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Review: Herokillers

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Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment

Writer: Ryan Browne

Artist: Pete Woods

In 2008 Dynamite released Alex Ross and Jim Kreuger’s Project Superpowers. To all who love the superheroes of the so called Golden Age it was a treat. For many years people waited for more, and eventually the spin offs came, not the way readers expected it though.

Apart from the natural continuation of Project Superpowers; Black Terror, Death-Defying Devil, Masquerade and The Owl, it wasn’t until 2015 that a new series saw the light. Project Superpowers: Blackcross, written by Warren Ellis, was unlike the series it came from, and to most the only similarities were names of heroes and the title. More of a murder mystery with supernatural overtones, it most likely was a disappointment to those who expected something like the traditional storytelling. Now Dynamite have once again delved into the Golden Age pool, releasing Herokillers by Ryan Browne and Pete Woods. It too hailed as being from the pages of Project Superpowers.

Like Blackcross, the story has little to do with the original book. It takes place in Libertyville, a place dubbed as Murdertown U.S.A. The mayor, an interesting fellow called Smooth Willie Williams JR., offers a crap ton of money to superheroes who might come and clean the city up. The heroes are given tax breaks, annual salaries and bonuses based on performances. The end result is a safe city where heroes outnumber criminals. As is true with bored teenagers, the heroes soon lash out and become self destructive, none more so than Black Terror, who turns to alcohol and women of loose morals.

While Herokillers isn’t Project Superpowers, or Blackcross, it has its own charm. There is a warmth and humor to it that the other books lacked. It takes the superhero genre and twists it, making the heroes look more pathetic and sad. Maybe this is because they do not have a purpose in life, or maybe because they’ve always been a-holes. In the end it doesn’t really matter. Sure some readers might be disappointed again, because it makes fun of the genre and these characters, but it’s all very intertaining. A constant commenting from the editor Matt makes the series more meta, and the style of Woods brings it all together.

It will be interesting to see where this series goes and how these serious characters react when being thrown into absurdity.

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Face of Fear: Chapter six

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When Anthony turned six his adoptive father, Wayan, came to the hut one Saturday evening carrying a gift. He carefully tiptoed into the common area where they were gathered around the open fire for dinner and he gently placed an oblong object on the floor before the young child’s feet. It was wrapped in fabric of red and blue intricately sown together like a very detailed quilt. As Anthony tilted his head and considered the present the warrior told him to unwrap it. With care he did so and revealed two scabbards lying within, one smaller and one larger and with big eyes he watched as Wayan unsheathed two wavy blades and was filled with awe at the how the light from the fire glinted in the steel and cast golden reflections in wonderful patterns on the walls. The weapons were the Kris, a traditional dagger of the region, original from Java and the larger one was a Kelis a double edged sword from the Philippines and being the famous warrior that he was Wayan had traveled and battled all over the islands as a young man and through this amassed quite the collection of weaponry. He informed Anthony that it was time for the next step in his physical education and whatever protests Charlotte might voice were quickly shut down. The decision was made to, initially, keep the training with the blades on weekends and keep them in the hut so that the servants at the house would not see them and report to Mr. Hill. It was difficult for Anthony to keep the training a secret once he returned to his home and the tutelage of Mr. Mahr. During the first week he found himself drifting off in class, dreaming about parries and strikes, twists, turns and evasions as well as gutting the imaginary demons of Balinese folk lore. His teacher would stare at the boy when he gazed off through the window, in the direction of the village. He knew then that the boy was more Balinese than he would ever be Western and that it was fine. He of course knew nothing of the violence that occupied the mind of the child with the serene smile and it is quite likely that it had not mattered at that moment. He quietly wondered what was in store for him. He was very much innocent of what was going on in the world outside. The rise of fascism in Europe, militarism in Japan and general hate in the world. It had been one of the reasons Mr. Mahr had moved around as much as he had the past years. Somewhere along the road in his career he had become despondent when it came to educating the future, frequently he had asked himself if it was worth trying when it all seemed so bleak. Teaching proper English, French or Latin to high society ladies was at least mind numbing activities where he was surrounded by inane chatter about gossip. His contact with Anthony Hill had changed his outlook on life. The innocence of a child so completely removed from the cruelty of the world and fairly clueless when it came to his own Father’s proclivities had caused him to try to envision the world in a similar fashion. It had worked and he felt he was a better man for it. So he let him drift off from time to time for he believed the boy dreamed of the wonders of the world, when he in actuality dreamed of slaying demons.

======

It was one of those mornings. The sun shone right through the glass on to his face, he had forgotten to pull the drapes when he got in, or to be more precise, he had been so off kilter that he more than likely hadn’t bothered to do it. Geert turned over, with some difficulty because of his large frame and wiped drool from his chin with the back of his hand. He lay flat on his back and stared up at the ceiling without any concept of time. After his talk with Jensen, Charles and Thorne he had hurried back to the hotel and had played catch up with the young ladies and socialites there and he had caught up and surpassed them. He felt now, as he wondered what time it was, that he might have overdone it this time, both food and drink wise.

‘Good morning Mr. Geert’ A deep voice said that startled him and made him sweat as ice ran through his veins.He scrambled quicker than he had ever moved before and instantly shuffled up towards the head board getting is feet tangled in the sheets. The sunshine from streaming through the tall windows blinded him and he tried to quint to let his eyes adjust. He tried to focus through the blurred vision and slowly shapes became sharper and the scene grew out of mere distortion. By the window stood a round table on one ornately carved leg, flanked by two armchairs, he would sit in them from time to time to drink his morning coffee, otherwise they mostly filled the role of storage for discarded clothes. The left chair was now occupied by something other than his wardrobe. In the light of the morning it was no more than a silhouette, but one that was all too familiar to him.
Black Diamond, for it was he, cut an impressive form straight back, wide shoulders, a body poured into a black suit and hair carefully combed to create a part on the left side. He rose and picked up a cup and saucer from the table next to him and as he moved towards the bed he became more of a person than just a black form. Now Geert saw the black suit with the matching tie, white shirt and the pin on the lapel shaped as a diamond with a white skull in the center; the symbol of the organization that bore his name. The Diamond’s age had always been difficult for Geert to ascertain, having that forever youthful appearance and the domino mask that covered the upper portion of his face naturally made things difficult. That coupled with the fact that the man seemingly had arrived in town, unannounced, one day and taken control of the vacuum left by the previous mob family made him a figure steeped in mystery.
It wasn’t the first time Geert had been startled by his boss, he had an uncanny knack for popping up at the most inopportune time, but at the same time always when something was afoot. It was no surprise he was now standing before Geert, not after the events of the other day, and the fact that The Diamond himself could walk through the hotel and past the guards, men who were tried and true in their loyalty, was no surprise either. Most of the men at this level, ones who were closest to Geert, knew The Black Diamond and recognized him on sight and would have gotten out of his way had he walked down the hallways of the house.
‘A busy night I take it Mr. Geert.’ The Diamond said in his baritone. ‘And although I would have liked to avoid waking you at noon there are pressing matters that need to be attended to. So if you would please rise from your place of rest and slip into a robe I have ordered breakfast through room service so that we may do this in an orderly fashion.’ He handed Geert a blue and white striped bath robe and turned away. Geert gingerly rolled off the edge of the bed, the preferred method on any given day, but more so on a day like this.
‘So what do you have for me?’ Black Diamond was back in the armchair with one leg slung over the other and the cup and saucer once again in his hands.
‘Well Sir.’ Geert began and lumbered over to the opposite seat. ‘My source within the police department had very little information to give when it came to the case. It seems as if they are keeping the lid on tightly on this one, but he is working on unscrewing it. What we do know is that the attacker used some form of knife to hurt our guys, as well as the mics and that there was one survivor, but I don’t know who yet or where he is for that matter.’
Black Diamond nodded as he listened to the information, but did not move a muscle in his face to indicate any emotion. He was silent for a moment and stared into his tea cup before speaking.
“And what measures have you taken to make sure that we find the one or ones who perpetrated the attack on us, as well as the Lonergans?’ He said while still keeping his masked eyes at the cup.
‘I have enlisted the aid of three freelance gentlemen who I have used previously.’ Geert was feeling more confident now, especially since he believed he had covered his bases. ‘They have been instructed to find the identity of the survivor and through doing this it should give us a lead on the killers. I believe that the survivor is none other than our most experienced soldier Baz Peterson and he would surely point us in the right direction.’
‘I am sorry to have to rain on your parade Mr. Geert, but this information is not new to me.’ Black Diamond rose and put down the cup. Geert began to sweat, the kind of dirty perspiration that forced itself out ones pores the morning after. His boss had always had an uncanny knack of being several steps ahead of him. It always made him wonder why he was kept around at all, but somebody needed to be the eventual fall guy and as long as Geert was swimming in women, food and drink that possible future didn’t bother him. He managed to cover his own ass often enough that he was secure.
‘Excuse me Sir?’ Geert said.
‘The survivor of the attack was a man using the name of Hammer someone your precious Peterson had recruited some time ago. I assume you know the name?’ Geert nodded thoughtfully. ‘Well it appears his real name is Martin Lindquist, a young police officer from Michigan and had been tasked with infiltrating our little band of merry men. He is currently under the care of the good doctors at St. Mary’s Hospital and he has already started talking to local law enforcement. I could potentially lead them to us, depending on what Peterson revealed, but he is also sitting on valuable intelligence about our new found enemy, if that be the case.’
‘You want me to call off the search?’ Geert gripped the armrests, ready to catapult himself into action.
‘No, that has already been taken care of. Your trio of freelancers have been met with and rerouted. Whatever the infiltrator has revealed to the police will be known to us through sources other than yours, but seeing as he most likely is sitting on quite a bit of information he must be dealt with. I am leaving you make sure that he does not leave the hospital other than in a body bag.’ He walked into the hallway that inevitably lead out of the room. ‘ And Geert,’
‘Yes Sir?’ Geert said in a hoarse voice.
‘Pay the men handsomely, out of your own pocket of course, when the job is done.’
‘Yes Sir.’
The Black Diamond turned around and left the room unceremoniously and Geert, once he was convinced his boss was not going to return he ran to the bathroom and vomited in the toilet.

