Night Vulture 

Written By: Alexander Rafuls
Photos reinterpreted and edited by: Terrance Phillips
Why I Chose Noir

     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.

     As I grew older and I took philosophy courses and intense English classes, I realized that my obsession was not simply with the “badass persona,” although that was the stepping-­‐stone; my obsession was actually with the flawed hero. It was the reason I preferred heroes like Batman and Wolverine to Superman. People who were human, made mistakes and even sometimes did the wrong thing. Sure, they were the heroes, but sometimes they did acts even worse than the villains: kill, steal, self-­‐gratification. This renaissance of flawed heroes led me to the ultimate archetype, the hard-­‐boiled detective. Entering the world of noir, I watched Sam Spade kiss the wife of his freshly murdered partner and Phillip Marlowe take a swig of prohibition era booze. In other words, I fell in love with the dark, gritty reality of the world of noir. Nowadays, I devour every page of my “Big Book of the Black Mask” ©, the one time dominating periodical for all things noir and pulp. Reading every short story, it became my dream to write noir tales as great as Hammett or Chandler. This first story, which I have entitled “The Night Vulture,” will be my first attempt and, if all else, I hope it can give you a key into the wonderful world of noir style writing. Enjoy!

Part One: 
Where Do We Go From Here?

     “ New Year!” screamed the energetic crowd. The balllit up, confetti poured from the sky, couples kissed, and everyone was jovial and dancing. The screams and blaring music were slightly muffled by the large glass window, but I could still barely hear what Lieutenant Maldonado was saying inches in front of me. He was stuffing a taco into his mouth without any regard for cleaning his face. He was a muscular man in his early fifties, a great grey mane on the top of his head to match the thick mustache covering a third of his face, which was now covered in meat sauce. He looked like Albert Einstein and Richard Gere’s secret Hispanic love child. “Do you understand, Ace?” he asked, staring at me piercingly with his bright blue eyes. I nodded, but I wasn’t really listening. It wasn’t the first time he’s chewed me out. He finished his taco in two bites and chugged his soda, put on his jacket, and left money for the waiter. “Now, get out there and try not to kill anybody this time,” he said grumpily in his thick Spanish accent, licking his greasy fingers as he stormed out. “Happy New Year to you too, boss,” I said, but I wasn’t sure if he heard me. I finished my cheap coffee-­‐water, paid, and walked out. Happy New Year, indeed.

     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:

     The new secretary was becoming all too familiar with me if she was texting me rather than using the intercom. As I wondered about what awaited me, I started the car and drove through the streets of New Miami. Honestly, it wasn’t that different from the old one. The Cuban-­‐East American war may have killed a lot of people, but these buildings have withstood so many hurricanes. They still looked as old and decrepit as they ever have, but at least they stood. Stood long enough for some drunk forty something to piss all over their walls. I put on my siren to scare him. I hope his jeans are covered in piss now.

     St. Nicholas church was an old recently closed building on 17th and Ogdawala Ave. The police lights were already shining and the tape stretched for an entire block. I walked up to the closest officer, a young kiss-­‐ass named Limbent, and asked him to show me the crime scene. Like an overexcited dog, he lead me up the old stone steps and down the aisle. Photographers were already there snapping away at the victim. “I can’t remember the last time I was in here,” I told him as we approached. “Haven’t you ever been married, sir?” he asked like an excited pre-­‐teen. He was in serious need of a slap. “Naw,” I brushed the question off.“Ever been in love, sir?” he continued, sarcastically making googly eyes. “Once or twice. This the only body?” I asked in front of the victim. “Only one we’ve seen so far. Yamaguchi is looking for anything else.” I bent down to look at her. Judging from the body, shewas about mid to late 20s. I say body because whoever murdered her ripped off her entire head.

     It was a clean cut, straight through the bone. “Not too many people can pull that off,” chuckled Officer Limbent. “Maybe my wife when I screw up.” What a shmuck. I ignored him and continued to look at her body. Besides a loose fitting dress that left nothing to the imagination, the girl had no other possessions on her person. I didn’t find any other marks on her limbs or body, but the rest of the analysis was better left off to the lab boys. “Well, not much to go on,” I said, immediately regretting opening another chance for Limbent to speak. “Well, we’ll keep looking sir. I’m sure we’ll find something. Any chance I have, I’ll make sure we...” “Geez, do you ever shut up?” I shouted at him, my voice reflecting off the old church walls. His face went white with a look of shock, and for a second I enjoyed watching him tremble. “Sorry, it’s been a rough night,” I said with a hint of fatigue. As I rubbed my eyes, I heard a door open in the back. “Detective, come here,” shouted officer Yamaguchi. Limbent put on a face of determination and was prepared to follow me. “No, you stay here and watch the body,” I told him as walked off. He looked slightly upset, but stayed put.

     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. 

     "Anyways, here it is,” she said, pointing at the wall. The perp had left a graffiti message on the side of the wall. All it said was NIGHT VULTURE in hastily written neon green letters. “I couldn’t find any cans, prints, anything. This guy was pro,” she informed me. I stared at the words for a second; an ominous sign of things to come? Another villain who wanted to play cat and mouse? Was this his calling sign? All I knew is that I now had a new pain in the ass to deal with. Probably some jerk with an ego problem or some sort of daddy issue. I went back to professional mode. “Alright, let’s see what we can get on this guy,” I started.

Happy New Year, indeed. 


Part Two:
It’s Been a Rough Day

     When I returned to my apartment, the sun was already beginning to peak out from beneath the drapes. I tried to be as silent as possible, but the creaky wooden floor gave me away. Mary awoke with a groan. “What time is it?” she asked drowsily. “Almost six thirty,” I whispered. “Sorry, baby, Maldonado was being hard on me again. He gave me an extra shift as punishment.” She groaned and dove her head into the pillow. “Whatever,” she replied as she yawned. I got ready for bed and fell asleep intending to get up in two hours. I woke up at two in the afternoon. Mary was kind enough to leave me a pot of coffee that had long since been cold and a couple of donuts. I ate them quickly, dressed up and ran to my car. I was already five hours late.

      As I pulled into the office, some ragged bum on a wooden box was shouting something in Spanish. I could make out a few words: East Americans, atrocity, homeland, some curse words. Most of the people just walked by and ignored him, but my buddy Henry Laurentson watched him as he leaned on a wall nearby. “Don’t tell me you’re actually listening to this crap?” I asked him with a laugh. “Are you kidding me?” he responded in kind amidst the bum’s cursing.” This guy’s a riot. He really thinks this land belongs to the Cubans.  Way better than television.” Henry was a detective like me, working mostly in immigration and disappearance cases. He was only in his late twenties, with smooth chocolate skin, a fashionable vest-pinstriped pants combo, and most envious of all, the nicest pair of black and white self-tying Florsheims that money could buy. His goatee was a little too thin, but his thick black nearly pompadour-like hair more than made up for it. Unlike me, he was liked by everyone in the department and his ambition helped him rise the ranks quickly. He was, for all intents and purposes, my polar opposite. “He’s wrong. We’re owned by the Chinese,” I told him as we heartily shook hands and laughed. “You sure took your sweet ass time getting over here,” he told me. “I told Maldonado that you had to help with a case.” “You’re a saint, you know that. A damn saint,” I shouted to him as I walked towards the door. “Just buy me lunch,” he shouted back over the bum’s screeching.

     As I walked through the door, my eyes caught Mary. She was on the phone, but she gave me one of her quick glorious smiles and I lit up like an accidental fire in a fireworks factory. The feeling was short-lived. Maldonado shouted “Detective Ace, get in here right now” angrily like one of those old sitcom bosses. I entered his cluttered office. Pictures of his ex-wife and kids hung on the wall next to certificates and plaques. On the table were some files and a nearly overflowing ashtray. “Where the hell were you?” He asked angrily. I tried to think of something quick; something that Henry had worked on recently. “I was, um, helping with the Oldiva case,” I responded quickly. “Oh? The Oldiva case, huh?” he responded, almost reaching critical mass. “You mean the Oldiva case that was closed two days ago?” Just my luck they finish a case on time. “Yes sir. They needed some patching up so I helped them,” I responded unconvincingly. “ Detective Ace, I am so tired of listening to your bull.  Everyday is the same…” I’ll spare you the five minutes of chastising diatribe, but I was happy to get out of there with just a slap on the wrist this time. As I walked towards my department, Julia, another one of the secretaries, told me that a package was waiting for me in the office.

      Before I went to the office, however, I walked over to the adjacent lab to see where we stood on my victim. Lee Tzanck was in there listening to his Ipod blaring. It sounded like jazz. He tapped his fingers on his thigh with the rhythm. I waved my hand in front of him to get his attention. “Hello, anyone home?” I asked sarcastically. He took off the ear buds and hopped of the table he was sitting on. “Yo, sorry, it’s just a slow day today,” he responded while chewing his gum. He slicked his long mullet with a comb he took from his pocket and walked over to his computer to pull up the results of our murder scene. “Well, I’m sorry to say this, but you’re SOL, my friend.” “What do you mean?” I responded incredulously. “We weren’t able to find anything on the perp. No hair, no fingertips, nothing. The dame is named Lorena Marchazo, freshly arrived from Cuba although she has some family scattered in West America. As such, we don’t have much. I put a file with her stats on your desk.” “Thanks, Lee,” I said in disappointment. “No prob,” he replied as he popped his ear buds back in.  Looks like this wasn’t going to be some open and shut case after all.

      The package waiting for me in my office was small; no bigger than a baseball. It had no return address and the address was written in type. Lacking the patience to take it to get x-rayed, I opened it knowing fully well that it could have been a bomb or some chemical agent or maybe even a poisonous spider. It was just a single slip of paper rolled like a parchment. I checked to see if there was anything else. Nothing. The parchment smelled of gasoline, probably to hide fingerprints. I read it: 34-27-11. NV. Shivers crawled down my spine as I realized that the numbers were the numbers to the safe in my apartment, numbers that nobody but myself would know. I had some cash, an extra badge and some legal documents in there, but nothing that was irreplaceable. Still, the bastard had been in my house. Even if a person knew the combination, they would have to know that it was hidden under a floorboard in my closet. This guy calling himself the Night Vulture could have been watching me sleep last night, or even worse, he could have stolen my good liquor.

     Later that evening, Mary, Henry, his husband known as “Alonso the Artist,” and I went to eat at the nearby pizzeria known jokingly by the force as “Joe’s Pizza-shit.” Everyone gave him a hard time about his terrible cooking skills, but he always gave us discounts and Joe himself was a good guy. He was a veteran of both the War of the Americas and the Cuban-East American war. All over his restaurant stood pictures of him proudly posing with a group of flyboys and his old love, “Death Claw,” his T-148 electric fighter plane. Ask him about it and he’d tell you how the Death Claw was famous for “never letting anyone escape alive once it had you in his grasp.” I had decided not to tell Mary about the letter and ate pizza silently as Alonso the artist talked about his new painting. He never made any money off of his paintings, but somehow he found a way to dress up in the most ridiculously flamboyant and expensive clothing. He probably did it to draw attention away from his pale almost albino skin. He was tall, with thin dreads and big sunglasses that hid his eyes. What Henry ever saw in him, I’ll never know, but Alonso did love him. “It’s a new absurdist painting of George de la Marquisade, the new ambassador of East America,” he was saying in the smug voice that all artists use.

