Lizard At Arms
A Tamalarian Tales short story (Paid Subs Only)
Charamir Kooteck had been a police officer in the city of Ja-Wen since about fifteen years after the War of Vandross. He had enlisted in the military police forces shortly after the death of his tribe’s chief, Bael, who had been his leader when he fought alongside the armies of Byron of Sidius, Thaddeus Viper, and Morek Rockmight. But the militant Lizardman chief had suffered a long, painful death at the hands of the Black Rot, which had started to sweep the land. Nobody knew how the disease was contracted, but it only seemed to affect those Races with no regenerative capabilities, and of them, only those who smoked tobacco.
Charamir was now a First Lieutenant in the Ja-Wen military police, and had command of his own precinct. He had only had this position a few months, but already he was starting to develop a permanent headache. Although Ja-Wen sported a population half that of the metropolis of Desanadron, it still supported nearly half a million residents. There were only twenty-four police precincts, and as time went on, the city became more and more overrun by gangs, Guilds, and hoodlums. He simply didn’t have enough men on hand to deal with the situation.
As a result, Charamir was now getting into his dress uniform and preparing to head out on foot patrol himself. This was something the Lizardman Soldier hadn’t done in years, but he felt it would be good for him. Fifteen years as a patrolman, and then twenty years as a detective had given him a good deal of experience in the field, and he wasn’t about to squander that experience by sitting behind a desk all the time. He would leave the precinct in the capable hands of Timothy Hollister, a Sidalis who appeared to be a crossbreed of a Human and a turtle. Timothy had a brother in Desanadron, who apparently worked on the other side of the legal fence, as a fellow says.
The stresses of command were the least of his headache this morning, however, and as he looked in the full-length mirror next to his large oak desk, he rubbed his temples. Unlike most men of his race, Charamir’s scales were as hard as those of a Draconus, the dragon-men of the hills and mountains. Those on his head and hands, the only places not covered by his grand uniform, glimmered in the artificial lighting of the ceiling a vibrant, emerald shade of green. As he looked at himself, he thought, no, command isn’t what’s on my mind. It’s this ‘Hookman’ that’s got me riled.
During the last month, half of the time he had been in command of the Twenty-First Precinct, a series of bizarre murders had been committed throughout the city of Ja-Wen. Those few witnesses whose statements could be trusted had one common thread, which was that they saw a shady figure with a hook for a left (some witnesses said right) hand leaving the building around the time of the murders. As a result, the Ja-Wen Crier had dubbed the serial killer ‘The Hookman’.
“Fucking newsies,” Charamir grumbled to himself as he fixed his chain pendant on his upper left breast. It hung down from a button affixed next to the center set to a lower front pocket of the dress coat, and on the end hung his badge of rank.
The royal blue color of the uniform always made him cringe a little when he looked himself over. It contrasted too much with the color of his scales, he thought, but it would do. He didn’t mind letting it be known that yes, this was a policeman you’re looking at, and don’t forget it. But he really would have liked having a personalized uniform. He had gone plainclothes during his time as a detective, but even then he’d worn a uniform of sorts. He hadn’t dressed much different from any other detective, with the brown slacks, the white button shirt, and the ties of varying colors. He’d hated the look, but it made him feel professional, and so he went with it without complaint.
“I’ll have to remember to put in a request to the boys up top,” he murmured to himself, making one final adjustment on his dress coat. He stepped out of his office, and into the main detective division office room. Desks were pushed together with partners facing one another, and all in all, fourteen men were already present and working on multiple cases. Most of the officers in his division were Humans and Elves, with one pair of Minotaurs working together and one pair of Dwarves. A man entered from the stairwell, with a copy of the Crier in his hands.
Hollister, Charamir thought, looking at his wrist timepiece. Nine o’clock, on the button, as always.
The turtle-man stopped a few paces away from him, and saluted smartly. “Sir!”
Hollister certainly had a way of being formal and by the books, the Lizardman Lieutenant thought, and saluted him back. Nobody saluted unless they were on military status except the Sidalis, whose tie was cornflower blue. Hmm, Charamir thought, that’s right. It’s Tuesday, cornflower blue day.
“Sir, have you seen this morning’s edition of the Crier?”
