Simon Cruz
Dec. 1st, Morning
It was a frigid morning by any standards. I found myself clinging to sleep, reluctant to get out of bed. It might have had something to do with my restlessness last night. I slept, but it didn’t feel much like it. Oh well. No point complaining, right?

My morning routine was unaltered. Suit. Gun. Badge. Bagel? No. Not this morning. Gotta watch those carbs, after all.

I found myself leaving for work at my usual time. The roads were unusually empty during my commute. I didn’t really pay it much attention, but it was seriously as if this wasn’t the middle of a work week, and a whole swath of the city decided to stay home for the day.

I pulled my car into my usual spot, #28, right next to Jenny’s spot. She was here already. Early. As usual.

I made my way into the precinct, fighting my way through the noise and the fury that is an early morning Chicago Police station. So, this was where all the traffic went, then.

The few fools that spend their night in the Hotel du Vin were being released and served their fines. I caught a glimpse of Jorge dragging in a couple of scrawny gang initiates, which Jorge affectionately refers to as ‘ganglets.’ I ducked into the hall, ran up the stairs at the end, and wound up brushing past Det. Lupino. He sneered at me as he headed out the way I came, seemingly in a bit of a rush. 倫雲.

I found myself confronted with an ever-growing pile of cases. The Mayor’s recent speeches about the crime rate falling have obviously not been grounded in reality. I flung my jacket over the back of my chair and slid behind my desk, opening the top, center drawer and producing my thinking pencil. It was a ridiculous habit I picked up as a kid, chewing on a #2 whenever I was trying to piece something together.

That, I might just have bitten this 萬俊 pencil right in half.

I looked around to see if I could catch a glimpse of Jenny, and I found her in a heated discussion with Lt. Percival. It looked rather one-sided, and Percy had his usual, smug, intellectually vacant expression on his face. Jenny caught my eye, gave an exasperated sigh, and headed in my direction. Best part of my day, seeing Jenny. I’d never tell her that. Unless I already did a long time ago, and I just can’t remember.

“Morning, Simon,” Jenny said, folding her arms and smiling wistfully. “I’d love to have just one morning without being harassed by that jerk to join this ‘special squad’ he’s putting together.”

“Percival, that 博克是啊,” I replied, glancing over to see the Lieutenant pretending to give a crap what the pretty new secretary was talking about. “What’s his deal? Special what, now? Special Division for the Furtherance of Advanced Morons? No. Not that. Horrible acronym.”

Jenny stifled a chuckle and leaned against my desk, releasing the tension of her crossed arms ever so slightly.

“I hate that guy, by the way,” I continued. “But you know that. Good morning, Jenny. Care to take most of these cases off my hands so I can go goof off for the rest of the day? Look at this crap. Seriously. Look at all the crappy assignments he keeps giving me.”

“Well,” Jenny said, “to be fair, you do antagonize him. And it’s not like you’ve got the looks I do to avoid most of the heavy lifting. I think he was trying to form the Civilian Reform Advance Patrol or something like that. Something to make sure the civvies are in line and following the laws.”

I laughed. “C.R.A.P. Nice.” I gave Percival the thumbs up and a big, cheesy smile across the room. Jenny had a hard time stifling a hard laugh, and Percy looked mildly peeved, turning to find some poor, luckless recruit to harass.

“There he goes, ruining another one,” I said. “Speaking of ruined, what was up Lupino’s ass? He ran out of here in quite a rush. Did they run out of his hair mousse or something?”

“I was tempted to replace it with jock cream, but I couldn’t be bothered to bribe a rookie to take it into the men’s lockers,” Jenny replied. “I think Lupino’s upset that Jorge keeps bringing in those ganglets. Keeps Lupino up in paperwork and prevents him from doing his ‘real work’.” She snorted.

“Heh, yeah, butt-snuggling with Percival. What a 冼家敏兰 hero.”

“Not everybody can be big damn heroes like you and Jorge,” Jenny replied. “He’s on the up and up on all the gang activity in town, and he’s got a bigger stack of files than you do!”

I squinted and grasped the bridge of my nose between my fingertips. It had to be obvious that I didn’t get much sleep, but Jenny was too classy to bring it up unless I invited her to first. “Yeah, well, he can lift them, so he can have them. One of my cases involves a few ganglets. I wonder if any of the ones Georgie-boy brought in would know anything about these guys.”

