The apartment was awash in cops.
CSI techs were taking pictures like it was going out of style and the apartment itself was a disaster area. Furniture was smashed and overturned, there were even a pair of man sized holes in the walls that separated the living and bed rooms and everywhere the smell of death hung cloyingly. The Uniform manning the door gave way with a flash from his shield as Detective Mike Caraza pulled a handkerchief from a pocket of his trench coat and waded into the carnage.
The front door didn't look too bad, but the view from the doorway was different. Starting with the human-body-sized hole smashed through the living room wall into the bedroom. And the fist-sized hole in the fridge. And the metal kitchen table, which had been bent like a really thin elephant had been dropped across it. And the stainless steel bathroom sink, which was no longer in the bathroom, but had been thrown through a wall, had crossed through the kitchen at high speed, and was currently in the opposite wall, embedded so far that it was hard to tell it was a bathroom sink.
"Somebody needs to file a suit against their decorator."
"I told ya, this feng shui thing can get carried way too far."
The cotton of the handkerchief took the worst of the odor away and kept the bile from rising as it had threatened to down the hall. Caraza was a rumpled example of New York’s finest, his off the rack suit showing that he’d been wearing it for fourteen hours a look that was complimented by his five o’clock shadow. Caraza’s dark hair was worn close from eight years walking a beat and six more as a detective that didn’t shield him from mixing it up with suspects. His dark eyes surveyed the scene quickly before he continued into a bed room that once had been furnished with items that would cost more than a year of the detective’s pay.
The body was sideways on the bed, lifeless eyes watching Caraza as he entered and found the source of the smell. “What have we got?” he asked the M.E. who was in the process of putting up her supplies.
“Tucker Andrews,” she replied with a sigh as she stood, grateful for being able to turn away from the victim. “AKA Red Wing, who just lost the fight of his life.”
“Hey, I remember him,” spoke up one of the techs from his camera. “One of the big wheels of the Empire City Guard back in the seventies.”
“I had a poster of him when I was a kid at my folks place back in Queens,” Caraza admitted as he regretfully put away the handkerchief in place of his notepad. “He retired in the early nineties didn’t he? What happened?”
“Your perp entered through the balcony doors,” the Medical Examiner continued as she led the way back into the main living room. “Since we’re forty two stories up and there’s no fire escape that means it was a mutant.”
“Hence my being called from my neglected bed, much to my adoring wife’s chagrin,” Caraza continued.
“I’ll know more once I get him back to the lab, but based on all this I’d say your victim was beaten to death. My guys have found prints all over the apartment, but the stippling in the bruises that formed pre-mortem indicates that the perp was wearing leather gloves so I doubt the prints will be any help.”
Caraza swallowed and looked back into the bedroom at the corpse. “And the…disembowelment?”
“Hard to say at this point if that was done post-mortem or not, but one thing is for sure your perp was beyond angry.”
“Thanks Doc.” Caraza strolled back to the Uniform at the doorway. “Any witnesses, or am I just wasting my time on wishful thinking?”
“The neighbor, Mrs. Hollings called 911,” the patrolman replied. “Said she thought world war three had broken out. My partner and I were first on the scene, but your guy was already going cold and his doer was long gone. Sorry Detective.”
Mike nodded and cracked his knuckles before giving the patrolman his card. “Make sure she’s got this, would ya? It’s gonna be a long night.”
“Happy Thursday morning, everybody,” announced the somewhat strident voice of Captain Lawrence Hindle as he took the podium just outside his office door that over looked the squad room. He took a drink from his ever present coffee cup and got his notes for the morning briefing better to his liking. “Waiting for me in my voicemail was a lovely ass chewing from One Police Plaza over a high profile case we caught last night. Caraza, you were on call what’s the story?”
“Good morning to you too, Captain,” the detective replied around a yawn as he hitched a buttock on the corner of his desk and flipped through his note book. “Our vic is Tucker Andrews, AKA Red Wing. Preliminary from the M.E. was he was beaten to death and gutted like a fish. 911 answered a call from the neighbor, Alice Hollings, 74, who of course saw nothing but informed dispatchers that WW3 had broken out next door. The guy used to be a big wheel with the Empire City Guard, but he retired in ’93. What’s got One Pee Pee in a knot about it?”
“Not spending any time in the rarified air through which our beloved commissioner moves I couldn’t say,” the Captain shot back. “We looking at some ex-spandex nemesis of our vic getting some payback or is there some other reason Mr. Andrews has become our business?”
Mike shrugged non-committed. “CSI and the M.E. are still working the crime scene captain, but we won’t have anything definite for a while.”
“Alright, you and Talbert head over to the Emerald Tower and lets find out if his former pals in the City Guard can shed some light on things. McMahon, Jones, dump the LUDs from our vic’s phones and pull his financials. If this isn’t Glory Days payback, let’s see if we can find somebody else who wanted him dead.”
The Empire City Guard was obviously doing well. They owned a sky scrapper decked out in emerald glass just a block from Times Square. Caraza exchanged glances with his partner as they got out of the tired Ford Crown Victoria that had taken them here from the Precinct. Mike gave up the keys to the valet that rushed out to be of service as the two detectives made their way through the revolving doors into the lobby. Caraza had been partnered with Janice Talbert since the two were walking a beat together.
She was in her late thirties, divorced with a pair of kids she was bankrupting herself to put through private school, but still an attractive, trim blonde who stayed in shape from sweat in a gym rather than genetics. Mike knew her blue eyes were already sweeping her side of the lobby for threats even as he subconsciously did the same on his side. They had gone through a weekend micro-affair once when they were first partnered up, over a dozen years ago. Now they weren't lovers or romantically involved, or anything like that. They were something much deeper. They were a team, in a police division where teams were like brothers and sisters.
Neither of their spouses knew about it.
The lobby doubled as the entrance to a shopping mall that dominated the lower floors of the building and was decorated with murals depicting the high lights of New Yorkers overcoming their reputations and bettering each other. Scenes from 9/11 held a prominence as the two detectives arrived at the Information Desk. “May I help you?”
Badges lead the way for the introductions. “Detective Mike Caraza, PCD, this is my partner Detective Jan Talbert. We’d like to speak with someone in the Empire City Guard.”
“Of course. One moment.”
“Detectives?” The two turned to take in a petite, dark haired, dark eyed woman whose Armani suit complimented an athletic build. She looked like a college kid wearing her mother’s suit to try and look older. Her dark eyes took in measuring glances at both behind a pair of fashion glasses neither thought she really needed. “I’m Doctor Mary Heller. How may I help you?”
Mike again presented his credentials. “Manhattan Paranormal Crimes Division; Doctor Heller, are you in a position to speak for the Empire City Guard?”
