Electric Boogaloo, Chapter 7: Lin Takahashi

Lin Takahashi loved her job.  For months at a time, she could forget herself and become an architect, an entertainment agent, and now a policewoman trying to take down the very organization which she secretly belonged to.  For a woman who as a kid loved to play pretend, her constant assignments were a trip and a half.  The considerable perks were nice too.

And she’d be damned if she was going to let some F.B.I. prick take it away from her.

“Hacker, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said.  Live the cover, she’d always been told.  She could do that—she’d been doing it for the past five years.

“Is that so.” Hacker said, smiling superciliously.  Pulling out a manila envelope, he removed from it a series of photographs and set them before her.

It was her.  At a glance, Lin recognized herself at various stages of her adult life.  Her college graduation.  Her vacation/assignment in France.  That night with the disgraced late Diet member Megumi Sakai.  She, Karai, and that Joshua kid.  Her past five years, captured on camera.  Also, Hacker’s first mistake.  A dedicated F.B.I. agent could have plausibly obtained, at best, a fraction of the pictures she’d been shown. For him to get all of them, he’d have to either be Foot, or something much worse.

Martin Hacker, it seemed, was Illuminati.

*          *          *

“The Illuminati?” asked an eighteen-year old Lin, as she scoured the Amphi lingerie store for the perfect bra for the night.  “As in ‘organization secretly taking over the world via secret conspiracies involving vaccines’?  Isn’t that supposed to be us?”

Her companion, Karai Saki, did not seem to find the comment amusing.  Then again, that wasn’t exactly rare for her.  “The Illuminati are not to be taken lightly, Lin.  They are the biggest threat to everything The Foot has worked for.”

Lin sighed. She generally thought of herself a patient girl, but Karai was making her seriously reconsider that stance. No matter what the comment, the ninja princess’ reaction would be the same detached humorlessness.  It took a special something to react to her story about that time she’d staged 200-person naked protest with utter disinterest.

Still, she wasn’t about to give up on her newest project.   Two months after Karai had first joined Lin’s martial arts training squadron, with a demeanor that suggested a biologist studying a particularly interesting colony of ants, the older girl was still determined to figure out what had made the smart, confident, beautiful—yet maddeningly reticent—sixteen-year-old tick.

Fortunately, her efforts were not without their progress.  It had taken three weeks of awkward “conversation”, but she had eventually begun obtaining  semi-friendly snippets out of the girl.  For her to freely volunteer information like this was a major breakthrough.

Amazingly, Karai wasn’t finished.  “My father has gone out to meet with their leaders, you know.  Apparently the Foot have killed one of their number, and they are quite cross about it.”

“Is that so?” Lin asked, from beyond the dressing room door, as she tried out garment after garment. Surprising news. If everything she’d heard of the Shredder was true, he was not the type to admit mistakes easily.  For him to actually go through the trouble of apologizing…

“You should know, by the way: this is classified information. If you tell anyone about it, I will be forced to eliminate you.”  Said with total conviction.

Figures, though Lin.  “Well, thanks for giving me a choice on the matter,” she replied, tartly.  “Why’d you tell me, then?”

Karai considered her answer.  “I am concerned for my father. I had hoped that sharing my worries would ease my discomfort.”

“Well, when you put it that way…” So frustrating. Still, she was glad the ninja princess had decided to confide in her.  She might be human after all.

They continued their trek through the store. Before long, Karai suggested Lin buy an expensive-looking turquoise number which, according to its manufactures, would guarantee “fantastic cleavage”, even if it had to perform magic in order to do so.  To Lin’s surprise, it fit perfectly.

*          *          *

A barista brought Hacker’s meal to their table.  As she set the items down, Hacker retrieved the various photos.  “Let’s not be coy, Miss Lin,” the F.B.I. said, as he began adding sugar to his latte.  “We both know you’re not quite what you pretend to be.”

Lin had stopped paying attention, though.  Her mind was in a frenzy, trying to come up with a battle plan.  First things first, Lin thought: if she wanted to beat Hacker, she needed to take stock of all she knew, all she didn’t know, and all she needed to know.  She knew that:

一) Hacker had possession of a series of suggestive pictures—genuine suggestive pictures, at that.  However, from what she’d seen, the photos did not go beyond suggestive.  They included no evidence of wrongdoing.

二) Hacker obviously planned to blackmail her, and was willing to risk his life in order to do it.

Unfortunately, the list of things she didn’t know or was unsure about was somewhat larger:

一) Did Hacker possess additional, more incriminating, pictures or evidence?  If he did, why didn’t he bring them here?

二) Did he know her true affiliation, or did he merely suspect it?  He could merely be bluffing, hoping she’d slip up and give him free information.

三) Was he an idiot, or had he actually thought this through?

四) Was he actually Illuminati?  She was almost certain he was but she couldn’t afford to be wrong.

五) If so, was he acting on their behalf?

六) If the answer to the previous two items was “yes”, what did it mean? The Illuminati and the Foot had a set of pretty strict rules when it came to inter-conspiracy interaction, set up precisely to prevent this sort of situation.  If he was breaking Society protocol on their behalf, then things were about to get dicey.

One thing was clear: until she got more information, slitting the self-satisfied G-Man’s throat and dumping the body was not an option.

“You’re not making any sense,” she finally said, a full five seconds after Hacker had last spoken.  “What are these photos supposed to be?  Have you been following me?”

“Ah, so it is you in these photos then.”  Not quite a question. He looked a bit like he’d achieved an early victory, which suited Lin just fine.

“Some, yeah,” she said, singling the more innocuous ones of the lot. “I don’t see what they have to do with anything.”

“Okay, lets start at the beginning.  You’ve kept up with the recent reports about the Foot Clan, yes?”

“Ancient Japanese cabal with secretly taking over the world via secret conspiracies—I have been paying attention, you know.”

“Good,” Hacker said.  “Well, it all brought to mind something a friend of mine over at Interpol had told me a while back, about a series of seemingly unrelated crimes over in Japan.  Unrelated, except for one thing: in every one of these incidents, a young woman—or rather, young women—had been found to have direct or indirect connections to people involved in each case.  Strangely enough, all these women shared several key physical characteristics, and all had the same name: Lin.”

Lin put on her best confused face—this was supposed to be new information, after all.  Not a bad story, she considered.  Probably bullshit all the way through, but the average person would probably find it plausible enough not to ask awkward questions until it was too late.   “And you think I’m related to these incidents.  Do you have any proof?”

“Not really, no.  Still, one can’t argue that Kessler’s case seems to fit the profile; the similarities would no doubt raise some eyebrows to anyone who became aware of them.  A curious and enterprising investigator—Maza, for example—would certainly find it worth looking into.”

“It’d be a waste of time; I didn’t do anything,” Lin said, allowing hint of despair to seep into her demeanor.  Koyobashi may have been created to be cool under pressure, but being impassive would merely confirm Hacker’s suspicions.

“That may well be the case—maybe they look into Kessler and find nothing. Then again, a particularly smart investigator—again, Maza—may decide to check in on Lin Koyobashi’s record, and what will they find then?  Either way, your job has just become a whole lot harder.”

Lin would have smiled, if her cover had allowed for it.  The plan was brilliant, covering his ass from every angle.  Unless she was extremely careful, any counter-attack would be as likely to cast suspicion on her.

“Like I said, I believe you’re part of the Foot Clan.  I can’t prove it and I won’t try to, but that is what I believe.  If my suspicions are true, then it means that you can do something for me—or more specifically, for a group of people I’m associated with.”  The dog whistle at the end was too deliberate—he did have proof of everything.  The comment made no sense otherwise.