=====

Tony was sitting in the office he shared with Gabe Posen and was tapping a pencil against the notes for the evenings broadcast. According to them there was nothing more to report in regards to the shooting Downtown. He picked up his cup bearing the WRJN logo and sipped the now cold beverage, why was cold coffee so unpleasant in flavor when it was essentially the same thing as the warm counterpart. Peering over the rim and with his lips still pressed to it he let the liquid trickle back into the cup. Instead he leaned forward, tented his fingers and stared out over the busy city through his window. The contents he had brought with him from the Police impound lot had proven to be cocaine, just like he had suspected, so far so good, but who was it for. The Lonergans were obviously selling it, but they were merely the middle hands in the transaction, he had established that earlier. The product came from down south, crossing the border and then traveling through Texas and changing hands in Chicago where the Irish gang had its home base. He would deal with them and their leader Aiden O’Shea at a later date, but he needed to halt those who would spread it throughout the city first. He picked up the notepad and viewed the image he had drawn there. It was a replica of the brand that had been stamped on the crates. A diamond, very much like the one you would see on a deck of cards with a skull placed in the center of it. He wouldn’t win any awards for his artistic abilities he realized, but if he could show it to a few of the criminals of the City they might know something, they might point him in some direction. Then there was the matter of the survivor. Chief Swan had mentioned six victims, but Tony had gone back in his mind and was able to recall the events of that night and he had come to the conclusion that seven men had fallen to his blade. If the Chief counted six bodies that must have meant that one survived, badly injured, but alive none the less. That person was sitting on valuable information and somehow he needed to get in touch with him for questioning. The horror of the mask would help him with that no problem, but he needed to figure out how to find the name. He spun around in his office chair and faced the door leading out of the office, the Police Station would have the information he sought. He would have to go there, case it right after the news and break in tonight. That’s what he do. He put his hands behind his head and sighed with an amused look on his face, so much in fact that Gabe Posen, who happened to walk into the room at that moment raised a confused eyebrow, but was silent since that was his way.

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St. Mary’s Hospital was one of the largest buildings on the block, as well it should have been, seeing as it serviced most of the populous of the city. It stood six stories tall and spread out over the entire block with its red brick, hiding behind young oak trees that lined the sidewalk. Two wings stretched out on wither side, like a horseshoe, mimicking a welcoming embrace to those in need  of assistance. A stone staircase in white lead from the sidewalk to the doors made of glass, only six or seven steps up, but enough to hinder those infirmed to climb them without a helping hand. The staircase was lined by a thick white railing leading all the way up to the entrance, the kind of resting place where statuesque lions might rest, but instead nurses or medical students would sit there in order to gossip and grab a quick smoke. It was a state of the art facility and there was many an aspiring doctor who wouldn’t mind being sent there for their final work practice before having to face the real world.
Three men in gray suits covered by light brown trench coats stood outside St. Mary’s hospital. They were leaning against their car while listening to the radio as the five o’clock news just came on. They were all smoking cigarettes and conversed with each other in low voices, hushed, almost like whispers as they watched people enter and exit the building. They payed special attention when two police officers walked past them, both of them carrying shotguns over their shoulders. Thorne tipped his hat and smiled at the men, who acknowledged him in return. When they disappeared behind the glass doors Jensen fished a pocket watch from his vest and looked at it and Charles quickly bounded up the steps and sat down on the stone railing, next to a young red headed candy striper, so that he a had a clear view through the doors. According to Jensen’s watch it took fifteen minutes for two other officers to exit the hospital. They too were armed, one carrying a shotgun in his arms and the other one with an old fashioned looking repeater rifle resting across his shoulders. Charles stroked his chin and leaned over to the girl and seemingly conversed with her in a soft voice. Thorne gave the new officers the same courtesy he had shown their colleagues and they responded in kind. The law men climbed into a police car that was parked down the street and drove off.
‘So it seems to me,’ Thorne dropped his cigarette on the sidewalk and stepped on it. ‘That two officers at a time is the limit of resources spent on this guy.’
‘It takes fifteen minutes for them to switch and I guess that entails briefing each other regarding any news.’ Jensen replied flicked ash on the ground. ‘Intervals of four hours so far, seems doable for us, of course depending on what the security situations is on the inside at least at night.’
‘Well we did see five security guards enter this morning and three leave. So I’m guessing they run a skeleton crew at night.’
Charles came towards them with a big grin on his face that only grew wider as he came closer to the car. He reached into his coat and produce a pack of smokes and lit one after having placing it between his teeth.
‘So what’s the score?’ Thorne asked.
‘Well apart from the fact that I’m picking her up at seven on Friday?’ Charles came back and showed all his teeth in his big smile, his buddies shrugged in unison. ‘From what she gathers the police officers always go to the fifth floor, that’s where they keep patients who have come out of surgery and need to be monitored. She doesn’t get to help out there only nurses do, but she has heard rumors from the ladies in the building that room 506 is the place that is heavily guarded. Two officers at a time, armed at all times.’
‘What of security, regular hospital security?’ Thorne asked.
‘According to her they only have three older men patrolling the hallways at night, but most of the time they hang out in the reception area on the first floor, playing cards. There are a few doctors on call, but they are most often in the basement area, where emergency cases go at night. Nurses sit on each floor, but only two per area. She is pretty certain that the officers do the rounds every hour on the hour, so the reception is most likely unmanned at those times.’
‘Excellent.’ Thorne’s grin was almost as wide as the one Charles wore. ‘Fellas, this may just be the easiest cash we ever made. We sneak in after midnight, if need be we take out the nurses and whatever guards we may encounter on the way and then deal with the officers, they are most likely the ones we have to be careful with, we take them down after the nurses and then finish Mr. Hammer in his bed.’
‘Easy as pie.’ Jensen mused. ‘Then I propose we take an extended vacation. We will be in high demand from the law after this.’
‘Right you are.’Thorne replied. ‘Now let’s scope out the building, so that we know what we’re dealing with tonight.’
‘We don’t need any unnecessary surprises.’ Charles chimed in and they left their car and walked towards St. Mary’s Hospital in order to get the lay of the land.

=====

The first floor of the police headquarters was bustling with activity. The main command center was basically and open space with desks littering the floor and that in turn were littered with files, papers and coffee cups. Secretaries, police officers and plain clothes detectives were running around handing stuff to each other, talking on the phone or just standing in front of chalk boards going over some case. At the far end, right opposite the big mahogany double doors that lead to the hive of activity was a dais and on it stood a desk, like a podium, that stretched from one side of the room to the other and behind it were secretaries and older police officers who barked orders, answered phones and handed documents to young boys, runners, who made sure the information went to the right person. On the left side of the command center was Chief Swan’s office and the door was closed and the blinds drawn.
Tony walked over to the dais and tried to avoid bumping in to those running around him, in his hands he was carrying a box of donuts from Bendtsen’s bakery on Washington and at times he was forced to lift it above his head so that it wouldn’t be sent flying across the room and land on some unfortunate detective’s desk. Once at the overlook area he turned around and exhaled, he thought the offices at WRJN could get busy at times, but working in this atmosphere every day would most likely kill him in the long run.
‘May I assist you in some way Sir?’ A cautious voice said behind him and Tony spun round to find a young man in a beard and dressed in a n ill fitting tan suit, a blue shirt and a black and white striped tie. With his dark brown hair, cut the same length as his facial hair the man looked like a disheveled grizzly bear. Having this figure looking down on him made Tony feel more than uncomfortable.
‘I am here to speak to Chief Swan if possible.’ He said. ‘I brought donuts.’ He added and held up the box.’
‘I see.’ The bear-man said and looked to a middle aged woman wearing horn rimmed glasses and with a shawl covering her shoulders. ‘Angie, is Chief Swan in?’
The woman looked at him over the rim of her glasses and sucked her gums in a distasteful manner. She then turned her judgmental gaze at Tony and raised her eyebrows in aquizzical expression. ‘Who is here to see the Chief?’ Her voice had all the nasal properties of a true Midwestern native, most likely from the northern part of the State. ‘Does he have an appointment?’
‘My name is Anthony Hill.’ Tony said with his best smile. ‘You might recognize my voice from the Five O’Clock News on WRJN, Your Radio Friend?’ He adjusted his voice to make it sound like the radio version of his regular diction.
‘Mr. Hill?’ The woman looked skeptical and riffled through some papers, she was obviously not impressed. ‘And what is the purpose of your visit?’
‘I would like to speak to the Chief in regards to what we spoke about on the radio, if possible?’ Tony’s voice went back to it’s natural tone and he looked at her with his best puppy dog eyes.
‘Chief Swan is busy at the moment, he has a guest, who had an appointment.’ The woman said and smiled smugly. ‘Then he has an engagement to attend with The Knights of Columbus, but if your lucky you might be able to speak to him the few seconds he is in transit.’
‘That would be great Miss, care for a donut, they’re fresh?’ He opened the box and smiled.
‘Mrs. Connors.’ The woman bit back. ‘And no thank you. Detective Glade, why don’t you show Mr. Hill to the office?’
Detective Glade, the man with the disheveled look hopped to and circled round the podium and down from the dais to stand next to Tony. ‘Follow me Mr. Hill.’ He said and moved through the throng of people.
‘Donut?’ Tony said and held out the box to Glade.
‘Don’t mind if I do.’ Glade replied and grabbed an eclair, as he bit into it cream filling burst from it and landed all over his suit. ‘Dammit’ He shouted. ‘Just my luck, this always happens to me. I’m going to clean myself up, this is the office, so I’ll leave you here. Is that alright Mr. Hill?’
‘Sure thing Detective Glade, thanks for the guided trip.’ Tony tried to avoid laughing at the slovenly detective as he vanished through the wild landscape that was the police station.
No sooner had his guide disappeared to clean himself up than the door to Chief Swan’s office opened and out stepped a man dressed in a dark suit followed by Swan. They both stopped in their tracks when they noticed Tony standing there with his box.
The first man appeared to be in his mid forties and wore his dark hair in a part on right side, with a few strand playfully falling over his forehead. Clean shaven and dapper he smiled at Tony and revealed the tiniest hints of wrinkles by his dark eyes. Chief Swan stuck out his hand and Tony took it in greeting.
‘Mr. Hill, what a surprise to see you here.’
‘I thought I’d stop by to discuss some details from yesterday Sir.’ Tony replied as he let go of the Chief’s hand.
‘Interesting, I am pressed for time though, but I can give you a few minutes. By the way, have you met Dr. Benton?’ Swan indicated the man standing next to him.
‘I have not had the pleasure.’ Tony replied and grabbed the doctor’s outstretched hand.
‘Delighted to meet you Mr. Hill, I often enjoy your news reports.’ Dr. Benton said in a soft voice.
‘The good Doctor runs one of the largest pharmaceutical producers in the Midwest and has set up base in our fair City.’
‘That is true.’ Benton nodded in agreement. ‘I have always wanted to own a house on the lake, one opened up here and the harbor in the City is perfect as a base of our operations. Proposed railway connections would make this a hub as well and it all plays very well into our plans.’
‘We were just discussing a fundraiser Dr. Benton and his company is holding this weekend to benefit widows of policemen. A very good cause, we need all the funds we can get.’
‘It’s the least we can do for our boys in blue. Have you received in invite Mr. Hill?’
‘I don’t believe so.’ Tony was taken aback at the question. He had always found himself standing on the outside of the higher circles. Being a newscaster, and fairly famous, at least among some people, he had not been invited into the group that Gabe Posner, Chief Swan or Vic Linden ran in. ‘Maybe it got lost in the mail.’ He continued and faked a laugh only to be met with a puzzled look from Benton and Swan.
‘Well consider yourself invited.’ Dr. Benton said and smiled again, a very infectious one. ‘Will you be bringing a date?’
‘No Sir.’ Tony almost blushed. ‘I do not have a young lady I’m seeing and my mother passed away several years ago.’
‘Well we’ll have to remedy that.’ Dr. Benton winked at him. ‘A man of your talents should not stay unwed for long. A card will land in your mailbox shortly Mr. Hill.’ Dr. Benton gave a short bow to Tony and Chief Swan. ‘I must unfortunately be moving along, there are pressing matters at hand, a business to run. Good Day Gentlemen.’
As they watched Dr. Benton leave Swan put a hand on Tony’s shoulder.
‘Step into my office Mr. Hill, I can give you my undivided attention for five minutes.’