The young doctor smiled as she reached into her suit jacket. “My card,” replied, presenting a MID that showed a curvaceous woman in a blue body suit with plenty of gold highlights and a helmet that obscured her face. It was labeled Dr. Thunder.
Jan immediately turned on the sympathetic cop act. “Doctor, I’m afraid we have some bad news. Is there somewhere private we could talk?”
“My office is right this way,” she replied, walking at a brisk pace towards a bank of elevators. “I presume this has something to do with Red Wing?”
“News travels fast,” chuckled Mike as he followed the two women and waited for the Doctor to press her thumb against a cleverly concealed fingerprint scanner.
“The journalists in this city are cut throat. I heard the gory details on my way in this morning. Do you have any suspects?” The elevator arrived to a soft tone and she led the way inside, pressing the topmost button on the controls.
“That’s what we’d like to talk to you about,” Mike replied as he dug out his notepad and began to take notes. “Did Red Wing have any enemies that would hold a grudge this far past his retirement?”
“Red Wing was before my time in the Guard except for my first year and his last,” Heller said, shaking her head and removing the glasses to tuck into a jacket pocket. “From what I remember, his two great skills were telling everyone how impressive he was and making the kind of enemies that would hold a grudge this far past retirement. How did he die?”
“We’re not at liberty to discuss the details I’m afraid,” Jan interjected quickly.
Mary nodded anyway. “Pity. If we had a better idea of the MO I could narrow the list down for you.” The elevator came to a stop and once more the Doctor led the way with a confident stride. “However, it might do you some good to talk with Magno-Man. He and Red Wing were members at the same time and he certainly knew him better than I did.” She came to a stop by an office door and knocked softly before opening it. “Dan? There are some police officers here with some questions about Red Wing.”
“Send them in, Mary,” a cultured, refined baritone from the office replied.
“If you need anything else from me, I’ll be in my office, just down the hall.”
“Thank you,” Jan assured her as she and her partner entered the office. There they confronted with the back of a silver haired man in a three thousand dollar suit looking out the window at midtown. He might have been a partner at a high roller law firm, or brokerage house rather than a super hero in his fifth decade of hanging with the spandex crowd. The office certainly fit that image, there were no trophies of battles, or photographs of vanquished foes. There were tasteful paintings, a Masters Degree from Princeton that was framed and photographs of a wife, children and grandchildren that had obviously been taken by professionals. “Magno-Man?” asked Jan softly.
He turned revealing a strong profile that had more character than age written in the face, surrounded by a halo of well groomed silver white hair. He quickly made his way from the window and extended a firm handshake. “Daniel Tatum,” he introduced with a broad gesture for his two visitors to make themselves at home. “Coffee?”
“No, thank you. Mr. Tatum, I’m Detective Mike Caraza and this is my partner Detective Talbert.”
“If you don’t mind, we’d like to talk with you about Red Wing for a few minutes,” interjected Jan.
“It’s a terrible tragedy, but one I can’t say I haven’t seen coming for quite some time,” Tatum said heavily as he returned to his desk and sat down.
“Why do you say that, sir?” asked Talbert with a glance at her partner who was already digging out his note pad.
“Tucker was the kind of hero that gave the rest of us a bad name,” Magno-Man replied after a moment to steeple his fingers. “Rude, arrogant, brash and a glory hog; I advised Jack not to allow his membership when he applied to the Guard, but Jack felt we needed someone with his power set.”
“And Jack is?” prompted Mike from his notes.
“Was,” corrected Tatum. “Jacques la Fontain, otherwise known as Carcelero. He, Tucker, Steve and I were the main roster of the Guard in seventy eight.”
“Steve Anders, the secret ID of Dynamo,” Dan replied. He looked up after a moment of thought, worry evident on his face. “I trust these confidences with our identities will remain that way?”
Mike chuckled from his scribbling on his pad. “Don’t worry Mr. Tatum, my partner and I are bound by the same laws you are. The only reason this would become a matter of public record is if one of you killed Red Wing. You may not know, but it requires a Judges’ order to compel us to release our notes in an investigation. I can’t recall any judge making such an order in my years with NYPD.”
“Well, if the urge to kill him was a crime, I’d be guilty,” Tatum admitted. “Anyone he ever put away might be looking for some revenge. Tucker made a lot of enemies in his time with us; both with villains and our corporate partners.”
“How did he manage that?” asked Jan softly.
“Tucker was our public affairs officer. Stupid, really, but none of us wanted the job and he relished it. Between the posters and the lunch boxes and action figures he amassed a considerable fortune. Jack and I drew the line when he bought that casino, however. That’s not what we considered a good role model for children should be involved with.”
“Casino?” asked the detectives in chorus.
Surprise hung on Daniel’s distinguished face. “Didn’t you know? Tucker owned the Lucky Lady Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.”
“This guy owned a Casino?” demanded Captain Hindle around a gulp of cold, stale coffee. “No wonder One Pee Pee is crawling up my ass. We looking at a professional here, mob connections?”
Mike shook his head. “That’s not what my gut tells me, Captain. A pro might mutilate to send a message but this guy was cut open groin to chest; guts and organs everywhere. There wasn’t anything professional about this.”
The Captain considered his detective’s statement for a moment before casting his eyes deeper into the squad room. “McMahon, Jones how we coming on the LUDs and financials; anything useful in them?”
Ian McMahon, an eighteen year veteran of the force who still managed to come across as the freckle faced Irish kid from down the block held up a sheaf of papers he was just signing for from a currier. “Just in Captain and it’s good to know Big Sister Ma Bell is doing their part for a better police state.”
“Save it for the chat rooms, Columbo,” the Captain replied with a roll of his eyes. “Jones, what about the financials?”
“However,” McMahon interrupted with a grin. “My time has not been entirely idle. I ran a check on Paranormals paroled or released recently and cross checked it with Red Wing being involved with the capture. Come to find out one Tony Viddeo, AKA Black Stallion, just completed a five to fifteen stretch in Attica for B&E four months ago and came home to the metropolis. His parole officer tells me he’s doing residential trash pick up and has a lovely little one room hell hole on the lower East Side.”
Captain Hindle actually was smiling as he made his way to the coffee pot for a warm up. “I knew there was a reason I kept authorizing your completely unearned pay check. Jones, you have any lovely nuggets to make my Thursday that much brighter?”