Their little game was winding down.  “If your suspicions are true.  And if they’re not?”

“Then you are of no use to me and I’ve tragically and accidentally—but with the best of intentions—damaged an innocent cop’s career.  You’ll get over it—after all, who ever heard of a public official getting punished in this city?”

And there they were.  The game—at least this round—was over. Hacker held the lead, but that was hardly a permanent state of affairs.  She’d learned a bit, and she’d kept her options open—not bad for a largely improvised gig.

Hacker produced another manila envelope, which he gave to Lin.  It was completely unmarked.  “Open that when you’re back home, and read what’s inside immediately.  Give me an answer by noon tomorrow, and we’ll be set.  If you agree to do this favor for me, I’ll be out of your hair, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.  If I hear nothing from you, or you decide to disagree, then I’ll just have share my suspicions with Maza and the rest.

Hacker finished his meal, paid his bill, and then left Lin alone in the coffee shop.  As she watched him walk out of sight, she entertained herself by imagining him being killed in various humorous mishaps.  She particularly liked the scenario where he was attacked by a squadron of rabid squirrels.

She was hungry.  She’d eaten before arriving, and she knew that priority one should probably be to read Hacker’s papers and contact Karai, but the confrontation with the Illuminatus—and she was certain that was what he was, all things considered—had left her peckish. To that purpose, she headed to the counter to order a meal.  Everything else could wait.

*          *          *

Hacker had to admit it; he was impressed. While he hadn’t expected Miss Lin to break down in sobs during their encounter, he’d though he would get far more out of her than he actually did. Pity she worked for the other team, or he’d try to recruit her in a heartbeat. He almost felt sorry for framing her for the Kessler murder—almost.


“Here’s your coffee, ‘lisa,” said Cedric Harris, as he handed over the large (Starbucks would call it “venti”) cup of Miss Carmen’s almost acid-like concoction.  “Hope it keeps you awake.”

“Yeah, you and all of Manhattan’s drivers,” Elisa said.  Coffee in hand, she stepped outside of the car—no way was she risking the stains—and gratefully began imbibing.

Neither Elisa nor Cedric were regular coffee drinkers.  The sudden dependency had come about thanks to the their shift in hours, which had let them with an annoying mix of sleepiness and insomnia.  So far, they still hadn’t found the combination of chemicals that would magically transform them into daytime creatures, but they hadn’t give up hope yet.

“I really hope this detail ends soon,” Elisa commented, as she stifled a yawn.  “Humans were not meant for daytime living.”

“I don’t know,” said Cedric, his own coffee in hand.  I’m kind of enjoying it.  It’s nice to be synced with the rest of the world for a change.”

“Yeah?” Elisa said incredulously.  “What about Diane?”  Cedric’s wife worked night shifts at a hospital, a decision she’d made after she’d first got serious four years ago.

“We’re fine—in fact, I think not being able to see each other is just the jolt our marriage needed.  Now it’s just hello, a quick roll in the hay, goodbye.  Plus, she really likes that the house is now clean by the time she wakes up,” he said, without a hint of irony. “How about you?  You thinking of getting back in the dating game? At least now you’re not limited to the graveyard shift crazies.”

Elisa smiled. “I don’t know—you sure you won’t get jealous?”

“Moi?  Never.  I’m a generous guy—I know you’re too much of a woman for me to keep for myself.  Plus, maybe it’ll stop all the locker room talk about you being a secret lesbian.”

“Well, maybe if you stopped spreading them around…” The conversation was a familiar one, and one that occasionally made her pine for Matt.  While Cedric’s ribbing was not malicious—it was more biological imperative than anything—it would occasionally touch some still-open wounds.  In addition, it reminded her of the foundation of lies of omission at the center of their relationship; she couldn’t tell him about Goliath without revealing his nature, and she couldn’t do that without raising some obvious—and unanswerable—questions.

A call went up on the police radio—another multiple murder at the docks.  Without a word, the two policemen finished their drinks and returned to the streets.


Electric Boogaloo: Recap

In preparation for tomorrow’s (I hope) update on “Electric Boogaloo”, here’s a synopsis of what’s gone on so far.

The Story So Far

Over the past several years, the crime lord known as The Shredder has consolidated almost all organized crime in New York City under the control of his Foot Clan.

Twenty-oh-four: With the Shredder reportedly killed under mysterious circumstances and his 2nd in command Hun missing, the various elements of The Foot’s crime empire have begun fighting amongst themselves.  Thus far, three main factions have emerged: the Foot remnant, led by the Shredder’s Elite Ninja; the Purple Dragons, a street gang usually in charge of most of the Foot’s lower-level criminal activity; and The Five Families, a consortium of old-school gangsters that had been bought out by the Shredder, and who consider the current confusion to be their best chance at a comeback.

After a few skirmishes, the battle for control of the city finally grabbed the public’s attention when fifteen men were found dead at a Canal Street warehouse.  In response, the New York Police Department organized a special task force to deal with the escalating violence–one which, whether by design or happenstance, includes many of the same people who in 1996 formed part of the Gargoyle Task Force.

One of the people not in the Task Force is disgraced cop Longer, who relishes the opportunity to regain his lost reputation and honor.  To that point, he has begun investigating the strange going ons on his own, aiming to…what, exactly?

Thanks to a series of lucky accidents, the Task Force has been able to make some headway into the investigation, and they now have a vague idea of what they’re dealing with.  Meanwhile, task force members Martin Hacker and Lin Koyobashi have been making inroads of their own, and not quite of the positive type…

Dramatis Personae

The Detail:

Gordon Miller: Lieutenant assigned to head the detail by Chief of Detectives Sterns.  A pragmatist and realist, he has little hope of closing the case, but plans to do his damnedest.

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Electric Boogaloo, Chapter 6: Lauren Stanton

“Hey, Chung! Is that you?”

Detective Tri Chung recognized the loud, unselfconscious voice immediately: Lauren Stanton, newspaper reporter for the Daily Globe and, on any given day, one of the top five people whose face the detective did not wish to see. So close; another second later, and he would have been inside the men’s restroom and safely out of sight. Maybe it wasn’t too late; pretending the sound of his name had simply come from a particularly particular (and random) gust of wind, he opened the restroom door, entered, and hoped that decorum would keep the reporter out.

It didn’t work. With the customary chutzpah Chung couldn’t believe he’d once found attractive, Stanton followed him into the restroom and parked herself in the urinal next to his.

“Oh, good, it is you. So, how’ryou doing?”

“Fine…until a minute ago.” Chung grunted. Courtesy, he’d learned years ago, did not get you anywhere with Stanton. While rudeness wasn’t much more effective, it at least made him feel better. “What do you want?”

“Same thing as always. I’m working on a story, and I want to run a few things by you, make sure I’m on the right track.”

“And you’re sure it has to be me that you ask these questions to? You know, Vivian still doesn’t let me talk to you.”

For a moment, it seemed like a barb had actually gotten through to Lauren. He could have just imagined it though, as the reporter then rolled her eyes, all mock indignation. “Not my problem. I’m not going to tell her. Will you?”

Tri said nothing; the damage had already been done. “Fine. Can we just…not do it here?” he finally answered, using his head to gesture towards his nether regions. “Let me finish, and we’ll talk at the library.”

