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One Last 5
The 5 series., Volume 5
Published by Ripley King, 2015.
This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.
ONE LAST 5
First edition. December 21, 2015.
Copyright © 2015 Ripley King.
Written by Ripley King.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Also by Ripley King
The 5 series.
One Last 5
5 Omnibus Edition
And Jesus Wept
Earth Improvement Day
Lonely Hero Thing
Nightstrider: The Spaces Between
The Pre-dead Saga
Watch for more at Ripley King’s site.
Also By Ripley King
Fire with Fire
For the Greater Good
Fit for Survival
Two Souls at Sundown
Percible Traynor’s Quest for Immortality
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Further Reading: Shift Change
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For those of us left behind.
17th Precinct. Fifth Street. Monday, the twenty-third of February. Too goddamn early in the morning, if you ask me.
It was cold outside. Wet, windy. I ran a shaky hand through my thinning hair as I entered the time-worn stone building. I knew the way. Up the far stairs, to the right, third desk. I sat and took the cup of coffee Vandiver offered, but let the desk hold it. I don’t drink station-house coffee.
“Seventy of the city’s worst thugs,” Vandiver began, “dead in the space of eight weeks. It’s beginning to look like a war zone in some areas, plus we got us another one.”
“Another one?” I said. “Like that fat piece of gutter trash I found over in the Underbelly?”
What I found was the Baron of Bay Street. Judas Matthew Baron. He ruled the Underbelly with a bullet-riddled ascendancy to the throne. The blood on his hands could grease his hair every morning.
He had my brother killed, I was sure of it, but couldn’t prove it. He probably did it to teach me a lesson. He considered me a thorn. Might have done it personally, but I’m not sure.
“The third pile this month,” Vandiver said. “This numb-nut cycles every twelve hours, and then the gibberish begins again. Nonsense and monsters. When I listen to it my skin crawls.”
“Who?” I asked.
“Does it matter?”
Vandiver doused his cigarette in his coffee then took a drink. I don’t think he noticed.
What he had on his mind was why I was here. Vandiver called on me when he needed to “circumvent” the law. This case was strange, no doubt about that. I’d heard loads of crap coming from too many worthless fucks in the past few weeks about indestructible monsters of some sort. Scared the shit out of them. Some went insane, others went straight. No more crime, no more drugs, nothing but the urge to hide under the biggest rock they could find.
And for some strange reason all the survivors found God.
“I’ll tell you who it started with,” Vandiver said. “Leo Cox. ‘Tin man.’ We found him howling like a dumb dog in the uptown warehouse he used as a base of operations. All his home boys were present, dead.”
“And?” I prodded.
“M.E. Collier puked.”
Mac was tough. From the old school. He usually saw the worst life had to offer two or three times a year, for the last thirty odd years. We had shared more than one bottle of quality booze over an autopsy.
Vandiver nodded and said, “He said he never saw anything like those bodies before. And I thought he’d seen every way you could frag a corpse. I guess he has, now.”
Vandiver swilled more of his tainted coffee, and squelched a second butt into it, before he threw cup and all into the wastebasket.
He continued with, “One guy, his head was flat. The autopsy said his skull and brain melted right out of his ears without heat. You tell me.”
I said, “I take it you want me to look into the problem? Any civilians involved? Or is this isolated . . . just the scum?”
“No civilians. The talk around here is to let it continue. Somebody is taking out the garbage, my friend, and nobody here wants it to stop.”
“Might be I need to listen to the ravings of the recently demented. They’re keeping the Baron neatly tucked away where?”
“You going to cap him?”
“Don’t give me any good ideas.”
“He’s at Compton. Let me know what you find out. Didn’t I have a cup of coffee around here?”
“Take mine,” I said. “It might taste better.”
Compton Asylum was the last place you wanted to be if your wad was blown. A modern concrete structure where the inmates enjoyed their fresh air piped in. Single padded cells and straitjackets were standard issue.
Nobody at Compton worked to cure the ill. The front gate was the only way in, a pine box the only way out. Residents died advancing medicine. The dirty little secret a choice few shared with our wonderful government in general. Vandiver had me cleared to enter with a phone call.
“Mr. Pollock? I’m Dr. Stand. Detective Vandiver wants you to observe Judas Baron as a special consultant?”
“I want to listen to him for a while,” I said, “if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind. You do know the man’s brain is baked, though I am interested in what you think you might learn.”
“At this point, I have no idea.”
“I’ll have an orderly escort you to Mr. Baron’s room. Push the buzzer the orderly gives you when you’re ready to leave.”
“Have you bothered to record his rants?”
“Yes I have. Fascinating stuff. The way he repeats himself was not readily apparent, and really doesn’t say much about his psychoses, but it is interesting. A new phenomenon. I’m thinking on writing a paper.”
“Is it possible to get a copy?”
“I have hours of the stuff. Detective Vandiver said you would want a copy of Mr. Baron’s full cycle, and might possibly need more from our other guests? If you do, don’t hesitate to ask.”