Cleo Jones, a lovely young woman with café au latté complexion, was the baby detective on the squad, having just earned her gold shield. She shook her head, beaded braids clicking together as she did so without looking up. “Still waiting on the bank reports, Captain, but I did pull his credit from Equifax. For a rich guy they sure didn’t like him very much. His credit score is only 640 and he’s listed as a bad risk. I’ve got eight, nine, ten accounts delinquent past 90 days and all in excess of three hundred thousand or better. And, according to this, his bank was in the process of filing a foreclosure on the penthouse crime scene.” Her phone rang before she could continue and picked it up. “PCD, Jones.”
“Sounds like we’re getting more and more motives here,” the Captain thought out loud as he stirred in the half and half for his coffee. “Caraza, you and Talbert go have a chat with Mr. Viddeo and see if he has an alibi for last night.”
“Captain?” interrupted Jones as she returned the phone to its cradle. “That was Warner the M. E. She’s got some new info.”
“Ok, Caraza, pay a visit to One Pee Pee on your way back. McMahon, Jones, head over to our victim’s bank and see if you can expedite those financials. I want this case closed while I’ve still got some rear cheek to sit on.”
The brown Crown Victoria rolled to a stop in a trash filled alley largely blocked by a garbage truck and a black and white with its light’s on. The crew of the truck was a dirty, sullen looking lot lined up by their truck by a pair of uniforms. Two were obviously normals, thinner and smaller than average, but with wiry builds from lives of manual labor. Slightly off to one side was Viddeo who was engaged with in a heated argument with the other officer.
There was no hiding the fact that Viddeo was an exemplar. While he affected the grungy tee-shirt and bib-overalls that a lot of well built New York tough guys wore, Tony was too cut, too well built to be anything but a mutant. Even his broken nose added to his over all rugged bad boy good looks. Fortunately, the uniform he was arguing with was just as much an exemplar mutant, he wore the powder blue uniform of NYPD’s Paranormal Division and was every bit as well built and likely as highly rated a MID as the supposedly reformed garbage collector he was listening to with wry amusement.
“You call for one of the exemplar cops?” asked Caraza as he exited the Crown Victoria. His partner only smirked.
“Can’t be too careful,” she replied. “Hey Tony, what’s got you so upset?” she asked as the pair arrived at conversational distance. They were given a long, appraising look from the felon.
“Who are you two?” he demanded, “and what makes it your business?”
“Detectives Talbert and Caraza, tough guy,” she replied with a nod to the officer who stepped far enough back to show that she was in charge, but not so far as he couldn’t be mixing it up with Viddeo in a split second if he got froggy. “And since you’re on probation your parole officer explained to you we don’t need a reason to get into your business.”
“Hey, not that you care, but I did my time and I’m just looking to make an honest living,” Tony growled menacingly. “An honest living I’m in danger of losing if Dudley Do Right and his pal don’t let us finish our route!”
“Cry me a river,” snapped Caraza. “You just got out and you looking to head back in for twenty five to life?”
“Whoa, slow up detective, I’m clean.”
“Then maybe you can explain how Red Wing woke up with at bad case of dead this morning?” Viddeo again looked at the two detectives and chuckled darkly. “You think that’s funny?”
“Is that what this is about?” Tony demanded finally. “You trying to pin that jack ass’s murder on me?”
“He put you away for ten years, Tony, seems likely you’d want some pay back,” accused Jan quietly.
“Man,” swore Tony while shaking his head, “you and Joe Friday there ought to step into the twenty first century. I was in my half way house at eight last night, till I left for the job this morning.”
“And I suppose all your ex-felon buddies there will alibi for you?” demanded Caraza.
“They don’t have to, Detective,” sneered Viddeo as he hitched a foot up on the step of the truck and pointed to an electronic device around his ankle. “Mister Ankle-bracelet with his built in GPS is all the alibi I need. So, can we go now? We got a route to finish.”
Caraza plucked up one of the face masks Dr. Warner kept by the door into her lab and began to tie it around his face. The place always stank of formaldehyde and other chemicals that brought back bad memories of high school science classes gone horribly wrong. The M.E. herself was on the far side of the body which was thankfully covered with a sheet, even though the detective’s over active memory thoughtfully filled in the mental picture of the last time he’d seen Red Wing. “You have some news?” he asked as they got within conversational distance.
“Yep,” Warner replied as she held up the clip board she was holding. “The tox screen came back on your vic. He had nearly five times the amount of insulin in his blood that he should have.”
“So he was diabetic,” pondered Jan. “So what?”
“That’s what I thought at first too,” Warner said as she pulled back the sheet from the body. “But that’s almost unheard of in exemplar mutants of Red Wing’s class. So I went looking and I found this.” She pointed out a small red mark on the corpse’s neck.
“Track mark,” mused Caraza.
“Exactly,” Warner returned with a smile. “Your perp injected Tucker here with enough insulin to put three people into glycemic shock. Whoever he or she was, your perp didn’t think they could take Red Wing on their own. I didn’t find any finger bruising around the injection site so I’m guessing it was delivered by a dart like you’d tranquilize an animal with. And that’s when things got really interesting. Take a look at these X-rays. The breakage pattern will give you a rough estimate of the size of whatever fist or weapon you’re looking for. Now, using my hand as a guide, see how it neatly fits into the damage of the break of the right orbital? Detective Caraza, make a fist for me, now hold it up to the rib fractures here.”
“Son of a bitch,” breathed Jan as she watched her partner’s fist roughly fit the broken bone pattern. “There are two perps; a man and a woman.”
Warner was grinning from ear to ear. “Exactly. Now, my last little bit of interesting news. I noticed an odd reflectivity in your victim’s eyes when I was inspecting the damage to the orbital bone. So, I ran a retina eye pattern test.”
“What for?” asked Caraza. “We already know who he is.”
“Yes, but this told me a little more about how he died,” the M.E. returned. “The rods and cones of both of his eyes were damaged so badly by an intense light that he failed the test. For the last few minutes of his life, Tucker Andrews was blind.”
Captain Hindle hung the enlarged photograph from Red Wing’s MID on the open case board and stepped back to take it all in. Lawrence found that pooling all the information on a case like this helped him put the pieces together. So as his eyes roamed all the information they had thus far in the case, the Captain took a sip of his tepid coffee and let his mind free-associate. The phone by the bed caught the captain’s eye and he reached over his detective’s desk to pick up the sheet of LUDs and flipped through them.
“You can remove Viddeo as a suspect,” announced Mike Caraza as he and his partner walked in, shedding over coats and scarves. “The parole monitor service confirms his bracelet hasn’t been tampered with and he was at his half way house all last night.”
“What did Warner have to add?” asked the Captain softly from his reading.
“We’re looking for at least two perps, a man and a woman,” Talbert told him as she removed Viddeo’s mug shot from the board. “And at least one of them has light based powers as Red Wing was blinded during the attack.”