The courtroom library was empty save for the librarian and a couple of others, which lent the area preternatural (even for, well, a library) silence. This, in turn, amplified every sound Tri made to a level that made the detective afraid to move, lest his noise reverberate through the room and bring unwanted attention upon himself.

Lauren, on the other hand, had no such compunctions. Even with her so-called library voice, her entire being screamed “loud” to such a level that she’d attracted the librarian’s disapproving gaze even before the reporter had said anything. Not that Lauren had noticed.

“So basically, I’ll just tell you what I’ve got so far, and you tell me if I’m on the mark–is that okay?” she asked. She had her a notepad at the ready, despite the recorder she’d laid on the table. “So what’s this about ‘The Shredder’?”

Over the next half-hour, Tri did his best to answer the reporter’s questions truthfully, while avoiding the subjects Miller had forbidden his team from mentioning. As the interview went on, the detective grew increasingly more impressed with the amount of information the reporter had managed to dig up on her own. While she hadn’t learned everything, she’d put the pieces together and had correctly determined the cause of the war and the players’ role within it. Granted, most of the information would be useless in the hands of the police–it was mostly cobbled up from anecdotes and hearsay from various anonymous and non-anonymous sources, but that was, after all why Lauren had sought him out. As the interview continued, he felt himself getting more comfortable despite himself. Him and Lauren–just like old times. Funny how one night can change things.

“Okay, one final thing,” Lauren said. “How goes the massacre docks investigation?”

“We’ve made progress, is all I’ll say,” Chung answered–although personally, he wouldn’t call it that. Elisa Maza had told the detail about her encounter with Tony Dracon, and while Gordon had apparently found it worthy of follow-up–hence today’s visit to the courthouse–Chung himself had found the tale too suspicious by half. While a quick look at the records seemed to confirm that there had indeed been some strange business with the parole board and some big-time mobsters*, his suspicions about Maza’s encounter remained, particularly when it came to Elisa’s claim that Dracon’s life would be in danger if he was brought in. Even in the unlikely case that it was true, it wasn’t Elisa’s call to make. As for “Mr. Touch and Mr. Go”? Please.

“Well, thanks for everything, Tri,” Lauren said, as she place her notepad back in her purse.

“Whoa whoa whoa, Lauren. Is that it? If I’m going to risk my marriage talking to you, you better have something I can use. I can’t be doing all the giving.”

Lauren rolled her eyes once again, although this time, the gesture was accompanied by a smile. “You’re learning. Fine–I got this tip from an unsolicited phone call, so I don’t know how useful it is, but I heard that The Five are sending one of their own–guy named “Tony Jr.”–to Baltimore next week to score the drugs for operating capital. You might want to check that out.”

“Hmm…both suspiciously vague and suspiciously specific. Sounds like a setup. Anything else?”

“Nothing you can use or don’t already know–y’all know about the hockey-mask wearing vigilante, right?”

“Since early last year.” He’d been the subject of at least one police alert, but after realizing that his targets were all members of the Purple Dragons, they’d unofficially agreed to ignore him. After the gang war had begun, he’d even begun hearing expressions of gratitude among the force, an idea Chung didn’t like at all. “Anything in particular about him?”

“Not really. He’s around, he scares the crap out of people–that’s it. Well, I’ve gotta run. Bushkin’s going to have my ass if I don’t give him something by tonight. See you around, Tri.”

Tri followed Lauren outside the courthouse and then went his own way. He removed his cell phone from his pocket, and considered the potential hypocrisy of calling Miller with sketchy, second-hand information, decided that he could live with it, and made the call.

*          *          *


(Redirected from Foot Clan)

The Ashi-gumi (足組, literally “Foot Group”), also known as the Ashishizoku (足氏族, “Foot Clan”), is the name of the largest Yakuza group operating in Japan,  with an estimated membership of 50,000 members and interests in prostitution, illegal gambling, smuggling, drugs, money laundering, extortion and real estate.

Bingo, though Longer, as the Wikipedia™ page came into view–his trip to the public library had not been wasted.  He hadn’t been expecting much from his online search, but given his failure to obtain any information from Kessler and Miller’s inability to get the detective back on regular rotation, he didn’t have many other choices if he wanted to continue on the trail.  He was surprised at the amount of information there seemed to be–he’d expected obsessive secrecy to be a given when it came to crime groups.  After opening a separate window for “Yakuza” for later perusal, he continued reading.


Although its current incarnation was founded in 1918, the Ashi-gumi has been in existence as the Ashishizoku since Japan’s Heian period, when it consisted of a tightly-knit group of brigands under the command of a man commonly referred to as the Kiruhito (literally, “person who cuts”, although the title is popularly translated as “The Shredder”) .  Often acting as mercenaries, the group existed in this form until 1600, when Tokugawa Ieyasu began using them for various purposes in his bid to unify Japan under his rule. Led by the then-Kirihito Saki Keiichi, the Ashishizoku proved instrumental to Ieyasu’s victory in the Battle of Sekigahara and the establishment of the Shogunate.  After Ieyasu established himself as shogun, Keiichi was granted the title of daimyo and his own territory within the Satsuma province, and many members of the Ashigumi were given the status of full-fledged samurai.

Despite their new legitimate status, the Ashigumi continued their involvement in illicit activities, acting as the Tokugawa clan’s extraofficial enforcers and secretly undermining various rival daimyos via espionage, theft, or assassination.  They also had covert involvement in the operations of the lower Tekiya (Peddlers) and Bakuto (Gamblers) classes, which further increased the clan’s coffers.   Although these activities were an open secret among Japanese nobility of the time, the Tokugawa’s patronage and their large numbers made the group unassailable.

After the effects of the Meiji Restoration restored power to the emperor and dissolved the daimyo system, the Saki Clan severed its ties to the Ashishizoku, leaving the group adrift.  While most of its members belonging to the samurai class became thieves or beggars, the ones operating as Tekiya and Bakuto continued operating under the leadership of Ameyama Shinji.

Longer was not an educated man; he knew the bare basics of U.S. history, and could name every president since Nixon, but anything relating to any other country was just Greek–or Japanese, as the case might be–to him.  Still, he felt he’d managed to get a good grasp of the gist of the Foot’s existence.  He moved on.

The modern Ashi-gumi

In 1918, the Foot Clan reorganized itself in accordance with the structure of then-fledging yakuza groups such as the Yamaguchi-gumi.  Now calling themselves the Ashi-gumi, the group quickly took over several smaller groups, quickly becoming one of the most influential organized groups at the time.

Since 1959, when it bought its main rival for the sum of 9 billion yen, the Ashi-gumi has been the largest criminal group in Japan, controlling up to 80% of the organized crime in the country.  It has also greatly expanded the scope of its operations into fields such as real estate, banking, and the stock market.  It is also heavily involved with politics, donating money several prominent members of the National Diet.

With the ascendance of current Ashi-gumi boss Sawaki Oroku in 1984, the cartel has also been expanding outwardly.  A 2001 joint report  by Japan’s National Police Agency and Interpol concluded that the group had operations in countries such as Russia, South Africa, and Mexico.  Since 2004, there have also been reports of significant Ashi-gumi activity in the United States, particularly in Hawaii.

Longer was growing frustrated: although the information was interesting, little of it was actually useful, and what little was useful was disillusioning.  The mafia was bad enough, but whoever the Foot were, they seemed to be operating on an entirely different level.

