Cover: C.T. McMillan
Model: Megan Crawford (ING: @mleighmoon)
Copyright 2018 by C.T. McMillan
All Rights Reserved
In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.
I could not have come this far without my family encouraging me to pursue my ambition to be a writer.
To Razor’ and ’19 for providing inspiration.
The visitor’s area was just for cops, a wide tall room with a single table and two chairs. There were spares stacked to the side where Dom leaned with a cup of coffee in his metal hand on the verge of passing out. Pierce sat with her feet up on one corner, fingering through a tablet while glancing at an open file on the table. At the opposite corner sat a box of donuts. Mixed in with the glazed were four wafer cakes the shape of hexagons with holes.
Pierce reached for one and took a bite without looking away from the tablet. “Eat something or you’ll pass out, man.”
“Gotta watch myself,” said Dom. “One donut and my heart explodes.”
“That coffee ’ll do the trick.”
“This is decaf.”
Dom smirked before taking a sip.
The sliding door on the other side of the room buzzed before the locks clicked open. A CO in khaki and green ushered Reed Tanahn in orange inside. The CO stood by the door as Reed took the seat opposite Pierce before walking back out.
All alone Pierce could feel Tanahn staring at her, and then Dom. Without looking she slid the donuts over to him. “They quit feeding you guys? If I remember correctly, you’re supposed to get fat in jail.”
Reed nodded with a passive grimace. “Depends on what ya eat.”
“They got menus now?” asked Dom.
“Nah,” he answered taking a regular donut. “I’m picky.”
“Well, it’s done you wonders, Tanahn,” said Pierce taking her feet off and sitting up. “You were with the Thompson Family, right?”
“That’s a big yes, detective. I went solo long before I got pinched.”
“Kept the accent, I see.”
“I like the flapper aesthetic. More dignified than most hipster groups.”
“If you say so. Ever been to NewCal, Tanahn?”
“Just San Diego where I was trained. Back then, it was all California.”
“Old timer, eh?” asked Dom. “Sure don’t look it.”
“A handsome face can get you places, Dom,” said Pierce, “like on the wrong end of a camera.” She showed Reed her tablet. In black and white it showed a figure in a ski mask crouching behind a strip mall. “The Shasta County deputies didn’t have the equipment, but when they sent the footage we ran the eyes and found you in here for dealing. Now, what would a pusher be doing in redneck country breaking into a gun store? I asked around and some said you sold weapons on the side.”
Tanahn stared at the screen with a sideways smile. “I was never charged with gun running, detective. If I was, I’d have more than a nickel left on my sentence.”
Pierce raised an eyebrow and put down the tablet before looking to Dom.
“It means five years,” he said.”
“Oh.” Pierce turned back. “I guess that’s less stupid.”
“Flappers got words for everything,” said Reed.
“That may be,” said Dom, “but you’ve also got a pretty bad poker face.”
“Here’s your situation, Tanahn,” said Pierce, “you’ll be tried for the burglary in Shasta back in ‘33. All the gear we have logged as evidence was traced back to that store, which will give the prosecution more fuel to your fire. Once you’re convicted, let’s just say you’ll have enough nickels to make you rich.”
“Stupid rich,” added Dom.
Pierce let it simmer, watching Reed come to terms with a few extra decades behind bars. It was almost enjoyable, but before the climax, she pulled out. “That would be the case if anyone but myself and my partner knew what we found.” Tanahn didn’t hide his relief, his shoulders relaxing as he sat a back. “I can tell the judge to cut your remaining time in half or more if you give us a hand with our case.”
As she fingered the tablet Reed reached for another donut. “I sold to the Trotskys. There was the Tacoma Reds, Renton Anarchists, and Seattle Syndicalists. They love classic Soviet and got caches all over the city. I can tell you–“
“We’ll get to that in a bit.” Pierce passed him the tablet. “Look familiar?”
On the screen was a pair of arm mods just like Kiddo’s. Tanahn smiled with a nod. “SK DefPros A12, Mdl-C. Fitted with accelerators that increase grip pressure to nearly a thousand. No active ventilation, though. Beautiful pieces of hardware regardless.”
“They were used to butcher 13 people yesterday morning,” said Dom.