“Or they have some kind of light gadget or device.” Mike saw that his Captain wasn’t really paying attention, and when this happened after he stared at the case board, it usually meant he’d found something. “Interesting reading, Captain?” he asked softly.
“These are the LUDs from Red Wing’s phone dump,” Hindle replied as he handed over the documents and went over to the coffee pot. “Notice anything?”
“There’s a 603 area code number he calls a lot on his cell phone, but not his land line,” mused Caraza. “Looks like they were the best of friends, there’s three calls a week for months. 603, where is that?”
“New Hampshire,” Hindle said as he poured his coffee. “My Ex’s lawyer has a wonderful summer home up there that I paid for. Now take a closer look at the call details. Specifically the cell site towers.”
“This 603 number is a cell too,” Mike saw instantly. “And it’s always talking though cell tower 2247.”
“The LUDs tell me the 603 number is a pre-paid cell phone and if the account holder is up to no good they’ll always pays in cash,” Lawrence said around his stirring. “But, I’ll let the phone company folks tell you that. You and Jan head up to New Hampshire tomorrow on the first train. You find where cell tower 2247 is, chances are you’ll find Red Wings mystery friend.”
“Captain, we’ve got problems,” interrupted McMahon as he and his partner returned to the squad room. “The bank lawyered up and refused to release any information due to, quote ‘an ongoing investigation with federal agencies,’ unquote.”
Hindle blinked in disbelief. “The Feds are in on this too? Could my day get any brighter? Alright Caraza, you and Talbert have your orders, but watch your expense accounts. I have enough troubles without that. Ian, you and Cleo head over to Ackart’s office. Maybe our hard working ADA can finagle a search warrant to make the bank a bit more cooperative.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me, John!” laughed Randolph as he balanced the phone on his shoulder while typing at his computer. “Your client was throwing fireballs around a bank he was robbing with five kids inside. No, we both know no jury is going to buy that defense. Look, I’m already doing you a favor with felony robbery while using a mutant ability. He can do ten to fifteen with a sentencing recommendation to do the whole fifteen, or I can give the case to Ms. Cabot over in Special Victims and you can deal with five more counts of felony endangerment of a minor. And you know you won’t get a deal this good from her. So, what’s it going to be?”
Ackart listened before finishing the typing he was doing. “Fine, I’ll see you tomorrow for allocution. And John, he pleads to all of it or the deal’s off the table.” Ackart was a haggard young man in his middle thirties with hair that was going gray prematurely who still had the youthful zeal around the eyes of a man who was doing what he loved to do while making a difference doing it. While his suit might not have been as expensive as he would have liked, there were more important things to his manner of thinking. He returned the phone to its cradle and made a final adjustment to document before stretching and looking at his watch. It was definitely quitting time.
He stood to begin gathering his things for the evening commute but was interrupted by a knock on his office door frame. “Councilor, got a minute?”
Randolph looked up and smiled to take in the visage of Detective’s McMahon and his partner Cleo Jones. “For you guys, always,” he announced as he waved them in. “I was just about to head over to the watering hole; can I buy you two a drink?”
“Some other time,” McMahon declined. “We were hoping you could give us a little muscle for a search warrant.”
“The Red Wing case?” asked Ackart as he hitched a buttock on the corner of his desk. “You guys have a suspect already?”
“No, the bank lawyered up on the financials,” Jones replied sullenly. “They gave us some nonsense about an ongoing federal investigation.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Ackart replied. “New York State has precedence since there’s been a murder. They should know that.” He rubbed his chin in thought. “Judge Rosen owes me a favor. I’ll have you a search warrant and cease and desist order with a pile of John Doe warrants for obstruction if you need them in the morning.”
The office was bustling with activity as Mike and Jan were led through a cubicle farm to a work bench were the penultimate nerd was waiting on them. His oily black hair was already disheveled and his white shirt and black tie were wrinkled enough to give the impression he’d slept in them. “John Turner,” he introduced himself as he offered a weak and clammy hand shake.
“Mike Caraza,” the detective replied while repressing an urge to wipe his hand clean on his trench coat. “This is my partner Detective Jan Talbert.”
“I’m the regional supervisor and on behalf of Verizon I’d like to say we’re happy to cooperate in any way we can.”
“That’s great,” replied Mike with a sidelong glance at his partner. “You get our fax from headquarters last night?”
“Sure did,” the tech replied as he moved slightly down the bench to produce it with a small collection of other documents. “I’m sorry to tell you that your Captain was right, this number we pulled was for a pre-paid cell phone and we have no information on the owner. I did pull the records on it and I can tell you where it was purchased and what stores activated the time cards for the past two months. Most convenience stores that sell these cards have cameras you might get lucky.”
“How long ago was the last time card purchased?” asked Jan as she accepted the documents.
“Uh, the account had five hundred minutes added on a card that was sold a little over a month ago.”
“Most stop and robs don’t hold their tapes for more than a week,” complained Mike.
“We’ll check anyway,” assured Talbert. “Can you give me the location of the store?”
“It’s in the documents there. Anything else?”
“Yeah, where is cell tower 2247?” demanded Caraza.
The nerd led them over to a large map of the state hanging on the wall. “2247 is up state, in the mountains. Here it is, we lease an access point, but it’s located on the grounds of a private high school just outside a little town called Dunwich. 2247 services it, Dunwich and the northern portions of Berlin. The school is called Whateley Academy.”
Caraza and his partner shared a worried look. “This day just keeps getting better and better,” Caraza muttered under his breath.
A small army of police officers, crime scene techs and less identifiable others strolled through doors into a marble foyer, attracting the attention of everyone already in the bank. Ian and Cleo led the team, Ian shaking his head as he did so because he hated serving warrants. It would be easier on everybody if the bank hadn’t tried this dodge and it irked him for having to use force to get them to provide what should have been copied and readied for him and his partner yesterday.
He led the way through a little gate to the area behind the tellers and that’s when people began to be concerned. The branch VP, a chubby, self important little man that had delighted in being an obstruction yesterday came waddling quickly from his office, both arms spread wide to try and intercept the team. “You can’t come back here!” he thundered even before he reached conversational distance.
Ian held up the search warrant, still wrapped in its blue process serving envelope. “Wrong, this says I can. Now stand aside,” he ordered as he presented the portly executive with the warrant.
He quickly side stepped again to block the way. “But we’re cooperating with a Federal investigation, you locals…”
“Have an injunction from a federal judge,” Ian interrupted, presenting him with that document as well. “Now stand aside.”
“I demand that you wait until my lawyers arrive!”