The Mon Controversy

After the Saki clan cast the Ashishizoku adrift in 1866, the criminal group continued using their protectorate’s mon (crest), the three-toed dragon, as their own.  The gesture remained unchallenged until the Ashi-gumi was officially founded in 1918, when the Saki Zaibatsu, headed by descendants of the Saki Clan , decided to take legal action to reclaim their family symbol.  After a protracted legal battle, it was decided that both groups’ claims to the symbol were legitimate, and since then both groups hold a joint trademark on the mon, and both currently use it as their official logo.

With that, Longer remembered where he’d seen the symbol from; the Saki Technologies building had been one of New York’s newest landmarks, and the same symbol that had adorned the dead man’s costume (now safely hidden inside his backpack after he’d  “retrieved” it from evidence control) could be seen across the city.  He made a mental note to check up on the company later on–in his book, anybody who willingly and knowingly decided to keep a logo associated with organized crime merited watching.

With his allotted time at the computer quickly winding down, Longer logged into his e-mail account and began composing a message.  After Miller had contacted him with news of his failed attempt to get him on the detail, it had become clear to Longer now that, barring a sea change in the NYPD’s makeup, he would never again do proper police work.   If he wanted to fight this war, or stop Ruffington, he’d need to try something else and after seeing that man in the Foot Clan costume, he now had an idea of what exactly that was.

Hey sis, Longer began.  Here’s hoping everythings okay in LAI need your help.  You worked on the costumes for that Justice Force movie, right?

*          *          *

Need to discuss elements of case with you. Free for lunch?

That had been the message Lin ( Koyobashi.Lin@nypd.nyc.gov) had received from Hacker (conspiracydebunker666@yahoo.com) earlier that day.  Despite the weirdness of the set-up–why just not talk in the office?–she’d fired back an e-mail agreeing with him  at a nearby Nightstone’s coffeehouse. When she arrived, she was unpleasantly surprised to see that the F.B.I. agent had apparently arrived some time before her, displaying more diligence than she usually like seeing in anyone who wasn’t part of her team.

“Lin.  Glad you could make it,” Hacker said, looking up from his copy of The Atlantic. “Do you plan to get something, or would should we just talk?”

“I’ve already eaten, thank you,” she said, as she sat opposite him on his table.  “So what is it you wanted to talk about?”

“Well, off the record, I found a couple of things…off with our experience with Kessler, and I wanted to see if you’d come to the same conclusions I did.”

” ‘Off’ is an understatement.  It’s like we stepped in the middle of a Christie novel.”  She gave a mock-shudder.  “And that Longer…I’m sorry, but the man is not normal.”

“Actually, it’s not him I was thinking about.  There’s something wrong with him yes, but I hardly he think he would have called for us if he intended to murder the man.”

“I’d say the opposite.  If you want to murder a man that’s being watched, the last thing you want is to be the only person with the opportunity to do so.”

For a second, Hacker seemed to consider this possibility.  “You’re probably right.  Still, I don’t think he’s responsible for it.  I think you are.”

If Hacker was expecting a heated reaction or outright denial, he was going to be disappointed.  “I’m sorry, I don’t get your meaning.”

“I’m saying that you, Lin Takahashi–not Koyobashi–are an agent of the Foot Clan sent to infiltrate the N.Y.P.D. to monitor and hinder the investigation on the gang war.  You killed Sean Kessler, and unless you want me to expose you, you’re going to have to do what I say.”


* One case in particular–that of Jack “Diamondback” Trent, who had been given 20 years for manslaughter and yet had been out in three–stood out.  Chung had been directly involved in that case, and distinctively remembered that the sentence had included no chance for parole.  The discovery had been the cause of much internal swearing on Tri’s part.

Electric Boogaloo, Chapter 5: Tony Dracon

Prison–or maybe just time in general–had not been kind to Tony Dracon.  Whereas he had once possessed a certain bad boy attractiveness that would have made him a succesful career date-rapist had he chosen to go that route, those looks had since eroded away into a man who looked far older than his thirty-four years.  His hair had gone gray, although one could still see a vertical streak of pure white running  along it.   His eyes looked permanently tired, and had lost any shred of confidence they might have possessed a decade ago.  A network of wrinkles had begun colonizing his face.  He might have been high.   Not that this was a great loss–to Elisa, the mobster’s looks now finally matched his inside.

“What makes you think I’ll help you?” Elisa repeated.

“We’ll, you’re a cop right?  Protect and serve and all that?”  Dracon said, trying to gesticulate despite having his arms handcuffed to a chair–Elisa was not in the mood to take chances.

“Sure, if you want to get technical…  Why come to me, thought?  There’s thousands of other cops.”

“Because I don’t need a cop, I need protection.  You’re the only one I know who can give me that.”

“That’s…pathetic.”  Still, while she hated to admit it, his instincts had been on the mark.  Gargoyles protect, even the dregs of society–how could she do any less?  If Dracon was indeed in danger, then that protection would (unfortunately) extend to him.  Of course, that didn’t mean she couldn’t make the best of it. “Okay, Dracon, you have my attention.  However, if you want my help, you’re going to have to tell me everything.  You’re going to tell me why you’re not in prison, who’s running your old turf, and everything you know about the massacre at the docks.”

“I noticed ‘who’s trying to kill you’ wasn’t in that list.  Anyway, the story goes something like this:

“About five years ago, me and all the leaders of The Five Families began getting visits.  I’m not exactly sure how it went for the rest, but for me, it was this Japanese guy, Kozue Nagayami–I think he actually did crap soap, he was so smooth.  In any case, he made me an offer–50 mil if we just abandoned our turf and gave all our products and contacts to their group.”

“Did the group have a name?”  Elisa asked, with obvious interest.  If true–and she knew that there was a good chance it wasn’t–this was career making intel.  The circumstances beyond The Five Families’ disappearances were the stuff of legend in police circles, with a thousand theories circulating.  To actually learn what had happened…

“Well, they didn’t really give us one, and I wasn’t exactly asking.  Still, anyone suicidal enough to talk to the cops will tell you they’re called The Foot–it’s really an open secret at this point.”

“The Foot, huh.  Doesn’t ring a bell.”

“It shouldn’t.  Rumor is they have ways of knowing if the police ever hear the name, and people who mention it to the wrong people don’t have a good track record of surviving.  Anyway, where was I…oh yeah: as a bonus, they’d have those of us who were in jail–and our top people–out on parole.  I still don’t know how they managed that.”

“And you took it.”

“Damn, Maza!  Of course I did!  I don’t know if you know, but by then, my crew was basically done–it’s a small miracle that I had any strings to pull with my group at all.  Plus, a carrot that big usually means a damn big stick.  So yeah, I took it.  I eventually got out on parole, and even after paying off my own people, I had enough money to do whatever I wanted.  Most of the other families did the same.

“So by the time I got out, the Foot already had the Purple Dragons working as their people on the ground on most of the city.  Anybody who was left wised up and decided that it was time to run.  And that’s the way it was for until now–prostitution, protection, narcotics…they were in charge of anything, and God help you if you tried to take it away from them.”

“So what happened?  I’m guessing they were weakened in some way, right?”

“Right.  A few months ago, word came down the grapevine that a group of crazies had somehow gone and killed The Shredder and that the whole thing had gone clusterfuck-shaped.  I don’t need to tell you how that’s turned out.”

“Um.  Yes, you do.  That’s the deal.”

Dracon sighed.  With marked hesitation, he began again.  “Fine.  So the five families got back together in order to make their bid.  As our first move, we were going to steal the Foot’s shipment of heroin and sell it ourselves.  It didn’t quite turn out that way, though.”

“The massacre.”