“Do I really need to?” Charamir asked. Despite his cynicism, he took the offered paper and snapped it open to display the front page and its large front picture. It appeared to show an artist’s rendition of the Hookman.
“Oh gods in the heavens above,” he whispered, reading the headline in bold print: ‘Maniacal Serial Killer Eludes Police Yet Again!’
“What the hells is this,” he said, turning the paper around and pointing to the headline.
One of the Human detectives, Carl Raffordy, pushed himself from his desk. He walked over, and handed the Lieutenant, or ‘Lou’ as everyone referred to Charamir, a memo with the precinct’s medical examiner’s signature on it.
“Came in this morning, sir.” Raffordy adjusted his tie. It was a nervous habit the Sergeant Detective had picked up over the years, and it bugged the hell out of Charamir, though he never said as much. Despite his annoying habit, Carl was an excellent detective with great instincts, and Charamir didn’t want to push him away by picking on his nervous tick. “Second Lieutenant Chambers didn’t bring you up to speed this morning, sir?”
“No, she was already gone home when I got here an hour ago,” the Lizardman said, reading the medical examiner’s report. Gnomes filled most of the scientific positions in the military police, and were only rarely given police duties. This one, Leah Thorp, had done all of the exams for the Hookman’s victims. Her report read just the same as the previous seven.
Eight victims, Charamir thought. Fights in the street, honorable combat, weren’t considered murder by the codes of the law, and thus never got investigated. But these eight had all been innocent young men and women, none of them any kind of danger to anyone.
I want this bastard, and I want him now, he mentally grumbled. He handed Raffordy the report, which the detective filed in his ‘out’ basket. “Sir, are you going out this morning? I thought it was tomorrow.” Hollister accepted a mug of coffee from one of the lower ranked detectives.
“I’m going out today.” Charamir straightened his back and puffed out his sizable chest. “This asshole has killed during all times of the day, and he’s just as apt to make a move this morning as any other. Tim, you’re in charge while I’m gone.” He put a steady hand on the mutant’s shoulder. “Make sure that you can get a hold of me if you need to.”
Hollister nodded. Grabbing one of the many messenger pigeons from its cage, he set it on the Lou’s shoulder for a moment.
After the bird pecked Charamir’s shoulder once, Hollister placed it back in its cage, and went to get it fresh water.
Charamir saluted the detectives throughout the room, and headed for the stairwell and the lower floor where the patrolmen maintained their operations. The old oak steps creaked under his weight, and the scent of one of the patrolman’s after-shave as he passed him on the steps filled his head with nausea. He tucked his tongue back in his mouth, not wanting to smell any of the morning drunks he was sure to come across when he got into the main lobby.
The main lobby spread out in front of him as he exited the stairwell, with the lockup hall to his immediate right. Ahead of him, perhaps thirty yards away, was the main check-in and booking desk, where patrolman Durin was on duty. Several of his Dwarven kinsmen were being checked in for the drunk tank by a pair of Minotaur officers in their light blue uniforms. A Wererat, ranting and foaming at the mouth, was being bodily dragged by two Werewolf officers back toward the felon lockup, where he would await trial. Charamir couldn’t make out a lick of what the criminal was shouting, because he had never taken the time to learn the Wererat language. “They all say the same thing, though,” he mused aloud.
He made his way slowly to officer Durin, and the Dwarven patrolman gave him a brief grin and a nod. “Morning, sir,” he said. “Wot’s on yer moind?”
“That fellow,” Charamir said, pointing back toward the Wererat, who was being clubbed by the officers to keep him from going into lycanthrope rage. “What’s his story?”
Durin chuckled a little and referred to his log-in book.
“Got caught breaking into Pappy’s Diner down on North Bear Street. Officers arrived a few minutes after someone reported hearing shouts from the diner.”
“Who was shouting?”
“Apparently, him,” Durin said, pointing to the unconscious Wererat. “Pappy’s son, David, was getting the kitchen fired up when the rat slipped in.”
Pappy was a successful restaurant owner, a Jaft who specialized in mountain folk cuisine. His diner mostly catered to Dwarves, Minotaurs, and Jafts, but people of all races ate the food. His son, David, while not exactly a genius, was a whiz in the kitchen, just like his father. Unlike his father, however, who wasn’t much like the other members of the Jaft race, David was highly skilled with the flail whip he brought with him everyplace.