       "Absurdism is the new art form that is taking the country by storm, wouldn’t you say Mr. Ace?” he asked as he looked in my direction. “Huh? Sure,” I replied absent-mindedly. I couldn’t get that letter out of my thoughts. I tried to remember anything in my apartment that had seemed out of place, but I couldn’t. Alonso shook his head. “How did we ever let anyone so uncultured be our best man?” he sighed jokingly. Mary laughed while Henry defended my honor. I tried to pay attention, but phone rang and I was forced to go outside to take the call.

            The number was one I had never seen before but that’s common in the force. Everyone was always calling you from some random telephone. Still, after today’s scare, I was nervous. “Yes, what is it?” I said irritably. “Hello sir.” It was Limbent. “What do you want?” I asked impatiently. “Well sir, there’s been another one. Another murder by this Night Vulture fella,” he responded. He gave me the address: The Church of the Blessed Rose, not too far from New Ocean Drive.  Writing it down, I quickly ran back in to apologize to everyone for the sudden exit and ran to my car. The drive was about thirty minutes but I made it there in fifteen. As I entered the church, this all too familiar feeling of dejavu crept over me.  Limbent was all business this time. “Sir, it’s the same as last time. Head is missing just like the last one. The boys are looking but haven’t found anything yet.” I patted him on the back. He had done a good job. “Thanks Limbent, I’ll get right on it,” I told him as I walked to the body.

     As Limbent had said, the head was cut clean off. This new victim was Black and wore the clothes typical of a religious woman: a long skirt, gloves and a suit top which was open from initial inspection. The words Night Vulture were written on her abdomen in sharpie. I guess the perp had seen the obtuseness of spray-painting a huge message and opted for the quick deposit. “Who else is here, Limbent?” I asked. “Well, sir, there’s Ignacio, Burvont, Cheron and myself,” he replied. Yamaguchi wasn’t here sadly, but all of them were capable cops, especially Burvont who has saved so many of our backs. I always thought he was way overdue for a promotion, but he loved where he was at and never took one. I walked around to see if there was anything else. Nothing. This case was getting worse by the day and if the public heard about it, we would be in deep trouble. Maldonado would have my ass on a platter if I didn’t get something.  We looked desperately for any clues for about two and a half hours. Nothing still, so I gave up. I had just walked to my car hopelessly when I noticed something on the concrete floor. It was a few blotches of blood. I got on my knees and took a closer look. They were fresh. My face beamed at the lucky break and I quickly called the boys over. They couldn’t believe it. We took a few samples with triumphant faces. This was it. This was the link that would help us find the killer.  Finally, we had somewhere to go. What a string of luck. After all the meticulous planning that this guy had done, how could he have made such a stupid mistake? The boys congratulated me and I drove straight to the lab to get it analyzed.

            The test results didn’t come in until the next day. When I entered headquarters the following day, Lee was already waiting for me by the entrance with a concerned look. “Hey, you look like you’ve been busy. So do we got this guy or what?”  I asked proudly. He looked toward the floor. “We need to talk in private, Ace,” he said solemnly. My feelings of pride washed away instantly.  I wondered what could have gone wrong as I followed him into the lab. We went into one of the supply rooms. Lee was playing with his fingers nervously. “The results came in and there were two different samples detected,” he started. “Go on,” I told him. “The first sample is definitely of our victim, Ms. Lorenza Azida. But the second sample,” he paused and sighed sadly “The second sample belongs to Mary, the receptionist.”


Part Three:
I Hope You Didn’t Love Her

           “Come again?” I asked him incredulously. “The blood belongs to Mary Millard, the new receptionist,” he repeated. I was speechless. It felt like a champion boxer had just sucker punched me in the gut and took my wind out. “And you’re sure of this?” I asked once more, refusing to believe it. “Yep, it was definitely her blood,” Lee sadly stated. “I need a second to process this. Let me go grab a coffee and I’ll be right back. Don’t do anything until I instruct you to do so,” I told him as I walked out the door. My jittery hands were barely able to turn the knob. As I walked out, Henry saw me. “Hey buddy, you look like you’ve seen a ghost,” he said jokingly. “Yeah, something like that,” I replied glumly. “I need a minute, man. Sorry,” I told him as I rushed by. I walked into the break room. It was completely empty and I was glad it was. I regained my composure. On the table stood a plastic bowl filled with baby carrots and celery sticks. So much for the stereotypical donuts of yore, I thought. I stood over the pot of coffee as I watched it fill up, thinking to myself. Could it be that Mary, the woman I’ve been seeing, the woman who has greeted me each morning…could it be that she was the Night Vulture? It couldn’t be true. It just couldn’t be. All of a sudden, two arms wrapped around me from behind; “Hello handsome,” whispered Mary.  Chills crawled down my spine. I turned around and faced her.

          “Hi-, hi-, hi g-g-gorgeous,” I muttered nervously. Her beautiful hazel eyes focused into mine.  “Are we still on for tonight?” she asked me in a sultry voice. I looked around to see if anyone was watching through the windows. Nobody. She could kill me right now. “Um, actually, Maldonado gave me another shift. I can’t make it tonight,” I lied, regaining my composure. She looked disappointed. “Alright, darling. I’ll be waiting at home for you,” she said, planting a quick kiss before she walked away. She turned back to me when she reached the door. “Try not to come home too late.” She left and once again I was alone to my thoughts. I drank my coffee and walked back over to the lab. Lee was pacing frantically back and forth. “There you are!” he shouted exasperatedly. “What are we gonna do, man? What are we gonna do? I saw her exit the break room. The killer is down the hall from us. She could strike again. She could be trying to kill one of us.” “Calm down, Lee,” I said forcefully. He stopped pacing and looked at me nervously. I rubbed my brow. “Listen, this is what we’ll do,” I started. “ I will tail Mary for the day and see where she goes. Don’t say anything until I tell you to, but have a phone handy. The blood may point to her, but we have no way of knowing it was her, ok? I mean, I doubt Mary could drag a human body and cut it’s head off so forcefully.” Lee nodded in agreement. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Stay close and wait for me to report anything unusual. If there is any proof, even the tiniest shred, then we bag her,” I finished. “Alright,” Lee responded with a little more optimism. We exchanged numbers and I waited until Mary left.

          The tail proved to be fruitless. She went to the supermarket, the nail salon, and a department store before finally returning back to my place.  I waited for a few hours but she didn’t go anywhere. I returned to headquarters for the case review. Maldonado, Burvont, Limbent, Lee and Yamaguchi were already sitting in the office conversing when I came here. “Well, if it isn’t the man of the hour,” shouted Burvont sarcastically. Limbent and Yamaguchi both smiled while Maldonado had his eternal scorn.  I took a seat without saying a word. “Ok, you dipshits, let’s hear what you got,” Maldonado started unenthusiastically. All eyes were on me. I cleared my throat. I told him about last night and that our only clue was the blood stains found outside. “After a lab analysis, there were,” I hesitated, “…was one blood sample detected and that was of the victim, sir.” Everyone looked downtrodden believing that our biggest clue was for naught.  Lee looked away and said nothing. There was a minute of just silence before Maldonado blew up.  "Well, that's just
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 wind was nice and cool outside. I sat on a park bench across the street from the police station. A group of kids were playing hide and seek amongst the trees around me while their parents watched. The sun was dipping into the horizon and everyone was getting ready to leave.  I took a big puff and watched the smoke trail into the sky.  Somewhere on the other side of the park, some old man was playing John Coltrane’s “Naima” on his saxophone. He stood next to a new statue of Horace Stillman, the inventor of the electric car. The statue was of his portly body, wearing a Greek robe in a semi-serious manner and carrying a wrench like a torch. On the base stood a plaque with the old saying “Necessity is the mother of invention,” referring to how badly East America suffered once they ran out of oil and how he swooped in and took advantage of a bad situation. Those were dark times back then. They called it the second dark ages and they were right. I still think that we haven’t fully escaped those days, but it sure is much better now. I took another puff. I thought about all of the day’s occurrences and the possibility of Mary as the Night Vulture. Usually the perp would have left some unintentional evidence and would have been bagged by now. The cigar smoke danced all around me. If Mary was truly the night vulture, I was in danger.  I couldn’t stay at home. I put out my cigar.

            As I returned to the office, I ran into Yamaguchi. She was still in her police uniform. “Hey, handsome. You doing alright?” she asked in a reassuring tone. “Yeah, I’m alright,” I responded. “I’m just having some problems with Mary. She’s back at home waiting for me, but I don’t feel like facing her. And then this fucking case. I haven’t caught a break.” Yamaguchi embraced me tightly. “Cheer up, man. It’ll get better,” she said. I thanked her and hugged her tighter. She put her lips to my ear. “Of course, if you wanted to, you could stay at my place,” she whispered as she kissed me on the cheek. When we let go, I saw a mischievous look in her eyes. I thought about it for a second. I couldn’t go home, and it was cheaper than a motel. “Sure, that sounds swell,” I confirmed. A sly smile grew on her face. She clearly wasn’t planning on letting me get much sleep tonight. “I’ll see you after work,” she said coolly. I thanked her again and headed back to my office, wondering what tonight had in store before my thoughts returned to my unpleasant future. I sat in my comfortable chair and reminisced. I wondered if all the accolades and plaques meant anything, all the drug ring busts and spy apprehensions. I was three days away from being canned. Soon, it would all be worthless. After finishing up a few write-ups on previous reports and checking for any similar cases to the Night Vulture murders, I turned off the light, looked at my office at what very well may be the last time and headed to Yamaguchi’s place.

            Yamaguchi lived in a decent apartment down in new Coco Plum. Coco Plum was once a fancy neighborhood for the nouveau riche and entrepreneurs, but after it was destroyed during the wars, it was all demolished and became a long collection of projects to house the refugees. Her apartment was on the fifth floor. I knocked. There was some shuffling behind the door and after two minutes, she answered it. She greeted me wearing a long Miami Marlins t-shirt that showed off her tone, slender legs. She looked good in a way that wasn’t even trying to be. “It’s good to see you haven’t forgotten your way here,” she said with food in her mouth. She was holding a carton of Ben and Jerry’s in her arm. “Well, who can forget?” I answered back. She invited me in and I went straight for the couch, dead tired. It was almost one in the morning. “Can I get you anything?” she asked as she put the carton away. I took off my shoes and socks. “No thanks,” I responded. She walked over and sat next to me as I took off my tie and made myself comfortable. “Hey, listen. I know you’re having troubles with your new woman, but I want you to know that I’m here for you,” she said, looking at me with soft eyes. It was the first time today that I smiled. “Thanks, Yama, I needed that,” I told her. “Got a spare toothbrush?” I asked her. She nodded and pointed to the bathroom and showed me to it.