“Yup.  We’d managed to take care of all the Foot Ninja–yeah, ninja; don’t give me that look–when these two guys show up and just start wailing on us.  I’m talking some seriously fucked up shit.  You remember Pal Joey?  These one of these guys just punches him, and his face turns to…you know how mosquitos look after you squash them?  Like that.”

Elisa flinched.  She did not, in fact, remember Pal Joey, but she had seen the crime scene pictures which confirmed Dracon’s claim.  She and Cedric had been trying to determine what had caused that injury–the coroner’s report had been unsatisfactorily wishy-washy on the matter–but it never would have occurred to her that it had been made  by a fist–well, maybe it had been Goliath’s…  “So these two people, they were unarmed…” she not-quite-asked.

Dracon shot the detective a “what are you, stupid?” look.  “Yeah, unarmed.  They didn’t need them–they were like The Silver Sentry, but evil.  Fast, strong…nothing could hurt them.  And we tried, believe me.” He had a look with suggested contrition, which was not an emotion that Elisa would  have ever associated with Tony Dracon.

Summoning every reserve ounce of professionalism in a situation that was increasingly anything but, Elisa carried on with the interview.  “So, these two men…I don’t suppose you’d have their names…”

“Actually, I do.  Mr. Touch and Mr. Go.  They made sure we knew. ”

Elisa stifled a chuckle; although Dracon’s story wasn’t terribly implausible, there was a limit.  Dracon wasn’t laughing, though, and given that he’d given her what appeared to be their first solid lead  in the massacre investigation, she was willing to believe him, but still…Touch and Go?  Dracon’s physical description of the men didn’t help–they sounded like something out of a James Bond movie.  Then again, so had the Gargoyles.

“So what happened afterwards?  You survived, obviously.”

“Yeah–they weren’t paying too much attention, so I managed to play dead until they left and managed to sneak away before you cops came.  Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. ”

Dracon explained how,  as the sole (conscious) survivor of the initial massacre, he’d become the target of The Foot’s retribution.  In the past two days, his apartment had been torched, his car stolen, and his every movement watched.  Finally, he decided to take a shot with the one cop that had landed him in jail in the first place.

“So you see?  I’m a marked man.  You send me back to prison, and I wake up one morning with a knife stuck through my heart.”

Elisa looked at Dracon’s eyes.  He really did look high.  Still, she was convinced.  “Give me fifteen minutes.”

Fifteen minutes later, a tapping could be heard on the windows leading outside.  Elisa drew the curtains open, revealing their visitor, a seven-foot tall winged panther.

“Hey, Derek,” Elisa said nonchalantly.  “Thanks for coming.”

“No problem, ‘lisa,” said the beast–Derek.  “So, is this the guy?”

“Yup.  Talon, Tony Dracon—career criminal. Tony, Talon—ex-pilot, all around good guy.”

Talon moved to shake Tony’s hand, but desisted once he realized that Dracon’s hands were (still) handcuffed together.  Tony had yet to say anything, stunned as he was at the sight of a creature whose very existence violated everything he knew to be true.  And yet, even as his brain shut down from the terror, he felt a tiny blip in the back of his mind, almost like déjà vu…

“Tony, you alright?” Elisa said, bringing him back to the present.  “Like I said, Talon’s going to help you.”

“I’m going to take you to my home, The Labyrinth.  You’ll be safe there until everything blows over.”

Tony opened his mouth to complain, but nothing came out.  Even if this was a baroque plan of Elisa’s to have him killed—and his gut told him it wasn’t—it was better than dying at the hands of The Foot.  “Well, as long is it’s not someplace in the sewers…”

“Not quite,” Talon assured.  “We’ve fixed it up over the years, and now it’s actually quite homey.”

“Talon’s ready to take you whenever you’re ready.  Just say the word, and he’ll fly you over there.”

Keys in hand, Elisa moved behind Tony and undid the locks to the handcuffs.  “You’re free to go, criminal-man.  Just to let you know, once this is over and we patch up our leaks, I expect you to turn yourself in and tell everything you’ve told me to the cops.  You got that?”

“Will do—Scout’s honor.”  Then, more sober, he added, “Hey, Su—Elisa, do you have something private we could talk?  I’d like to tell you something, and I don’t need Bagheera here listening.”

Elisa led Tony to her bathroom and closed the door.  “What is it?”

“Well, I just wanted to thank you for doing this for me.  I know we kinda hate each other and all, but still, it’s real stand-up of you.  So thanks.”

“Don’t.  I’m just doing my job.  By the way, I do have something to ask you.”


“You mentioned a couple of times that going up against The Foot is suicidal.  And yet you did it anyway.  Why?”

“Glasses.”  Tony answered brusquely.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Glasses.  You remember—my second hand man?  Black, wears horn-rimmed glasses?  Well, ever since I can remember, we’ve always been watching each other’s backs.  Best friends, he and I.  Well, he was with me that night on the docks.”

Elisa nodded.  According to the reports from that night, Glasses had been the only known survivor of the massacre, aside from Tony—although in the former’s case, it hadn’t been a particularly good thing.

“Back when I first heard about the Shredder, I got all gung-ho about the idea of going to war.  I was restless, bored…I had an itch.  One more big score for all the marbles?  Getting some payback on The Foot?  It was a dream come true.

“Well, the day after that night at the docs, I called Glasses to check in on him.  I got his wife, Nora, who told me that Glasses had been taken to the hospital—that the doctors told her that even if he woke up, he probably wouldn’t be able to function properly on his own—he wouldn’t be able to eat, talk, stand…

“People tell you it’s all part of the game—dying, getting caught.  Glasses and me?  We never really believed it—even when you were giving us trouble, we were like ‘this is nothing.’ This, however?  It’s too much.  Glasses, Nora, the kids…they didn’t deserve this. And I couldn’t even go visit them, with the Foot on my tail.”

Elisa knew the feeling.  For her first two years in the force, she’d been the same way, until Charlie, her partner back then, got killed working undercover trying to bust Dracon. It’s the kind of thing that sobers up a person.

“So yeah, that’s it.  I may not be brave enough to think I can get all Scarface on The Foot for what they did to Glasses, and I’m definitively not stupid enough to try to martyr myself for him.  Still, if I can hurt them in a small way without putting my life on the line, I’ll take it.”

Elisa stared at Tony’s eyes, trying to determine just how full of shit he was.  To her surprise, his little speech seemed sincere.  While she wasn’t about to give him credit for doing the right thing once doing the wrong thing had blown up on his face, she allowed herself to feel a measure of pity for her former nemesis.

Eventually, Tony and Elisa rejoined Talon over at the kitchen.  After a short conversation explaining to a bewildered Tony that yes, Talon was going to carry the gangster to the Labyrinth on his arms as if he were some damsel in distress, the two men flew into the night, once again leaving Elisa alone.

Elisa went to the fridge and fished out a bottle of beer.  Although she was now finally nodding off, the info Tony had given him needed to be organized before she began forgetting about the different details.  With Lacey resting on her lap, she turned her computer on and began typing.

*          *          *

Gordon Miller was exhausted.  The conversation had  lasted only a minute so far, and he had already been condescended to, subtly insulted, and riled up to the point where assaulting a superior officer seemed like an attractive option.  Chief Sterns may or may not have been good police once, Miller reflected, but he had a talent to compress an hour’s worth of conversation into one minute, a technique that at times involved shunning articles, adverbs, prepositions, and all sense of social grace–fun to watch, but hell when one was at the receiving end of it.