=====

The command center was far from as bustling with activity at night as it was during the daylight hours. In fact there was no movement at all since those officers who occupied the building always stayed on the lower levels and detectives seldom worked at their desks past six p.m. Even the podium with its dais was abandoned and once in a while the phones would ring, only to remain unanswered, the call automatically transferred to the main desk in the lobby. The only light in the room came trickling in from below the great double doors, now closed, from the hallway beyond and the streetlights that cast a yellow glow across the furniture and made strange shadows dance to and fro. If an unsuspecting visitor might have ventured into the room it is more than likely they would have died from fright at finding a horrific face hanging upside down in the window, peering in with red glowing eyes and scanning the area, its hideous grin showing rows of sharp teeth. Slowly two hands glided down the window pane and tried to find a possible way to get fingers between the ledge and frame, but to no avail. A knife with a wavy blade appeared and slowly it slid betwixt the wood and with the slightest crack, that echoed through the room the frame lifted and four gloved fingers appeared. Luckily the chill of the night air had caused the wood to contract and it made it easier to slide the window upward so that the figure could pull itself inside.
Tony found that he had to use all of his strength in order to keep the window open while simultaneously hauling himself across the windowsill, but he managed and came in with his back towards the floor. Dragging his body up he landed with both feet against the hardwood and gently let the window slide back down. Placing the blade back in the wangaraka he crouched down and looked around for any signs of life. It was dead quiet and gloomy, the only sound he could hear was his own shallow breath and the beating of his heart. His trip to the station earlier that day had provided him with a lot of information, not his discussion with Chief Swan who had basically given him the same song and dance from their on air interview, but he knew where to find what he was looking for. He needed to know who that surviving member was and where he was at the moment. The skull and diamond logo was a dead end without another lead to follow and this man might be able to give him more to work with. Not taking any chances he continued to stay low as he moved through the labyrinth of desks towards Chief Swan’s office. To his surprise the door wasn’t locked and he quietly entered, still crouching. Once inside he rose, since the blinds were all pulled. Many things could be said about Chief Swan, but that he was neat was not one of them. By all accounts he was organized, well informed and in the know, but it was most likely not due to his ability, or lack thereof, to keep order in his office. The gloominess of the room made it difficult to find anything and with papers piled upon papers, several coffee cups strewn everywhere and half eaten bagels and donuts stacked on top of each other the task wasn’t made easier. He produced a small electrical torch to aid the search and with a sigh began scanning the mountains of objects before him. Several of the taller skyscraper like stacks were easy to eliminate from the search due to the layer of dust covering them. Those covered most of the regular surfaces, like tables, parts of the desk and even the odd flower pedestal. On the leather couch standing off to one side and the office chair were, what looked to be, more recent documents so he started there. He could quickly put them to rest by looking at the dates of the first paper, so he moved to the piles on the floor. As the electric light passed over the range of documents and leftover dishes he noticed the box of donuts he had brought earlier in the day, but also that it was atop a tan folder. Quickly he moved the box out of the way, noticed that Swan had managed to get jelly filling on the folder, but opened it anyway.
It was a report filed by a Detective Garfield Teague and it detailed the facts in the case so far, or at least what they knew so far. It noted that they now knew the contents of the crates, cocaine, but from whence it came they had no idea at this time. The truck and its cargo belonged to a newer crime family by the name of the Lonergans and they were of Irish decent, their representatives had all perished down in the parking structure. According to the report the other victims were under the leadership of Henry ‘Baz’ Peterson, but he was not the head of whatever group purchasing the drugs. All men connected to Peterson, some named and some not had also been killed, save for one and here was a dilemma; the name of that person had been blacked out. There actually seemed to be two names, or one fairly long one, whichever it was impossible to read it. There was no other information to be had, only that the men had not killed each other that day. Teague believed there to have been a third party, whose agenda he did not know, someone who used a blade. That he had manage to find this information could only mean that he had spoken to the survivor, the name that at the moment eluded Tony. He turned the report over in his hands and flipped through all the papers fro additional clues and found that something was written in blue ink on the back of file. In Chief Swan’s beautiful cursive script it read; Black Diamond? Tony tapped his index finger on the name, what did it mean? Was this a clue to whoever The Lonergans were working with? Whatever it was it was a start, he still needed to find the survivor before he died from his wounds or worse was taken out by his colleagues. He placed the torch on the desk and proceeded to place the box of donuts back on top of the file when he noticed something. There was a notepad lying there, it was empty, but the light from the torch shining at it from an angle revealed the indentations of Swan’s familiar handwriting. It was a long shot but he picked it up and shone the light across the bleach white paper.
It was from the day before. A note giving Detective Teague access to a patient at St. Mary’s Hospital, room 506. It was addressed to the hospital staff, as well as the officers on duty. There was a name as well, two names in fact; Martin Lindquist and Maury Hammer. It might be a dead end, but it was all he had to go on at the moment. Suddenly he heard the doors to the room outside the office open. He turned off the torch and sat down by the desk. He slowly crawled across the floor towards the couch and gently climbed the creaking leather, making sure he didn’t knock over any piles. The put two fingers between the lower blinds and peered out. All he could see was a shape. A large frame of a man, wearing a hat, carrying a flashlight that illuminated the room. Due to the light in the person’s hand he could see that the man wore a beard and glasses, but not much more. The fgure moved slowly from desk to desk, rifling through filing cabinets and drawers very clearly looking for something, or possibly anything that might be of interest.
After having been up on the dais, as well as having been startled by the ringing of one of the phones, the light was aimed at the office. Tony had to think quickly, there was no way he would manage to exit the room without the man noticing him, he would have to hide. Silently he leapt from the couch, hit a roll and curled up next to the door. The figure opened the office door, which thankfully opened inward and entered. This figure had more knowledge than Tony of how Chief Swan kept his office and ignored the various piles and headed straight for the desk. He moved the box and paged through the file, but seemed unfulfilled by the contents. Letting out a sigh the man opened the box and grabbed and pastry from inside. Taking a bite the unmistakable sound of custard dripping onto clothes could be heard and the figure let out an even bigger sigh, before quickly exiting the office and slamming the door behind him, completely ignoring the noise it made.
Tony waited for the double doors to close before he exited the office and headed for the window again, he had a lead, whatever it meant.


The Face of Fear: Chapter Five

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Time passed on the island and young Anthony became in need of a tutor. This was brought to his Father’s attention when the Governor-General’s wife one day inquired about how his son’s studies were coming. That day Mr. Hill hurried home to find his son sitting on the porch with his governess, who was teaching him about the folklore of Bali. It didn’t bother him, in alcohol addled mind any education was good education, but a few days later a Mr. Mahr was standing on the porch dressed all in black with a silver handled cane in his hands and a stern bespectacled look on his face. He had come over from Batavia where he had been teaching the society women English. A substantial sum had been offered to him by Mr. Hill, not only to educate Anthony, but also fill in the blanks created due to the time his studies had been neglected. Mr. Mahr brought a semblance of order and structure to the young boy’s life and a male role model that complimented what he received from Charlotte’s husband. An intellectual piece of the puzzle to the physical ones he had already been given. For all his hard exterior the old tutor took a shine to the boy, maybe it was his advancing age and the sense of nostalgia that came with it, or the fact that he had spent too much time with people set in their ways and unwilling to change their point of view that was the cause of it. He had once, during his time as a headmaster at a boarding school, been known for his skill with the switch, but was as sweet as honey to Anthony and often referred to him as ‘my boy’.
Most of the weekday mornings Anthony would stay indoors learning his letter and numbers, this due to the fact that Mr. Mahr, for all his stern looking countenance, had a weak constitution and was particularly sensitive to the humidity of the Indonesian mornings. After lunch though they would venture outside and wander the island and learn from each other. The tutor would point out trees, flowers or animals and give their English and Latin names and Anthony would give the Balinese version he had picked up. They would converse about science inasmuch as the young boy could comprehend it or the folklore of the region, sometimes Mr. Mahr, being a rational man, would scoff at the naive beliefs, yet other times he would halt, look up at the sky or crouch down and consider a flower and give the idea its rightful time to marinate in his mind.
In the evenings Anthony would be handed over to the governess as Mr. Mahr needed time to study the curriculum and grade whatever exams his pupil had handed in. He claimed the rocking chair on the porch and would sit there and soak in the island with a good book and the spirit of the late Mrs. Hill would wash over him, although he did not know it. During Anthony’s time with Charlotte was spent in the wild or in her village playing with the local children and speaking to them in their tongue and during the weekends he would even spend the night. The days did not entail only roughhousing with native islanders, Charlotte’s husband, the seasoned warrior who had traveled the Indonesian islands taught the boy the art of unarmed combat feeling satisfied that his knowledge was being passed down. At night he would go to bed in his hut with a grin on his face secure in the fact that he was passing his family legacy on to someone, even if it was not his biological son, Anthony had become his adoptive one.