“David do a number on him?”
“Oh yes, Lou,” Durin said with another chuckle. “If’n that fellah wasn’t a regenerator, he’d a died before we could get ‘im ‘ere.”
Charamir wasn’t too surprised, then, that the Wererat was raving. He very well could have been pleading a case of assault, but that wasn’t exactly going to go over well. ‘Oh yes, your honor, he beat the tar out of me. Why? Well, I think it was because I was breaking and entering’. Yeah, that’d go over like a torch in an Alchemy shop.
“Very good, Durin,” he said, smiling to himself. “Keep up the good work.”
“Aye, sir.” The Dwarf turned to hand another patrolman his time card.
Charamir made his way out into the streets of Ja-Wen, and squinted under the glaring sun. Winter had just come to a close in the east, and was making its way across the central region of Tamalaria, moving slowly toward the west. Charamir decided to make a slow, steady beat around the outer perimeter of his precinct’s jurisdiction. He would stop and talk to the locals and other patrolmen on duty. That would take him to about an hour and a half to two hours, depending on how brisk he was about his conversations.
Most of the city’s residents didn’t care much for Lizardmen, a fact he understood and acknowledged. His people had been with Richard Vandross when first the warlock had fallen upon the city, and they had wiped out most of the city of Koreindar north of Ja-Wen. He understood why the local inhabitant’s distrusted him, and already he felt some of the residents’ eyes upon him.
Be that as it might, he continued down the street, heading north.
Several of the unemployed folks he came across during the first ten minutes of his walk offered him a smoke, but he kindly declined. “The Black Rot runs through my people very quickly,” he explained to an elderly Jaft fellow. “We’re pretty sure it’s to do with those sticks of yours, but I thank you for the offer.”
He walked away, his back turned to the middle finger being aimed at his back.
Charamir flicked his tongue out, taking in the early morning scents of the local diners opening up for the day, the twenty-four hour taverns serving their early morning customers, and the sweetly perfumed adolescent ladies on their giggling way to school.
Rumormongers, every last one of them, he thought with disdain as he gave several of them his coldest, most professional smile. The Human ones are the worst about it, too. Charamir continued on until the intersection of Forty-Second and Arrow streets. Then, he turned west on Arrow, staying within his jurisdiction.
Perhaps a hundred yards ahead, he saw bright yellow crime scene tape flapping in the morning breeze. It looked very recent, and three of his own patrolmen were standing outside of the four-story apartment building, keeping a close eye on who went in and out. This must be the place from last night, he thought, approaching now with an aura of authority.
When he came within twenty yards, he could hear snippets of their conversation, which revolved around the soccer match the previous afternoon between the Port of Arcade Strikers and the Ja-Wen Footmen. He got to within a few yards, utilizing his uncanny grace to remain silent and unobserved, and then he cleared his throat, loudly.
All three officers turned and straightened up, two Humans and one Half-Elf woman, and they smiled nervously at him. “Morning, Lou,” the woman said, her voice cracking a little. She threw him a salute, which he returned in kind, keeping a stony cast to his face. He nodded his head toward the entrance of the building.
“There any reason you three aren’t inside, keeping the actual scene secure,” he asked with mild aggravation. Three pairs of eyes touched base with one another, and then turned back to the Lieutenant.
“Detective Tobia’s inside, sir,” the woman said.
Charamir looked back and forth at the three of them, and noted with some interest that she was the low man on the totem pole among these three. Yet, he mused, these two cowards are making her their spokesman. They expect me to kill the messenger, not the problem.
“He was very clear about us staying out here.”
Tobia. Charamir shook his head. Vincent Tobia was a Human detective in the department, with a great deal of patrolman experience, and five years of detective work on his resume. He had transferred over from the Seventh Precinct a year ago, and had since cracked four cases on his own merit, working with nobody within the department, and nobody without. A loner by nature, it seemed. The man was of average height, and was slightly heavyset, but damned if he wasn’t a good detective. He tended to notice things that got left behind by the crime scene unit boys, but despite his powers of perception, he wasn’t very imaginative. He was by the books, and dealt strictly with facts. Mayhap that was why he’d put himself on this Hookman case, to try and get himself to think outside of the box.
