Photos reinterpreted and edited by: Terrance Phillips
Hello dear reader, my name is Alexander Rafuls. Growing up as a child, I was a huge fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ©. Every Saturday, I would wake up and watch the television show, and I played the video games so much that I could probably beat them using muscle memory alone. My uncle even dressed up as a Ninja Turtle for my birthday, and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t my favorite birthday of all time. So what does this have to do with this story? Well, a lot actually. See, my favorite character growing up was Raphael, the “cool but rude” turtle who always had some form of wisecrack for his enemies. Through the flows of time, Raphael evolved from “cool but rude” to the tough hotheaded badass with the Brooklyn accent. When I saw the first live action movie, I was totally shocked at how Raphael had changed, and yet I loved it. He was tough, he was a loner and he had more passion than any of the other turtles combined. Sure, his lack of patience put the turtles in some compromising positions and he even butted heads with Leonardo once or twice, but he redeemed himself by being the turtle willing to do anything to protect his brothers. I grew to love his character and soon, a pattern evolved wherein I loved every badass character in everything.
The streets were beginning to empty as I left the dinner. Soon, all that would be left would be the street cleanup crew, the bar hoppers, the degenerates, the desperate and lonely, the murderous, the insane; my kind of people. I hadn’t sat in my car for five seconds when my phone rang off. A text from Mary:
Yamaguchi, unlike Limbent, was a very capable officer. She came up to my shoulders and had the slender figure of a former gymnast. Her dark green eyes complimented her serious face. Why she got a job working with these pigs and not a modeling gig, I’ll never now. “The only thing I could find was a demarked wall. Seems the perp left us a message,” she said in a serious voice. “Also, why haven’t you called me?” she asked inquisitively. She kissed me on the cheek when we were out of view. “Sorry, I’ve been busy,” I told her, lying. “Busy? Then what’s this I hear about you and the new receptionist?” she pressed on. “Who? Mary? Nothing,” also a lie. She followed it up with a long “sure.” I liked Yamaguchi, she was sexy and exciting, but I knew we would never work. We’d probably drive each other up the wall. Mary was more my speed, my type of woman. I tried to ease the tension. “Well, I’m glad to see that at least one competent cop is out here,” I said, hoping it worked. It did. “Yeah, Limbent can be such a drag. Always on about his wife this, his wife that.” “Did you know that half of the force has already fucked his wife?” I said with a laugh. “Hell, even I fucked his wife,” she said with a smile. I must have given her a look of surprise, because she followed up with “Christmas party two years ago. She’s got a nice ass for a mousy bookworm.” I gave her a sly grin. “Last summer at the team bonding picnic. You beat me to it,” I replied. We both laughed maliciously. Limbent, what a shmuck.
It’s Been a Rough Day
fan-fucking-tastic,” shouted Maldonado. “What the hell am I supposed to tell the superiors? What will they think when they find out that this maniac has outsmarted us again?” he yelled frantically. I felt like crap. Maldonado marched right up to me until his face was an inch away from mine. “You listen here, Ace. If you don’t have anything on this guy by the end of the week, consider your ass canned,” he threatened. “But sir, it’s already Thursday,” interjected Limbent. Maldonado gave him an angry glare and Limbent quietly retracted his statement. “You got until the end of the week,” Maldonado repeated as he slammed the door. Three days until I got the axe. Great. I needed a smoke break.
The rest of the day was full of busybody work that got us nowhere. We checked a few of the local areas but found nothing. I interviewed a few people, but nothing concrete. One man said that he heard the crash around four in the morning but that the driver was already gone by the time he got there. He was hesitant to comply; I had to coerce the information out of him. Miccosukee town had that effect. Mess with the wrong people and you could wind up as chunks of meat in someone’s dumpster. The woman who phoned it in said she saw a male walk away from the car with a large briefcase. Besides the fact that the male was wearing a suit and was African American, she could not give any other features. I believed her since she could be one hundred years old. Lunch, some more house searches, and scarce forensic evidence; we found no trace of where the mystery man went with Yamaguchi.
The rapid movement of the duffle bag was making her nauseous. Yamaguchi struggled again but it only got her another punch. She wondered if she would be stuck there forever, but soon the man carrying the duffle bag put her down and opened it, the bright light blinding her.
...and missed the other as the pursuer on the left reached our tables. Knowing I was dead if I stayed still, I quickly jumped backwards and dropped on the floor, shooting him upside down.