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Tony slipped out of his suit jacket and placed it carefully on the bed. He walked over to the window with its view of both Seventh and College, the intersection where the two streets met. The sun was still setting over the city and the lights had flickered on only moments prior. He pulled at the tie around his neck and it easily loosened so he could slip it over his head. It messed up his perfectly curated hair, but it didn’t matter much now. He moved to his closet and hung the tie on a hanger followed by his white shirt and then pants with suspenders. The apartment was a two room affair, perfect for a bachelor such as him. In fact the entire complex was filled with young single men, but also the odd widower. It was central enough for his needs, close to the radio station and the goings on downtown. It was his second residence since moving to the city, but the YMCA was not private enough even though the training facilities were a boon. He still exercised there; swimming, gymnastics and weight lifting, but coming and going at all hours of the night would have lead to far too many questions and he wanted to avoid that. In his undergarments he entered the closet to dig out the trunk that lay at the back of it. To most who saw the thing it would appear to be your garden variety travel trunk, something ones ancestors might have brought on one of the great ships crossing the Atlantic, and in a way it was true. The trunk had a small note glued to the inside of the lid that read:

Property of James Mahr
Essex, United Kingdom
1929

It had contained the life belongings of his old tutor and he had inherited it, as well as its contents when the ancient educator had passed away in 1944. The trunk was usually placed as far back in the closet as possible and he often covered it in old blankets and pillows. If anyone, in an unlikely scenario, were to rifle through his apartment they might just bypass the indistinct pile of laundry. He carefully opened the lid to reveal the contents and the light fell on what was inside. Tony had always felt like the trunk, the property of his intellectual keeper guarded the tools he had received from his moral tutor.
It was a full body suit in red and blue, made from a stretchy material with a near silk like quality. He had managed to find an old seamstress in the Chinatown of Chicago who had been willing to make the outfit to his specific needs. It had resulted in three suits that she made by hand  for a substantial sum that also included her silence in the matter. He returned a year later to find that she had passed away, leaving her family a sizable inheritance. They subsequently spent the money on the opening of a restaurant outside the neighborhood. Beneath the suit lay a pair of gloves and a set of boots matching the color scheme of the rest of the outfit. There was also The Face, the fanged and horned mask. It lay between the hilts of two blades; a kalis and a kris placed in their sheaths or Wangarakas and stared at him with its red glowing eyes, daring him to pick it up. He did so, gingerly, and placed it on an end table  next to his bed then proceeded to slip into the suit. The stretchy material eliminated the need for a zipper and he glided into the neck hole and pulled it upward. After he had put on the boots and gloves he slung the kalis over his shoulder so it hung across his back and stuck the kris in his belt, but left The Face where it was. He turned off the lights in the room and walked over to the window and stared out over the down town area.
It was closing in on eight p.m. and the police station would be closed for most of the duties by now, a skeleton crew would be working there. He had no time to rest, he needed to begin the investigation in earnest. He wanted to know what was in those crates that were on the truck and where they came from. To get to the bottom of the burgeoning drug trade in the city he needed  to move quickly, before the police picked up the scent . He couldn’t stall any more and needed to move out, he went over to the end table, picked up The Face and pulled it down over his head. With a couple of tugs at it he moved it into place. Once back at the window he flung it open by moving it upward, then deftly swung his legs over the windowsill and into the night.

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The black Lincoln was running as it stood there and the headlights were cutting through the darkness of the unlit parking lot, illuminating the gravel and the red brick wall of the factory. Geert was sitting in the front seat on the passenger side and was trying to monitor his breathing, which came out in wheezy spurts through his nose. He found it embarrassing and tried to hide it from his chauffeur by holding it , but the strain was too much effort and he often erupted in a coughing fit. Whenever this would occur the driver would react, as if woken from some form of slumber. Once realizing what was happening he would eye the Boss and then return to gazing out the side window.
A figure stepped out into the glow of the headlights, dressed in, what appeared to be a duster and hat, smoking a cigarette. It cast a long shadow against the wall creating the illusion of two twin like persons, a smaller and one bigger counter part. The driver opened his door and stepped around the Lincoln and opened one the doors to the back seat. The figure slid into the back, pulled done the brim of his hat to hide his forehead and pulled a scarf over his nose to hide the lower part of his face. It was mostly for show since Geert knew exactly who the man was, but since he was of a paranoid caste himself, he understood the idea. He decided not to engage the man’s visage in the rear view mirror and kept his eyes on the illuminated brick wall, that the driver was leaning against now, smoking a cigar.
‘So what have you got for me?’ Geert asked the man.
‘Not much at the moment Mr. Geert.’ The man was very obviously trying to mask his voice by keeping it lower and raspier than it was. ‘I have tried to stay in the loop, but for some reason the investigator is playing this one close to the vest.’
‘Can you tell me anything or is my investment in you an enormous waste of my dollars?’
‘Not at all Sir.’ There was a nervous tinge to the voice now, as if it was on the verge of cracking. ‘I can tell you what we are working on and what is believed.’
‘Then do so, my time is valuable.’ It wasn’t. He had a soiree to attend back at the hotel.
‘What the others have revealed so far is that it appears to have been someone else who whacked the mics and our boys. Someone cut them up good.’
‘Cut them up?’
‘You know, knifed them, or something like that. Whatever crew gang did this, they wanted it to be messy and used some form of blade.’
‘And the goods?’
‘It’s kept safe in the police impound lot, awaiting investigation.’
‘Is there anything on that truck or in those crates that might lead to us?’
‘Not that I’m aware, but I’d have to check it out to be sure.’
‘I suggest you get on that immediately then. Were there any survivors at all?’ It was getting chilly out there now Geert observed as the driver slipped on a pair of fingerless gloves and rubbed his arms. ‘Any of our boys make it out?’
‘None of the Irish guys survived, but from what I have gathered there was one who avoided being killed, but I have no clue who it was.’
Geert’s heart sank. He had experienced people dying, even seen it with his own eyes and when he was younger he had even murdered people, especially during the end days of the Leahman gang, but the prospect of his long time buddy Baz Peterson biting it had hit him hard. Now there might be an outside chance that he had survived. ‘Maybe Baz?’ He said with the shiver of anticipation in his voice.
‘Could be, I guess.’ The man in the back seat replied. ‘If anyone could come out of that massacre it would be him.’
‘I need you to find out and check out those crates so that we come out clean. The contents we’ll have to replace some way, but we need to cover our asses in this.’
‘Got it Mr Geert Sir.’ The man said.
‘Report back to me as soon as you have any more information, time is of the essence. Now get out!’ Geert waved his hand to signal that the meeting was over and then waved the driver to approach. The rear door opened and the man vanished into the cold night air and then the driver positioned himself next to him again.
‘Where to Boss?’ He said and flung the cigar out the window.
‘We need to head to the West side.’ He said through gritted teeth.
‘What about your thing back at the Hotel?’ The sound of astonishment in the driver’s voice was palpable.
‘I don’t have time for that at the moment. I need to find some guys and then I need to talk to Diamond.’
‘Right you are.’ The driver shifted gears and drove west.

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The police impound lot was surrounded by a tall chain link fence and around the top rusty barbed wire snaked around to deter anyone who might think to enter. It was a large gravel yard with cars lined up in neat rows in the center, a large garage like structure made from sheet metal stood off to one side and on the opposite end, where the gates were, stood a smaller wooden building that served as the guard house. The glow of electric lights shone from the single window that faced the entrance, signaling that the guard on duty was in. Tied up to one of the posts that held up the roof above a low porch were two vicious looking German shepherds, one pacing and the other sleeping with one eye open. Tony was crouched down atop the roof of one of the nearby buildings surrounding the lot. He surveyed the scene while he was pulling at his gloves to make sure they were snug on his hands. The building he was on was too far and high up from the garage to be able to comfortably leap from, and the sheet metal would most likely make too much noise for such a maneuver. He needed to use another method of entry. He crawled over to the edge of the roof and swung over it hanging from his fingers. He hugged the brick wall, searched for a foothold and found it, a window ledge, let go of the roof and found his balance. He glanced behind him to find that the ground was still a bit to far off and he gazed below him. There was another window there and by all accounts it appeared as if no one was home, or at least not in the room it belonged to. He let his feet come off the sill and fell toward the ground, but caught himself on the top part of the window frame below. Now his entire body was covering the window and he dared a look inside. It was a perfectly normal kitchen with a table place before the window, a sink and a white rounded refrigerator. Though the lights were off in the room itself he could see a faint glow through a doorway and shadows interrupted it from time to time. He peered over his shoulder again and then bounced off the windowsill and sailed through the air, flipping over so that his head was facing downward. As he did so the guard dog still awake turned its ears towards him and began to bark. Tony pulled a vial out of his spiked belt and released it from his grip and it shattered a few feet from the animal’s paws. The dog went silent, tilted its head to the side and whined. The vial contained a tincture of Balinese flowers so pungent to animals that it masked his scent while also confusing them. He landed, in a crouching position, with his hands to the ground. The other dog, the one that had been sound asleep, was startled by his friend’s barking and began a whole tirade of his own.
The door to the guard house opened and a middle aged policeman walked out on the porch. He pierced the darkness with his flashlight; first around the lot and then on the dogs, who were both pacing in a worried manner. He sighed while unhooking them both and walked out into the lot. It was uncommon that people tried to break in or trespass. The few times it had happened it had been young whipper snappers daring each other to run through the area without getting caught. Whatever it was it was definitely a person, since the dogs were trained to ignore cats, squirrels or raccoons. He unsnapped the holster just to be on the safe side and raised his hand again to scan the cars as he passed them. The dogs sniffed around wildly, but seemed unable to pick anything up, instead they whined and tried to rub their noses against the gravel or pawed at the snouts.
Tony was hiding, only a car’s width from the officer, behind a blue vehicle. He controlled his breathing as the officer shone the flashlight through the windshields and down the rows. He silently moved around so that he ended up behind the man, carefully maneuvering so as not to allow the gravel grate against each other. He wanted to avoid injuring the man, but realized he might have to if it came down to it. The officer moved towards the garage, where Tony also needed to go. From above the structure had appeared solid, but down on the ground he could see that one of the sides was completely open, making for easy access. When the man reached the building he let the dogs run the length of the chains and then popped his head inside the darkness. As he did so Tony quickly ran do the side of the garage and flattened himself against the sheet metal. Unfortunately he was now hiding in the only possible area that was open, since the opposite side was lined up against the fence. If the officer turned the corner he would be seen, and as he pondered this he saw the light approach. Before he could even consider his next move his legs had bent and then straightened out to send him up to the roof where he clung to the edge as the man rounded the corner. He raised his legs so that they were perpendicular to his hands to avoid his feet touching the man or in the least reveal his position. Once he had passed Tony straightened out and by hand over hand movement got himself round the same corner. Dropping down in front of the entrance he then walked inside.
The street lights from around the lot had lit it enough for him to see what he was doing, but not much more, but here, surrounded by three walls and a roof it was nearly pitch black. He knew that if he produced his own flashlight the officer would see it all too well, so he was forced to move around as best he could. What little light escaped into the garage gave him enough illumination to make out the shapes of vehicles placed therein. There were cars, busses, motorcycles and even boats and there against the far wall the truck, loaded with crates.The floor here was concrete and he could more easily move in silence, so he swiftly headed for his goal and swung himself up on the bed. He looked over the unfinished pine of which the crates were made up and noticed that a few of them had been tempered with. The police had started their investigation, just like he knew they would. In the distance he heard the door to the guard house close and could safely produce his light. Now he could more easily see which crates had been opened and where. He took out his kris, a wavy dagger that looked like a smaller version of his kalis and slid it under the lid of an already loosened piece and it came off easily. He just moved it a bit out of the way so that he had enough room to feel around in the torch light. The pine box was filled with packages made from brown paper and secured with twine. He picked one up and moved it around, shook it and weighed it, but he needed to satisfy his suspicions. He cut into the brown wrapping with the kris and once he withdrew it white powder coated the blade. He plucked a small leather pouch from his belt and with one hand he opened it and produced an envelope. Gently he tapped the powder off the blade and let it fall between the paper, sealed it up and place it back in the pouch. After having put the lid back it was time to more closely analyze the crates. He moved in close to the pine and held the flashlight close. At first glance it looked as if the wood was completely unmarked, but when he let the light shine from an angle some form of stamp was visible. He touched it with his gloved hand and felt ridges, but had a hard time making out what it precisely was. From his pouch he grabbed a pencil and began rubbing the lead against the mark. Slowly an image began to emerge. It was a skull placed in the inside of a diamond, the kind one might find in a deck of cards. A quick once over some of the nearest crates revealed a similar mark in the same spot, the lower left hand corner. It was what he had been looking for.
Spinning around so that he faced the exit it was once again time to head into the night, he had more work to do, dogs to avoid.