I started to move my hands across the top of my desk, sliding file folders in front of me, then closing my eyes, holding up my hand and pointing my finger downward. I moved my hand in a circular motion and plopped my finger down onto a random file.

“Winner. Let’s see…,” I said. Jenny was about to turn away to take care of her own casework, but I needed her. “Genevieve, you know… we’ve been friends for a while, right?”

I was trying to look like I was talking about the folder in my hand.

“It’s been too long for me to recount,” she admitted, turning to face me. “I still haven’t taken a bullet for you, though.”

“Heh… we’ll try to skip that part of the initiation,” I said, keeping the smile as I continued, trying to make it seem like we weren’t talking about something important. “But seriously… if I tell you something, can I count on you? To keep it between us, I mean.”

“What, you have the hots for Jorge? Hell, I wouldn’t even tell Jorge that. Your secrets are safe with me.”

“Haha, oh, he already knows that,” I said, glancing her way. She chuckled a bit and shook her head. “No, Jen… seriously.”

I leaned back in my chair and held the folder up, acting as if I was reading to Jenny from the file.

“Do you remember that bank job that was supposed to go down a few weeks back? The one Percival put me on stakeout duty for? Overnight stakeout duty. For a 麻将兰 bank.”

“Yeah, I remember that,” she said, nodding and playing along with my routine. That’s what I always loved about her. She wouldn’t question why I was pretending to read from a file. She just played along. No questions asked. “Probably to keep Lupino from robbing the place blind. Or to pin something on you.”

”...,” That hadn’t occured to me. Jenny got a concerned look in her eyes. “I don’t know, but all I do know is that the whole night seemed real… off, to me. You know? I got home last night and decided to go over my journal for that day, see if I maybe missed something, but those pages are gone. Someone tore them out of my 妈 journal, Jenny.”

“Wait, what? Someone got to your journal? I’ve never touched your journal.”

“I know, Jen,” I said, looking her straight in the eye. “I know I can trust you. That’s why I have to ask… you heard anything about that bank? Or that night? Or anything? Because I feel like I’m gonna go nuts unless I can figure out what’s up with… this 万且嗯 gut feeling I got.”

“That night was strange,” Jenny said in a hushed tone. “Max came home drunk like we used to be back at the Academy. He slept on the couch that night, and he was fine in the morning. It was all very strange.”

“Max?” That was not like Max. Not at all. “That is strange. I want to go check this case out. I need to hit up Jorge to see if anyone he’s pulled in, ganglet-wise, might have been in the area on that night. I know, you’re overloaded too, and Percy-boy’s gonna have my ass for working an unsanctioned case… but I gotta know. I just… I have to check this out. I’ll stop by the dealership and talk to Max, if you want.”

Jenny straightened up and nodded intently. “I’d appreciate it – boy’s been acting strange ever since then. Can’t understand him some nights, but he’s been getting better. Want me to see if I can’t get McClane to try and get Percy off your ass while you look into this bank job?”

“McClane,” I repeated. McClane’s good people. “Yeah. Maybe. That’s a good idea. See? I knew it was the smart move, talking to you about this.”

I smiled, slid back from my desk, and stood up. Whirling around to grab the jacket from the back of my chair, I stopped for a second. What the…

“Did you see something?”

“What, just now? Should I have?”

After a few seconds I shrugged. “Out of the shadows near the door to the interview room. Nobody’s in there, right?”

I could have sworn…

“Ah well, 博克是啊. It’s nothing, I guess.”

“Are you sure,” Jenny asked, taking a step toward me. “You’re starting to worry me. You aren’t going all Max on me, are you?”

“Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you, Mrs. Max. Hah,” I said. Sometimes, my sense of humor was a deflection, and this was one of those times. “Don’t get any ideas. I’m all Jorge’s. Hahaha.”

She smiled, but in her eyes, I could tell she was truly concerned for me.

“Speaking of, I am going to find him and see if he has any leads for me in ganglet central. If you could talk to McClane for me, that would be great. And if that 马大迪 Percival asks, tell him I quit, or whatever.”