Ian cursed under his breath as he took hold of the VP and spun him about. “See, now you need a lawyer. Robert Dalton, you are under arrest for obstruction of justice and interfering with a police officer in the performance of his duty.” The man’s cries became more upset as the hand cuffs clicked onto his wrists. “Hey!” shouted Ian as he showed the blubbering executive his badge. “This says I’m the only one who gets to shout!”
“I’ll have your badge for this…” sputtered Dalton through his rage.
“Get in line,” McMahon muttered. “You have the right to remain silent, if you give up that right, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…”
“You ever been up here before?” asked Jan as their rented Explorer made its way down the winding main road up to a clutch of buildings that made up the central campus of the school. Caraza shook his head as he ignored a sign directing Emergency Room traffic to the left and pulled into a small parking lot marked for visitors for Schuster Hall.
“Heard of it, never been here,” the detective replied as he put the truck into park and gave his partner a glance. “I don’t get places like this. Public school was good enough for me, why are you killing yourself working two jobs to put your kids through one of these upper crust factories?”
“Because I want my kids to have it better than I did,” she replied as they got out and made sure their weapons were out of sight before following the concrete path to the front of the school.
“You’ve been here before?” asked Caraza as he followed his partner’s lead.
“Twice,” she admitted. “Last year I had to claim the body of a kid that shot himself for the parents. That was while you were testifying in the Avalanche case.”
“I remember,” Mike replied. “How did a kid get his hands on a gun in this debutant and board member factory?”
Jan barked a laugh she quickly snuffed short. “You really haven’t been here before.”
Caraza managed to contain his annoyance at his partner’s jibe. “What was the other time?”
His partner didn’t get a chance to answer as they arrived at the front of the school to a small welcome committee. There was a rotunda with a statue and fountain in the center of the round about which also contained a flag pool. Three students in ROTC uniforms were re-raising the flags, the bottom of which was the school’s flag, bordered in red. “Why change flags in the middle of the day?” wondered Caraza with a nod in the small ceremony’s direction to his partner.
Talbert shrugged. “The only one they swapped was the school flag,” she replied. “Odd, but it looks like we have a welcome committee.”
Standing on the steps, waiting for them was a trim, breath taking blonde who was facing the flags, right hand over her heart, wearing a suit that played all of her best features to their full effect. Caraza belatedly turned and saluted the flags until they were at zenith once more before giving the new comer his full attention once more. “Elizabeth Carson,” she introduced herself, offering a firm, cool handshake. “I’m Headmistress here at Whateley Academy.”
“Mike Caraza,” the detective replied. “My partner, Jan Talbert, Manhattan PCD.”
“What brings New York’s finest here?” Carson asked lightly.
“Among other things, that,” Talbert said with a nod to the Cell Tower in the distance. “Ms. Carson, is there somewhere private we could talk?”
“My office is just this way,” the blond said at once with a gesture into the building. She led the way with a confident stride that put Caraza’s mind to recalling Doctor Thunder’s gait. “I’ve just gotten back from the holiday myself. I hope one of my students hasn’t gotten into trouble.”
“We’re investigating a homicide, Headmistress,” Caraza told her softly as the warm air of Schuster Hall enveloped them. “Red Wing, if you’ve heard of him.”
“I worked with the Empire City Guard a few times during Red Wing’s tenure there,” Carson said as they arrived at an elevator that opened as if waiting for them. “A thoroughly unpleasant man with an over active imagination of his own self worth,” Carson said flatly, with obvious distaste. “What does that have to do with my school?”
“You worked with the Empire City Guard in the seventies and eighties?” asked Jan incredulously. “I though the Side Kick Endangerment Act was passed back in the sixties…”
The elevator opened onto the second floor and Carson led the way through a pair of doors labeled ‘Administration’ with a coy smile. “It was, and I was instrumental in its passing. Detectives, let me not put too fine a point on this, but I’m seventy five.”
“I should be so lucky!” exclaimed Jan in surprise. The Headmistress led the way into her office and gestured the detectives into a pair of leather arm chairs facing her desk as she settled in behind it.
“Be careful what you wish for detective. I looked like a teenager until I was nearly thirty. You can rest assured that was no fun.” She perched a pair of eyeglasses on her nose that Caraza was sure she didn’t need before steepling her fingers and letting her gaze shift between one police officer to the other. “Now, what can I do for the NYPD?”
“We’d like a list of all the students who were in New York or the Tri-State area over the holiday,” Caraza stated as firmly as he could, fighting the instinctive feeling he was back in high school and had gotten in Dutch with the principal.
“For what reason?”
“Red Wing was in contact with someone here a great deal,” Jan replied. “His phone records show that whoever this person was, they were calling through that cell tower three times a week. Whoever it was may be a material witness.”
“Or a prime suspect,” Carson replied softly. “And when you present me with a court order I’ll be happy to supply you with that list.”
“Ma’am…” started Caraza, but he was cut off by a casual wave from the teacher’s hand.
“What’s more, Detectives, any interviews that take place on these grounds will be attended by either myself or one of my staff. This is a boarding school and my faculty and I must act in loco parentis, a responsibility I take very seriously. Now, do you have such a subpoena or court order?” The two detectives shook their heads. “Then I must bid you good afternoon, and ask that you do not return without one. Good day.”
“Well, that was a complete waist of time,” growled Caraza as he and his partner emerged from Schuster Hall. “We don’t have enough to compel the list even if we were in New York. With the interstate hassles she’ll never give up that list.”
Jan’s look became sly. “Maybe not,” she said with a glance towards a group of what appeared to be cheerleaders that were setting up a table and banners. She walked over to the group, a part of her mind wondering why none of the uniforms matched each other. “Hey girls, what’s going on?”
An extremely attractive, and let’s be honest, they all were, Asian girl spun around with a smile that would light up Brooklyn and started in a voice straight out of the San Fernando Valley. “Well, hi! We’re selling year books to help pay for the Senior Legacy Project! That’s like, when the seniors get together and build something for the school which is like, totally their legacy. Like, Crystal Hall back there? That was a legacy. Would you like to buy a year book?”
Jan and her partner shared a dirty glance. “For a worthy cause like that, I’ll take four.”
“Like, cover or actual?”
“Both,” Jan said with a smile.
“This is incredible!” announced Cleo as she flipped through her copies of the year book. “They have real names and grades in one book, code names and ‘hero’ costumes in another! What’s the point of the code names, I mean look at this girl. Maggie Vincent and then over here, Lifeline; it’s the same girl, same hair style, just with a mask on. Candid shots, activities, everything is in here!”