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The Lincoln was traveling down Washington and the yellow light of the streetlights reflected in the window as Geert stared at them. He watched the buildings passed by and slowly turned from homes to storefronts. The car drove across Ohio before it stopped in front of a building made from the same red brick so common in the city. It was an Italian restaurant with a bright neon sign proclaiming it to be The Pizza King. The western part of the city was the home of the Danes who had emigrated to it between 1870 and 1950, while most of the other ethnic groups had declined that population had skyrocketed. Since the Scandinavians, as a rule, were not well regarded for their cooking most of the eateries were run by Greeks or Italians. The driver opened the door and helped the boss out of it by giving him his hand and supporting his weight so that he wouldn’t trip. In an ungrateful gesture he yanked his forearm out the hands of the driver, straightened out his jacket over his dumpy frame and glared at the man. He indicated that the driver should wait by the car and then opened the glass doors to enter.
The interior was dark, mostly due to the dark wood paneling throughout, but not gloomy thanks to the white walls above it. The counter and the booths were all made from the same brown wood and the seats were covered in brown faux leather. A man in his mid thirties with dark, greasy hair combed back and a thin mustache under a pronounced nose, dressed in a dress shirt and black, albeit flour stained slacks, stood at the counter and was arranging baking sheets. It was near closing time and he seemed eager to close up shop, that’s why he gave Geert an annoyed stare when he saw him, but he gave a polite nod and a half hearted smile.
‘What’ll it be Sir?’ He asked in a monotone voice.
‘Just a coffee Joe, I need to speak to my associates over there.’ Geert tilted his head in the direction of a booth occupied by three dapper men in pin striped suits. He would have much rather have ordered a brandy old fashioned to compensate for not being able to go back home, but the protestant church ladies who had made the this neighborhood their home had forbid the distribution of alcohol on the west side, to the ire of the restaurateurs of the area. Joe gave him a nod and sighed as he bent down to fetch a cup and saucer from beneath the counter. Geert ignored this and walked over to the men in the booth, who were the only patrons in the place.
‘Gentlemen.’ He said. ‘I thought I might find you here.’ He sat down in the only seat that was open.
Jensen, Charles and Thorne always dressed the same, even if they did not live together, in fact they lived on the opposite sides of the city, but somehow managed to coordinate their outfits perfectly. Today they wore, in addition to the black pinstriped suits, white shirts and black ties. One could really only tell them apart from their facial hair, Jensen was clean shaven, Thorne wore a mustache and Charles had a full beard, but they were all red heads, most likely due to their Danish heritage Geert philosophized.
‘What can we do for you Mr. Geert?’ Thorne said as he sipped a cup of coffee of his own. The trio were freelancers and not directly under his organization and therefore they often skipped the traditional Boss moniker others used.
‘Well boys.’ Geert paused as Joe placed his coffee in front of him. ‘I need you to investigate something for me.’
‘All right, I guess we can squeeze you in to our busy schedule.’ Jensen snorted and lit a thin cigarette. ‘Your money is always welcome here. What do you need?’
‘You no doubt heard of the incident downtown that took place this morning?’ The men nodded. ‘And as you might have guessed it involved my organization and the Langdons. We don’t really know who is to blame yet, but we are pretty sure it wasn’t the Irish and it sure as hell wasn’t us.’
‘Ok, so you want us to find out who done it?’ Charles chimed in. ‘We can do that, a bit of detectoring, sounds easy enough.’
‘Not really.’ Geert cautiously blew on the hot liquid in the cup, but set it down again before tasting it. ‘While most of the guys involved perished in the garage there appears to have been one survivor. One of our men and he most likely holds the answer to the question of, as you so eloquently put it, who done it. I need you to find out that person’s identity so that we in turn can identify the guilty party.’
‘All right.’ Thorn felt his face, a touch of stubble was beginning to form on his chin. ‘So you want us to investigate so that it can’t be traced back to The Diamond and essence put you out of harms way?’
‘You could put it that way.’ Geert was beginning to sweat, they had seen through his not so clandestine plan. ‘You would be paid handsomely of course.’
‘Of course.’ Jensen smiled.
‘Let us confer my friends.’ Thorne said to the other two, apparently taking the lead on this deal. ‘If you could excuse us.’
Geert rose, downed the coffee in one gulp and headed to the counter to settled the bill. ‘I’ll pay for the gentlemen as well Joe.’ He said and Joe nodded and gave him the total. Geert handed him a five dollar bill, which was more than enough and Joe smiled and thanked him. One he turned back to the trio they were standing in a row before him, all with a black hat with a white band in their hands.
‘We’ll do it.’ Jensen said as he leaned past Geert and stubbed out his cigarette in an ash tray placed on the counter. ‘It’s going to cost you twice the standard fee.’ It was steep, yet still a good price for keeping his name out of it.
‘Agreed.’ Geert said and put forth his hand, the men each shook it in turn.
‘It’s always a pleasure doing business with The Diamond and yourself.’ Thorne said. ‘I hope this isn’t as big a risk as we all think it might be. It would be sad if our relationship would have to end due to one of us dying.’ Geert tried to act unconcerned, but could feel beads of sweat form on his upper lip. The men left in a single file.
‘We’ll be in touch.’ Thorne said before placing his hat on his head and exiting.


The Face of Fear: Chapter Four

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Chapter Four

3…2…1
This is your radio friend, AM 1400 WRJN! Welcome back to the news at five, with your hosts Tony Hill and Gabe Posen.
‘Welcome back dear listeners, my name is Tony Hill and this is the five o’clock news.’ Tony’s voice had once again taken on the familiar tone of the common radio host.
‘And my name is Gabe Posen.’ Gabe was an expert in the art of seamless linking, much of it due to his twenty years in the business. ‘In the news tonight Mayor Gothner addresses the city in regards to the constant road work in our city, a preview of the game of the week as the Raiders look to capture their first title in BSFL, but first this.’
Tony jumped in; ‘A grisly scene was discovered this morning by city police at a parking structure down town. An undisclosed number of men were found dead in the lower level of the structure in what has been called a bloodbath of a proportion seldom seen ion out peaceful town. Here to give you, the listeners, the latest inside information about what some speculate is related to organized crime is Chief of Police Peter Swan.’ Tony swung his chair to the right of the mic stationed above the desk in front of him allowing Chief Swan to push his chair closer. The booth was cramped with the two regular news anchors and then when weather and sports were added one had to hold ones breathe so that the doors could even be closed. ‘Chief Swan, what can you tell our listeners about this horrible event?’
‘Well Tony.’ Chief Swan began trailing off in his very careful dialog. ‘To be quite honest we are not quite at liberty to divulge the specific details of what has happened. This in part due to the fact that we just don’t know. We have victims and we have a scene reminiscent of one you might see in the pictures, but as to the why and how, we are still working on those aspects.’
‘Chief Swan there have been rumors abound concerning the number of victims and there alleged alliances.’ Tony continued.
‘Certainly.’
‘Our reporters on the street have heard numbers ranging from four to as many as twenty.’
‘Well I can tell you that numbers ranging in the teens and upwards are highly exaggerated. It would make it seems as if there had been a bloodbath down there and I can assure the good people of this city that a war of that magnitude had brought the attention of the police in the area. Moreover we at the moment have a body count of six men.’
Tony hesitated at that answer. He was sure that there had been seven armed men down there. Chief Swan’s reply must indicate that there was a survivor, that or he had forgotten about one of them, but the Chief of Police was not the sort of man to forget details, not if the stories about him were to be believed. He replayed the events of the previous night in his mind. The bullets flying, he dodged, bounced off walls and ducked behind the truck. One, two, three men fell and then four, maybe five or six? He couldn’t quite recall, it had all happened so fast, he was in the moment at the time, not thinking, just letting it happen. His body began to travel back to the moment and everything visualized itself in slow motion. Too late he realized that he had let a full minute of dead air fill the airwaves and Gabe jumped in to make the save.‘And what of the rumors that the victims all belonged to local mob gangs?’
‘That is an interesting aspect Mr. Posen.’ The Chief swung around, placing himself between the microphone and Tony so that he could face Gabe. ‘Several of the victims are known to the police from earlier crimes, which might not be a surprise seeing as how men in this line of work tend to end their days violently. What they were doing in the parking structure, downtown at this time of night and what precisely happened to them, as well as why, is still a mystery to us.’
Tony popped out of his fugue state as soon as Chief Swan began talking and quickly regained his composure. ‘There have been speculations, especially in the Journal Times this morning that this might have been The Leahmann family once again staking its claim on the city. Any comment?’
‘That is a distinct possibility I guess, but nothing we have uncovered in the past year has pointed us in that direction.’
‘So this might be some other crime family trying to horn in on the city. Maybe by taking out minor criminals in the area?’
‘That is also very possible. This nothing that I am comfortable commenting on at this moment. We have yet to uncover if these criminals killed each other in some form of trade that might have gone south or they were murdered by a third party. It is just too early to tell.’
‘So, for our listeners out there what can you say.’ Tony pressed. ‘Should they stay indoors, avoid the downtown area or venture out at night?’
‘Tony, Gabe and the good folks out there in the ether.’ Chief Swan maneuvered his chair so that he sat squarely before the microphone attached to the desk. ‘You may trust that the police have the situation at hand. As we speak investigators and homicide detectives are on the case and no stone will be left unturned in an effort to solve this. Are primary goal is to keep you safe in your beds at night and that you may venture out on our streets without worry.’ The chief looked over at Tony and nodded.
‘Well thank you Chief Swan, I am sure our audience will sleep easier tonight. Next on the the five o’clock news hour we will hear from the mayor, but first a word from our sponsor.’