Her bathroom was no bigger than a closet. As I brushed my teeth, I felt two arms wrap around me. Goosebumps ran through me once again and I stopped for a second, remembering what happened last time. Yamaguchi got on her tippy toes and kissed the back of my neck. I turned around to face her with a feeling of caution. She had the most beautiful smile and she was only wearing the thinnest of silk panties. She continued kissing my neck, her arms caressing my chest. “Admit it, you missed me,” she said seductively in between kisses. I spit out my toothpaste. “Maybe a little,” I said as I wiped the runoff off of my face. Her smile grew and we kissed passionately the way we used to back then. She jumped and wrapped her legs around me. I supported her with one arm and turned off the lights with the other. John Coltrane’s “Naima” from earlier played through my mind as we headed for the moonlit bed. I let my worries go and let myself be taken by the tides of passion.

            I heard my pants vibrate sometime in the morning and I pushed a still naked Yamaguchi off of me. She looked peaceful, beautiful lying there. I really need to grow eyes on the back of my head so that beautiful women won’t catch me off guard, I thought. The clock by her bedside said seven thirty in the morning. I walked over to where my pants were lying and I pulled out my cell phone. It was a text from Mary. All the thoughts of the Night Vulture case returned instantly and the satisfaction of last night was diminished. She was going to be pissed that I didn’t come home last night. I opened the text. “Hope you didn’t love her. NV.” An instant feeling of dread ran through me. “Oh fuck, oh fuck,” I shouted. Yamaguchi woke up. “What’s wrong?” she asked in panic. I frantically put on my clothes. “The Night Vulture. I just got a text message and it was from Mary’s phone,” I said hurriedly as I put on my dress shirt. “Oh fuck,” she echoed and she quickly jumped out of bed. She began to put on some clothes herself. “I’ll go with you, just in case,” she said exasperatedly. “No, you go down to the station and get back up. It’s better if I go alone, just in case.” I put on my shoes without socks and bolted out the door. Damn it, I thought as I peeled out of the parking lot, siren blazing.

            The door to my apartment was left open. I held a pistol that I kept in my glove compartment. I took a deep breath, and kicked the door open, pistol pointed at whatever waited on the other side. Nothing. “Mary? Mary?!?!” I shouted in panic. I looked around and paused on the trail of blood that was coming out of my bedroom. I rushed in without regard for my safety. There, lying on the bed, was what remained of Mary. A naked headless torso clasping a small box, and the words “Night Vulture” spray-painted in red on the wall behind the bed. I dropped to my knees in shock. I was too late. I was ignorant and I had let the woman in my life die at the hands of a madman.  I heard people rushing through the front door, the backup. Yamaguchi, Burvont, Limbent, Henry and three or four others busted into my bedroom. Yamaguchi gasped and Henry muttered “Oh my God,” covering his mouth in shock. Everyone just stood there paralyzed, unable to process the scene before them.


Part Four:
Paint it in Blood

            I woke up the next day with the worst hangover of my life.  The room around me was a hazy blur. It took me a good ten minutes to realize that I was in my own office at headquarters. Paper, plaques and bottles were thrown across the floor.  The clock on the wall read 8:30 AM. It was the first time I had ever come to work early. I groaned in pain. Why the fuck am I here? I thought as I rubbed my brows. Someone in front of me cleared his throat. I didn’t even realize this entire time that Maldonado was in the room with me. “It’s about damn time,” he said in a tone that wasn’t as harsh as usual.  It may have been the headache blurring my vision, but I thought I saw the slightest of smiles. Not the happy kind, but the sympathetic kind that someone uses to assure someone in grief, as if he was glad I was alright.  I wondered if I was hallucinating. “Sir, before you fire me…” I started before he stopped me with a hand wave. “Listen, clean this place up, wake up and then meet me by the park, alright?” he asked. “Alright, boss,” I said with a struggle. He walked out of my office, cautiously stepping around all the crap on the floor. I buzzed the front desk.

            Margaret, the new receptionist replacing Mary, brought me in a cup of strong coffee. “Where should I put it down?” she asked in a lackluster tone that was nothing like Mary’s wonderful voice. I pointed at desk next to the door. She put down the coffee and she disappeared as quickly as she came in. I almost broke down after she exited the room, but I maintained my composure. I cleaned my office in thirty minutes and then went outside to meet the boss. I was prepared for the worst, but I honestly wasn’t sure if I could take another blow.  Maldonado was sitting at my bench in his business casual attire, a red dress shirt with a black tie. When he saw me approach, he scooted over to give me room.  He offered me a cigar and I took it, the puffs burning my alcohol and coffee damaged throat. Was this how I was to be fired? I decided not to say a word until he started. We stayed smoking for three minutes before he began. “Do you know why I’m divorced, Ace?” he asked introspectively. I shook my head no.

“When I was just starting here, my wife and I had an unplanned son. We were reckless and unprepared back then, and having that kid early was our price to bear for our impatience. Regardless of the difficulties he brought, I loved that boy and let me tell you, it was tough at first. Maintaining a family and working a job that can kill you like nothing for chicken feed, it was tough for us. We barely scraped by.  When he was five, I took him to play catch in the park. A friend of mine from the military academy, Derrick, passed by and I turned my back for a minute to catch up with him quick. When I turn back around to continue playing catch, my son was gone. I searched everywhere for him but he disappeared without a trace. I reported it to my squad and had to do the most difficult thing I had ever done; I had to tell my wife that I lost him. She became hysterical. They gave her drugs
to calm down. I worked without any rest, nearly passing out from lack of sleep, trying everything to find the person who kidnapped my son. Two days later, we get a phone call. The asshole that had him wanted a large ransom. I met them at a nearby park with cash. It was there that I saw them, Derrick and his accomplice, some degenerate. It was a setup. I was furious. He started talking about the old days, said that he had been a Cuban spy and that he always hated me. Always wished he could kill me because I was better than him in the military academy. I got the promotion he wanted and he envied me. Later on, he went to jail for trying to steal military equipment; equipment he could have stole easily if he had my position. I never knew any of this. Only the top brass knew and they kept it quiet to avoid a scandal.  I never knew how I had wronged this man, but I guess old grudges die hard. After years in jail, he found out about where I lived, my family, my life, my son. He felt that the best revenge was not to kill me, but to kill the thing I loved most. I begged for my son to be released. He told me that he wanted the money.  The bag was to be tossed when my son was halfway between us. I followed the instructions. However, my old friend didn’t care for honor and truth. He pulled a pistol out of his back pocket and shot my boy. My instincts came out all of a sudden and I put a bullet through my friend’s eyes and three more into his accomplice before my boy hit the floor. I rushed over, picked him up and took him to the nearby hospital.  He was hit in the arm and was bleeding all over me. My wife met me there. I can still hear her screams when I remember it. "Alan, Alan," over and over again. We watched as they operated on my son for what seemed like forever. He came out alive, but his arm would be paralyzed forever. I was just happy he was alive. My wife was not. Instead of the hero’s congratulations, I was kicked out of my house because my job almost killed my son. Five days later, she filed for divorce and never looked back. My son never wrote and never forgave me. I haven’t seen either of them ever since.”

When Maldonado finished, he took a big puff and let out the smoke really slowly in a long sigh. “Listen,” he restarted. “I know this is difficult for you, and the next few days will be hell, but you need to get this guy, Ace. I didn’t want what happened to Alan to happen to…” he stopped before saying her name. “I know chief,” I said in gratitude. “Which is why I should start right away,” I told him confidently. I took another puff. “What about the three day ultimatum?” I asked him, trying to get past the sentimental mood and back to work. “Forget it. Just please get this son of a bitch,” he responded kindly. I took a big puff, watched the smoke go up in the sky one last time, and put it out. I put a kind hand on my boss’ shoulder. “Thanks, boss. I’ll get this guy, I swear,” I told him in earnest. He smiled. “Go get this bastard. I know you can,” he said, patting me on the back. I nodded and ran back to headquarters, heading straight for the lab.

Lee was already looking at something under the microscope. A body laid covered in a tarp, presumably Mary’s body. “What do we got Lee?” I asked in a reinvigorated voice. “Good to see you’re alright, detective,” he responded back.  He looked at me with a smile. “You’ll be happy to know that we actually have something to go on this time,” he told me with a smirk. I was excited and asked him to continue. “Well, when the killer,” he paused looking at the tarped body,” decapitated the victim, a miniscule piece of the serrated saw edge he used was left in the corpse. It’s the type left when a saw is first used, so this saw can’t be more than three days old.” He walked over to a computer. “The saw edge was of a unique alloy used in MIGHTY THOR tool products, and the only place its sold is in THE DIY STORE.” “But there are at least five of these stores in the entire New Miami area, and completely scattered,” I interjected in disappointment. Lee was not fazed. “True, but only one is near the beach, and the sand particles found in your bedroom could single that one out. I assume you haven’t been to the beach lately?” he asked. I gave him a look that said, “are you kidding me?” He continued. “Alright, so we have a DIY STORE in 5th and Hamilton that matches that description. We also have what was left in the box. It was a single piece of parchment like last time. It says:

“When the two sleeping giants awaken, the vulture will strike again.”

I thought about it for a second. Two sleeping giants? Who were the two sleeping giants? “Alright Lee, anything else?” I asked. “That’s it so far, Ace. I’ll let you know if I get anything else. Go follow that lead while it’s still fresh. It’s the only one we got,” he told me. I thanked him and headed for my car.

The DIY STORE was a large supply store with anything you could ever want. I skimmed through their purchase records, but there was nothing that caught my eye. I interviewed the manager to see if he had seen anyone suspicious, but they were so busy that it was hard to remember anyone. I thanked him and left with a list of recent customers. Perhaps one of these would lead somewhere; criminal records, history of murder, mental disorders. I was determined to get the list back to headquarters. It was already almost lunchtime and I was starving. As I walked to my car, I noticed someone squatting near it. There was a faint sound of tools being used. I walked quietly to get a good view of the mystery person. To my surprise, it was Alonso the artist. It looked like he was attaching something to my car. I took out my pistol and walked towards him quietly, but he looked around in a paranoid fashion and saw me before I could find cover. “Fuck,” he said exasperatedly as he pulled out his own pistol and opened fire. I ducked behind a car, two bullets shattering the window above me. He made a break for it. “Stop, Alonso,” I shouted as I gave chase. He ran through the parking lot and into a three-story office building nearby. As I burst through the door, I heard two more gunshots whizz past me and a cacophony of screams and chaos ensued. A stampede of people ran out the door, slowing my progress. Alonso ran up the stairs onto the second floor.