“This should not be so hard for you to understand.  No.” Stern said.  The “Fucking.  Way.” after the “no” was implied.

Stay calm, stay calm.  Even he can be reasoned with.  “Because you’ve yet to give an actual reason why you won’t allow a good cop–a good cop who’s not doing anything, mind you–join my dangerously understaffed detail.”

“Reasons?  Longer is insubordinate, troublesome, corrupt, irresponsible, a disgrace to this  police force, and a general pain in everyone’s ass.   The only way he’ll ever do any actual police work again is if everyone in One Police Plaza is killed in mysterious circumstances.  Now.  Ass.  Office.  Out.  Now.”

Fuming, Miller exited his superior’s office.  Stern’s argument may be one hundred percent grade-A bullshit, but that didn’t make it an ineffective one–after all, why should an insubordinate, troublesome, corrupt, irresponsible disgrace to the police force and a general pain in everyone’s ass be allowed to do police work?  The only problem was that the description fit 80% of the police force, and the fact that Longer off all people would be disciplined in this manner–even after the Ruffington debacle–indicated that something was very definitively up behind the scenes. However, he was not in the mood, or in the position to investigate–not when there was still a score of murders yet to solve.  For the moment, Longer was on his own.

Electric Boogaloo Chapter 4: Lin Koyobashi

Author’s note: Yeah, yeah, I know I haven’t exactly been sticking to that “one story chapter a week” schedule.  There are several things I could blame–writer’s block, poor planning, school work, Slacktivist (it’s a time sink–an awesome time sink, but I’m always like “Go Fred! It’s your birthday!” before I realize that, hey, I’ve just lost an hour), friends, 9/11…  In any case, I’d been having severe trouble with this chapter, but finishing it has at given me a better sense of direction of how I want to go through the rest of the story, and if all goes well, new chapters should appear on a more frequent basis–maybe not once a week, but more frequently.  So yeah.


The first thing that Sean Kessler noticed as he slowly regained consciousness was just how cold it was.  Is this hell? He’d always expected it to be hotter.  Heaven, then? No way he was that lucky.

Although he was awake, his eyes remained closed—not only did he feel as if he’d spent several rounds on the ring with Hun, he wasn’t sure he wanted to face the world just yet.  With nothing else to do but lie there on his back, he began filling in the gaps on his memory.

A few hours (years?) ago, he’d been “watching over” a meeting between the four members of the Foot Elite when he was spotted by one of their foot soldiers.  Fortunately, the syndicate’s receding fortunes had apparently taken its toll, as only one of their ninjas was sent after him, and a couple of bullets had quickly taken care of him.  Unfortunately, the ninja had managed to take a battlefield trophy—namely, his left forearm, leaving him no choice to seek the nearest hospital.

Hospital.  Hospitals are cold. He tried to feel if his arm was still missing, but the cocktail of painkillers he had undoubtedly been administered made it impossible to tell, and like his eyes, his right arm wasn’t responding, making manual confirmation an impossibility.  Had the hospital staff told him they could or couldn’t reattach his arm?  He’d brought it with him, so it seemed logical to him that they could, but he couldn’t quite remember what they’d said.

So yeah.  Heaven, hell, or hospital?  Kessler wasn’t a regular church-goer, but feeling numb, cold, and immobile didn’t feel like anything he’d ever heard about the first two.  Then again, being immobile and unable to see for all eternity seemed hellish enough. Only one way to find out. After a Herculean struggle—he’d always loved Greek mythology—he opened his eyes, only to find what a appeared to be a New York City detective staring at him.  Hell!

The detective, it turned out, was named Longer (no first name given).  He’d apparently stumbled across the Foot Ninja’s corpse and had decided to go looking at various hospitals until he’d found the man responsible (a.k.a. him).  He was eventually joined by Koyobashi, who immediately entered his internal sexual fantasy DVR; and Hacker, FBI.  The gave him the spiel about how he was In No Way Under Arrest and how They Were Just Here To Ask Him A Few Questions.

Drug cocktail or not, Kessler had plenty of experience dealing with the police—more than a decade’s worth, in fact.  After finagling a meal out of them, he proceeded to give him the silent treatment, demanding to see his lawyer.  Eventually, officer Asian McHottie called a time-out to restrategize, leaving him a measure of peace.

Alone, Kessler, found himself dozing off again, until the return of Officer McHottie, this time without her back-up, shook him back to alertness.  For a minute, he dared hope that life, for once, would turn out to be just like a porn movie, but when had life ever been that fair?

“Purple Dragon Sean Kessler, your superior addresses you.”


*          *          *

Meanwhile, Lin’s two partners made their way to the commissary; once there, Longer ordered a cheeseburger, Hacker an egg salad sandwich.

“So what do you make of all this?” Longer asked, as they awaited their food.  “The whole gang war thing—had you ever dealt with anything like it?”

“Once: I was working on the Dracon crime group during their fracas with Tomas Brod back in ’96—’97?—anyway, it lasted a few months, including a pretty bad day or two—although nothing quite as bad as this.  You?”

“Not really—I’d just started at the academy back then, so I managed to just miss that one.  There really hasn’t been any huge gang war since—until now, anyway.”

“Funny thing about that…” Hacker commented.  “Back then, we were on top of things—we might not have been able to build a solid case against the Five Families, but we had a solid idea of who they all were. Until one day, we didn’t.”

*          *          *

Kessler felt as all the blood drained from his face.  He felt his left arm burn like mad, even thought it was no longer there.  “You’re Foot…?” he stammered.

Foot Ninja Lin Koyobashi gave a small smile, the kind one gave to a particularly stupid pet after it pissed itself on the carpet, because really, who could get mad at something so adorably dumb? “Sean Kessler,” she repeated. “You have betrayed the Foot Clan and killed one of your own.  Retribution must be exacted.”

*          *          *

Longer waited for Hacker to continue, but it was clear he was waiting to be prodded.  “So what happened?” he obliged.

“Well, we’re not quite sure.  Suddenly, a log of bigwigs are let out of prison, and their people on the street are nowhere to be seen.  The Purple Dragon gang steps ups in a big way, taking over every group and disappearing any that wouldn’t join.  Now normally, this wouldn’t be at all strange, except for one thing: no bodies.  No blood. Absolutely no chatter.  One day the Purple Dragons were lucky to hold on to three blocks, the next, they’re the fucking C.I.A.”

*          *          *

What the…what the fuck? As Lin prattled on, Kessler struggled to keep his breath steady.  Whatever drugs he’d been administered seemed to have worn off, and now he seemed to be in the middle of a full blown panic attack. His vision became unsteady.  The curry the FBI guy made several trips up and down his esophagus, never quite spilling out.  “What the…what the hell did you do to me?” he pleaded.

*          *          *

Longer and Hacker were finishing their lunch when they heard the hospital’s P.A. system switch on.  “Code blue over at room 394.” However, they did thought nothing until they arrived at Kessler’s floor and witnessed a gaggle of hospital personnel hurriedly making their way through the halls.

“You don’t think…” Longer began.

“Yeah, I do…”

The two men sprinted in the direction of Kessler’s room, and found Lin standing outside, downcast.

“What the hell happened?” Longer asked.

“Cardiac arrest,” Lin said.  “I was just talking to him when he…he just began convulsing.”

“Is that so.” Hacker commented, icily. He stared at Lin’s eyes and found them unexpressive.  “Interesting.”

At a nurse’s request, the three lawmen retired to a waiting area so as not to interrupt the hospital staff.  They did not have to wait long for news, however; within ten minutes, Sean Kessler was pronounced dead from cardiac arrest.