“You’re not going to remove those ridiculous pictures?” I asked Henry as I bit into a slice of meat lover’s pizza from Joe’s Pizzeria. I winced in disgust. The sausage tasted like they were ripped off from a tire. “They’re portraits, not pictures,” Henry said with a mouth full of food. “My husband might be dead, but his memory is not,” he finished before swallowing. “I keep them to remind myself of the good times we had.” “How sentimental you are,” I said sarcastically, staring at the glaring reminders of the hell we had endured. It has been three weeks since the cruise ship incident and all the excitement caused by the night vulture case seemed to die down around the office. An intense week and a half long search turned out to be fruitless. Maldonado was forced to give up the wild goose chase and put his people into more productive endeavors, leaving the case closed with a big question mark at the end. Meanwhile, I had been sitting in the hospital, slowly recovering. I didn’t receive one single word from Persephone and soon even I was starting to wonder if there was any point of continuing the search for the night vulture. When I was finally deemed ready to leave, Henry graciously took me in as his roommate since my place was still a crime scene. Soon, everyone was back to the same routines with nothing but small scars and broken hearts to remind us of the past.
Henry’s apartment was a two bedroom, one bathroom with a small living room and a nice kitchen. It took some time getting used to it all: taking my shoes off so that I wouldn’t stain the wooden floor, not putting the air conditioning above seventy degrees, not recording over his favorite shows. It took some time, but I learned every little idiosyncrasy. Soon, Henry didn’t need to correct my actions anymore. It felt like college all over again. “Hey, I’m going by the office to do a few things quick. You need anything?” I asked him the next night while I fixed my tie. “Naw, I’m good man. Thanks,” he said over the perky voice of the TV news anchor. I found my keys next to the little Buddha statue on the dresser and took off for the office. When I got there, the office was mostly empty. Percy, one of the new officers, was typing a report away in the corner. “Long night, P?” I asked him as I walked by. “You know it,” he said after spitting the toothpick from his mouth. I rounded the corner and entered my office. Sitting in my office chairs were agents Morales and Colt from the CIA. “Well, you took your sweet ass time,” said Colt, a fortysomething year old black man with no hair and freckles under his eyes. He wore a black pinstripe suit with a violet tie and a white dress shirt. I walked up to him and shook his hand. “Sorry I’m late, sir,” I said politely even though I was only five minutes late. I also shook Morales slender hand. Unlike Colt, she did not dress flashy. Morales was about my age with messy blonde hair tied up in a bun and designer glasses covering her light brown eyes. She wore a conservative dress shirt and a pants suit that actually complimented her figure quite nicely. Ever since the night vulture incident had been reported to the East American government officials, these two had been hanging around the office trying to squeeze all the information that they could. Tonight, it was my turn to be squeezed for some fresh pulp again.
I shouted, “ I did not kill those girls and I did not blow up that ship. One of the victims was the woman I loved...” “Probably a front” Morales said to Colt. “…And why would I want to blow up a cruise ship? Why would I report it? After all this, how the hell could you suspect me?” I ranted angrily. Agent Colt stood up from his chair and stared into my eyes harshly. “Listen, Detective Ace. We’re on to you. This whole case smells of bullshit. You’re the only connection between every crime scene and frankly, I’m starting to think you made up a pretty tale to tell your coworkers. People like you are eventually revealed for the lying scumbags that they really are. You may have fooled this office, but not us.” “Get the fuck out of here right now,” I shouted at them. It took all my energy not to clock him in the face. Colt smiled cockily as he exited the room with Morales. I threw a glass at the floor in rage. The sound of it shattering drew Percy to my door. “Hey, are you alright?” he asked nicely. “Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry,” I said through gritted teeth.
The feeling of anger carried on into the next day while I was working on my new case. It was a simple “husband murdered wife, husband fled to mother’s house, husband tries to beat your face in with a baseball bat, husband is sent to jail for a long time” case.
Agent Colt’s words about Maldonado being dead buzzed in my head; I wondered where Persephone was now and if she knew anything about this. I pulled into the parking lot of Henry’s apartment complex. It was already almost midnight and I was dead tired. Henry was already asleep when I entered but I wasn’t ready to go to bed just yet. I pulled a cold beer out of the fridge and turned on the TV. It was on Henry’s favorite news channel. The reporter babbled on about how the ambassador of West America, Jack Russell Jackson, was going to tour East American states in a “diplomatic rejuvenation of unity” tour. He was starting out in New York and ending his tour in Atlanta. “Nobody takes us seriously anymore,” I mumbled to myself. I watched as they showed a montage of his recent stops. “Why do you have that damn thing so loud,” muttered Henry as he came into the living room rubbing his eyes. He was wearing only a tight pair of tighty whities. He looked like a model with his tight six pack abs. “Can you believe this dick? Too good for New Miami,” I told him as I turned off the TV. Henry pulled a beer out of the fridge. “Actually, Mad ol’ Jack is coming down to New Miami. He just added us today. Apparently, his mind was changed. He’ll be here by the end of the week,” Henry replied. “Oh yeah, well that’s swell,” I said sarcastically.