Charamir, on the other hand, dealt better with matters of the mind and heart. He didn’t precisely use logic or facts in every case, because sometimes those things didn’t truly matter. Evidence wasn’t always present, but intentions were, and Charamir was very good at connecting those dots. In order to catch the Hookman, he felt pretty certain a mix of the two men’s thinking styles was going to be required. He looked down at the patrolwoman, and smiled his toothy smile. “Thank you, patrolman. What’s your name?”
“Woodgrove, sir,” she said, snapping off another smart salute.
“Patrolman Woodgrove. Good. You’re in charge out here for the time being, understood?”
She positively beamed at the Lieutenant, while the two men behind her fell back a step. “Keep everyone who doesn’t live here or wear a uniform out. No newsies, and if one of the little fuckers tries to slip you money for a peek inside, you three take him in for attempted bribery of a peace officer. Got it?”
All three saluted and nodded, and Charamir ducked under the police tape and headed inside.
The Lizardman Lieutenant followed the scent of Tobia’s after shave faultlessly, going up several sets of ramshackle stairs to the third floor, and down to the taped off doorway leading into the scene of the Hookman’s latest caper. His tail swished behind him of its own accord, and he stilled it with an effort. One of these days, he thought, I’ll have to have an Alchemist remove the damned thing.
To the taped doorway he stalked, looking inside before entering.
Sure enough, standing a few feet away and pulling on his short salt and pepper beard was Vincent Tobia, Vinchenzo to his friends.
The detective pulled on his tie, another nervous tick that Charamir noted but said nothing about.
The Lizardman cleared his throat meaningfully, and Tobia looked up at him, a vicious little smile quirking across his lips. “Hey there, Lou,” the Human said.
“Detective Tobia,” Charamir said with a nod. “How goes it? Find anything the crime scene boys might have left out?”
Tobia approached the taped off doorway, and ducked out under it, forcing Charamir to move aside.
Tobia ran the slow but certain slope toward middle age, and his stomach, rather prodigious, showed out over his belt in a deceptive display. Large as the man was, Charamir knew he was no pudgy pushover, and gods help the criminal who thought he was. The Lieutenant had seen Vince Tobia take more than a few men down, and hard.
“Not much, Lou,” Tobia said, insisting on using Charamir’s nickname of rank. Tobia looked back into the apartment and pointed toward a south-facing window. “Except maybe that. There’s a little bit of a scratch in the wood of the sill, and there’s a fire escape outside the window. I think maybe that’s the way our Hookman left. Might be something in the alley worth checking out.”
“Then let’s check.” Charamir turned and moving back to the stairs.
Tobia followed immediately behind, apparently eager to work with his superior, which most members of the department weren’t. Down the flights of stairs they fairly flew, each man eager to have a new piece to the puzzle of their current case, and neither wanting the other man to find it first.
Once they were outside, Charamir came up short, and was almost plowed to the dirt by Tobia, who had just enough time to stop his forward progress.
Charamir looked with growing disdain at Fredrick Sholt, one of the reporters for the Daily Ja-Wen Times. The reporter, a sniveling Kobold with a shrewd eye for details, was presently trying to plead his case for going inside with Officer Woodgrove, who was resolutely denying him access.
As soon as Charamir started to turn toward the alley, he heard the little newsie’s voice calling to him. “Lieutenant Charamir! Sir, if I could ask you a few questions!”
Aw, great, Charamir thought. Now I have to deal with him. He turned and smiled amiably enough at the Kobold, who was already tearing ass around Woodgrove toward him.
Vince Tobia, thankfully, had already dealt with this newsie on previous occasions, and stepped forward to deal with him on the Lou’s behalf. Standing next to Charamir this way, the two of them looked a little like a pair of politicians. And when it came right down to it, Charamir thought, wasn’t that basically his job now? A commanding politician in charge of his precinct? He didn’t like to think so, but that was what it boiled down to, nine times out of ten.
“Ah, detective Tobia,” the Kobold sneered, looking up past the belly toward the Human’s face. “So good to see you’re also on this Hookman case.”
“Who says this has anything to do with that, Freddie,” Tobia asked condescendingly. “Who you been talking to you little snake?”
Before Charamir or Sholt could move to stop him, Vince Tobia, a man known for his quick temper, reached down and plucked the Kobold up by the front of his green tunic shirt.