*          *          *

Six years ago, Elisa would have relished nights like this, when she didn’t have to do anything; it meant she could have dinner with or go flying with Goliath, or simply spend the night with the rest of the clan.

Of course, that was no longer possible.  Goliath was gone, as was most of the clan. Worse, the reason she didn’t have any work was because the detail had shifted her hours to the daytime hours, which wreaked havoc on her internal clock; now she was exhausted but couldn’t find it within herself to fall asleep.  By two a.m., she  had prepared two days’ worth of spaghetti, finally finished the fifth Harry Potter book, cleaned Lacey’s litterbox, and was still nowhere near falling asleep.  In the end, she resorted to turning on the TV and watching C-Span.  It nearly worked; as she found herself nodding off, a harsh knocking on her door returned her to consciousness.

Muttering obscenities, Elisa made her way to the door. As she pondered possible places when one could hide a body at this hour, she looked over the peephole to find a complete stranger.  Caucasian male, white hair, mid-to-late forties, average body type, ragged appearance—nobody she knew.

“C’mon Maza!  Open up!  I haven’t got all night!”

Elisa went to her kitchen cabinet and removed her gun from its lockbox—the man seemed sincere, but that was no excuse for being stupid. “Okay, here’s what’s going to happen,” she told her visitor through the door.   “I’m going to let you in, but I’ll let you know I have my gun out; try anything, and you’ll be lucky if you ever manage to eat solids ever again.  I’m tired and I’m cranky, and I do not have time for this crap.”

She opened the door and let the man in. “Oh, thank god, Maza!  I swear, you have to help me,” he rambled.

“Forgive me if I’m skeptical, but I need answers.  Who are you, for starters?”

“What?  Oh, come on, sugar, don’t be that way!”

Tony Dracon.

Electric Boogaloo, Chapter 3: Gordon Miller

Lt. Gordon Miller looked grimly at his new team.  Not because there was any reason to be grim—as far as he knew, there wasn’t—but because fifteen years of police work had beaten him down to the point where grim determination was the only facial expression he felt comfortable showing at the office.  Not a bad group, all things considered.

First and foremost was Paul Whitmire, his former partner.  Him he trusted implicitly, since they had known each other for more than a decade.  There were also Bluestone’s recommendations, Elisa Maza, Cedric Harris, and Tri Chung, of the 14th precinct, who had all worked a similar detail before as part of that anti-terrorism task force created after the 1996 attack on the 14th Precinct’s (then the 23rd precinct) headquarters.  Harris and Chung had solid records.  Maza was reportedly very good, despite a more-than-casual familiarity with the Internal Affairs department.

Next was Lin Koyobashi, who had been hoisted upon him by his superiors.  Gordon knew almost nothing about her, except that she had apparently been some hotshot Yakuza expert back in Japan, and had transferred to the N.Y.P.D. some three months ago; given the reports that the current bigwigs in the New York crime scene were an offshoot of a Japanese crew, the brass had thought it advisable to involve her.

Outside the N.Y.P.D. proper were Martin Hacker and Leo Burnett.  Hacker was F.B.I., and had previously worked with Maza, Harris, and Chung on the anti-terrorism thing; he had also been Matt Bluestone’s partner back when he had been part of the Bureau.  Burnett was the Assistant D.A. assigned to the group; Gordon knew nothing about him.

“So here’s the thing, boys,” he began, after they were all done with introductions.   “The boys upstairs have decided they can’t have criminals killing each other for turf any more, so they’ve asked us to do something about it.”  He picked out a series of file folders from a box beside him, and distributed them among the task force.

“Now, in case you hadn’t noticed, this department hasn’t had a proper organized crime investigation since The Five Families disappeared in 1999.  And since whatever replaced them afterwards wasn’t Cosa Nostra, after 9/11, the F.B.I. just couldn’t be bothered—no offense Hacker.”

“None taken.”

“Now, as a result of that, we have no idea what’s going on.  We know from some low-level arrests that the current violence is due to the death of the guy running things—this ‘Shredder’ person—but we don’t know who the players are, what their game is, or how we can deal with them.  And that’s our first bit of business.”

Maza raised her hand.  “What about the shootings over on Canal?”   She asked.

“Yeah, that.”  From prior experience, Gordon believed—and the brass apparently agreed—that that particular incident would remain unsolved.  However, he’d have to keep that opinion to himself.  “I want you all to check with any  C.I.’s you have and see what you can find out about that night, and if it matches up against we have on Organized Crime at HQ.  After that, we’ll see what we can do to establish some probable cause and get us up on some wires.  Oh, and we’ll need someone to go over those who were killed—we need to know who these people are.  Anything else?”

“Yeah,” Harris piped up.  “Do we really have to work in this dump?” he asked, eliciting several cheers from the peanut gallery.

“I know it’s not the best place”—an understatement: the only reasons rats had not taken over the place was because cockroaches had done so first—“but I’m doing what I can to get someone to clean it up and bring some equipment in.  Until then, this will be your home.  Learn to appreciate it.”

Shortly after dismissing them, Gordon received a call on his cell phone: Longer.

Electric Boogaloo, Chapter 2: “Tony Puzzorelli Sr.”

Chapter 2: Tony Puzzorelli Sr.

Anthony Puzzorelli Sr. steeled himself as he approached the entrance for the Skinny FoXes strip club. It wasn’t supposed to have happened this way.

Ten men lost, including a nephew. Only two survivors, one in the hospital, and another missing. And now he had to explain to Jack Trent how, after fighting so long to have his family allowed to organize yesterday’s mission, he had managed to screw up so badly.

Upon arriving in the bar, Anthony haphazardly mixed several drinks into a glass, whose final product took on a sickly green pallor, which he began imbibing. He watched as Weasel, The Most Punchable Man In The World and—for some reason Tony couldn’t fathom—currently Jack Trent’s Consigliere, approached him, with a look of barely suppressed glee on his face. “Diamondback wants to see you,” he said, in his intolerably screechy drone which never failed to give Tony a headache. “Probably wants to congratulate you on your success yesterday.”

“In a minute, Weasel.” After finishing his drink, he went to the bathroom, where he took a prodigious piss. After spending a minute washing his hands, he finally decided to move towards the strip club’s back room, where Diamondback awaited.

Jack “Diamondback” Trent first made a name for himself as an enforcer for the Bustamante crime family during the early nineties. It was during this time that he gained his nickname, after he was reportedly shot eleven times in the back during a gang war with the Dracons without sustaining any major injuries. Since then, he had become the family’s go-to troubleshooter, until a civil war within the group caused several of its higher-ranking Mafiosi to rally behind him as the one man who could take down Silvio Bustamante, the Boss. Which he did. Years later, after the Five Families reunited in order to take advantage of The Shredder’s demise, he was an obvious candidate for leadership. Not that Tony Puzzorelli agreed.

Tony found Jack sitting behind his desk, looking more restless than anything else. “Remind me again, Tony, why choosing you to organize yesterday’s operation was a good idea. I’m sure you had a reason,” he said in a clear, precise monotone, which of course was scarier than if he’d been shouting—people who remained that calm, in Tony’s experience, were usually psychopaths.

Tony tried to recall his old arguments. “I knew people. It was in my old turf. It would help keep any heat away from you.” All logical reasons, although that did not make Tony feel any better.

Diamondback apparently agreed, as the eerie calmness persisted. “Oh, that’s right. Perfectly logical,” “So please explain why the fuck we’re down 14 men with nothing to show for it.”