I busted through the second floor entrance to find a large hall of cubicles. Somewhere in here was Alonso. I quietly sneaked from cubicle to cubicle searching for him. “He went that way,” whispered a scared gentleman as he pointed me in the right direction. I thanked him and continued forward. Just then, I heard his voice two rows down from me. He was whispering to someone on a cellphone. “I failed,” he said. A brief pause. “Well, what the fuck do you expect? I don’t know how to do that shit! Why didn’t you get Yarma to do it? He likes killing people! I’m just one of the distractions, remember?!” He was becoming more anxious. I was almost near him. “Well, pick me up, damn it. Pick me the fuck up,” he shouted. I aimed my pistol at him and fired. It hit him in the shoulder. He shouted in pain as I ran towards him. He pulled a young female office worker that had previously been out of view and pointed the gun at her. “If you take one more step, I’ll blow her fucking brains out, you understand,” he said amidst grunts of pain. He slowly shuffled towards the stairs on the other side of the room. As soon as he walked through the door with the hostage, I quietly pursued him. At that moment, I heard police sirens outside. It seemed like my friends had arrived. I burst through the door and ran for the roof. I heard a gunshot and the female coworker’s dead corpse fell towards me. I dodged it just in time and chased Alonso through the rooftop door.

The helicopter flew next to the ledge of building and a man was standing by the opened side door ready to help Alonso up and make a quick getaway. He had light tan skin, thick black hair, a medallion with a strange symbol on it, and, most striking of all, dark blood red pupils. He held out his hand for Alonso as he hobbled to the chopper. I pointed my gun and fired three quick rounds into his back. Alonso dropped to the floor. The man in the chopper looked upset and signaled for the chopper to leave. I took aim with the only two bullets left in the clip. One bullet struck the side of the chopper. Although the second bullet seemed to hit the man in the arm, it bounced off with a sharp clang as if it hit metal. The man smiled maliciously. “You’re dealing with things bigger than yourself, detective,” he shouted as the chopper pulled up. I tried to reload and fire again, but the chopper was too far away by the time I was ready. I ran over to Alonso to see if he was still alive, kicking his pistol out of reach in the process. He was barely breathing. “Why did you do it, Alonso?” I asked him, cradling him in my arms.  He leaned toward my ear. “When the two giants awaken, the vulture will strike again,” he rasped with strained breath. “Who is the night vulture? Who is he?” I asked harshly. He didn’t respond. I grabbed him by the collar and shook him violently. “Who is the damn night vulture? Answer me, you stupid fuck,” I shouted in disdain. He smiled sardonically as he breathed his last breath. I placed him down softly and slammed my fist into the floor. My first major lead was dead and once again, I was lost.

A few minutes after, the rooftop door was thrust open as Henry, Yamaguchi, Limbent, and a few other officers burst through. “Everything alright, Ace…” started Henry before his eyes spotted Alonso. He gasped and ran over quickly, sliding next to his now dead husband.  Tears streamed from his face as he cradled him in his arms. He looked at me, his eyes searching for an explanation. I sighed and looked away. “Did he? Did he…” he started. “Yeah, he did,” I confirmed.  Henry dug his face into Alonso’s chest with violent sobs. He kissed his lips and closed his eyes with his hands. The rest of the force looked downtrodden. Burvont stepped forward, clearing his throat to get my attention. “Sir, we’re going to secure the perimeter, get the witnesses ready,” he paused as he looked down at Alonso, “and call the coroner.” Henry sobbed harder. I gave him the go ahead and he took off with everyone except Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi sat next to Henry and comforted him. Henry still clutched onto Alonso tightly, his breaths strained with all the mucus clogged up in his nose. I looked at the sight before me and then out towards the sky where the helicopter had traveled. It had long since disappeared into the fading afternoon sun. I looked back at the scene before me. Another important death, and somewhere, a devil with red eyes was laughing.


Part Five:
In the Company of a Psychopath

            “A car bomb?” asked Maldonado over my shoulder. “Yeah, a car bomb,” I answered him as I continued to pour over the list from the DIY STORE. I entered the next name into the criminal records database:

Carlos Enfuentesnothing
Derrick Marsbarknothing
Yai Sin Laonothing

I was drawing either blanks or scrubs not worth my time.  Maldonado paced around my office while Yamaguchi worked on the second half of the list on a laptop. “And this was the artist guy that was married to Henry?” he continued. “Yeah,” I answered without taking my eyes off the screen.

Jorge Reyes Lobanothing
Jeffrey Charlesonnothing
Desmond Tulatoinothing

“And this Alonso wasn’t the night vulture?” he asked looking over my shoulder again. I stopped for a second. “If he was, then he still had accomplices, now are you gonna buzz in my ear all day or are you going to let me do my damn job?” I said sarcastically. Maldonado smirked and said “Fine, fine. I’ll just read your case report then, you pompous asshole.” That got a laugh out of me. He left and closed the door. For a while, the only noise in the office was the sound of typing and Yamaguchi’s muttered words as she read the names to herself.

D’angelo Clarksonnothing
Eric Bustamondonothing
Mercutio Yarma

…the name rang a bell.  My eyes widened as I realized that Yarma was the same name Alonso had mentioned on the phone. I pulled up the file. The man was charged with theft, arson and first-degree murder in the past, but every case was inconclusive and he was let go.  His mug shot was from his younger days, but he still had the look of a murderer: light blue almost white eyes, peach fuzz on his face, a hairline that was already starting to fade away and pale skin. He was only twenty-two in this picture, but his eyes had the hard glare of someone from a rough background, someone who liked to inflict pain on others.  “I think we got our man,” I said as I turned towards Yamaguchi with a smile.

The house attached to the address in the case report was an old two story building in horse country near the Everglades. After the war, it had been years since anyone had come back and claimed their properties out here, but horse country was beginning to flourish again slowly but surely. Looking at this house, the keyword was slowly. Moss covered the entire building, making it seem more plant than house. Many of the walls were missing pieces and it looked just about ready to collapse.  The chief made Yamaguchi come with me as a precaution. “There aren’t even any lights on,” she said. “Do you think anyone is actually here?” I turned on my flashlight. “Doubt it, but got to be thorough,” I answered. She followed silently behind me as I climbed up the stairs of the front porch. The second step collapsed under my weight and let out a loud crack. Yamaguchi shook her head, as if to say “nice going, dumbass.” I picked myself up and progressed lightly, trying not to make the wooden floor creak. The door itself sounded like it hadn’t been opened for a thousand years. The loud creak would have alerted a deaf person. This is why I chose to be a cop and not a spy. At this point, I threw caution to the wind and quickly walked into the living room. It was empty except for an old television, a couch and a dinner table.  Rats scurried as I used my flashlight to look around. The kitchen was just as bare, except for some cans in the cabinets and expired mayonnaise in the fridge. The downstairs bathroom smelled rancid and the neighboring closet held only a moth eaten fur coat. The coat was about my size. Yamaguchi didn’t find anything either.  We headed up the stairs to see if the rooms held anything.

            As I climbed up the stairs, I heard a skittering noise behind the first door. I opened it to reveal a small bedroom. Three raccoons scurried out through a hole in the window. The room itself was the stuff of nightmares. The walls were covered in pictures of naked women, most of which had scars, blood or weapons drawn on them, as if to make it seem like they were killed. Most of the pictures were pulled out of magazines, but the occasional one was from a camera. “Holy shit,” remarked Yamaguchi upon seeing the Sistine Chapel of passive aggressive murder. The bed had a thick black comforter on it covered with dust. In a corner, an old filthy Mac desktop and some pictures were sitting on a desk; relics of the past. The pictures showed a young couple with their son, who looked just like Mercutio Yarma. Over the mother, the word WHORE was written in permanent marker. The father was unmarked. “Come look at this, Yama,” I called her as she put down a toy car she was looking at. She came to my side and I showed her the picture. “That little kid definitely looks like our killer. He looks evil even there,” she replied, pointing out the child’s awkward grin. The other picture was just of Yarma and his mother, both a few years older. Again, the word WHORE was written over her. “This guy really hates his mother,” Yamaguchi said, placing the picture frame down softly. Suddenly, the door sealed shut, the once quiet Mac buzzed to life and Yarma himself appeared on the screen. Yamaguchi and I jumped back in shock and she clinged to my arm nervously. “Welcome to the last day of your life,” he said in a raspy voice. Yarma appeared to be in his late forties, early fifties. He was completely bald now, with yellow stained teeth and wrinkled skin, but he still had the same piercing light blue eyes. “Clearly, that idiot’s incompetence led you to this place, but in a way I’m glad, because I haven’t had any personal playthings in months,” he continued. He let out a dry hacky cough. “You’re going to pay, you stupid belligerent fuck,” I said hard and menacingly at the camera on the desktop. He laughed. “We’ll see about that, detective,” he said as a hidden compartment on the Mac opened up and sprayed a thick mist into the room. Everything became dim. It was some form of knockout gas. An attempt to exit the room was hopeless, as the door would not budge. Yamaguchi, still clinging to my arm, began to fall. I tried to help her up but I also dropped. I lost consciousness and drifted into darkness.

            When I awoke, I had no sense of how much time had passed. Slowly my eyes opened and revealed a dimly lit room. It looked like something out of a Frankenstein movie. It was a long room, with a giant desk covered with various beakers filled with chemicals and sharp cutting instruments. Saws, swords, knives, axes, and everything in between hung from hooks on the table, most covered in what I assumed was blood. Also on the table was a human head, a young white blonde female whose skin had already shriveled to the point of beyond recognition.  The head’s eyes had been ripped out and placed in a jar next to it. I tried moving, but realized that I was chained to a table against the wall. I couldn’t budge. The chains were so tight that they almost cut off my circulation. Next to me was Yamaguchi, still unconscious. On the other side of the room, a man who I could only assume was Yarma was facing away from me pulling something out of a cabinet. He faced me and confirmed my suspicions. “Oh, excellent, you’re awake. Now the fun can begin,” he shouted excitedly as he approached me. Yarma had a strange gait that seemed to be due to one leg being longer than the other. He came up to my chin in height. I know this because he came up close and licked my neck. My skin crawled. Clearly this man had lost his sanity a long time ago.  “Oh, your flesh tastes divine,” he whispered ominously. “I normally don’t kill men, but it seems that tonight I’ll make the rare exception.” He pulled a small blade out of his lab coat. “Now, how to kill you,” he pondered as he pressed the blade to my forearm. “Should I cut you to pieces?” he said, making a small gash on my arm.

I tried my best not to wince and give him the pleasure. “Should I let you bleed out?” he continued, putting another gash below the first one. My blood was dripping to the floor. “Should I let you starve to death? Maybe poison your food?” I didn’t match his excited gaze and he walked towards Yamaguchi. “Maybe I should rape the woman? Kill her first,” he said with a smirk. It got to me. “You fucking bastard,” I said between gritted teeth. He laughed.  “It looks like we have a winner,” he said, followed by a dry cough. He approached Yamaguchi and used the blade to cut the buttons on her uniform, exposing her chest. “Oh, she looks nice and supple,” he said, cutting her bra and cupping her left breast. She groaned. “Leave her alone,” I pleaded. “Do what you want with me but leave her alone,” I shouted.