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The months and years following the passing of his mother were pivotal in Anthony’s life. Initially his father waited on him hand and foot, a way for Mr. Hill to work through the pain of losing his wife. His toe headed son with his blue eyes, pale skin and sharp features was spitting image of her and by staying by his side, reading to him and watching him as he slept made it seem as if she was still in his life. After the first month had passed Mr. Hill was forced to go back to work in the capital and Anthony was left in the care of a new governess, a young woman who had lost her own son two years previously. The young boy was melancholy most of the days, only showing emotions when his father left in the morning, crying and screaming, tugging at the man’s pants legs in an effort to keep him at home and in the evening when he returned. After two weeks Patrice returned to give Anthony a semblance of normalcy and it worked. She eased him into the transition  of a new governess and even gave the woman a Christian name; Charlotte. Charlotte and Anthony bonded with each other through their common denominator of loss; his mother and her child. They became the other ones surrogate and before Patrice knew it the two strangers had formed a bond reminiscent of a mother to her son.
During this entire process Mr. Hill became increasingly absent. His days in the capital grew longer, some of it due to the demands of his office and in part due to an unease he felt when gazing upon his child. He was beginning to heal after six months, but when he came home and the car approached the house, he could see Anthony sitting in his mother’s rocking chair and for a mere second he would swear it was his dead wife come back to life. His heart would skip a beat and his palms would get sweaty as he exited the vehicle and then a wave of disappointment washed over him as his son would leap off the stairs and into his arms. The first time it happened he dropped him, his limbs refusing to raise up in the obligatory embrace. He had also begun feeling other, natural urges. Since she had fallen ill the marital bed had been reserved for care, sadness and somberness. This had left the widower with a pent up frustration that now began to rear its ugly head once the whole in his heart was becoming smaller. The Governor-General and several members of staff, all of them close friends of Mr. Hill were now urging him to remain in Batavia and attend the various illustrious parties that were thrown in the honor of assorted dignitaries from around the globe. Once he relented and attended one of the soirees he was hooked. To unwind with other adults of the western caste was something he realized he had been craving. To have real conversations about real things and to laugh again completely altered his reality. Mr. Hill had never been a great drinker either, taking the odd snifter of brandy at the end of the day, champagne on his wedding day or a whiskey and cigar whenever he had company, but now the libations flowed and he came to the conclusion that he quite enjoyed it. Another aspect he enjoyed were the local Balinese girls who would come around and offer the services to the gentlemen of the governing class. He had not paid much attention to them while his wife was still alive, but now, when his body ached for a human touch and the warm embrace of the subtle skin of a woman he got not ignore them. All to often he would wake up in one of the guest rooms of the Governor-General’s annex with a different girl, he would feel the pang of guilt course through his veins, but the following evening he would repeat the pattern of drinking and womanizing and his voracious appetite became legendary among the islanders.
As his father was sinking deeper and deeper into a spiral av debauchery and he saw less and less of him young Anthony was introduced to the Balinese culture. Charlotte first brought him round to here small village and family after a year had passed and their relationship was well and truly cemented. At first her husband, a tall and menacing warrior, was skeptical, but once he saw how his wife and the white child had formed a close relationship and how much she needed the child ha relented and welcomed Anthony into his home. Since he spoke no English and barely any Dutch he communicated with the boy in his native tongue and the child replied for Charlotte, who spoke poor English herself, had incorporated Bali in her speech early on in their relationship. Anthony would stay with the couple and their tribe days on end without issue since his father was more and more often away and could care less about where his son was, and many a night as the boy lay in the hand carved cot they had made for their own child, was spent discussing how a parent could abandon their own flesh and blood for such lengthy periods. The village elders came by and clucked their tongues at the attitudes of Westerners. And so it was that after a year had passed Anthony Hill had lost both his biological mother and his father and managed to replace them with an entirely new pair.