“I…I don’t…” suddenly another rumor about Jack Diamondback came to mind. That while he hadn’t received any injuries to his torso, his head had been another matter entirely. Surely that was the only way to explain why the crime boss wasn’t trying to strangle him right now.

“What’s that? You don’t know how you fucked up? That there was no way you could have predicted that another group would attack the warehouse that same night?”

“Exactly. I didn’t—wait, what? You mean it wasn’t the Foot that killed all our men?”

“I’d wager not. Calling attention to themselves with something as flashy as a fire isn’t their style. No, this was someone else.”

Tony’s allowed himself to become a tad calmer. He may yet live through this. “So I’m off the hook?”

“Oh, not at all. However, you’ll get to keep your guts, for now. Fail me again, however, and no amount of mitigating circumstances will save you. Is that clear?”

“Y-yes sir.”

“Good. Two things, then. Has anybody heard from Dracon?”

“Not at all,” Tony said, glad that he was no longer the topic of conversation. “We’re reasonably sure he’s still alive, though—my man on the force tells me he wasn’t among those found.”

“Find him. He’s just as responsible as you for yesterday’s fiasco and I can’t have him, or anybody else, desert us at this time.”

“Yes sir.”

“Second question: is there any reason why Anthony Jr. was not chosen for yesterday’s job?”

“Junior? He’s useless. A total disappointment to the family.”

“Fair enough. However, you might want to integrate him more fully in what we’re doing here. It doesn’t look good to have one of my lieutenants shielding his family from the dangers of our job—it gives the impression of favoritism, and you don’t need people to be any more pissed off at you than they already are. Is that clear.”

“Yes, sir,” Tony said, as he tried to repress a scoff. No favoritism? In this outfit?

“Well then, unless you have something else to say, that will be all. And Tony?”


“Fix yourself a drink and call up a girl. You look horrible.”

As he left the room, his life assured for the moment, a wave of anger washed over Tony. How the fuck could he have let that upstart dominate him to that extent? He was Tony Puzzorelli, and yet there he was going all “yes sir”, “no sir” and “please allow me the pleasure of sucking your dick, sir.” It was intolerable.

As he served himself another shot of bourbon, Tony allowed himself to fantasize. Give him half a chance, and he’d show everyone what he could do. Tony Puzzorelli was no one’s puppet.

* * *

“Any idea what Bluestone wants us for?” Elisa’s partner, Cedric Harris, asked, as they both walked to their superior’s office in the NYPD’s Midtown South Precinct.

“I have a few guesses. Did you see him at the press conference?”

“Yup. Calling it awkward would be doing it a kindness.”

Although Matt Bluestone did not usually take part in press conferences, the fact that he had been tapped to deal with the “Canal Street Massacre”, as the media would dub Tuesday’s incident, meant that he’d had to take questions from the reporters. And while it was something Bluestone could certainly do, it had been clear that the spotlight did not shine on him favorably.

“Elisa. Cedric,” Matt greeted, as the two detectives entered the office that had once belonged to María Chavez, until the N.Y.P.D.’s post 9/11 restructuration moved her on to better things.

“Hey, Matt,” Elisa intoned, casually. “What do you need us for?”

“You both heard the press conference, right? How we’re supposedly organizing a task force to deal with this gang war we’ve suddenly admitted is happening? Well, you two have both been drafted.”

Detailed. Although Elisa wasn’t the least bit surprised, she was still quite apprehensive. Task forces, in her experience, were usually crapshoots. Given the right team, they could lead to some surprisingly rewarding work. Just as often, however, task forces were cobbled together from people whom departments really wanted to get rid of or punish; when that happened, it usually meant weeks of carrying the bad members’ loads, only to find the work wasted at the end when the brass lost interest.

“I’ll be e-mailing you the details later on—I just wanted you to hear it from me first.”

“Did they ask for us, or was it your suggestion?” Cedric asked.

“I suggested you, actually. Gordon Miller—your new boss—asked me for suggestions, and I’d thought that I’d send my best people.”

“Yay us, then. Anything else?”

“Not really.”

“Just like old times, eh, Elisa?” Cedric asked, as both detectives left Bluestone’s office?

“Huh?—sorry, I was distracted.”

“I was just saying how this reminds me of our first detail together—that anti-terrorist thing seven—eight years ago.”

“Oh. Right. Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Some memories, huh?”

Which wasn’t quite true. Although both Elisa and Cedric were indeed thinking of the same assignment, their memories of the period were quite different. Elisa remembered that group as the Gargoyle Task Force, formed the day the world learned of the creatures’ existence. Cedric remembered no such thing.

* * *

As the first drops of sweet, sweet alcohol touched Longer’s lips, the disgraced policeman dwelled, as he usually did, on the events that had derailed his career.

He’d been a good cop, once. Although his investigative and deductive chops during those first few years weren’t up to snuff, he had something just as important: professionalism and passion. “Treat everybody with respect, complete every job to the utmost of your abilities; you might not get up that ladder, but you will never despair”, his mother would often say. He had never really believed it growing up, which made it all the more surprising when he began abiding by the maxim, and even more so when he realized…it worked. Witnesses were friendlier. Informants were more cooperative. Other policemen were less dismissive. Nobody was surprised when he was quickly promoted to detective and reassigned to Organized Crime. Things were fine, for a while. He learned the ropes, improved his craft and continued as he had on his beat. He had found his calling…until Ruffington.

Longer first learned of the arms dealer when he learned that Agatha, his then-boyfriend’s sister and a vice-president for Ruffington’s company, was being investigated for allegedly embezzling funds. Convinced of her innocence, he began investigating the C.E.O.—first on his own, and then, after convincing his superiors of the soundness of his claim, as part of an official investigation. It took some doing, but eventually they hit pay-dirt: Ruffington was dirty: briberies, illegal sales to underworld groups, fraud; had it been against anybody else, it would have been a slam dunk case.


Lost evidence. Disappeared or strangely silent informants. Pressure from above. A suddenly cautious target. With each setback, Longer grew more paranoid and obsessed with stopping him. Ruffington had laid a trap for him, and he’d eagerly and without reservations walked into it.

As Longer drunkenly made his way to his apartment, relying more on muscle memory than anything else, he suddenly heard an all too familiar sound. Gunshots.

Shaken out of his half-awake state, the policeman pulled out his service weapon and headed towards the source of the noise, one of Manhattan’s ubiquitous dark alleys; however, instead of the ubiquitous New York mugger, he found something altogether different—the less ubiquitous New York corpse.

Shaking off his drunkenness as much as he could—the smell of blood helped—Longer examined the scene as well as he could in the dark. The shooter was nowhere to be seen, although he or she apparently had not been smart enough to know not to leave the murder weapon behind. The body was dressed like something out of martial arts movie, in a full body suit and mask, which sported an insignia that seemed familiar, although Longer couldn’t remember from where. He held a bloody sword in its right hand—apparently the killer had been wounded as well.

Before long, a forensics unit arrived at the scene, and after answering a series of questions, Longer was let go—something about being too intoxicated to be of further use, which was almost undoubtedly the case. Although disappointed, the detective felt happier than he had in a while; it had been the closest he had come to actual police work in months. Already he was imagining several scenarios for how the murder had gone down. Given the amount of blood on the floor and on the sword, the shooter had to have been pretty badly wounded—he or she would most almost certainly have to check in at a nearby hospital or unlicensed clinic. Fortunately, he knew precisely where to look.