“Right – if he gets nosey, I’ll tell him you’re helping Ethan out. That’ll keep him away. Percy won’t step within ten feet of Ethan. ...for that matter, neither will I if he hasn’t been bathing… or if I can help it.”

“My hero!” I smiled at her and bowed, then turned to walk out of the room, allowing my smile to fade as my eyes darted over to the Interview Room door, and the shadows cast beneath its surface. More shadows… more mysteries… just like in the dreams. What the hell is the matter with me?

“And yeah,” I said as I neared the door into the hallway, “Ethan’s the last place Percy would look for me. But if Ethan asks you, don’t tell him anything I just said. That idiot’s too X-Files for my tastes. Later, kiddo! Stay alive, today.”

She laughed and walked off. A quick listen around the police station gave me all I needed to find Jorge: a stream of offensive sounding gibberish in hoodspeak mixed with latin. It threw off the entire flow of the work force when Jorge bagged a French thug – nobody knew what to do without the constant tirade of poor spanish.

I smirked at the thought and sauntered into the area where Jorge was wrangling ganglets, like a good ganglet-wrangler. I saw Jorge, standing tall with a ganglet locked in one arm, struggling to escape, while the other was being processed. There were other officers around, but only the rookies were suprised at Jorge’s behavior. Jorge looked up as I enterred, delivering a sound thump with his elbow to the back of the thug’s neck, knocking him out cold, his body collapsing to the floor. Jorge strode across the floor to greet me with a hearty handshake.

“Simon, it’s too early in the morning for you to be by to harass the gang-bangers! Has your day been so bad already?”

“Can’t I just have missed the sweet sound of whiny little STREET POSERS PRETENDING THEY’RE TOUGH TO IMPRESS THEIR UGLY WOMEN?” I sat back and listened to their reaction with a smile.

The rookie booking in the latest ganglet almost lost control, but finally the swearing abated. The rookie shot me a glare, but then retracted it quickly.

“You’re welcome, Jorge. You can thank me by doing me a favor, when you get a chance.”

“For you, my friend? Anything,” he replied, his eyes filling with that fire, the same fire I saw every time he was about to beat the hell out of me. “Especially if it’s kicking your ass in the ring again! Many times over will I do you that favor!”

“Yeah, that’s what I keep telling my chiropractor,” I said. He smiled as he turned his attention to the booking forms in front of him. “No, buddy, this involves less violence than you’re gonna like. At least, it should. You’re pretty inventive. You’ll probably figure out a way to integrate moderate levels of police brutality.”

He looked back up at me, a little impatiently.

“I need to know if any of your little playpals here were in the Bucktown area on August the 9th. Specifically, around West Belden. Around midnight or so.”

“That’s an awfully specific question you have there, Simon. Did something bad go down?”

“You know Percival, man. Every T-dotted and every I crossed.”

“Except all the lines are crooked,” he said. He was right. Percy was a bad, bad cop. “Yeah, I can take a look around – these little putas have got to have seen something. Any hints as to what I’m looking for?”

“Just want to know if they saw anything weird that night. Saw, heard, whatever. I’m trying to corroborate a really vague statement about some strange activity near the Cafe Bolero.”

“I see, chief. I’ll put the hurt on until someone squeals. These ones are like rats – everywhere, and covered with disease, and found on sinking ships, eating all of your grain… I think that one got away from me a bit…”

“I appreciate it, Georgy,” I said, clapping him on the back. “I’m heading out, but if you find anything out, you can reach me on my cell. I’ll come back right away if it’s juicy. So… you know… look for juice, or whatever.”

I started to walk away, but quickly turned back around. “Oh, and later? You. Me. The Gym. Bruises. Embarrassment. Sound good?”

“Just consider me in an elementary school at snack time looking for a box of liquid fruit, then. I look forward to teaching you another lesson about keeping a tighter guard on your left. I swear, you make it easy, like giving candy to a baby.”


“Yeah… good one, buddy! See you then!” I said, spinning around to leave, then stopping at the last second and leaning back in. “The Cobras are WEAK!” Then, I left. I antagonized the criminals some more, ensuring Jorge would have ample justification to practice his “interrogation” skills. While I might come to regret this later, it certainly felt good at the time.


The Dark Queen of the West RaseCidraen gaaran