======

Teague turned the volume dial all the way down, shutting off the radio. He had just finished listening to Chief Swan saying nothing on the Five O’clock News and had little interest in hearing what the mayor had to say. He was quickly approaching St. Mary’s anyway and needed to focus on parking his car, a task that seemed always to have trouble with. After taking ten minutes to get the car squarely in the parking space, it had to be perfect, he approached the grand building. It was a red brick building that looked as much like a school like it did a hospital. He walked through the doors, passing doctors and nurses on their way to and from work and even the odd patient. There was an officer standing in the foyer who threw him a glance, but Teague flashed his badge and the man tipped his hat and nodded at him to pass. He stopped at the reception desk and asked the young woman seated there where he possibly could find Mr. Hammer, the name Chief Swan had given him, and she directed him to the fifth floor. Tipping his hat and managing a smile he ventured down the hall, stopped at the elevators and waited a few seconds before deciding to take the stairs, he was getting out of shape his wife kept remarking. Once he had reached the fifth floor ha had realized his mistake. In truth he had realized it after the first flight of stairs, but had pressed on and now he could feel the sweat drip down his spine and making his pants stick to his thighs. He had to stop and catch his breathe at the top, almost leaning on the statue of the Virgin Mother stretching out her arms invitingly towards him, as if she was saying; Come, let me comfort you my child. He did not heed her.
The walls lining the narrow corridor were painted stark white and with the overhead light tubes bathing the space an equally cold glow everything appeared clinical and chilly. Every few feet hung a nondescript painting of some landscape or a black and white photograph of an ancient doctor. It did nothing to thaw thew sensation Teague got upon listening to the sounds of his footsteps bounce off the walls. Past the corridor he arrived at a large open area with a hexagonal high counter in the middle, like some form of command center. Several nurses were busy moving files, answering phones and speaking with doctors. From the epicenter several doors and corridors lead to other parts of the floor, like spokes on a bicycle. He sauntered up to the desk, removed his hat and placed it before him as he leaned up against the hard wood. A woman wearing her dark hair in a bun and with her horn rimmed glasses placed low on her nose met his gaze and gave him an inquisitive look.
‘Detective Teague here to see a patient by the name of Hammer.’ He said and tried out his smile.
The woman smiled back and then looked over Teague’s shoulder and called out a name which he couldn’t hear and no sooner had she done this than a burly officer stepped up beside him with his hands on his hips.
‘What seems to be the problem Esther?’ He looked down on Teague from a height of near seven feet.
‘This man wants to see Mr. Hammer in room 506 and I thought I’d run it by you first Bill.’ Her voice was chipper in the presence of the giant.
‘My name is Detective Garfield Teague Officer…Billy?’ Teague cut in with as authoritarian voice was possible whilst staring into the barrel chest of a boy in blue. ‘And yes I am here to interview Mr. Hammer, the only survival of the massacre downtown this morning. I believe he may have vital information,’
‘Well Sir.’ Officer Billy mused with the fact that he could lord something over a man of higher rank than he had. ‘I can’t allow that. Strict orders from the Chief of Police himself. No one is to see Mr. Hammer.’
‘Well Billy boy..’ Teague took out the hand written letter from Chief Swan and handed it to the officer. ‘I have here written permission from the Chief that I am allowed access to the witness. So we can stand here and debate it or you can show me to room 506 and let me in.’
The towering Billy glanced at the paper and then at receptionist Esther, she clucked and he shrugged and motioned Teague to come with him, which he did after picking his hat off the desk. They walked round the reception area and headed down one of the sterile corridors. This particular had a faulty fluorescent bulb and it flickered on and off as if it was speaking in Morse Code. It strained Teague’s eyes and he placed his hat back on his head and pulled the brim down so that the flashing became no more than reflections in the hard wood floor. The corridor ended with a glass window overlooking Grand Avenue and another police man leaned up against it holding a shotgun. He wondered if the officers knew what they had behind those doors, was he anything else to them than a cut up thug or were they aware of his true identity. At any rate the Chief was taking no chances, even if, at the moment, no one actually knew that Hammer or Lindquist was still alive.
‘Detective Teague here is green Chuck.’ Officer Billy said to the man carrying the shotgun and was met with a smile and a nod. Then he turned to the door to 506 and opened it. ‘Through here Sir.’ Officer Chuck was basically the same height as Officer Billy, but almost twice as wide across the shoulders, a linebacker to the other’s lean wide receiver.
The room was as stark white as the corridor and spartan in its interior decor. There was a dresser at one end of the room, a bed in the middle of it with a small table on the right side of it and above it hung a painting of Wind Point Lighthouse on a summers day. The room was dimly lit with the only light coming from a window facing the street outside and it cast shadows from the blinds that hung in front of the glass.
‘Martin Lindquist?’ Teague inquired cautiously.
‘Who’s there?’ The figure in the bed replied mimicking the tone of the visitor. He moved his hand over to the table and turned on the lamp that stood upon it. The light shone on his pale face, deep set eyes encircled by dark rings and greasy dark hair. ‘How did you get past the officers at the door, what have you done to them?’ Lindquist started squirming, trying his best to move from the confines of the sheets, but kept getting increasingly tangled in the white fabric.
‘Calm down Officer Lindquist.’ Teague approached the bed in slow, measured steps and put his hands up, palms towards the nervous man. ‘My name is Garfield Teague, I am a detective with Homicide. I was given permission to talk to you by Chief Swan. I know that you worked as an undercover cop and I want to talk to you in that capacity.’ Lindquist settled down and cautiously scooted himself to a seated position.
‘How can I be sure you are who you say you are and that you haven’t come to take me out?’
‘Well I guess that is difficult to say, but I have here a handwritten note from the Chief with his seal on it if it would calm you down.’ Teague flung the paper, now badly crumpled on the foot end of the bed. Lindquist, with some difficulty, leaned forward, grabbed it and looked it over. Once he had done so he placed it on the table and appeared to relax.
‘One can never be too cautious.’ He said with a sigh of relief. ‘Detective Teague was it? Why don’t you pull up a chair Sir.’ Lindquist pointed to a shiny metal stool that stood off to one side and Teague grabbed it and sat by his side.
‘How are you doing kid?’ He changed his tone now that most of the irritation was out of the way and he was allowed to do his job. ‘I wanted to speak to you this morning, but was denied that privilege.’
‘I’ve definitely been better Sir.’ Lindquist smiled. I narrowly escaped being shipped off to the Pacific and then this happens, injured at home instead of dying on some Godforsaken beach is a blessing in itself I guess.’
The man lying there seemed to be in his mid twenties and must have escaped the draft with more than a narrow margine, Teague thought to himself, but he didn’t mention it. The war had taken its tole on him just like it had on many others and he disliked even thinking about it. ‘So can you tell me what happened this morning Martin?’ He moved on to the questioning instead to quiet his mind.
‘It started close to a year ago Sir.’ Lindquist began. ‘I had been appointed by some form of task force, a combination of the Federal Bureau, the Police Department here and the Sheriff’s office. There had been rumors of groups of gangs trying to horn in on the City in the wake of the Leahman’s disintegration.’
‘I see.’ Teague had brought out a notepad and was jotting down words for his own use. ‘Why you?’
‘I had just recently graduated from the academy, I was a late bloomer academically, and being from Michigan they found that I was an unknown in the area. So the perfect man for the job; Midwestern, unknown and of northern European decent, my family is from Denmark.’
‘So they moved you here and you were just picked up by a criminal syndicate?’
‘Pretty much. I started hanging out in seedy bars on the east side and made myself available when jobs needed doing. You’d bee amazed how much work the bar owners have for an eager young man. After a couple of months I was approached by one of the regulars in one of the bars I frequented, Henry Peterson…’
‘Commonly known as Baz Peterson, one of the Leahmann’s stooges.’ Teague interjected.
‘Right, he heard that I was looking for work, easy money and with questionable morals. He was in need of a driver for some runs.’
‘That’s it?’
‘He took a shine to me for some reason. I did have to do some dirty work for him, things I would rather not talk about, but it was for the greater good as I saw it. Soon I was allowed to sit in on meeting he had with his boys and join him on more advanced jobs.’
‘So Peterson was the head of the entire operation?’
‘Not at all, he was some lower tiered boss. He was in charge of finding men to do various tasks. He reported to some big fellow who they never mentioned by name.’
‘Was he the leader, then?’
‘I don’t think so. It seemed as if that guy took orders from someone else. I never heard a name there either. The only thing I ever heard was Black Diamond, but that was in reference to I don’t know. Maybe I would have if last night hadn’t happened.’
‘Let’s talk about that. What did happen last night.’
‘Baz came to me for a routine pick up, of drugs I’m thinking. I was really only informed about these things after the fact. We were trading with the Mics, I think they referred to themselves as the  Lonergans, anyway, one of the newer criminal families in the area. This was going to be the first time we did a deal with them so we were supposed to be extra cautious. Baz brought some of his top guys, men with loads of experience, so that made four of us all told.’
‘And then something went wrong during the drop off I gather.’ Teague scratched his head to show some kind of concern.
‘Yes, but not from the Irish boys. They came with their own load of boys, probably just as worried about the unknown factor we presented. No there was something else there.’
‘What do you mean, something else?’ Lindquist voice had begun to quiver and it fascinated Teague.
‘We arrived first and then they came with their truck and everything was running smoothly, or was going to I should say. Just as Baz was going to inspect the crates a thing was there, standing on the bed of their truck.’
‘A thing, like a monster?’
‘I don’t know.’ Lindquist started shaking as he tried to recall the morning’s events. ‘It must have been a man, what else would it have been. He was dressed in a skin tight costume in red and dark blue in some strange pattern and he carried two strange looking, almost wavy swords, but it was the face of that creature that ws the most horrifying, it’s the thing that will keep me from sleeping for many nights to come, that face that almost makes me wish that I’d be lying on some beach in the Pacific cut down by the Japs.’
Teague put his hand on Lindquist’s own to try to calm him down, but the young man recoiled instead. ‘There, there.’ He treid to act empathetic, but felt as if he failed. ‘I am going to need you to attempt a description.’
‘I think I only saw it clearly for a minute or so, gosh the whole thing was over in a couple of minutes, he moved so fast. The face was also red and blue with horrible bulging eyes that peered at you with a horrible crimson glow, like it peered into your soul. A high brow, without eyebrows, in fact the head was completely bald, fangs stuck out of the mouth and horns on either side above pointed ears.’
‘And it, or he, killed all of them? Are you telling me that all those thugs with guns and experienced never managed to hit him once?’
‘He moved so fast. Leapt over our head, ducked our shots and came so close that he could cut us down with the greatest of ease. We didn’t stand a chance. I came at him and he just ducked and took my leg clean off. I don’t know if he thought I was going to bleed out, which, thank God, I didn’t. He let me live, I don’t know why. In truth I think I passed out after he cut my leg off.’
Teague looked in his notepad, he tried to draw Lindquist’s description while he listened, but the horrid image he now had before him was too unbelievable to be real, although it could come down to his drawing abilities. ‘So you want me to believe that a monster or rather a man dressed as some form of demon attacked and killed all the men down there with you?’
‘That is what I recall Sir.’ Lindquist answered with complete sincerity. ‘I know what it must sound like, but it’s all I know. I haven’t even been able to get to the bottom of the criminal organizations in the city either and that is going to bother me just as much. Now I only have one good leg and my career as a cop is over, I’m going to have to sit behind a desk for the rest of my life.’
Teague leaned back, but realized in time that he was sitting on a stool, when a nurse came through the door.
‘I am sorry Sir, it is time for the patient to take his medicine and then to met the Doctor.’ She was very polite and Teague had no reason to argue. He rose and took Lindquist by the hand.
‘Thank you for your cooperation, Sir.’ He winked at him. ‘It will probably help a great deal in our investigation and feel free to contact me at the station if you remember anything different.’
‘Will do.’ Lindquist smiled and winked back.
Teague put his notepad in his inside pocket and placed his hat back on his head. It was getting late and his wife would be wondering where he had gotten off to. He had a feeling that there would be several late days ahead of him and with that quite a few arguments about that fact.


The Face of Fear: Chapter 3

faceoffear3

Chapter Three

When young Anthony was four his mother fell ill. It wasn’t unusual that the western elite came down with some form of tropical disease, most likely fever and the outcome was often uncertain, they might survive, just as well as succumb to it. It began with a coughing fit one morning at breakfast. The night had been rough, tossing and turning in the humidity, wrapping around her form like a damp blanket. It was like something had stuck in her throat, as if food had lodged there and refused to go down or come up. She had appeared paler than her normal western visage at the breakfast table, with an oily complexion, slowly swaying as her eyelids seemed to be exceptionally heavy. Blood on the linen napkin in her hand confirmed that something was not quite right and the staff called for Mr. Hill, as well as the doctor.

Mrs. Hill was sent to bed and there she would remain for the duration of her life, except for the odd venture out on her beloved porch when her strength allowed. Doctors, who came to the islands to visit, were sent to her side to give their opinions, but to no avail, they could not figure it out and she grew weaker and weaker as the days turned into weeks and weeks into months and finally a year had passed without improvement. Mr. Hill stayed by her bedside as much as he could without neglecting his duties and the Governor-general allowed it. Little Anthony, who had already been assigned a governess a mild mannered young local girl the family named Patrice, since her true name was too difficult to pronounce, spent all his time away from his mother because his father could not bear to see the horror in his son’s eyes every time he saw his mother. This was the reason for her powering through and walking, with the support from the family butler, to her rocking chair so that she could watch her son play with the native kids and the Patrice.

As time passed, the doctors failed and the crimson stains on the sheets became more frequent and greater in size the staff whispered in the hallways and service areas. They knew what it was and where it would end and Patrice became more attentive of the young master, to make the separation that was imminent less traumatic. All in all Anthony was oblivious to the goings on in the house only noticing that his mother was more absent than usual and his father more present, so the spring morning when Mrs. Hill did not wake up and she was forever gone from his life sent immense waves through it.

=======

Peter Swan was not your typical chief of police. He was tall and slight of frame, had a full head of tightly curled brown hair, wore a wispy mustache under a fairly pronounced beak of a nose and wore only various shades of brown. Added to this was the fact that he lived a clean life, no smoking, no drinking, he exercised regularly and was a vegetarian. A habit, he told Teague, he had picked up on a spiritual journey to the Far East, whatever that meant. When he spoke to people, he never became agitated or raised his voice; instead it more resembled an inner monologue that those he addressed were privy to than an actual conversation. He was the sort of man that never let anything get him down and he always had a smile to share with those around him and it made him a joy to be around, for those on the force as well as the politicians he was forced to interact with.

As Teague stepped into the station with his hat in hand he was approached by Swan who slowly sauntered over to him while scratching his chin and sporting a concerned look. Teague hung his coat on the rack, but kept his hat and produced his notepad, preparing for the debriefing.

“Garfield, welcome back.” He motioned for Teague to follow him and turned to walk towards his office, expecting the detective to fall in. “What have you got for me so far?”

“Not much, Sir.” Teague leafed through the papers. “Six bodies found, some cut and some in various forms of dismemberment; mostly a limb missing here or there. We have managed to identify one of the victims, a man known as Baz Peterson. According to our records he is a fairly well-known and high ranking figure in the Lehman crime family or was that is. Seeing as how the Lehmans were eradicated a few years back and of course Mr. Peterson is now deceased.”

“So, have the Lehmans returned maybe and are trying to regain their position in the city?” Swan pondered.