 “Oh my, what a gentleman,” he said, his voice more raspy. “How honorable of you.  I am very impressed. Maldonado was right about you,” he said with a menacing grin that would scare the Grinch. I dropped my jaw in shock. Maldonado? Was Maldonado behind this scheme the entire time? Had he led me on and left me a sucker? Yarma enjoyed my misery and made another gash on my face, deeper than the first two. A grunt of pain escaped me. Warm blood trickled down my face and I was beginning to feel light headed. “Look at me, I’ve said to much,” he said rapidly as he twisted a lever on the side of the table, placing it in the horizontal position. “I’m going to get rid of you quick. Then I’ll rape your little girlfriend over here. Over. And over. And over,” he said, emphasizing the last words.  The table had wheels underneath and he wheeled me over to a marked area on the floor. Above me was a metal contraption that looked like one half of those spike-filled coffins magicians used in their act. It was clearly meant to drop down on me, turning me into Swiss cheese.  “Then I’m going to cut her fucking head off. Just like daddy taught me,” he said laughing and coughing.  I looked at Yamaguchi, knowing that it was all over. I had failed to capture the night vulture. I let Maldonado fool me into a trap. I let this madman win, free to capture and kill all the people who meant something to me. I failed. Yarma walked over to a lever next to the door. “I’ll see you in hell, you bastard,” I screamed at him, trying not to give him the satisfaction.

He laughed. “And I’ll be running it. The Devil knows no worse than I,” he retaliated excitedly.

I closed my eyes and prepared for death. I’m sorry everyone. I failed I thought, ready for my last few seconds of life.

Just then, the door next to Yarma opened with a loud crash, knocking Yarma to the floor. In ran none other than Henry, gun cocked and scanning the room quickly before noticing Yamaguchi on the wall in front of him. “Henry, to your right,” I screamed as Yarma got up quickly to pull down the lever. Henry saw him and fired point blank right between the eyes, but it was too late. Yarma had pulled the lever. The spikes came hurtling down towards me. I was a goner…or so I thought. The spiked ceiling stopped centimeters in front of me, one of the spikes barely grazing the tip of my nose. Then the spiked ceiling slowly moved back up. I looked up and realized what had happened. Henry had grabbed Yarma’s hand and the lever and had prevented it from being fully pulled down. I was saved.  “Holy shit, that was amazing,” I screamed amidst laughs of relief. Henry also laughed. “You’re a magnificent son of a bitch,” I yelled, full of adrenaline and joy. “And you’re one lucky son of a bitch,” he said, walking over to me. He released me from the table by grabbing a nearby saw and sawing my chains off. Afterwards, we released a still unconscious Yamaguchi from her chains and I cradled her in my arms. “How the hell did you find us?” I asked him. “Well, I was feeling like I wanted some revenge, and then Maldonado told me about how you had this lead. I was restless so I decided to meet y’all here. It’s a good thing too ‘cuz I heard you screaming and came down here,” he explained. The mention of Maldonado instantly erased my relief and a feeling of anger washed over me. “Maldonado,” I said angrily, giving Yamaguchi to Henry as I looked for something to use as a tourniquet for my injuries. “What’s wrong?” he asked, surprised by my sudden reaction. I found some bandages and hastily wrapped up my cuts. It would do. “Yarma mentioned Maldonado. Says he’s part of this ordeal,” I explained. “No shit,” he replied in shock. We left Yarma’s corpse there and headed out of the room and up a flight of stairs. The stairs had been hidden under a rug in the kitchen. Entering the familiar territory, we ran over to our cars and floored it to Maldonado’s apartment.

Maldonado’s apartment was in a cheap cozy inn in the neighborhood next to headquarters. We had gone there in the past for the occasional poker game, but this time, his chips were down and we were sweeping house.  We left Yamaguchi in the car, wrapped up in my jacket. Walking quietly, Henry and I approached room 307, whispering our strategy. I would break down the door and Henry was to follow. When we got to the door, I kicked it in and immediately rushed in. The living room was empty but I heard a “What the hell?” come out of the bedroom. I kicked the bedroom door open as well and pointed my pistol at Maldonado. He was in his pajamas, sitting in bed reading a novel. “What is the meaning of this?” he asked in shock. “Don’t play games with me, you old dick. You lead me on this wild goose chase and almost got me killed and you’re going to play dumb? Yarma told me you’re a part of this,” I explained angrily. Maldonado rose out of bed slowly. Henry and I kept our guns on him. “Don’t try anything, old man,” Henry shouted. Maldonado crossed his arms and looked directly at me. “If you really think I did it, then go ahead and shoot me,” he said. Tears streamed down his face. “If you really think I did it, then fucking shoot me already,” he shouted. I hesitated.  “Don’t fall for this crap, Ace,” shouted Henry. “He led to the death of Alonso. My Alonso. Not to mention Mary,” Henry continued. The mention of her name made me refocus on him. Maldonado got on his knees. “Just fucking kill me then. Kill me now,” he screamed, staring right into my eyes. He closed them and leaned his head down, ready for death. As he did so, something caught my eye and I dropped my gun. My mouth gaped wide out and I let of a small gasp. The picture frame on his bedside table. The picture was of his family. His wife, his son and him. His son was what caught my attention. His son had red eyes.


Part Six:
If We Go Down, Let It Be Gloriously In Flames

            I walked over to the picture and picked it up as Maldonado and Henry watched in confusion. There was no doubt about it.  The red eyes, the thick hair, all the same. The kid in the picture was the same man who was in the helicopter that day. Alan Maldonado. In the picture, which I imagine was pre-divorce; Alan had the bright smile of a child oblivious to the world’s problems. He couldn’t have been older than six or seven. How the times had changed. I turned around and explained the situation to Maldonado and Henry. Maldonado’s skin turned pale as he sat on the bed for support. Henry muttered “holy shit,” shaking his head in disbelief. “Are you sure? My son? It was my Alan?” stammered Maldonado. “It was him. I’ll never forget those eyes,” I told him sadly. Maldonado appeared to gain fifty years of age all of a sudden as I confirmed it. “Alright,” was all he could say.  “Get some sleep, boss. We’ll see what we can do,” said Henry, helping the boss lie down. “Alright,” he said, even weaker then before. I felt bad for Maldonado. What was once supposed to be his legacy, his gift to the world, the child created in his image became an ugly distorted nightmare that could not be any farther from what his father was. We said our goodbyes and left Maldonado lying there. We closed what was left of the door and walked outside. In the elevator, Henry and I stood in silence, still trying to process the entire night that had just passed. The sun was already shining through the front door of the lobby as we opened it.

“Are we going to the office?” Henry asked as we walked towards the parking lot. “I guess we should probably drop Yamaguchi home fir…” I didn’t finish my sentence. From the other end of the parking lot, I saw that the car was missing, Yamaguchi and all. I ran over to the spot and looked around. There was no doubt about it. It was gone. Henry caught up, also realizing it. “Damn, it’s just one thing after another,” he said in anguish. I looked around the parking lot. Nothing. “Ace, come check this out,” said Henry hurriedly. Lying where our car had been was a box similar to the one I received a few days ago. This one was made of metal. I opened it to reveal a cell phone. The cell phone rang as I picked it up out of the box. I answered it. “Yeah?” I asked impatiently. The person on the other line took a few seconds before it spoke. “Hello, detective,” said the modulated voice on the other line. It had a cold tone to it. I listened impatiently as Henry looked on. “Detective, we must converse in private. We have a mutual enemy and I have a proposition,” said the voice.

 What did you do with Yamaguchi?” I shouted into the phone.

The voice laughed. “Do you really think I had anything to do with that woman? You’re more clueless than I thought,” said the voice mockingly.  The voice was pissing me off.

Don’t fuck with me, asshole. Where is Yamaguchi?”

There was a few more seconds of silence. “Meet me on the bow of the Majestic cruise ship coming in tonight at ten thirty PM. Come alone, but come armed.” The voice hung up. I threw the phone at the ground in rage. “What did he say?” asked Henry. “Nothing much,” I responded. “We need to find Yamaguchi. And pray that she is alive.”

I called headquarters for a backup car on my cell phone while Henry called for someone to use the electronic tracer to find the police car Yamaguchi had been in. The car had been pinpointed to a back end street near Miccosukee town, the seedy gambling town in Kendall. We were picked up by Limbent, looking his usual nerdy self. “Long night, gentleman?” he asked with a chuckle. “Not now, Limbent,” I said. “As sad as it is to admit, even you are a sight for sore eyes, Limbent,” said Henry. We all laughed. “Gee, thanks,” Limbent said, rolling his eyes and pulling out into the street. “Burvont and Cortez are already on their way to the location,” Limbent continued. We sat there in silence. Limbent continued. “Miccosukee land, huh? Last time I was there my wife almost gambled away our life savings. Talk about gold diggers, am I right?” Silence. Limbent grumbled, gave up and turned on the radio, some nice smooth jazz. Slowly but surely, my eyes grew heavy and I slept for the rest of the trip, tired from the last few days of action. I was awoken by the force of the car stopping. “You passed the fuck out,” laughed Henry. “Don’t pick on the detective. He’s had a long night,” said Limbent in a baby voice. “I rubbed my eyes. “Both of you, shut the hell up,” I said. We got out of the car and walked over to the location of the stolen vehicle. Burvont and Cortez were already looking around it. Or what was left of it. The Car had crashed through a light pole and straight into a building. In the front seat sat a dead Caucasian male, eyes wide open with a look of shock. His neck was snapped. Burvont walked over to me. “You gotta give officer Yamaguchi credit. She is one tough woman,” he said. “You don’t know the half of it,” I started. “One time before in the Alcarone case, she was kidnapped by two hoodlums and kept in their garden shack as ransom. She got free, knocked out one, and literally cut off the balls of the other,” I told him. He winced. “Damn, really?” he asked. I nodded. “He shouldn’t have threatened her with garden shears,” I said with a laugh. I looked at the scene of chaos before me, wondering where she was right now. I asked Burvont what he was able to get out of this mess.

 “Well,” he started, “from what I see in the car, namely, the scratches in the rear, the two bullet holes on the back seat, broken guy’s neck, the fluff on the floor and the broken door handle, I would say that Officer Yamaguchi woke up, realized she was kidnapped, snapped the driver’s neck…” Burvont cleared his dry voice from talking so much without taking a breath. He restarted.“…The driver clearly had some kind of accomplice. The accomplice tried to shoot Officer Yamaguchi, but she pointed the gun away and the guy shot two in the backseat before Yamaguchi was able to knock it out of his hand.” Burvont walked over to the hood of the destroyed car and pulled up a plastic zip lock bag that had the weapon inside, an old six-shooter. “This was the weapon in question. Bullets matched the gun,” he continued. He walked over back to me. “Now this is where it gets hazy. My guess is the car crashes, everyone is shaken, and somehow the guy takes advantage to jump in the back and get Officer Yamaguchi under control, forcing her to come with him somehow,” finished Burvont. I sat that in amazement at Burvont’s skill. He definitely earned the title of “master of evidence.” “Alright, have you asked around about their whereabouts? I would guess a nearly topless Asian woman screaming at the top of her lungs wouldn’t be a sight to miss,” I asked. He shook his head. “Cortez has asked a few, but nobody complies or claims to have seen anything.” “Fantastic,” I responded with fatigue, checking my watch. It was still only ten in the morning; Plenty of time before my date tonight.