“No better tool for the job, detective. I was gonna tune them up and double the regular price after I brought them home. Real shame.”
Dom brought his coffee down before he could take a sip. “Was?”
“Some coward piece ‘a trash took ‘em out of my place; an experienced coward piece ‘a trash.”
Pierce leaned forward and pointed at the tablet. “Those arms were stolen from you?”
“What’d I just say?”
“It means elaborate, punk,” said Dom.
Reed put down the tablet and took a bite of his donut. “It was… November? ’35? Left my place in the afternoon, came back at night, and the guy hacked into the keypad on my front door. Made off with the arms and some pop-knives. Guy knew what he was doing. Honestly, I was impressed.”
“Who would want to steal from you?” asked Pierce.
“A lot of people.”
“Narrow it down,” said Dom. “Maybe someone could use those mods without major surgery?”
“Who knew you were running guns and hated you?” asked Pierce.
“Uh,” Tanahn wiped his mouth, “some Deng Chi mooks, the Trotskys because I’m a capitalist, low-level weirdos around Tacoma… and Godfather Cicero, the old prick. He was the one that ordered my name into the Black Book for gun running. Is he dead yet?”
Pierce and Dom looked at him then each other. She came back around with a smile and took the tablet. “Lemme show you a face, Tanahn, and tell me what you think.”
Monty made sure his footsteps didn’t echo as he ascended the stairs, hand resting on the pommel of his katana. As he rose higher to the floor there came voices that rose in volume with every step. Monty angled his ear to get a bead on what was said. It did him no good until he reached his destination.
Seeing the length of the hall from the stairs Monty watched Tommy and a skinny male Flesh Trotsky at a door across from Kiddo’s. Sally stood in the threshold with her arms hugging her chest like she was protecting her vitals. Her puffy face and shaking voice said a whole lot more.
“I’m not lying,” she said. “I don’t know where she went.”
“How?” asked Tommy with his squeaky voice. “You’re a woman. You’re supposed to be an ally and help each other.”
“A white one,” added the Skinny with a liberal dose of spite.
“Miss Volk doesn’t need help.”
“Not unless you’re trying to keep a secret, racist,” said Tommy.
“I’m not a racist!”
“You better tell us where she is,” said the Skinny, “or we’ll find you on campus and make sure you never hurt anyone ever again.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about! I don’t know where Miss Volk went! Leave me alone!”
Before the Trotskys could hit a soprano Monty decided to make himself known. He stared them down as he approached, stepping as loud as he could without stomping. All three turned his way, but only the comrades felt his gaze bearing down on them. When he stopped before them Sally hid in the threshold while the Trotskys looked between Monty and his sword. Weren’t many options available and they slowly walked around him, Monty turning on his heels to watch them leave down the stairs. Once they were gone he pulled out his phone.
“The two anti-fascists coming out,” he said in Japanese. “Put them in the trunk.” He put it away and turned back, pausing on the police tape and sign on Kiddo’s door. Facing Sally he put on a small smile. “I hope they didn’t bother you for too long.”
She inched out of the threshold. “I know one of them from school. His friends might come after me.”
“I assure you, they won’t.” Sally loosened up and wiped her cheeks. “Actually, I’m sorry to say I’m here for the same reason. I’m a professional rival of Volk and she’s gotten into a little trouble. And I have a feeling it has something to do with that,” he said pointing his thumb at Kiddo’s door.
“Two days ago, Enzo, Kiddo’s boyfriend, killed himself.”
Monty felt a hole opened in his chest. “Do you know why?”
“No! They loved each other so much. They were gonna have a baby and all this stuff and… and they had a fight and that’s when Enzo shot himself. It was so sad. I don’t understand why he’d do such a thing.”
He gave her time to get it together. “Did the cops or Volk say anything about why he did it?”
“Um… when they were questioning me, they asked me something about Enzo’s personal maintenance? If he was prone to motor-fits and Android stuff I didn’t understand. I told them I had no clue other than he always seemed fine.”
“So you have no reason to suspect he would willing kill himself or hurt her?”
“Of course not! They were happy and had plans for the future. I told the police he would never have put a hand on her or even consider suicide. It didn’t make any sense!”