“Makes sense,” Ian opined from his desk across the way as he flipped through the pages. “Only people in the know have even heard of Whateley Academy. Heroes and Villains follow the same unofficial code we have with the Wise Guys. We don’t lean on their families, they don’t retaliate against ours. Anybody out of the loop wouldn’t know where to start. And from the outside it looks like any other prep school. Besides, you have to have both copies to piece it all together and they were made in different print shops.” The detective shook his head in amazement. “It’s ingenious.”
“Ingenious or not it’s the best lead we have without a Court Order,” Captain Hindle replied with an encouraging rub of Jan’s shoulder on his way to the coffee pot. “That was quick thinking Jan. So, how are we in tracing these kids’ moves? Anybody come down to NYC for the holidays?”
“Amtrak faxed over the rail tickets of every kid that got close to the tri-state area this morning once Computer Crimes scanned the book and made a list,” Caraza said from his desk, his eyes intent on the pages in front of him. “The airlines are matching tickets from Logan International and Berlin Municipal, they’re the closest airports.”
“Thank God for the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security,” Hindle stated, his voice heavy with sarcasm. “It’s about time that crap worked for us for a change. We get any hits on the train list?”
“One,” Jan replied from her notes. “Marty Penn, aka Mega-Girl, and she was involved with the Empire City Guard in that brawl in Times Square over the ‘Angel of Hell’s Kitchen.’”
“Confession is good for the soul,” the Captain reasoned. “Maybe Mega-Girl has something she’d like to get off her chest. Go pick her up.”
The girl on the other side of the two way mirror was pacing with nervous energy. Over the past five minutes she’d tried three different lines of conversation with the cop who was sharing the room with her, though he’d only smiled and remained silent as instructed. She was wearing an ‘I (heart) NY’ tee shirt that was large enough to remain decent but small enough to make sure everybody knew this girl was well developed for her age and a pair of jeans doing the same service for her rear.
“I’ve got a daughter her age,” muttered Caraza into his coffee in response to which the Captain gave a gruff chuckle at his elbow.
“Twenty two?” he asked sardonically.
“MID says she’s sixteen.”
“Going on twenty five,” Hindle shot back. “Let’s face it Mike, girls didn’t look like that when we were in high school. The parents are here in my office, how long you going to let her stew?”
Caraza took another sip of the coffee. “She’s just about ready. What do the parent’s do?”
“Mom stays at home and Dad is a patrolman in the two seven. He’s already demanding to be present for the questioning.”
“Right now she’s not a suspect, she’s a witness, and he doesn’t have that right.”
“He’s a brother officer who might someday be pulling over your daughter,” the Captain cautioned. “Remember that and take it easy on her.” Caraza favored the Captain with a crooked smile and let himself into the integration room.
Immediately the nervous girl stepped forward, hand out. The exemplar patrolman made a cautious step forward but Caraza waved him off and took the offered handshake. “Detective, as a future member of the Empire City Guard, let me assure you I will give you my utmost cooperation in your investigation.”
Caraza couldn’t keep a smile off his face as he shook hands. “That’s good to know, Marty. Why don’t you have a seat and we’ll talk about things, ok?” Caraza let himself get as comfortable as he dared and traded glances with the cop while he set his folder and coffee down on the table. “You a member of the Guard?”
The blonde haired Barbie Doll across the table from him blushed. “Well, not officially, I can’t legally be accepted until I’m eighteen, but my application is on file.”
“Right, the Sidekick law.”
“I’m not a side kick,” Marty growled with some venom.
“But you are a minor and they’re just looking out for you,” Caraza rebuked her, filing the reaction away in his memory for possible use later. “You looking forward to getting into the Guard?”
Her smile lit up the otherwise dreary interrogation room. “I like helping people! I can’t wait to get out of school and start making a difference.”
The patrol muttered something under his breath that brought Caraza’s attention. “What was that Officer Puretti? I didn’t quite catch it.”
The uniform straightened up quickly. “Nothing, Detective, just a personal opinion I should have kept behind my teeth.”
“We’re all friends here,” Caraza replied with a dangerous calm in his voice. “Let’s hear it.”
Seeing he was caught the patrolman mastered himself and stated flatly, “I said if the young lady wants to make a difference and not the front page of the Ledger, she ought to put on a badge, not a mask.”
“This isn’t about publicity!” Marty protested. “The Empire City Guard funds four different charities, protects the city against threats the NYPD isn’t prepared or equipped to handle…”
“Yeah, they did such a great job on 9/11,” Puretti replied with considerable heat.
“Hey, nobody saw that coming…!”
“Easy, easy,” soothed Caraza with a wink to the patrolman Marty couldn’t see. “You’ll have to forgive Officer Puretti Miss Penn, when you’re in the trenches like us, it’s hard not to label all the capes as glory hogs out for pushing their own image.”
“Mutants like that aren’t heroes,” Marty replied quickly. “They make the rest of us look bad.”
“Guys like Red Wing,” agreed Mike.
“Exactly,” the super powered Disney girl agreed. “Sleazebags like that shouldn’t be permitted anywhere near a group with a reputation as spotless as the City Guard.”
“He’s just in it for himself.”
“Believe me, you don’t know the half of it,” Marty said. “If you’d heard some of the stories I have…”
“Is that why you killed him?” asked Mike softly.
“Whoa, hold the phone!” Marty protested. “Is that what this is about? I didn’t kill Red Wing! I’ve never killed anybody!”
“Then you won’t mind telling us where you where last Wednesday?”
“I was at home, with my parents!” exclaimed Penn. “My dad took a comp day and we spent the day together. Then, that night we went and saw Miracle on 34th Street on Broadway, and we took a cab home.”
“What time did you get home?”
“About eleven forty five or so,” she said, her eyes quickly moving between the two men. “My dad has the ticket stubs and the receipt from the cab. He paid with VISA.”
“What about some of your school friends?” Caraza demanded, opening the folder and fishing out some of the candid shots that had been pulled out of the year book and presenting the now terrified girl with them. “Any of them come to NYC?”
“Don’t play me Marty, we know all about Whateley,” the detective snapped. “Where do you think these pictures came from? And if you’re covering for somebody you can kiss that membership in the Guard good bye…”
“No, I swear, I mean, yeah I saw that Jadis and some of the other Bad Seeds were in town, but I didn’t go anywhere near them! Mrs. Carson told me if I started anything off the campus I’d have detention for a month!”
Marty frantically dug through the photographs before selecting one and presenting it to the detective. “These kids. They’re all the children of major super villains. If somebody was up to something, it’d be them.”
Mike studied the photo intently while nodding. “Ok, that’s very helpful, Marty. I’m sure your dad will be proud of you. And it goes without saying you better give these kids a wide berth for your remaining time here.”
Penn crossed her arms over her ample bosom. “Detective, you can’t do anything to me that Mrs. Carson can’t trump in spades. I’m not getting anywhere near them.”