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.
Before I knew it, it was already eight fifteen at night and I had to drive to the other side of New Miami. “You sure you don’t want me to go with you?” Henry asked as he put an electronic cigarette in his mouth. “Naw, I’m fine. It’s better if I don’t spook this Night Vulture person,” I responded.  “Alright, I’ll keep looking. You watch your ass because I won’t be there to bust you out this time,” he said with a laugh. I shook his hand. “I will. Find her, will ya?” I said as I closed the door. Henry smiled and saw me off. I drove all the way to where the cruise ships stopped. Was I going to meet the Night Vulture? Alan Maldonado? Were they the same person? I put a few extra clips in my pocket and walked to the loading platform of the Majestic. Strangely, there was no one guarding it. I didn’t have a good feeling about this. The entire ship was eerily silent, a big empty space that not even a few hours ago was full of life and cheer. Now, it was just a floating coffin. Perhaps my own.

After climbing the stairs and reaching the main deck, I headed towards the bow of the ship. Standing at the corner was some person in a trench coat. I pointed my pistol at the mystery person. The person didn’t move as I walked closer. “Alright, what’s this all about and where’s Yamaguchi?” I said authoritatively. “Is that any way to greet an old flame?” she said as she turned around. It was Persephone Kalena, my ex-girlfriend. She still looked the same as when I dated her ten years ago; Long flowing black hair, mocha skin, golden eyes, and big luscious lips. She had gained a little weight but she still had her very sensual curves. As she walked over to me, the sound of her heels were the only thing breaking the silence of seeing my former love again after so long. I put my gun in its holster. She stopped within inches of me, our eyes never leaving each other’s forlorn gaze. Long ago, I had loved this woman with all my heart. Had she not turned out to be a Cuban spy, I would have married her. And yet here she was, a ghost from the past. “It’s been a while, mi amor,” she said softly. It gave me goosebumps. Never had those two words meant anything until she said it. Even now, they still retained their power. “What’s going on, Persephone? I have a friend in danger, people being murdered left and right and you’re somehow caught in on this mess? Why?” I asked anxiously. She wrapped her arms around me and dug her face into my chest. “Trust me when I say I had nothing to do with any of it,” she said sadly. She grabbed my hand and walked me to the bow. “The only thing I have done is left those clues for you. The two boxes were from me. I was trying to help you out. Trying to stay anonymous, but…” she faded. “But?” I asked. She sighed heavily, holding back tears. “Mi amor, I may be in danger. The people I work…” she choked up a little. “The people I work for want to kill me for helping you.”

I stood there silent, not knowing what to say. She looked out into the ocean. “They found out I was helping you. I’m really scared.” “Who are they?” I asked. “It’s the…” she didn’t get to finish the sentence because we heard the sound of footsteps running to our location. We took cover behind a nearby lifeboat and saw them. A group of at least twenty men, all dressed in black, firing machine guns and pistols. Bullets bounced all around us. “Fuck, get down,” I shouted, trying to return fire; there were so many bullets that I couldn’t. Fuck, we’re screwed, I thought. All of sudden, Persephone pulled something out of her trench coat pocket. It was a handful of grenades. I looked at her with a smirk of joy. “I hope this works,” she said. We pulled the pins, tossed the grenades overhead and made a dash for it. I shot two of the assassins standing in our way while the grenades exploded, causing enough chaos to get a clear run across the deck to the loading platform. It looked like we were home clear until out of nowhere, a rocket shell blew up our only escape. The blast was large and knocked us on our feet. When I got up, I saw the attacker standing on the dock, rocket launcher held causally over his shoulder. It was Alan. “You ain’t going anywhere, detective,” he said in his thick Spanish accent. “And you can take your puta with you.” He laughed as he stepped into a car parked next to him. I took a few useless shots at him in rage, but I missed. The car sped up as bullets crashed just above my head. It seemed that not all of our pursuers had been killed. “Damn it,” said Persephone angrily. She pulled out a small machine gun and returned fire. Two of our attackers fell, but it seemed that many more were coming. Knowing we’d be overwhelmed, I grabbed Persephone by the hand and we made a break for it. We ran onto the ship; running past the fancy lobby with the chandeliers and into the shopping area. The walls were lined with overpriced stores and crappy looking display kiosks.  Knowing that her heels would do us no justice in running, we stopped and prepared to face them.

Kicking over one of the dining tables to use as cover, Persephone and I shot at our pursuers.  There were at least fifteen of them left, all lined to the teeth with machine gun ammo. “Any more grenades?” I asked, firing my pistol and hitting one man in the forehead after four shots. “Sorry, my Love, but that was all I had,” she said, shooting one in the leg and another in the neck with a broad sweep of her machine gun. We continued to kick tables and make our way back. The man who I assume was the leader signaled for a few of them to go around. They were going to flank us from the other side and we would be fucked when they did. I lifted from behind cover to fire again, but a bullet caught me in the top of the shoulder. I fell to the floor and let out a loud scream. Persephone gasped and rushed to my side. “Mi amor, mi amor,” she said worriedly as she continued to return fire,” Mi amor, are you alright?” I pulled a cigar out of my pocket and lit it. Blood soaked the sleeve of my dress shirt, but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. “Persephone, if I’m going to die tonight, I’m glad that at least I got to see you one last time,” I said struggling. She smiled. The same smile that I cherished all those years ago. I reloaded my gun and returned fire. Ten shots and I took down three while Persephone took down another two. The group that had gone around to flank us finally started to fire from the other side, forcing us to kick another dining table down to provide full cover, a circular fort of tables. I was down to my last clip and bullets danced all around us. Five thugs on my right, three on my left. Twenty bullets in the chamber. I looked at Persephone, the beautiful phantom who had eluded me all these years, the only woman I had ever loved, machine gun in hand. We nodded to each other and rose to make our last stand.


Part Seven:
Yamaguchi in Third Person


 Yamaguchi failed to see anything in the large duffle bag into which she was stuffed forcefully; her hands and feet bound by duct tape. A tiny sliver of light poked through the slightly ajar zipper, but that was about it. She felt blood slowly crawl across her entire face, soaking the duct tape gag that covered her mouth. She wondered if she was blind. A massive headache and the little breathing room caused her distress and she shook her container. Someone punched the side of the duffle bag into her abdomen and shouted, “calm down, woman” in a deep voice.  Yamaguchi felt pain all over and that punch didn’t help. She tried to remember the most recent series of events, but it was all blurs.

All of them were isolated incidents surrounded by black.

Damn, my fucking skull feels like it’s going to explode, she thought.

 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.

Her captor was a muscular black man with a rugged face. He had a short black haircut with white streaks on the side, the haircut of a man beginning to accept his age with grace. He wore a perfectly kept dress shirt and tie that failed to contain his bulging muscles. “Damn, this woman was a hassle,” he said to someone out of view. The man grabbed Yamaguchi by the cuff of her shirt and pulled her out. Yamaguchi took in her surroundings. It was a large wooden room that contained various tall metal cabinets, a table or two and large open windows. It appeared to be a log cabin of some sort. There was only one other man in the room, the one to which the captor had spoken to. He had a redneck appearance to him: cut sleeves, messy hair hidden by a trucker hat, stained jeans and a five o’ clock shadow. “You know, I don’t usually like Squints but I could definitely put a bag over her head and pretend she was white,” said the new man, licking his lips in a manner that was disturbing to Yamaguchi.

“No rape,” said the muscular man, slinging Yamaguchi over his shoulder and bringing her to the chair. “Aw, c’mon boss, why does it matter?” he whined. Muscle man glared at him hard. “We are an organization of professionals. We do not rape,” he said with a tinge of anger. The new man was silenced and looked down bitterly. “Now, are you going to help me out or not?” added muscle man, making the new man spring to attention. They tied Yamaguchi’s arms and legs to a chair with rope, cleaned the blood off her face and replaced her duct taped gag with a ball gag.

“Fuck you, assholes. When my friends…” she shouted during the exchange, the forceful placement of the ball gag interrupting her sentence. Yamaguchi tried to struggle but the captor slapped her hard across the face.  “You don’t learn, do you?” he said angrily. Yamaguchi stood still. She looked around the room and thought of ways to free herself. There was a letter opener on the desk across the room, a broken cabinet handle to her right and a bunch of fishing poles with fish hooks to her left, but the question was how to cut herself free from her rope bonds without being seen, without attracting attention. The two men conversed in front of her. “Keep her here until the boss gets back, and if anything happens to her, so help me God I will rip out your spine, do you understand?” said the captor. “Yes,” stammered the redneck, scared of the much more physically superior captor. Muscle man looked at Yamaguchi one more time and grunted before storming out of the room. The other man closed the door behind him and walked over to the desk, turning on a portable radio.

The man adjusted the knobs of the radio as Yamaguchi continued to struggle with her bonds quietly. The rope on my right foot is loose. If I can get it off, I should be able to slip it out, she thought as the radio came into focus. She pushed her shoe off and difficultly slipped her foot through the rope. …and that is how the market was today. In political news, interim Cuban leader Jose Cardonez has come out against the actions of political rival Arios Anguilin, stating that his actions are that of a guerilla fighter and that he is no better than a terrorist. Anguilin has quickly been gaining popularity, a sign which Ambassador Marquisade has called troubling… At the mention of the ambassador’s name, the man said “Marquisade” in spite. He spit on the ground and then turned toward Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi hid her leg close to the rope, trying to conceal its liberation. The man got up from his chair and walked toward her. “You know,” he started, “You’re actually kinda cute for a squint. You got a nice rack there.” As he walked closer and closer, Yamaguchi worried about what he might do. “I know the boss said not to fuck you and to be a gentleman and all that shit,” he licked his lips, “but it don’t mean I can’t have any fun.” He reached out and grabbed her breasts, fondling them hard.

Yamaguchi stood there silently, seething at the man’s perversion. He looked her in the eyes. “You sure do have a nice pair, and such pretty eyes,” he said with a malicious grin. Yamaguchi realized that this was her chance.

Leaning her head back as far as it would go, Yamaguchi, forcing her head forward, head-butted the man as hard as she could. The man screamed in pain and fell to the floor on his back. Using the heel of her freed foot, she raised her leg up and quickly struck as hard as she could on his Adam’s apple.  She brought her leg up again and hit the man in the side of the head, so quick that he couldn’t roll away. She stomped his face over and over again, the anger of being violated fueling her blows. The man was in too much pain to scream, the radio concealing his groans. She brought it up one last time, hit him again with everything she had, and knocked the man out. He laid on the floor groaning as a pool of blood trickled from his nose and ear, the radio drowning out the noise.
              Yamaguchi ignored the pain in her head and moved the chair toward the cabinet. Using the broken handle, she was able to cut the ropes and free her hands. I ought to kill this bastard, she thought as she removed her ball gag. Once free, she hastily used the ropes to tie the man. It’ll slow him down at least, she thought. She looked around for any items she could use to escape. There was the letter opener, which Yamaguchi took. Feeling exposed, Yamaguchi looked for something to wear and found a thick fisherman’s vest in one of the cabinets. There were no firearms in the room, so Yamaguchi had to improvise. She found a fishnet in one corner of the room and broke it’s handle, creating a makeshift club. Yamaguchi held the knife and club with one hand and looked around to see if she could swipe anything else. She also grabbed a shiny paperweight off the desk. This’ll have to do, she thought as she wrapped some wire around her shoulder and placed the paperweight in her pocket. Yamaguchi took one last look at the man lying there before opening the door. Fucking asshole, she thought.