The orderly led the way, unlocking and locking doors. When he did stop, he unlocked a large door with a heavily reinforced glass porthole. One of the most ruthless thugs to ever inhabit organized crime was on a bed, raging against whatever clogged his mind.
“He killed him . . . Daddy! You won’t get away with this, Judas Baron. You won’t. Not with my brother around. I jus’ did as you said, boss. I jus’ did as you said . . .”
The pitch and cadence of his voice changed with each sentence uttered. For a moment he sounded like my brother.
“MAN IN WHITE!”
I tried talking to Judas Baron when I first found him, but he was too far gone.
“I’m sorry, momma . . . Jimmy fell off the building . . . I couldn’t save him, momma . . . I’m not sorry. You! Judas, I don’t want you to touch me!”
The way I understood it, everybody alive afflicted with this were the same. They would storm on and on as if they were a thousand other people rolled into one body, and then scream about monsters, or a Man in White in the Baron’s case, and whatever would begin again. I needed to study the rants in-depth, and punched the buzzer. Outside the room the orderly handed me two CDs in paper sleeves.
“Is this all you have?” I asked.
“That’s two complete cycles,” the orderly replied, “if that’s what you’re asking.”
“More than enough. Thanks.”
“I feel for him,” the orderly said, nodding toward Judas Baron’s closed door.
And I didn’t.
At home I played the recordings and drank, and made a few notes I felt pertained to the overall investigation.
Violence is like breathing to filth like Judas Baron. All he was, the hate, the death, maybe that’s what he spouted. It still came down to one thing: this mysterious Man in White, the monster as Judas Baron saw it. I saw my first step forward.
Hell’s Alley. The Man over Baron. Over all organized crime inhabiting the city. Sooner or later Baron’s “Man in White” would pay The Man a visit.
Hell’s Alley was just as I remembered it. Filled with refuse, alive or otherwise, stinking like shit and piss. Even the sun was frightened to show itself here. My plan was to watch and learn.
I moved slowly until I was in a position to see who was coming or going, without the extra security the frightened scum had posted, noticing me. Nothing happened on day one. I slept very little.
I saw some action the next day. The Man’s underlings were beginning to move things out. That need to change locations had infected them. I knew then The Man would be inside, taking inventory of his weapons stock. Can’t lose profits to the peons.
Animals seem to have an ability to sense danger, even when they don’t know what it is, or which direction it would come from. Maybe those below could feel it . . . that something in the air. I put myself on ready, and was finally rewarded.
I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. It was like the shadows in the alley were gathering off to one side, in one spot.
One of The Man’s dumbest line grunts pulled out his piece and capped it. The shadows might have moved closer to the idiot, but I wasn’t sure from way up here. I moved a little closer.
That’s when I saw a long tongue of liquid black lick the fool with the .9mm. He screamed once, long and hard, and then his head exploded. It was if someone had shoved a grenade into his mouth and pulled the pin. Guns started blazing.
Spent brass filled the air, but the shadows kept moving. Bodies were dancing from the volume of lead flying around. When the shadows solidified into a thin man dressed in white, the filth had their target.
I watched flesh fly off the Man in White’s face. Big honkin’ chunks. I expected the Man in White to hit the ground. Instead, he healed.
Screaming thugs scattered, shooting wildly, and the Man in White was everywhere at once, moving faster than the eye could follow.
One gun jockey did the smart thing and put his gun up under his chin and pulled the trigger. Another douche bag started shooting wildly at everything, and then his gun arm got ripped out of its socket, firing three more rounds as it tumbled to the dirt.
When all the mayhem was over the Man in White appraised the damage. Then he looked up, at me!
I saw his face. An ordinary man’s face. Sadness etched lines into his forehead, and pity had filled his eyes.
One or two thugs got away. I had a hunch they were about to find a big rock to crawl under, and God.
The man, Judas Baron’s “Man in White,” my man dressed in white simply vanished, and from inside the blank building more shooting and screaming. Thirty minutes later the rant sounded eerily familiar. I called Vandiver from my perch.
“We got us another one,” I said.
“Another one what?” he distractedly asked.
“Babbling pile of shit.”
“Yeah? Who this time?”
“The Man himself.”
“Good for us. Stop by and give me a statement.”
I said I would when I had some answers he needed to hear.
When the Man in White looked up at me, I knew him, somehow. I mean, I’d seen him before. And like a name stuck on the tip of my tongue, I knew I’d figure out where when I least expected to. I needed a good drunk.
Halfway through my drunk it came to me. I’d seen the man on the news. I remembered it had something to do with his family, but as hard as I worked the gray matter, I couldn’t think of anything else. I picked up the phone and called a man who owed me more than a few favors.
“K.H.W.O. TV Six.”
“Bob Rasstus, please. Tell him it’s Jake Pollock.”
“One moment, please.” And then the standard Muzak.
“Jake,” Bob said a moment later. “I don’t have time for you right now.”