried to straighten his hair.
"Tom, how come you're not at school?" asked Bikky. He slowly started walking back to the shade by the front steps, and the others followed him. "Are you cutting classes?"
"Nah, just gym class after lunch, which sucks anyway. I'll go back in time for math. I-- uh, I wanted to talk to you, that's all."
"What's happening with your dad? Did you guys ever hear from your aunt?" Bikky didn't mention Thomas' mom. He had a feeling she wasn't coming back.
"Well, I still haven't been sent home yet. Dad pissed off the social worker, so I think no one is rushing to do what he wants. Dad called me up at the orphanage a couple of times. He says he wants me home. He's all alone nowadays." Thomas bit his lip and looked unhappy.
"Uh, well, I guess you gotta go home eventually. Are they treating you good at St. Julian's?"
Thomas brightened. "Oh yeah, everyone's really nice. But there's only one TV! And we're only allowed to watch it after we've done our homework. I'm missing my favorite shows."
Bikky shrugged. "Yeah, I know. Ryo parked me there a few times, too. No privacy and no video games. But lots of company, huh?" He gave Thomas an encouraging smile. They had arrived at the broad shadow stretching out from the side of the front steps, and his three companions immediately plopped down on the dusty concrete. Bikky lowered himself a little more slowly. His bruises were really aching today. Now that he thought about it, he was kind of relieved that Brody hadn't wanted to mix it up right then and there in the face-off at the gate.
Three cute girls strolled by, all soft giggles, big eyes and swinging hair. "Hi, Bikky," they called out in shy voices, while Dave and Kenny grinned enviously and nudged him. He was a bit of a celebrity at school today, thanks to a number of phone videos that had popped up on Youtube showing his fight with the cops in Chinatown yesterday. One of the videos was entitled 'Kung Fu Kid" and showed a slo-mo replay of Bikky's fist popping that plainclothes detective in the mouth and blood spurting out grossly in a little arc.
Thomas sat glumly with his arms wrapped around his knees, totally failing to notice the girls.
"Something's wrong, ain't it?" Bikky asked him. "Is it about your aunt?"
"Dad said she's not coming. She's still in Ireland. He said that's why he didn't go on vacation with Mom-- no one was here to take care of me." Thomas leaned back against the steps and sighed. "But I don't know if that's true. Mom hasn't called."
"Sucks, man," said Kenny.
"Anyway, Dad's getting weird again. He acts like I did something wrong, but he won't say what it is."
"You think he's gonna start beating on you again?" asked Bikky.
"Maybe. Probably. I dunno when. But I have a new problem to worry about as well."
"Bikky, a guy has been following me. It's freaking me out!"
"What? Really?" Dave leaned forward, more excited than concerned.
"What does he look like?" asked Bikky.
"He's real skinny and he's got a beard. He wears those shades that look like mirrors. He looks like he's had a hard life."
"Maybe he's a junkie," said Kenny.
"Maybe he's a pedo," said Dave.
"Did you tell your dad?" asked Bikky. Tom's dad was a cop, after all. He could probably fix the situation in, like, thirty seconds.
"Nah. He'll just make me stay home all the time if I tell him about this."
The other boys' heads nodded in agreement. Yep, that sounded likely. Parents always seemed to want their kids to stay home as much as possible, especially whenever they remembered that the world was full of junkies and pedos.
"What do you think this guy is after?" asked Bikky. "Did he try to talk to you?"
"No, I haven't given him the chance. Every time he comes close to me, I run away."
"Good thing you're faster than him," said Kenny.
"Well, he's not very fast," admitted Thomas. "The guy's in a wheelchair."
Kenny and Dave erupted in hoots of laughter and demanded to know why anyone should be scared of a guy in a wheelchair.
"Well, um... He's stalking me." Red-faced, Thomas tried to explain. "What if he shoots me or something?"
Bikky, who had been trying not to laugh along with Kenny and Dave, suddenly couldn't hold back anymore. Thomas had a wheelchair-bound stalker! Too funny.
"Look, Tom, I think the best way to handle this is to just talk to the guy," he said when he finally managed to stop giggling. "I mean, maybe he is a junkie or a pedo, but maybe he ain't. Maybe he just wants to scrounge a buck or spread the word of God. Maybe he's totally harmless."
"You think I should talk to him?" Thomas asked nervously. "But he's kinda scary, Bikky! What if he's not really a cripple? What if he grabs me and...and...well, you know."
"You want us to come with you when you talk to him?" Bikky asked with a grin. Compared to his own troubles with Crazy Bo trying to set him up and the police trying to beat him up, it would be nice to help a buddy solve a simple little problem like this.
"Uh, yeah! Could you? I'd really appreciate it, Bikky."
"No problemo. So does this guy stalk you on any kind of regular schedule?"
The other boys snickered.
"Well, I don't know," said Thomas. "What do you mean?"
"Like, does he wait outside your school? Does he hang out by the orphanage?"
"Hmm. It's more like I sorta see him pretty much everywhere I go. Or if I don't, I'm expecting to see him. He's been riding the same train as me."
"Ya think he'll be on the train today after school?"
Thomas nodded. "Maybe."
"Okay, that's the plan, then," said Bikky. "We'll come to St. Pat's today after school. You wait for us, and then we'll take the train together. Let's get to the bottom of this. Are you in, guys?"
"Not me, sorry," said Kenny glumly. "My mom's picking me up from school today."
"I'm in," said Dave. "Whatever this is about, it's gotta be cooler than doing homework."
~end of chapter 8~
Additional author's notes: My dear readers, I don't know exactly when I'll be able to get the next chapter out. I've been working on it and I have a little time this coming week to work on it some more. I'll keep you posted with regards to my progress. Did you notice any improvement in my use of POV?
I know my posting has been really slow recently, but I hope you won't give up on me. I'm having a difficult year, what with the online course and the job, but I will plug away on this story and finish it, just like I finished all the others. If you've gotten this far, thanks very much for for reading!