Henry went back to bed. I lied down on the couch and looked at Alonso’s pictures hanging on the wall. The first was that portrait of George de La Marquisade that he had revealed so long ago. I didn’t like Marquisade. I thought he was a joke; A rich pretty boy cult of personality who has a position of power and doesn’t know what to do with it. Not like Mad Jack, who was a war veteran and a scholar from a modest upbringing. Mad Jack was a much better ambassador. But then again, who cares? Politics is bullshit, I thought to myself. Politics. I threw my beer can at the picture and it fell down to the floor with a thud. Great, now I have to pick this stupid picture up. I should just throw it away, I thought as I got up from the couch. That’s when I noticed something strange. Tucked in a corner behind the picture was a manila envelope. “What the hell?” I muttered to myself. I opened it to find some kind of small writing pad. “Interesting,” I said I flipped through the pages. The first few pages were mundane: grocery lists, memos, work schedules. Alonso had a job? I wondered as I continued flipping. Then one page caught my eye. It was a list of names, lines crossing out most of them. The only name on the list not crossed out was Persephone. I also recognized Mary’s name a few spaces above hers, crossed out. My eyes widened. It was a list of all the previous night vulture victims. The heading at the top was Former NV Associates.
“Henry, wake up,” I shouted as I bust through his room excitedly. Henry jumped up in his bed. “Holy shit, man. What the hell is wrong with you?” he screamed at me. “Henry, Henry, how long has Alonso had that picture?” I asked vigorously. Henry rubbed his eyes. “I don’t know. A few months maybe?” he replied groggily. “Take a look at what I just found,” I said as I handed him the note pad. I explained its contents as I watched Henry’s eyes grow with each turning page. “I finally figured out what the Night Vulture is going to do,” I said with content. Henry looked at me in anticipation. “He’s going to kill Jack Russell Jackson and try to reignite the War of the Americas” “Holy crap,” responded Henry. “We gotta get this to the CIA people quick.” “Already on it,” I said as I pulled up my cell phone. I dialed the number that they had given all of us. “This is agent Colt, what do you want?” he grumbled into the phone. I wish I could see his stupid face now without its cocky grin.
Just as the planner had said, Jack Russell had arrived in New Miami a few days later. I was assigned to security detail and I waivered outside his door with three or four swat officers and agent Colt. Jack Russell came into the building around midday and I finally got to meet the man. Everything about him, including his presence, was powerful. He was a tall man, around six foot three inches, and he had the physique of a man who used to work out but stopped a while ago. Although his hair was slowly turning white, he looked incredible for a man who was in his mid-fifties. He gave me a nice firm handshake and said, “Keep up the good work, young man. The force needs more people like you.” “Thank you sir,” I replied proudly. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see agent Colt grumbling to himself. “Now if you gentleman don’t mind, I will be meeting the mayor soon and I don’t want to be late for my trip to the beach.” We all chuckled politely. He closed the door behind him and for forty-five minutes, nobody said a word. It was actually pretty boring.
After another hour of security detail, I finally needed a bathroom break. “Hey guys, I’ll be right back. Just gotta take a leak,” I told them as I walked to the bathroom down the long hall. “I’ll join you,” said agent Colt. We walked together in silence until we entered the bathroom. “Don’t think that this changes anything detective. I’m still on to you,” he said threateningly. “What’s you deal, Colt?” I responded as I pulled my zipper down. “How the hell can you still blame me? Do you need a scapegoat? Do I make you look bad?” I asked sarcastically. “Fuck you, Detective,” was all he could respond. I had just finished my business when I suddenly heard screaming outside. “Hey what the fuck are you doing?” resonated in the bathroom walls, followed by gunshots. Colt and I looked at each other in shock. We zipped up quickly and ran back to the hallway, but it was covered in thick smoke. “Fuck, smoke grenades,” said Colt as he pulled out a pistol. I did likewise. “We need to get to the ambassador,” he said. Gunshots ricocheted all around us as we used the walls to feel our way back to the ambassador’s office. A swat man pointed his shotgun at us. “Wait don’t shoot,” Colt and I shouted in unison. “Get in quick. They’re all over the place,” said the swat officer. We ran into the office. “What the hell is going on?” said Jack Russell, who was hiding behind one of the twin sofas. “Sir, it seems that the assailants came in disguised as our same swat gear. We let our guard down for a second. One of them dropped a smoke bomb. They shot down my two partners,” said the swat officer. We joined Jack Russell behind the couch. “How many of them are there?” I asked. “I have no idea,” said the swat officer. “What the fuck are we going to do now then?” I asked impatiently. “I don’t think these guys are gonna let up,” said the swat officer. The doors blasted open as shots from a machine gun flew all around us, shattering the windows behind us. We returned fire. “We need to get out of here. They’re going to surround us if we stay,” screamed agent Colt. “Then there’s only one thing we can do gentleman,” said Jack Russell as he pulled out a pistol hidden in his sock.