Tobia wasn’t that big for a Human, but Sholt was only two and a half feet tall, short for even a Kobold. His legs twitched and kicked this way and that as he struggled to free himself from Tobia’s iron grip.
“Who you got up your sleeve, Fred?” Tobia shook the Kobold roughly, making the little reporter’s teeth clack together violently.
“Vince,” Charamir said, low and warning. “Not too rough with our little reporter friend.”
To the Lizardman’s relief, Tobia set Frederick Sholt down on the ground.
The Kobold shifted his shirt, smoothing out the wrinkles, and cracked his neck.
“I should have you reported to the Council,” the Kobold cried out, pointing an accusing finger at Tobia. “You can’t abuse me like that! The press has a right to ask questions, you, you troglodyte! Who I talk to is my business!”
Ah, Charamir thought, now I can ask a few questions.
“And it’s ours now, as well.” The Lizardman smiled wickedly.
Fred Sholt looked up at the Lou and cringed at the sight of those teeth, all angular and seemingly ready to bite through anything.
“You know, Fred, if your contact has information that’s relevant to our investigation, we need to talk to him. Keeping mum about anything that could help us would be obstruction of justice, and I think you know all too well what that could mean,” Charamir said in his most friendly tone of voice.
Sholt looked aside, his cheeks flushing bright red.
“Yeah, I know, I know,” he said, waving off the Lieutenant’s underlying threat. “You’re a real prick, you know that?”
Charamir shrugged his shoulders at this, having been called much worse things in his native tongue.
The Kobold heaved a sigh, and shook his head. He pulled out a small yellow steno pad, and wrote down a single name, tore off the sheet and handed it to Charamir, who passed it on to Tobia without even glancing at it.
“I’m supposed to meet up with him tonight, around seven of the clock. Draffords Park,” the Kobold reporter said. “If you want to talk to him, come along. Remember, seven this evening.”
Sholt started away without further comment.
Tobia was reading the name, and then he tucked the paper away in a back pocket. He tapped Charamir on the shoulder, and nodded his head in the direction of the alley.
“You coming, boss?” he asked.
“No, you go ahead,” Charamir said. “I’m just out on patrol for now, but meet me back at the house at around one this afternoon. We’ll discuss anything you find then.”
Tobia gave a half-assed salute, which Charamir returned in kind before heading down the street. He knew that Tobia would find something, and he wanted to give the detective time to analyze whatever he found on his own. Charamir’s style of analysis and thought would only muddle Tobia’s detection methods, and for now, he didn’t want to do that. He’d put his own head to Tobia’s in a while, but for now, he wanted to get going on his around town observations.
Down the block he padded, stopping into Shlep’s Coffee Shop for a cuppa before moving on. Coffee did wonders to clear his head, but cuppa was even better. Down through the gathering crowds of the street market he went, giving greetings here and there, and taking reports from the occasional patrolman he passed by. It seemed that nobody had much to report this morning, other than their own thoughts on the Hookman case, but one patrolman did tell him of a rather interesting street fight he’d had to break up a few hours before. Both combatants had been hauled off to the precinct house, and Charamir could talk to them if he wanted when he got back. He resolved to do so, and thanked the patrolman for his report.
Now he turned down another dusty street in order to stay within the confines of his jurisdiction, and found himself passing in front of a group of homeless Humans, each with a cardboard sign saying ‘Need money for food’. He dropped them a few tinnies for their troubles, enough to buy the group of hobos food or drink (he suspected the tin pieces would go toward the latter rather than the former) and passed them by.
In front of one of the district’s libraries, he stopped and looked up at the open doors. A sign out front advertised a book signing by a local author, Dale Forth, and he decided to stop in and peruse the shelves, maybe even meet the local boy done good.
When he walked up the short steps and into the main lobby of the library/bookstore, he saw that the author in question was away from the signing table at the moment, but a long line stood waiting patiently for his return. Charamir looked at the books on the table, entitled From the West It Came, and decided that perhaps he wouldn’t give the author his time after all.
Charamir walked slowly over the hardwood floor toward the non-fiction section of the library division of the building. He already had seven reference books out on loan, but he figured a nice rounded figure might be best when he returned them all. He scanned the shelves without much interest, until finally his reptilian eyes fell upon one new book that made him take a sudden, sharp breath. It was a reference book—that much he knew because of the section it was in—but he hoped against hope that it was mislaid. In Search of a Serial Killer, by Harrison Jones.
