Death of Freedom
by Christopher W Gamsby
Joe paced around his office in the Metroplex Municipal Police Forces building and contemplated his next move in the investigation of the murder of Temperance Smith.
The motive seems so plain, almost banal, but what are the details? What could a waitress know about drugs that would get her killed? Who should I even ask? A drug dealer maybe?
Joe walked to his coffee maker and fiddled with buttons and switches. An internal grinder whirled and buzzed before shutting down. Water bubbled, hissed, and trickled through the machine. Coffee dripped from a spout and into a cup. The cup filled to the brim with piping hot coffee and Joe grasped the styrofoam with both hands. He looked to his secretary Tracey Scribe.
“I need everything in the database on a drug dealer name 'Legit', he worked out of the Fanton District near Madam Mary Jane's.”
Tracey looked at Joe over the top of a pair of horned rim glasses. She typed 'Alias:Legit & District:Fanton' into a 90's era PC. Green block lettering scrolled down the screen as the database searched the keywords. Joe slurped coffee and Tracey shot him a glance. He instantly stopped.
Angels were invaluable to the police. The terms of the Trans-World accords meant that most angels in Independence didn't sleep there. Joe, for one, slept in his single room apartment in Monolith, the world he was born in and lived his life in Independence, his new home-world. Once assigned a case, angels could work that case 24 hours a day without rest. Many did work all the time, but that lifestyle didn't match Joe's disposition, so Tracey was invaluable to Joe.
The police department ran on paperwork and Tracey completed the forms that Joe didn't have the patience to write. Procedural evidence wasn't important for solving a case, but courts were quick to free criminals when detectives didn't handle cases by the book. If not for Tracey, most of his cases would end in acquittal for not following proper protocol.
“Gregory 'Legit' Beaman- Several arrests for drug possession and minor trafficking charges stemming back years. Nothing recent.”
“Just one, the only felony. He stabbed a rival dealer and got two years in Githromon Prison.”
“I'm guessing the victim was alright?”
“No, he was stabbed.”
“I mean he survived...”
“Yes. No lasting injuries.”
“When was the last arrest?”
“November 12th, 951”
“What day do you suppose marijuana was legalized in Metroplex City?”
“February 952, or something, do you want me to look it up?”
“No, that's fine, I think I'm going to give Mr. Beaman a visit, what's his address?”
- - -
Freedom walked through the halls of a dilapidated apartment building in the Fanton District, 10 blocks from Madam Mary Jane's. The hallway's vinyl matting was designed to resemble high class marble, except the feeling of marble couldn't be duplicated with cheap plastic. Each step pressed into the ground instead of blocking his foot. The walls were painted a light blue that looked like a government hospital and not someone's home. Bare pipes snaked along the top of the walls just below the ceiling. At the end of the hall, the pipes turned right and water leaked from the joint connecting the two halves. Green slime ran down the wall under the pipe with darkened black mold stains spreading from the slime. Water dripped onto the floor. Passer-by's walked through the water. Their shoes deposited all their crusted on filth and mud onto the ground.
This is the city's shining example, 'A beacon of hope for the poor'. It's no wonder everyone involved is either bankrupt or in jail.
Originally the Fanton projects were sold as low cost, high quality housing for the desperately poor, but only the low cost part of the pitch turned out to be true. The developer cut every corner, broke every regulation, and was eventually arrested for their troubles. At the time there was a huge controversy over how much the city aldermen, council, and mayor knew about the plan to extort money from the taxpayers in the guise of altruism. Rumors spread about kickbacks, forged inspections, and misconduct but like all things, the outrage blew over. There were never charges filed against the city's political elite and despite assurances that the buildings would be brought up to code, nothing was done in the decade since construction finished.
Joe found apartment 130b and knocked on the door. A rustling came from inside and a few moments later a voice came through the door.
“What you want?”
“I'm hurting Legit, I need some help, you know.”
The person on the other side hesitated, but after a slight pause deadlock bolts slid opened and the door cracked open.
“$20 for one hit.”
Joe pushed the door open and Legit stumbled back into the hallway. Joe adjusted the collar on his rain-jacket as he spoke.
“Thanks for letting me in Legit.”
Legit looked up from the ground. His face turned a scarlet red as he was furious.
“Man, what's a pig doing in here?!?!”
Freedom strolled past Legit on the ground and headed for the kitchen area. A frustrated Legit rose from the ground and followed him into the kitchen. Large screen televisions, game consoles, leather couches, and other expensive luxury goods filled the apartment.
I wish I lived half this well.
“How do you know Temperance Smith?”
“I'm her acupuncturist. What do you care?”
“She's dead, Dr. Beaman, and what do you know about that?”
“Nothing, I didn't kill the bitch.”
“You call all your clients 'bitch', that's not very therapeutic.”
“What? No. I mean.. I don't know what happened to her. She was just a client, I sold my product and she left. She didn't owe money, we had no beef.”
Joe looked over Trans-World Porters delivery boxes full of marijuana products sitting on the kitchen counter. Some were goods that Madam Mary Jane's sold, like the various strains of pipe and hookah marijuana. Other products were ingredients like THC concentrations, which were used in cooking THC laced baked goods, like brownies or cupcakes. The most interesting find were the lollipops marked with a skull on the package. Joe removed a lollipop from a jar.
“Do you mind if I have one of these?”
“Yeah, I do!”
The lollipop was labeled 'made in Cranston'. Joe dropped it back into the jar.
“Why do you have all this product?”
“It's legal aint it? Why you care?”
“You're right, that is legal, and I don't really care. When I first showed up I said I was hurting, and you opened the door, so what else you selling here?”