Caraza stood and gathered up the photos. “Oh, Marty, one last thing, you own a cell phone?”
“What’s the number?”
“212-555-2374. Why?” Caraza smiled.
“You kept a New York number?” Marty shrugged.
“It makes calls to my folks local. Besides, who would I want to call in New Hampshire?”
Caraza watched the Penns leave with their daughter and the profuse thanks of the Captain for their cooperation. Once they were well out of ear shot, he shook his head and locked eyes with his partner across the desk. “If that kid was any more of a straight arrow she’d be homophobic. I don’t think she’s mixed up in this.”
“Iiiinnnnnttttteeeeeerrrrrreeeesssstttttiiiinnnnnggggg,” drawled Jones from the ledgers her search yesterday had procured. It brought the eyes of the other detectives in the squad room and caused her milk chocolate complexion to darken with a blush.
“Something you want to share, Detective Jones?” asked the Captain around a chuckle as he made his way to the coffee cup.
“Oh, it’s well hidden, Captain, but you can only game the numbers so much. The Lucky Lady Casino is missing ten million dollars that was checked out of the vault on Tuesday by the decedent,” Jones reported with a triumphant grin.
“The day before he was killed,” mused Jan. “That sounds like a payoff.”
“Hush money might be a better term,” announced an unknown voice from the doorway. The detectives turned to see a man in a cheap, but well put together suit holding up a badge before a sheepish grin. He was short, but well built, dark complexion with black curly hair worn short.
“Carlos Jefferson,” announced Ian with a grin as he got up from his desk and greeted the newcomer with a warm handshake. “It’s always nice to know that whatever the government does with black badges and black helicopters the private sector can do better. How’s my favorite MCO spook?”
“Field supervisor,” Carlos returned with an affable smile. “I heard about Red Wing and we had a tip that you guys were canvassing kids from Whateley.”
“I won’t ask how you might have heard that,” Hindle commented as he stirred his coffee. “So, is this a social visit, son, or do we have some reason to be graced with the presence of the Mutant Commission Office?”
“I’ve got a lead for you,” Jefferson said, holding up a file. He walked over to the board that had the information from the Red Wing case on it and opened the file. “Allow me to introduce you to Paparazzi, AKA Abigail Harrington,” he said, taping up a blown up photograph of a stunning young woman from a MID. She had an oval face highlighted with full bee-stung lips and butter gold eyes that looked out of the photograph with an expression that was practically X-rated. Her hair was dyed in several different shades in streaks and fell to the tops of her shoulders. “Miss Harrington here is probably what Justice Stewart would have been talking about if he’d known her when he said in Jacobellis v. Ohio ‘I can’t define pornography but I know it when I see it.’ Her parents are Honey and ‘Horse’ Harrington the masterminds behind the Harrington Porn Empire.”
“Making dirty movies is a long way from extortion and murder,” protested Jan.
Carlos shook his head. “You haven’t had the privilege of meeting Miss Harrington. You could put her picture in the dictionary to define the words Amoral and Psychopath. We worked with California Children’s Services to try and have her removed from the Harrington home twice, but each time they were able to convince the judges they were better parents.”
“How did that happen?” demanded the Captain.
“The first time Abigail was attacked by two other girls in foster care, the second time she was locked in a closet for six hours by the group home mother and developed acute claustrophobia. But don’t let that give you any sympathy for this girl; she broke the arm of one of the girls and the leg of the other. In two places.”
“What does this have to do with Red Wing?” demanded Jones. “Shouldn’t our Cali psycho girl here be out on the Left Coast?” Jefferson shook his head.
“Nope, she has an Aunt right here in the city. Specifically, two floors down from the penthouse where your boy Red Wing got whacked.”
“How the hell did we miss this in the canvas?” thundered the Captain.
“Warner said the point of entry was through the balcony,” Caraza protested. “We had no reason to look for somebody in the building!”
“Carlos,” Lawrence said with a pat on the MCO Officer’s shoulder. “You are now the proud owner of a PCD favor. Use it wisely. Mike, Jan, go pick up our Valley Girl here and let’s see if she can account for her whereabouts the night of the murder.”
The door was steel with a veneer to make it look like wood, but it hurt Caraza’s hand when he banged on it. “Mrs. Harrington, NYPD! Open the door!”
“Keep your shirt on!” snarled a strident voice in a thick Queen’s accent over the clicks of a series of dead bolts were thrown and an over ripe forty something woman popped out the door and pulled it closed behind her. She’d been a rare beauty in her day, and was still dressed very provocatively which only added to the sad state she was in now. She held a black and white furred Pomeranian in her hands that growled at the police officers. “What do you want?” she demanded, a mean look for both detective.
“We want a word with your niece, Abigail,” Jan replied in her smoothest, ‘I’m on your side’ voice. “May we come in?”
“Unless you have a warrant we’ll do all of our conversation right here,” Mrs. Harrington growled. “Not that it matters, my niece isn’t here. She left for school this morning.”
“And how is she making that trip?” asked Caraza.
“And how is that your business?”
“Mrs. Harrington, we’re investigating a murder,” Jan informed her, letting a note of steel enter her voice. “Now, we’ll be happy to come back with a warrant and tear your apartment apart and if we find you’re concealing a material witness your next apartment will be on Rikers Island for obstruction.”
Harrington rocked back on her heels, disdain dripping from her face. “Oh, is that so? I tell you what, you go get your warrant and I’ll sue the both of you for harassment, misuse of authority and whatever else my lawyer can dream up. Now get lost.”
“You think it’s worth getting a warrant?” asked Jan when they were back on the street once more. Mike thought for a long moment and then shook his head.
“No, it will just make waves for the department. Besides, we know where she’s going. If she doesn’t turn up at school then we’ve got our killer, otherwise, we’ll catch her there.”
“I’ll put an unmarked unit here for a couple of days just incase she was lying to us,” Jan replied as she fished out her radio. “Looks like we’re headed back to New Hampshire, partner.” Caraza nodded resignedly as he led the way to their car. “Manhattan PCD portable requesting unmarked surveillance vehicle at Central Park West Avenue and West 74th street; Detectives waiting on scene.”
It struck Mike once more how mishmash the architecture at this school was as he drove down the main drag. Red Brick Colonial vied with concrete industrial and glass walled post modern and this odd round building that looked Tudor more than anything else and fit with nothing else on the campus. Kirby Hall, the sign named it as they rounded the corner and came down the final strip before three winged Schuster Hall and the tremendous geodesic dome behind it. “Daniel Webster meets Captain Kirk,” he muttered to himself as he slowed the car to let a clutch of students jay walk in front of him.