“Unclear. We have not managed to identify any of the other bodies. We can’t tell if we are dealing with rival gangs fighting over goods or one gang being taken out by another; one that left no trace. The men were all sliced up like some butcher handling a side of beef and that is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.”

“A gang wielding sharp instruments, the Yakuza? Here? But why?” Swan was now deep in his own head. “It doesn’t make any sense that the Japanese would venture to this part of the country, but who else would use blades to attack a gang of men with firearms?”

“If I may, Sir.” Teague interjected. “The crates are en route to our storage facility on Spring and once they have been opened and the contents analyzed we might have a better idea of what happened, but there is another detail.”

“Is that so?” Swan replied and turned to look at Teague.

“There was a survivor. He was rushed to St. Mary’s before I arrived at the scene. I tried to talk to him, but he was well guarded and has refused to speak to anyone but you Sir.”

Swan raised an eyebrow and looked Teague over. His eyes fell on the cigarette case that had, for some reason ended up in his hands again. The Chief sighed and opened the door to his office. “You’d better step inside Garfield.” He said and stepped inside and after Teague had passed him he closed it and pulled the shade down over the window that had his name written upon it. “Listen Teague” Swan proceeded with more focus than he usually had. “There is more to this case than there appears to be on the surface. The man at St. Mary’s and refuses to talk to you is one of our own.” Teague raised an eyebrow in surprise. “His name is Martin Lindquist and has been undercover for the past year. When the Leahman’s went under a few years ago there was a void within the criminal underground and we began to hear from the FBI that someone had stepped in to fill it. Through our own clandestine investigation we found that Baz Peterson and some of the Leahman’s former cronies had jumped ship to this new organization, but we knew little more than that. Lindquist was fresh out of the academy and had the necessary Scandinavian roots to attract mobsters of a similar racial background, so we decided to send him deep undercover before he even set foot on these premises. He was clever enough to infiltrate the group through Peterson and he checked in with his contact a couple of times, but we were never given any meaty information.”

“So Lindquist is the key?” Teague scratched his beard.

“He may very well be. I will send word to him at the hospital to ensure that he talks to you.” Swan sat down at his oak desk, moved a statuette depicting a meditating Buddha and pulled out a piece of paper and a pen. “We best be quick, may be that whoever eradicated the mobsters might come looking for him as a means to eliminate witnesses.” He began writing when the door to his office gently opened and the head of a young dark haired girl with horn rimmed glasses appeared in the opening.

“Chief?” The head said.

“Yes, Hannah?” Swan replied while scribbling.

“A representative from WRJN is on the phone and wants to know if you can be a guest on the five o’clock news to answer questions in regard to last night’s killings?”

Swan looked at Hannah, then at Teague and then at his paper. “Sure, tell them I’ll be there.” He winked and smiled at her, then looked back at Garfield. “Hand this to the secretary at the front desk of St. Mary’s and they’ll give you free passage and then show it to the two officers standing watch outside the room. Once inside call Lindquist by his real name and then he will start singing like a bird.”

“Will do Chief” Teague put his hat on his head and grabbed the paper once Swan had finished writing.

 

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The windows of the empire suite located on the top floor of The Racine Hotel were wide open and a warm breeze had blown in from the lake. It caressed the face of Paul Geert and lightly played with his tangle of light brown hair stained with the occasional streak of white. He was still wearing his night shirt, but had managed to pull on a pair of grey pin striped suit pants and his suspenders were hanging lazily from the waist. He rarely rose before noon as a rule. A lifestyle filled with expensive drinks, lavish meals and women of questionable morals took its toll, not only on his ever expanding waistline, but his routines as well. A young runner had knocked on his door at around eight a.m., an act he did with some caution, since rumors were abound that the last man who had done so had been fished out of the river a few hours later, and informed him of the bodies in the parking structure. The information had caused him to wake right up, but not to get up. The effects of the escaped of the previous night also came knocking and it had taken several hours and three strong cups of black coffee before he was ready to put his feet on the walnut floor boards.

Now the fresh lake air and the sounds of traffic below him soothed his nerves and he could begin to think more clearly. The hours he had spent awake in the King sized bed, between the satin sheets, staring at the ceiling caused him to reflect on the information he had received. It had made his head spin, more than the champagne and Cuba Libres. He couldn’t quite wrap his head around what might have transpired down there in the concrete structure. It was supposed to be a routine pick up, albeit with those Irish thugs from the other side of the tracks and they were nothing if not unpredictable, but from what the youngster had told him the mics had bit it too. If there was a third party in the city he, in his role has one of the main figures in one of the main crime organizations there, would have heard rumors of it through the grapevine, but this had not happened so he assumed that something else was in the works. What he did know was that whatever the explanation his boss was not pleased and the thought of that made him perspire.

He wiped the beads of sweat off his brow and proceeded to slip out of the nightshirt and into a clean white daytime version, avoiding to button the top button due to the width of his neck and after pulling up the suspenders he tied a red tie around his neck, hoping it would cover the open collar, it never did. Another knock indicated that his driver was waiting outside and he quickly slipped on his jacket, hat and downed a now cold cup of joe.

The black Lincoln smoothly drove into traffic and Geert fanned himself with his hat as he checked his pocket watch. It was one p.m., not great. The boss had not called on him, which was common practice, but Paul knew he was expected since news travelled fast in the underworld and an explanation from him was in order. This particular deal was his baby and he had arranged for his best and most experienced man to spearhead the pickup. He had laid the groundwork, made all the calls and planned every minute detail so that Peterson could just easily step in and get the stuff. His informants had told him that one the Peterson’s guys had survived and was now being treated at St. Mary’s, that was something he was going to have to deal with, before the police, ones who were not on his pay roll, got to him. Geert pulled out a small mirror from his breast pocket and examined his blood shot eyes, his unkempt hair, his damp forehead and untrimmed beard, he looked more like the hobos who lived under the sixth street bridge than the second in command of a major crime network.

He had tried to present himself in a more favorable countenance, but the lifestyle that came with his position made a Spartan living difficult. His family had originally emigrated from the Netherlands in the 1840s following Father Van den Broek and settled in the Midwest. From being farmers they had moved to the cities to work in factories and harbor towns until the depression came. Geert knew all too well what it was to go hungry. His family was catholic and he was just one of ten siblings sharing a three bedroom house, clothes and shoes. It was a miserable childhood and no matter how much his mother valued education she would send the children out to make money any way they could.

When his father passed away, at least that is what they thought happened to him, he walked out one winter morning to shovel the walks of the people on Main Street and never returned. Paul was 16 years old and as a middle child had a difficult time knowing where he fit in when it came to the grand scheme of the family. His older brother Jan introduced him to the Leahmans and so began a life of crime. It came easy to the young man, who started out as a runner, and he found that he could provide for his mother and siblings. Now he shuddered when he thought of those days and it made him colder and hungrier and he found that it was a chill and hunger that no amount of duvet covers, no matter how thick, or food, no matter how rich, could satisfy.

The Lincoln swung into an empty parking lot placed outside a red brick building and parked underneath one of the big windows made from thick glass and divided by lead mullions. He stepped out on the faded blacktop pocketed with sprouts and cracks from not being maintained since the twenties. Geert adjusted his jacket and snuck through the arched doorway. It took him a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dim light of the defunct factory, but having been through the building on several occasions he was well aware of its layout. Once he could see clearly he had already reached the main factory floor, an area filled with debris and scattered obsolete machinery and worn out conveyor belts. He scanned the place to look for activity, but there was none instead a noise came from the upper regions of the room. He spun around and raised his gaze to the balcony lining the upper echelon. In the south west corner sat an office structure made from the same red brick as the outside. The solid walnut door had been opened and in the light that shone from inside the office stood a slender figure and looked down at him. Paul moved slowly across the floor, kicking up dead leaves and papers littering his path until he came to stand right below the shape, straining his neck to see it properly.

“Mr. Geert, I was expecting you’d show up.”

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Review: Blackcross #1

backcross

 

 

 

 

 

Writer: Warren Ellis

Art: Colton Worley

Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment

A dead body found in the woods, a man sets himself on fire and walks into a lake and a fortune teller is haunted by a terrible visage. All these things seem connected with the town of Blackcross in Washington. A place were Rob Benton is being hidden by the FBI after witnessing a mob killing. He hasn’t coped with it well and lives like a slob in between working at the pharmacy. He is also haunted by mysterious dreams as well as texts that confuse his federal contact. Whatever is going on it seems as if it’s coming to Blackcross.

Blackcross is billed as coming from the pages of Project Superpowers, Jim Kreuger and Alex Ross’ intriguing tale using public domain super heroes. At first glance, which is all that the initial issue really gives the readers, Blackcross is a darker animal than the traditional story of super heroes. This seems more to be a crime story of the neo noir kind and that is mainly due to Worley’s haunting artwork.  Though the first issue reveals very little of what one might expect in the future of this title it gives the reader enough to become invested and there are Easter eggs placed here and there for the odd golden age comic lover.

It is easy to become excited by Blackcross, yet there is cause for concern. Six issues have been announced and it feels that this might be too conservative. The slow build in the initial issue hints at a slow build, but the low number of coming comics makes one believe that, true to Dynamite’s form, the story will become rushed and suffer because of it. On the other hand this may not happen and one may just have to trust the genius that is Warren Ellis.

C.M. Marry Hultman

C.M. Marry Hultman


Amazing Heroes: Retro Style Super Hero Action Figures

When we support a project it is because we feel it can further the awareness in the world of popular culture. Bill Murphy’s Amazing Super Heroes collection is one of those projects. The Kickstarter campaign strives to bring Golden Age super heroes to the world of action figures, some of who have never been action figures before. They are trying to bring The Black Terror, Golden Age Daredevil, Captain Action and several others into production. As stretch goals they have Champion of Mars and they have added The Green Turtle, the first Asian super hero ever. As we see it this is a great way for people to become introduced to these great comic book creations and to bring more figures out there. They have teamed with Gallant as well to bring John Aman, Amazing Man to toy store shelves as well. They are close to there goal, but far away as well.

Visit Gallant Comics as well as they try to bring public domain heroes into our age:

http://www.gallantcomics.com/


Free Golden Age Comics

As a step to promote their Amazing Heroes campaign Fresh Monkey Fiction has been sponsored by the Digital Comic Museum to bring you the finest Golden Age Comics for free. Hop on over to: http://digitalcomicmuseum.com/ and register. If you are interested in owning some Action Figures portraying these classic heroes, support the Kickstarter campaign and get access to two Golden Age Comics a week.