Legit froze at the question and fumbled for an excuse to not answer or give away too much information.
“I need to go to the bathroom...”
“Uh sure... whatever.”
This case isn't going to be solved by anything you say to me anyway.
Legit walked to the bathroom and locked the door behind him.
Hopefully he'll leave and give me an excuse to search the place but I need a drink.
Joe searched the cabinets nearest the sink, but only found organic cereal, spices, and other dried goods.
Who would have guessed a drug dealer was so health conscious.
Joe continued searching the drawers and cabinets for any liquor, but couldn't find a single drop of bourbon, rum, or whiskey in the entire place. Legit walked up behind him as he searched the drawers.
“Have you figured out what you were going to sell me?”
Freedom swung open a cabinet door. The familiar clicking sound of a round chambering in a glock drew Joe's attention and he sighed.
“Let's just think about it for a second...”
Gunshots rang out and copper ripped through Joe's flesh. Bullets penetrated his lungs, arms, legs, and stomach. Joe fell to the ground and bled. Legit kicked him in the stomach and then fled the apartment. Joe's blood and life leaked from his body.
Twenty minutes later Joe seized on the ground. As Joe moved, copper bullets squeezed outside the bullet holes, wiggled from his flesh, and fell to the floor. Joe's skin closed around the empty holes. After his body repaired itself, he gasped and sat up. The pain subsided and he rose from the floor. Joe drew his weapon and pointed it into the apartment but there was no sign of Legit and he relaxed the firearm. Legit fled and Joe was alone. Sirens sounded from the street below.
Joe opened his raincoat and three of the 12 lead plates on his belt were already gone. A forth one began to disintegrate as his body continued to repair itself. If Legit's bullets were lead, Joe wouldn't have sustained much damage. Recently even petty criminals started using angel killing bullets made of solid copper. The copper slowed an angel's healing factor but despite that Joe wasn't in serious danger. Even though Legit would need to shoot Joe for an hour strait to completely kill him, the idea that such a trivial punk could easily kill him was scary.
- - -
Joe fished through his desk for a spare set of lead plates. The plates were mixed in somewhere with piles of unread paperwork. Tracey sat at her desk reading the post shooting report.
“They found 4 kilo of heroin underneath the marijuana containers.”
“Yeah, but why couldn't I find any booze...”
Joe gave an exaggerated sigh.
“I suspected something was there.”
Joe found three plates to replace the ones he lost in the shooting.
“They are giving you a commendation. Congratulations.”
Joe snapped the plates into his belt.
“I tried baiting him along with insinuating I knew about the drugs. I wanted to see if he had any relationship with Temperance beyond being her dealer, but it didn't quite go to plan.”
“Is that why you just stood by and let him shoot you?”
“I was so busy planning my next move that it didn't occur to me he'd get a gun. At least that tells me he didn't kill Temperance.”
“What? He tried to murder you and that means he didn't kill someone?”
“If he had a gun the whole time, he would have just shot Temperance and not found a knife to stab her.”
“Maybe he didn't want to get tracked by his gun?”
“Dealers like him don't think that far ahead. If he had a gun and wanted to kill someone, he would have shot them, probably would have kept the gun too.”
“Did you find anything useful before he escaped?”
“There is one thing you could help me with.”
A lollipop appeared in Joe's hand.
“Can you use that machine and tell me what you can find out about this brand of lollipop?”
“How? What do you want to know?”
“How many retailers sell these and which distributors sell to those retailers.”
“Are you kidding me? There are 100 places that sell marijuana in Metroplex and 500 in the province. How can I check that? It will take a week!”
“I didn't realize dope became that popular. What about the distributors?”
Tracey typed into the computer and the screen flashed for a few seconds.
“None of the major suppliers import these skull-pops. I don't know if there are smaller companies or not...”
“That's OK. I'm sure I know where they are coming from anyway.”
A uniformed officer entered Joe's office and saluted.
“Excuse me sir, but we have a report on the man who shot you.”
“Great, when he's processed, bring him into interrogation.”
“There won't be an interrogation...”
- - -
Joe surveyed the crime scene outside of Greasy Sae's Fried Chicken and Waffles. Greasy Sae's was 3 blocks west of Madam Mary Jane's. Legit's body sprawled out in the oily streak from a dumpster behind the restaurant. Joe placed his hand in the dumpster's runoff and rubbed his fingers together.
No blood. No blood anywhere on the scene.
Joe inspected the body. A single knife wound punctured his back, two inches from his spine. The wound appeared to travel through his heart. The wound had small perforations.
A kitchen knife maybe? Not a switch blade, more like a bread knife.
The wound was similar to the ones suffered by Temperance, but there was only one stab wound and the knife was slightly smaller in diameter.
I guess whoever did this had no love for Legit, not like they loved Temperance. There should be blood everywhere, but nothing. The body must have been moved from somewhere.
Joe patted Legit's pant legs and found his semi-automatic. Joe removed the magazine and there were no unspent cartridges in the chamber or magazine.
I knew he was too stupid to get rid of this, even though it's useless now.
Joe continued patting down the body and found a fluffy red cloth on the back of his thigh.
Well, this is familiar. Crushed velvet. Such a gouache color, but perfect for an investigation.
Joe searched the corpse's pockets. Something rested in the second smaller jean pocket on the right side. He dug inside and pulled out a receipt for the Trans-world Porters written out to a name he recognized.
People always forget about this little pocket. I know what happened, but how do I prove it...
If you liked this short story, you should consider reading the Shift World novel.
Please do not reproduce this short story without my explicit permission.