“Say, you never said why you were up here that second time,” he commented to his partner while he waited for the roadway to clear.
“That’s right, I didn’t,” she replied softly.
Caraza nodded to himself. “You don’t have to talk about it, Jan. Lord knows this place gives me the creeps.”
The car pulled into a parking spot in the small lot beside Schuster Hall before she sighed and looked her partner in the eye. “Sally, my oldest, goes here,” she admitted. “She’s a mutant.”
“Jan, that’s not anybodies fault…” he started.
“No, it’s my fault,” she shot back heatedly. “It’s all over the internet how the metagene complex mutation is in the X chromosome…”
“That she could have gotten from her dad,” Caraza soothed her. “And it’s also all over the internet that Elvis is playing to sold out crowds on Alpha Centauri! You can’t beat yourself up over this…”
“Let’s just get this over with,” she snapped as she opened the car door and got out. Mike sighed and followed her brisk pace to the Headmistress’ office. There she removed the process envelope and held it out to Mrs. Carson. “Lady Astarte, this is court order compelling you to produce the minor Abigail Harrington, also known as Paparazzi for questioning concerning the Murder of Tucker Andrews.”
“The Lady Astarte?’ demanded Mike incredulously.
The two women locked eyes for a moment before the teacher stood slowly and accepted the document. She scanned it for a moment, and then pressed a button on her desk. “Amelia, would you please have Chief Delarose escort Miss Harrington to Conference Room A please?”
“At once, Headmistress.”
“Detectives, if you’ll follow me?”
The girl didn’t look like a murderer; that was Mike’s first impression of her. That’s not to say she looked innocent, either. She was wearing a rock band tee shirt that Mike had never heard of that had been cut down into a halter top to put as much skin on display as possible. The leather pants highlighted every curve and the detective found he had to discretely adjust his trousers to remain comfortable. This wasn’t a seventeen year old school girl; this was a twenty something Porn Queen who had stepped out of the pages of a center fold. Everything about her oozed a raw kind of sexuality that was animalistic in nature. This wasn’t the softer love of a man and his wife, or even the flaming passion of that first school yard crush, this was lust personified, in all its sinful glory. “Hi there,” she greeted the room, seeming to display her availability to everyone. “What’s this all about Mrs. Carson?”
“Abigail,” the teacher greeted, with an unspoken note of disdain for her attire. “These are Detectives Caraza and Talbert, from the New York City Police Department. They have some questions for you regarding the death of Red Wing.”
“Yeah,” the girl replied as she slid into one of the leather seats on the opposite side of the table. “Our door man told me about that. It’s terrible something like that could have happened in my Aunt’s building.”
“Did you know Mr. Andrews, Abigail?”
“Abby,” the sexpot replied. “And, yeah, I knew him. Kind of uptight like most of the so-called heroes, but he could loosen up in bed.”
Caraza blinked in astonishment. “You were having sex with Red Wing?”
“Whenever I was in town,” the girl replied, fishing an emery board from her purse and beginning to buff her nails. “On and off for two years now. Took me almost a month to score with him the first time, but once he got started…man! I’ll miss that.”
“Honey,” Jan interrupted softly, “That’s a crime, that’s rape.”
Abby shrugged her shoulders. “He’d be the one in trouble, not me.” She looked up at the two detectives and smiled a cold, cruel smile. “I’m just the innocent little school girl the dirty old man took advantage of.”
“Did you have anything to do with his murder?” asked Caraza softly.
“No,” she replied from buffing her nails. “And as I’ve made you aware of a sexual relationship that was ongoing for years before the murder, any forensic evidence you might have that put me there could have been left in any number of sexual encounters that were consensual in nature months ago.”
Suddenly everything crystallized behind Mike’s eyes and the entire crime made sense. He couldn’t keep in a macabre chuckle at the evil little Jezebel’s schemes in front of him. “The old badger game,” he said finally when his partner and the administrator looked at him curiously. “Well played, I must say. You seduced Red Wing, claiming to be older than you are, then once he’s well and truly on the hook you drop the bomb that you’re jail bait and you’re going to out him. He’s already in rough financial straights and a Stat. Rape conviction will ruin him. So you pinch him for ten million and then you and a partner murder him so he can’t undo your little scheme and expose you for the sick little psycho you are.”
“That’s enough, Detective,” threatened Mrs. Carson.
Abby only smiled her perfect smile. “That’s an interesting theory, Detective Caraza. It’s a shame you’ll never be able to prove it.”
“You think we won’t find the ten million dollars you extorted out of Red Wing?” demanded Jan; her stomach rolling that her daughter was attending school with this monster. Harrington only smiled brighter.
“I think it will take better accountants than the NYPD has to ever prove any money I have didn’t come out of the Trust Fund my loving parents set up for me.” She stood and stretched, putting her assets on obscene display. “Now, as fun as this has been, you’ll have to excuse me. I have classes for next term to pick out. Ciao.”
Mike stood and blocked her way out. “There’s no statute of limitations on murder, little girl.”
Abby pouted and made to pat the Detective’s face, but he blocked her hand. “Don’t obsess, Detective. You’re only human and you’re just out classed here. See ya.” The three adults watched the teen stroll out before standing themselves.
“I can’t violate the neutrality of the school,” Carson started softly, “but you may rest assured that when that trollop slips up, and she will slip up, yours will be the first call I make.”
“Thank you, headmistress,” Mike said, dreading the conversation he’d have with the Captain over this.
“In the meantime, I’d like to invite you both to lunch. Janice, I think you know where Whitman Cottage is. Why don’t you get Sally and we’ll all have lunch together?” Talbert brightened considerably and nodded.
“Thank you, I think I will.”
Paparazzi walked through the hallways of Schuster Hall until she was certain she wasn’t being followed and slipped into the tunnel system. Her tongue pushed against a soft spot on the fake molar that held a subspace communication system that connected her with the rest of CORE.
(< Paparazzi> We might have a problem with Project 12.)
(<Keystone> Project 12 is complete. What kind of problem?)
(<Brainflash> Cheese it! It’s the cops!)
(<Omega> Don’t be juvenile, Atticus, of course the police are going to be investigating Project 12. What do they suspect, Abby?)
(<Nightshade> Communications discipline, comrades, codes only.)
(< Paparazzi> They’ve got it figured out, but they can’t prove anything. I made sure to activate Contingency Four.)
(<Keystone> Excellent work, my dear! Now my friends, do you see how much we’ve gained by working together?)
(<Brainflash> Yes, yes, Key, we know the drill. Heroes win because they team up.)
(<Keystone> Exactly. And very soon, the world will have to deal with the Cooperation Organization for Responsible Evil…)
Fade to black