Chapter VII:

Down and Dirty

I’ve been in fights before. I’ve been cut, and bludgeoned, and bruised. I’ve been shot and suffered internal bleeding.

I’ve given as good as I’ve gotten. I have broken peoples bones, crippled them, and sent them to the emergency room without a second thought.

I’m familiar with death. My parents died aged and without trauma. I’ve seen corpses of the innocent and some I would call disserving. I’ve held an 11-year old gang member as he bled out from a stab wound and listened to my impotent lies of how everything would be alright.

Never before had I been adamantly certain that my actions had directly resulted in someone’s death.

Stubbs was an unprincipled brute. For years, he had been a reoccurring element in my life. I never liked him, and I’m sure, in time, I’d be able to again say that I hated him. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had been a killer, and I knew he was leading a life that would eventually have gotten him killed.

I never thought I’d be the one to do it.

As far as I knew Stubbs had no family. Larry and Stubbs were vile men, but they were friends. I owed Larry. Someday, I would have to do something about that. But that would have to wait.

It was late by the time I got to Larry and Stubbs'...well, now just Larry's office. I was sure by then Larry had regained consciousness and gone to his cop friends. It would take a while to explain things to them before a warrant could be issued for my arrest. I couldn't call Holding for fear of a phone trace. He couldn't tell me anything I didn't know already. Hopefully, the last place anyone looked would be Larry's.

Larry and Stubbs worked out of a two-bedroom apartment. I managed to get in by holding my gun up to the dead bolt while wrapping my jacket around it to muffle the sound. The one room serving as their office was, to say the least, a mess. I might not be a neat freak, but at least I throw out old food. The less said about the other room the better.

I tossed my way through to the desk and activated the terminal. I was immediately presented with a login screen. After a moment’s thought, I found the easiest way to break into someone else’s private documents was to read the small note taped under the desk drawer.

Unfortunately, I had no real idea what I was looking for. There were case files marked with names and dates, although I didn’t recognize any of them. It was probably asking too much for one of them to be labeled "Crabwack". Larry and Stubbs hadn't known who hired them and probably little about what was actually going on. I skimmed their appointment calendar. The names and dates made little sense to me. Next, I looked at their accounting file and blinked. It was neat. It was too bland. A quick add up of the figures would barely pay for this apartment and base amenities.

“You sneaky bastards.”

Leaning back in the chair, I stared up at an ugly stuffed fish on the wall behind the desk. There was something odd about the way the eye looked cocked. Upon closer inspection, the eye proved to be a camera with a cable going into the wall. There was no similar cable on the terminal, but after a bit of ransacking, I found a second terminal in the bedroom closet barely concealed behind hung clothes. This one didn’t even have a logon screen. I found a bunch of video files, and, sure enough, the most recent one was a few days ago. It showed some guy I didn’t recognize standing in the office with Larry and Stubbs talking about killing Delia.

”Thank God for Larry’s forethought to blackmail his clients.”

I didn’t have a memory stick on me. Trying to search the apartment would be a waste of time.

From the apartment entrance I heard, “The door’s been blown open. Requesting backup.”

Perfect.

I peaked around the corner and saw, to my surprise and joy, building security.

Breathing a quick sigh of relief, I strolled out of the bedroom. “Hey, what happened here?”

“Huh?” the guard said, startled.

“I had an appointment, but, when I got here, the door was open, and the guys were gone.”

“So, why didn’t you call security?”

That was a good question. “Uh, I didn’t know there was any.”

“Of course there is you idiot.” The guard was a hefty guy with an odd tendency of huffing after every; sentence as if the shear effort of conversation was exhausting him.

“Look, maybe I should come back later. It looks like you got your work cut out for you here, so I’ll let you get to whatever it is you gotta do.”

When the guard waved me away, I started walking down the hall.

After a few yards I heard him call after me. Maybe if I pretended like I didn’t hear him he would give up.

“Hey, you! Stop!”

Maybe if I tried running.

“Damnit!”

I skidded around a corner and sprinted down a flight of stairs, in a completely unsafe manner, while removing my gun holster. In the lower corridor, I looked desperately for a place to stash it. Garbage can? No. Mail chute? No. Ah! Fake tree pot! Shoving the holster, gun and all, down past the faux moss I found that someone had apparently been trying to water the plastic plant. I ran on knowing that having to retrieve a water logged gun later was much better than being arrested with an illegally modified firearm.

I heard the big guard trundling after me while wheezing into a radio in between protests for me to stop. Reaching an elevator I jabbed at the call button repeatedly.

The chime ringed; signalling that the elevator had arrived. I waved a triumphant goodbye to the guard as the doors opened. I turned to enter the elevator and was hit full in the chest by a tazer from the other security guard inside it.


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