Monty nodded slowly. “One more question, ma’am: did you hear the cops mention something called ‘kernel panic?’”
Sally paused. “Yes, actually. When the coroners were taking away Enzo, one of them said kernel panic and something about hacking. I was right here crying and giving my statement and they were talking about it like it was some joke.”
He stared unblinking at her frightened little face then reached for his wallet and passed her a wad of ten-twenties. “Have a good one.” Walking back to the stairs he pulled out his phone and spoke Japanese. “Everyone off the street. I’ll deal with Volk personally.”
Monty’s apartment was a hole in a high rise overlooking Lake Washington. It was an up-scale hole, but you wouldn’t think a guy with his Modded height could fit. He craned his head through the door and flipped on the light, the only light on in the apartment. Monty hung his jacket on the coat rack and made for the kitchen at the right.
He left it beside a red pea coat and grey flat cap.
The space between the breakfast bar and the main counters was about two-and-a-half people wide. Monty turned the light on when he entered, but the living room past the bar was still dark. Monty opened the fridge door and stood to the side so his body wouldn’t block the light into the living room.
“Hungry?” He looked over his shoulder to Kiddo seated in a chair in the corner. The light from the fridge made her sword edge glow. “I have plenty of left-over spaghetti,” he said taking about a glass container. “Meatballs included.”
Kiddo went back in shadow after he shut the door. “Don’t like spaghetti or meatballs.”
Before he fired up the microwave Monty laughed. “Jesus. Love playing gangster, but you just can’t commit.” While the container was being nuked he turned to Kiddo and leaned back against the counter, arms folded. “I went to school in New York, the only New York that matters. All the real gangsters are dead, but there’re plenty of Italians still around, and they play gangster a lot better than you flappers. Real accents, real food–“ The microwave went off, prompting Monty to get a pair of chopsticks from a drawer.
“I’m not interested in a critique–“ started Kiddo.
“They loved telling stories over meals,” he said digging into the spaghetti. “Even with food in their mouths they’re so loud and expressive… Good times.” Not a word was spoken for a long few seconds. “You got your redhead neighbor fingered by the Trotskys. I did what I could with the two soy-boys they sent to find you, but we both know they love to agitate and escalate.”
He could see the news didn’t sit well with her. “Another mess I have to clean up.”
“One of many,” said Monty before he chewed a meatball.
Kiddo leaned back with a sigh, wrapping one hand around the blade resting across her knees. “Would’ve been helpful if the Shogun told me in person. I’d ’ve left those guys alive.”
“The 10K in that envelope should’ve been a big enough hint, Volk.”
“If it’s a finger you want, you’ll have to settle for my toes… if you can get them.”
“You owe more than a digit or two, but after what I learned talking to your neighbor, I find it hard to blame you. Rage is useful if you can handle it, but you’ve been all over the map the past couple days.”
“Then give me a little direction, Monty. I’ll give you time to spill why you saw Enzo three months ago before I carry you out here without your fancy arms and legs.”
He shrugged. “I’ve been seeing him for two years. Came highly recommended by Junior and my guys saw you with him on a regular basis. It was a good deal: I was getting a top-notch gear-head and information on my rival. You were all he talked about… He was a good man–“
Kiddo threw out her right fist to the side and shattered a side table by her chair. At the same time she stood and faced Monty, her sword-hand and free-hand balled into shaking fists.
He didn’t even flinch. “I know what killed him–“
“So do I! A .38 slug through the skull–“
“No, Volk. I know. What killed him.”
Blade Runner, Directed by Ridley Scott
13 Assassins, Directed by Takashi Miike
Old Boy, Directed by Chan-wook Park
Ghost in the Shell, Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Metropolis, Directed by Rintaro
Yojimbo, Directed by Akira Kurosawa
A Touch of Evil, Directed by Orson Welles
Battle Angel Alita, By Yukito Kishiro
On the Waterfront, Directed by Elia Kazan
About the Author
C.T. is a Florida native and proud gun owner. He is a fan of all things military, comic books, and a self-proclaimed movie buff. In his off-time C.T. reviews movies on a blog no one reads and writes screenplays that will never get made, but enjoys it nonetheless. He hopes this book thing will actually pay off so he can do it forever.