Monday, November 22, 2010

Gods Playing Poker: A Friend in Need

"What the Hell are we watching?" Gary Silver has seen it all. He thought. Because he's clearly never seen anything like this before.

"I dunno, man. I just work here." Marquitez seemed the natural one to ask, since he recovered the image feed. A surveillance set - a print of C.M. Coolidge's Waterloo with optical recorders facing every possible direction in the target area - accidentally left in place after a supercaine bust.

Marquitez is another who thought he's seen it all. Most officers in Marion County Executive Enforcement serve their entire careers without ever getting into a shoot-out. Marquitez has only been a cop for nine years - the last three as an undercover in Narcotics - and he's already been shot at on four separate occasions. He's killed five in the line of duty. That's more than anyone else in MCEE, save for two long-time SWAT officers. And he's clearly never seen anything like what the card-playing canines have witnessed.

Fact is, none of the more than two-dozen detectives in the room have.

***



***

Emily Hyra was only 21 years old, fresh from Purdue University where she graduated with a double major in Pop Culture Law and WaveHysteria. She applied to the MCEE the day after she received her degree and, though the position she wanted wasn't available, she impressed her interviewer enough that she was offered a position as a tech-pup. Promised first opportunity at lateral transfer, she accepted.

Not especially beautiful, she was nevertheless fit - she passed the minimum MCEE physical fitness standards with ease - and had a smile that could disarm even the most miserly people. But it's not her smile the detectives are watching now. It's her screams of abject terror, tears from her assault, and self-defense techniques that seem to do nothing to her attacker.

Most of the detectives are secretly glad Hyra had already disconnected the eEarsTM and vovocorders, even though they know whatever she was yelling might provide clues to the identity of the perp.

It's a man, they assume, though the shape is blurred. As it enters the image and passes by a vari-portrait that was changing from a profile of Abraham Lincoln to a landscape of Patagonia, one detective theorizes that the unsub wore a shape-suit or some other type of active camouflage. Another, an Army veteran, discounts the possibility. No one else offers an idea. They simply do not know. One of their department's own is being raped right in front of their eyes. The shape moves quickly, so quickly Hyra didn't even realize it was there. Silent movement from Mute-sole shoes? Another theory. Or perhaps Hyra was simply concentrating on removing the sound equipment. Doesn't matter now, or as East would say, "That shit is, yeah... history."

Marquitez recues and they watch it again. And again. A shadow grabs her by the back of the neck and pushes her face against the wall in the southwest corner of the room. The vari-print breaks from the wall and there's a pixelated rainbow of debris. Her trousers are torn; fall to the floor. They can't hear her scream, but they can all hear the scream. The act is violent - her head appears to bounce twice, maybe three times, against the false mortar of the hotel room - and none can tell if Hyra is even conscious by the end of the assault.

It horrifies the men and women of the MCEE's elite Supervisory Investigations Section as they watch. Some even close their eyes or turn their heads. But, at the end of the day, it is a typical sexual assault. Almost textbook.

It's what occurs at its conclusion that confuses Silver. Confuses his partner, Steven East. Confuses Juan Marquitez. Confuses Detective-Captain Amanda Normandy. Confuses everyone.

With no jump in timecode, there's an energy burst, centered on Emily Hyra. The shape/shadow seems to dematerialize, and Hyra - obscured by static fuzzbuzz over the visuals - disappears into hundreds, thousands of minuscule beams of light.

Then it's over. The feed records another 212 minutes of the corner of the room - an auroRose shifts with the sunset, closing its petals with the darkness - until Marquitez enters the frame, reaches for the Coolidge print and its array of electronic eyes, and the feed blinks out.

***

"Jesus." Steven East speaks with a dead-pan tone, as if naming the suspect. "What the juju-bee was that?"

"I dunno, man. I just work here." Marquitez stops the playback and excuses himself.

Detective-Captain Amanda Normandy snaps her fingers, ignoring her detective's departure. "All right, people. Phillips, Naifeh? You're skipped. East and Silver have lead. Keep doing what you're doing, but consider yourselves at their disposal."

The announcement isn't much of a surprise. East and Silver, unconventional and controversial as they are, are widely-regarded as the MCEE's best. The Feds often request them by name whenever the FBI/E has to work in Marion County or nearby. Nobody complains.

***

Steven East holds a flaccid doughnut; his face emits a like demeanor. In his other hand, a coffee cup dips to the point of imminent disaster. He's vertical only due to the digipost wallboard holding him up. Some jackass transmitted the Baby-Spider Murderer's likeness over a greasy slice of Suicide Meat onto the board.

"Mmm," mumbles East, "guess you had to be there." He watches the disc progress bar as the digipost loads the Hyra case.

Silver enters their office and slaps East's gut with a rolled-up Flixon-edition Post-Gazette. For a second, a nano-print headline sticks to East's shirt then fades into obscurity.

"You eat too much."

"It's how I cope with you."

"You two," Normandy screams across the floor from her corner office, "in the proof room. Now." There's no question as to whom the command is directed.

"Suck it down, Steve," Silver starts, just moving out of the way of East's coffee finally imitating Niagara on a slow day, "We're in the ape-shit." Silver's seen monkeys throw shit before - a vacation in northern Colombia that wasn't much of a vacation - so he imagines that ape-shit is worse. Then again, what happened to Emily Hyra probably constitutes a higher form of primate excrement.

Silver half-jogs out the door, leaving his long-time partner to mull over a one-sided retort until he slugs back the remainder of his coffee - barely a sip survived the capsize - and stuffs the uneaten half of doughnut into a Rubbermaid nano-compactor.

***

Silver paces the floor, tapping the edge of a viewdesk. "The fuck. Didn't she just walk in here a week ago?"

"Two months. Give or take." Normandy settles into a chair and leans into the desk's edge. She taps the screen and pulls up a STaRT blotter. Silver holds out his Personal Data Pad and the translucent image hovers from the viewdesk's projector and dissolves into the PDP's receiver. "You guys know the drill. Hit this hard. Need bodies? Start with Marquitez. He's taking this badly. Postpone or hand-off your other cases."

"The Hemmersmith murder and Fields bust? Come on, Captain." Silver isn't one to let cases go so easily. And he's cocky enough to believe he and East can handle all of them. Good enough to, in fact.

"The DA knows what's going on. They can wait while you're flipping flips and turning tricks."

East, against the door, stares through a photo of Vice Mayor Lancer leaning on a golden shovel. He's paying attention, but a bad feeling borne of childhood institutionalizing creeps into his thoughts like a banana roach into a trap-zap.

Normandy notices his blank expression. "East?"

"Yeah?" He shakes his head. Reflex. More coffee would be awesome.

"Something on your mind?"

East shrugs. "It's go time."

Normandy offers her hand, not wanting to be too overbearing. "Then give me your PDP and get ready to go."

***

*Continued in Gods Playing Poker: Pinched With Four Aces


The Complete Gods Playing Poker

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