Once Yamaguchi opened the door, she realized where she was. Great, the Everglades, she thought as the scene before her unfolded. The door opened up to a small makeshift wooden bridge built so that people wouldn’t have to wade through the swamp. She quietly closed the door and crept along the length of the bridge, which connected to another log cabin, a much larger one consisting of a rectangular hallway and some rooms. Grasping the paperweight in her hand, she opened the door ever so slightly and used its reflective properties to see if anyone waited around the corner. Nobody. She continued to do this at every corner cautiously, until the final hallway revealed a man with a shotgun. Damn, so close, she thought. She considered which option of attack was the best, but her thoughts were cut short when the man began walking towards her. Crap, she thought. Yamaguchi knew that if she didn’t subdue him before he fired his shotgun, it would alert anyone else here and she would be in trouble. Crap, crap, crap, what do I do? She thought. She got the letter opener ready in one hand and the club ready in the other. She was going to have only one shot at this.

Or so she thought. A voice called the man from the other side of the hallway he occupied. “Hey Walter, get over here. You gotta check this out,” said the voice. Walter turned around and walked to the man calling him. Yamaguchi heard a door close, checked to see if the coast was clear, and made her move. In the center of the hallway was the exit. She headed through it, crossed one final swamp bridge and walked on dry swampy land. She was free, but needed to get far away from there. She walked along the path of dead ground and noticed that there were some cars parked on the side of the path. However, there were three armed guards patrolling the area.  Fan-fucking-tastic, thought Yamaguchi as she hid in some tall grass. The three men had shotguns like the first, but Yamaguchi knew that if she took them out, she could hotwire a car and be home free. She crept in the tall grass and approached the first man, a short, chubby, greasy looking weasel of a man. A slightly taller and much more hideous looking man followed him. Yamaguchi waited until they were close and then made her move. Jumping from the grass, Yamaguchi stabbed the taller man in the back of the neck with her letter opener, penetrating all the way to the front and piercing his esophagus and trachea. Before the fat man could say “what the fuck?” she brought down her makeshift club and hit him in the face. The tall man let out a shotgun blast at the floor before he fell to the floor, struggling for breath and dying. Yamaguchi hit fat man in the hand again, forcing him to drop the shotgun. She raised the club to hit him once more but he caught it and kicked her away. Yamaguchi looked as he broke it with his two hands. She jumped for his shotgun, but he tackled her to the ground. Yamaguchi punched him in the face, but it didn’t faze him. He tried to gain the upper hand but Yamaguchi didn’t let him. Using her judo training in the police force, she used his weight to flip him over. She pushed off him and jumped for the shotgun.

She barely had the shotgun in her hand before bullets soared right over her head. The third man, probably hearing the shotgun blast earlier, had finally come to see the commotion. Yamaguchi rolled underneath one of the nearby cars and snuck into the tall grass. “She’s on the other side of the car,” screamed the fat man to his accomplice, a balding Middle Eastern looking gentleman. The fat man signaled that he would approach her from the right while the other man should approach from the left. The Middle Eastern man flashed the OK signal and they slowly crept on each side of the van. Walter and some other man ran from the house to where they heard the noise, shotguns in hand. “Hey, what’s going on over here?” screamed the man in the tacky Hawaiian shirt. “Shut the hell up, Steve. The prisoner’s esca…” the fat man tried to whisper before a shotgun blast sounded off followed by the screams of the Middle Eastern man. Yamaguchi ran past two cars and behind the side of a pick up truck. Walter, Steve and the fat man followed her footsteps. Walter turned and fired but Yamaguchi had already rolled under the car. The fat man foolishly checked underneath the car only to be greeted with the barrel end of Yamaguchi’s shotgun. BAM! Only two more to go. Much to Yamaguchi’s dismay, she heard the noise signifying that her clip was empty. Walter and Steve heard it too. Yamaguchi tried to reach for the fat man’s gun, but Steve shot at it, forcing her to retract her hand and helplessly watch as she gun bounced out of reach. Yamaguchi knew she was a dead woman if she stood underneath the car, so she slid from beneath the front of the vehicle. Steve had already ran to the fat man’s location while Walter was right behind him, both with smug “we got her now” smiles. Yamaguchi knew that if she tried to run, she was done. So she did the bold thing, the crazy thing, the only thing.

Yamaguchi nimbly ran up the hood of the pick up truck and jumped towards her attackers with a split kick before either knew what was happening. She hit both of them in the face and they all fell over, Yamaguchi landing in between them.  Steve was the first to react and quickly brought up his shotgun to shoot Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi quickly smacked the shotgun upward with her palm and redirected the blast, which stuck Walter and knocked him on his ass, dead.  Steve tried to point the shotgun at Yamaguchi yet again but she was too close. She karate chopped his hand, the shotgun landing on the floor and blasting into the neighboring car. Shocked from Yamaguchi’s speed, Steve could not block Yamaguchi’s fierce elbow blow, breaking his nose and knocking him to the floor. Yamaguchi quickly jumped on top of him and punched him until he was out cold, his blood all over her fists. She got up and looked at the scene of chaos before her. She couldn’t help but let out a little laugh. I’m such a badass, she thought, content to finally be free. She hotwired the pickup and drove away.

Yamaguchi finally found a road she recognized and decided to drive back to the police station. She was sure they were worried about her. The owner of the car  left a news radio station running and Yamaguchi listened as she drove through the dark, spooky Everglades, wondering if she was in the news. The police are reporting that the famous Majestic cruise ship has exploded due to an engine malfunction.” Yamaguchi turned up the volume, the story intriguing her. The Majestic had docked in New Miami harbor this afternoon before eye witnesses saw the cruise ship blow up and sink into ocean. Fortunately, no one was on board the ship as it was to be scrapped for parts in order to make a much larger and efficient cruise ship. Said harbormaster Ken Glinko, ‘it’s going to be a nightmare to clean up, but thank God no one was hurt.’ Turning to sports… Yamaguchi turned off the radio as she pulled into the police station. Little did she know that her welcome back party would be short lived.


Part Eight:
Dreams of the Past

            Twenty in the chamber. I only had twenty chances to kill the eight men that were quickly closing in on Persephone and me. Five men on my right and three on my left.

Twenty shots at freedom

We nodded and opened fire from our makeshift cover of dining tables. Persephone pinned down the three on the left with her machine gun; pieces of wood and puffs of marble flying all over. I took aim at the first man, and with three shots was able to shoot him right through his eye patch.

He fell to the floor with a heavy thud. The other four returned fire and I quickly ducked behind cover. I waited for the bullets to stop flying before I tried again. Persephone managed to hit one of her guys in the back. He let out a yelp of pain before collapsing into violent spasms. I aimed and fired five more shots, all misses.

A grizzled man with a thin red beard shot back and grazed my cheek. I felt the blood trickle down my face as I finally hit one of the men in the abdomen.

Eleven shots left.

I quickly ducked. The three men on my side were getting closer and I was being overpowered. I tried to blindly lift my pistol over the table and shoot someone, but a bullet struck the pistol out of my hand. I watched helplessly as it bounced on the floor away from me. The three men on my side grew bold and one of them sprinted toward our direction, an olive skinned man wearing sunglasses. Persephone was too preoccupied with keeping her side at bay to notice him. I quickly dove for my gun, turned around and shot as the olive skinned man briskly jumped over our tables.

The bullet struck him in the abdomen. He fell down clutching his trigger, firing a volley of bullets that almost hit Persephone. I fired one more into his head, just to be safe.

Nine bullets left.
 I quickly got off the floor and assisted Persephone, who was shocked by the line of bullets that barely missed her. Once she recovered, Persephone managed to hit another on her side before her machine gun finally clicked. She was done. She ducked behind cover, leaving me with the burden of saving our lives. Two on my left, one on my right. I was surrounded. Each time I tried to take out one side, the other side would fire.

 My bullets bounced off of the kiosks and cement pillars that they hid behind.

I was grasping at straws and Persephone watched anxiously. I looked into those golden eyes. Those beautiful golden eyes that haunted me for ten years. I can’t lose you again. Not like this, I thought.

Six bullets left.

 The three men were right on top of us. They all charged at the same time. I grazed one in the head...

...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.

 The two men on the right attempted to shoot me over my makeshift cover, but I forcefully kicked the table towards them. It knocked them on the floor and they quickly returned back to cover as bullets flew from behind me. Persephone had picked up one of the dead man’s guns and clumsily fired it at the two men.

Three bullets left.

            All of a sudden, the ship began to shake violently as explosions caused pieces of roof to fall all around us. The glass of the storefronts shattered, kiosks toppled over and chairs rolled down the shopping plaza. One of the pursuers, a muscular man with a scarred face, charged at me. I fired two shots

...but he caught me off guard and tackled me to the ground, forcing me to drop my pistol. We rolled around and grappled for our lives as Persephone switched between keeping the bearded man at bay and trying to shoot the burly man pinning me down. I tried to punch him in the gut, but I didn’t have the positioning to retaliate. He punched me in the face and started to choke me. I grasped at his arms. I tried to regain my breath but he was too strong.

Viva Cuba. Viva el bultre,” he said through a malicious smile of gritted teeth.

Persephone hit the bearded man in the Adam’s apple with her last few bullets and he collapsed in a pool of gushing blood. She stumbled to my direction as more explosions continued to rock the ship. Seeing that I was being chocked, she used her machine gun like a club and hit the man on the head. It didn’t knock him out, but it did make him flinch. I pushed his arms out of the way and punched him right in the jaw. Persephone hit him harder and finally he fell off of me. I took my pistol and fired my remaining bullet right between the eyes. We had won. Persephone took my hand and we ran. “Shouldn’t we be…”

…an explosion above us cut me off. Small embers rained around us and Persephone threw off her trench coat as it began to catch on fire. She was wearing a tight diving suit and some strange belt. “ Shouldn’t we run towards the pier?” I asked, grasping my injured shoulder. “Trust me, amor,” she panted as we finally made it outside. Around us were two walls of fire. Explosion after explosion shook the ship. Persephone fiddled with her “utility belt” and pulled out a long rope with a clip on it.  She attached it to the gate. “You can’t be serious,” I said. She tied a knot to reinforce the rope. “If we jump from here and this doesn’t work, the impact will…” I was interrupted when she wrapped her arms tightly around me, securing the other end of the rope around my waist. “Trust me,” she said again as she leaned in and kissed me. Even though smoke and flame billowed all around us, it felt like I was in the safest place I could be. It was the age-old feeling as if time had stopped. And then she used her momentum to throw us both off of the balcony.

I watched in fear as the ocean surface quickly approached, too scared to even scream. This is it. This is suicide, I thought as Persephone and I clenched each other tighter. All of a sudden, the rope tightened and our death dive was halted a few feet over the ocean. Our combined weight caused the gate to break, however, and we clumsily fell into the water. Persephone and I quickly detached our rope belt as the piece of gate crashed into the water near us. We resurfaced, half laughing, half panting. “Holy crap, that was amazing,” I said once I was able to catch my breath. “I didn’t know you were such a wimp,” she panted, followed by a laugh. We both swam away from the Majestic cruise ship, which at this point was nothing more than a mountain of fire. Small pieces of debris rained all around us and we maneuvered through the large waves caused by the explosions. “This way,” she told me as she led me into the ocean. “Why are we going this way?” I asked her incredulously. I had lost a lot of blood. I didn’t know how much more I could push myself. We swam a few more feet before, out of nowhere, Persephone stood up in the water. What the hell? Was all I could think before my foot hit something. It was smooth and polished. Something metal. Persephone crouched down and fiddled with something. A few beeps were emitted by the contraption, followed by the swish of something opening. “Come on in,” she said.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It looked like a submarine, but judging from the space, it was about the size of a van. I sat snugly in the back while Persephone sat in the chair and turned it on. “This is incredible,” I said, looking at all of the different screens and buttons and intricate machinery. “I stole it from the Cubans. A new portable submarine. A prototype,” she said as she pulled some levers. The ship hummed to life and soon we were moving. Persephone focused on piloting the sub and soon the hum nulled me to sleep. I was exhausted. I was awoken by a slight shake of the sub which made me hit my head against the metal wall. Looking down, I noticed that my wounds had been bandaged and wrapped up tight. I walked over to Persephone, who was sitting in her command chair, and I wrapped my arms around her. “Mi amor,” she cooed as I kissed her on top of the head. I buried my face into her thick black hair. She scratched the back of my head with one arm while she continued to pilot with the other. I loved it when she scratched my head. I let out a small groan of pleasure. Soon, she stopped the sub and we went to the back to sit down. I wrapped my arms around her as she leaned on my chest. I kissed her all over her beautiful face. “Mi amor, I need to tell you what I came to tell you,” she said, looking into my eyes. I stood silent and waited for her to start.

“My country is dying,” she started melancholically. “Everything that Cuba once stood for: patriotism, justice, hope. Everything is dying.” She paused. “Cuba is about to engage in a civil war,” she said with exasperation. “What? Really?” I asked incredulously. “The Cuban government is currently engaged in a power struggle. We’re losing, Ace. It’s taken everything for the government to conceal this information from the foreign press, but soon we will be evicted,” she paused, “or killed.” She rose up and walked away from me. “When I first became a spy, it was because I believed that what my country was doing was right. I fought for a free Cuba, a beautiful Cuba full of life and love. It was a dream. To wipe away our past and renew ourselves, to become a new country of prosperity and peace.” She paused. “We learned from our mistakes. We grew greedy and we paid the price. The Cuban-East American war was our mistake.” She leaned on one of the control panels.  “However, some people thought that the war was just and that we lost because of cowardice. To think that they would call us cowards,” she said enraged. She clenched her hand into a fist. “Is it cowardice to protect the ones you love? Is it cowardice to choose life over death?” She punched the wall.

“Many of my friends and loved ones died for that stupid ideology. That is why I spied for Cardonez. Cardonez knew what Cuba needed.” “But I thought that Cordonez killed hundreds of his people. I thought he was trying to become a dictator,” I butted in. “Lies!” she shouted at me. “All lies spread by Anguilin. That lying cocksucker,” she said through gritted teeth. “Ace, believe me when I say I never would have left you if I knew Cordonez was a murdering psychopath,” Persephone said as she calmed down. “Persephone…” I started, but couldn’t finish. I needed to know though. I needed to know. “How could you leave me like that?” I finally gathered the courage to ask. She started to cry. “Ace, I always loved you. I still do. But my country comes first. I never meant to hurt you, but my country goes first. Always. I’m sorry.” She burst into heavy sobs.

I stood up and took her into my arms once again. “Ace, I don’t know how, but Anguilin is planning to reignite the war of the Americas,” she said sadly. “What do you mean reignite? How? When?” I asked in shock. “I don’t know, I don’t know,” she said. “All I know is that whatever the plan, this night vulture is assisting him.” Those two words filled me with rage. I had almost forgotten about the night vulture in all this excitement, but hearing that name again reminded me of all the pain he had caused. “Persephone, my love,” I started, “who is the night vulture?” She looked down at the floor. “I’m sorry, mi amor, but I don’t know. All I know is that the night vulture is very powerful. The vulture’s influence is deep and far.” I was heartbroken. I thought that Persephone could have been the key to the night vulture’s discovery, but it was just another dead end. “I’m sorry, mi amor. I’m sorry I can’t help you more than this,” she said wiping her tears. I grasped her tightly in my arms. “It’s OK, my love,” I replied. “I’m sorry, mi amor,” she said as I felt a sharp sting in my neck. It was a syringe. I pushed her away and grabbed my neck. “What did you…” I couldn’t finish. Everything was going hazy. “Mi amor,” she started. Her voice sounded as if she was talking into a glass bottle. “Mi amor, I am the only one left. The night vulture has killed the others. I must leave you but know that I am with you always,” she said before I passed out and dropped to the floor.

I was awoken by the sound of an EKG machine and it was already midday. I opened my eyes lazily and tried to rub them before I noticed my arm in a sling. An IV drip was inserted into it. “Well, you’re finally awake,” said an all too familiar voice. It was Yamaguchi. She was covered in some bandages and had on a normal pair of jeans and a loose green t-shirt with a cow on it. “You look like shit,” I said with a laugh. “You don’t look much better,” she retorted with a laugh of her own. “Where am I?” I asked. “Jackson Hospital. You’ve been sleeping for three days now,” she said with a smile. She walked over to me and kissed my lips lightly. “I missed you,” she said. The kiss brought visions of Persephone into my head. “How did you guys find me? Where was…” “Someone contacted the ambulance and we found you by the beach near Ocean Avenue. We had no idea who placed the call,” she interrupted. Persephone, I thought. Where are you now? Yamaguchi pulled her chair closer to me. “And where were you, Yama?” I asked weakly. She smiled. “You wouldn’t believe me even if I told you,” she said with a laugh. I laughed too. I was glad to be alive and in familiar territory. “Everyone on the force has been worried about you,” she said. “Maldonado gave me the week off so that I could be with you. I probably have a mountain of paperwork to finish when I get back,” she said happily. “Me too,” I added with a chuckle. The movement injured my swollen face. “Anyways, I’m going to tell everyone you’re OK so that they can come and see you,” she said as she rose from her chair. “Yama, wait,” I said. She paused.

“I need you to tell Maldonado that something major is going to go down. Something of national importance.” I paused, thinking of the grandiosity of the news I was about to deliver. “We’re going to need the government’s involvement. I don’t know how, I don’t know when but somehow, Cuba plans on reigniting the war of the Americas.” Yamaguchi gasped in disbelief. “Go quick and tell Maldonado,” I said weakly. “Yes sir,” she said seriously, bolting out of the room. My eyes grew heavy and soon I fell asleep again. In my dream, I watched Persephone as she floated away from me into a dark abyss. Suddenly, I saw those large red eyes and heard that laugh. I saw graves with the names of my friends: Henry, Yamaguchi, Maldonado. I saw an East American flag waving patriotically before it burned to ashes. I saw nuclear bombs exploding, guns and grenades and death. And then I saw the world crumble around me as I dropped to my knees hopelessly in despair.



Part Nine:
The Portrait

          “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.

“Alright, so how can I help you today? I already told you what I know and I haven’t come up with any new details,” I said as we all sat back down. Colt crossed his fingers and leaned his chin on his hands, analyzing me with his tired green eyes. Morales crossed her legs and cleared her throat. “Mr. Ace,” she started. “Can we call you Jeremiah or do you prefer Mr. Ace?” she asked politely. “Just call me Ace. That’s what everyone else calls me,” I said with a shrug. She nodded. “Alright Ace, we need you to…” Suddenly, Colt slammed his hands on my desk. “Dammit, Morales, don’t beat around the bush,” he shouted. “Detective Ace, we know you blew up the cruise ship. We also know it was you that killed those women.” I was bewildered by the sudden change in tone. “Are you fucking kidding me?” I asked incredulously. “Fact is,” started Morales,” There seem to be a lot of fortunate coincidences regarding this case. How did you escape from an ‘exploding cruise ship filled with gun men’ by yourself again?” She said the last part in a mocking tone. “I told you. I fought my way through and escaped,” I said impatiently. I just wanted to storm off. “So you somehow killed twenty plus men and escaped. The cruise ship just magically exploded?” she said. “I told you, Maldonado…” “Alan Maldonado has been dead for five years,” interrupted Colt as he threw a file at me. I opened it. There was a large picture of Alan with the words “TERMINATED” stamped over it. I looked on in disbelief. It was definitely the man that had tortured me for the last few weeks. “We also have video evidence of you working with a Cuban spy. Are you helping the Cubans?” I was boiling now.


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.

Nothing special.

          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.

Night Vulture associates? Persephone? Mary?

I thought.  I continued to read. The next page had a few addresses, again most crossed out. I didn’t recognize any except for the city hall address. Are these all government buildings? I would need to check it out later at headquarters.   The next page had dates followed by little initials and notes.  Apparently, something happened at E. B shipping agency a few months ago.  A month after that, a “general meeting” occurred. “Maldonado” was next to a date from a month ago. Finally, there were two future dates. The last one caught my eye. It was to begin in three weeks. “Begin operation Night Vulture.” I was so distracted by the words night vulture that I almost skipped the penultimate date. It was for the end of the week. All it said was “JRJ.” I thought about it until it final hit me. Jack Russell Jackson. Holy crap, that’s how they’re gonna do it, I thought.

          “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.

We fight back and we run like hell.



  1. I'm hooked. Can't wait for the next one.

    You lose your voice in a couple of spots:

    "She walked over to me; the sound of her heels the only thing breaking the silence of seeing my former love again after so long. " (clunky sentence)

    "Knowing we’d be overwhelmed, I grabbed Persephone by the hand and we ran into the cruise ship. It was a large ship. We ran past the fancy lobby with the chandeliers and into the shopping area. The walls were lined with overpriced stores and crappy looking display kiosks. With her heels, we knew we couldn’t outrun them, so we stopped running and prepared to face them."

    Question I have: is there a reason for red eyes?

    1. Author here. Yeah Sorry about that. Since I'm in med school, what usually ends up happening is that I wait until I have the chance to write and then I just it all in one big block as if writing it free form. Then I got through it two or three times and try to trim it and make it flow nicer. Sometimes I have trouble getting it from mind to paper but as a fellow writer you know how it goes. If med school didn't interfere, I'd trim it even more. Thanks for the feedback and glad you enjoy it.

  2. thanks, I made some changes to it, hopefully it flows better. As for the eyes, you'll just have to wait and read. Next part to arrive Friday, March 9th!!

  3. Thanks Alex. I should have caught those clunky sentences but somehow they slipped through during editing. But aside from the few mixups you're doing an awesome job at storytelling!!