Charamir pulled the book off of the shelf, and as soon as he opened it to its table of contents, he knew it was a true crime compilation.
The book was divided into sections by city, and then further by criminal. The first section was devoted to the city of Desanadron, and had a list of eleven psychopaths listed. Charamir was familiar with most of the names listed, except one of the more recent ones, a Telvor Winston. The second section was for the Port of Arcade, and had four listings. The third section was for Ja-Wen, and thankfully, didn’t include the latest menace on the list, the Hookman. However, he was put out of sorts with the sixth and final listing, which didn’t have a proper name. “The Sharpshooter,” he read aloud, and remembered immediately that particular case.
Two years ago, up in the northern precincts, the police had chased a man who had been named the Sharpshooter for the method of execution he used—a high-powered rifle smuggled out of one of the ruined cities of the Age of Mecha. The killer had targeted and killed several members of the governing Council of Ja-Wen, sniping each member from one of the high rooftops of the buildings around their homes. The man had finally made a mistake, however, for after six members of the Council had been slain, the police had been able to piece together his pattern. They had arrested the man, a disgruntled and mad as a hatter Gnome by the name of Jim Twink, and booked him on six counts of murder. He had gone through a very short trial, after which he had been executed by firing squad. Very ironic, Charamir thought with a smile.
He scanned the section concerning the Sharpshooter, and was pleased to find that by the time this book had been published, the case had not yet been solved. How long would it take, he wondered, for some other author, or this very same one, Harrison Jones, to write out a book about the Hookman? Probably not long, he decided, putting the book back on the shelf and leaving the library/bookstore.
Out on the street, he realized how long he had been inside, and headed back off down the street. He finished his cuppa, throwing the empty cup into a waste bin, and turned once again at the corner of Fifth and Shore Street.
On Shore Street, Charamir started thinking over the Hookman case again. He wanted to keep a clear head during his patrol in case a situation arose nearby that required his attention, but this early in the day, not much happened in his precinct. He thought of how the mysterious killer operated, breaking into people’s homes, then striking them with a heavy, blunt object. Each victim showed signs of head trauma, but only enough to knock them out. Next, the Hookman would bind them to a piece of furniture, and gag the victim with one of their own articles of clothing. In most cases, this turned out to be a shirt, but once it had been a balled up pair of socks. How disturbing would that be, Charamir thought, to have the last taste of your life be your own dirty socks? He shuddered at the idea, and moved on.
He tried to think of any connection between the four men and four women that had been slain. In each case, they had been bound, gagged, and then slowly, laboriously dissected, apparently with some sort of hook, from what the medical examiner had told the police. The work had been messy, and in two instances, the intestines of the victim had been pulled out and thrown about their living rooms, almost as if cast off in frustration. Had this killer been looking for something inside the bodies of his victims? Had some mad impulse taken him over and told him to rummage inside their guts?
Mayhap that was the case, but for now, he couldn’t think about that. He needed facts right now, not hypothesis. Which is exactly why you’re going to let Tobia handle things for now, he thought bitterly. Let him get you the facts, then work with him on the motives.
Without having quite realized it, Charamir found himself standing before his own precinct house again. He sighed, and headed inside, checking his timepiece. He had burned two hours of the day, for which he was glad. He had accomplished this bit of daily chores, and was not to be found wanting.
He walked inside the main lobby, and found Durin’s check-in desk clear of officers or miscreants. He approached the Dwarven officer, and cleared his throat again. It was, he had found, the best way for him to get someone’s attention without seeming rude. Durin looked up from his paper, and smiled at the Lou. “What’s on yer mind, sir?”
“Patrolman Frisk told me we had a couple of street fighters in this morning. They still in lockup?”
Durin nodded, and pointed toward the General Holding corridor.
“Thank you, Durin.”
The Dwarf picked up his paper again, and Charamir winced when he saw it was the morning edition of the Ja-Wen Times. He would probably be included in Sholt’s next article, most likely under the heading ‘Police Brutality! When Will You Be a Victim?’ He didn’t care much for the idea, but he would let it go, for now.
Charamir swept himself quickly down the General Holding corridor, his tail swishing across the cement floor, and he soon found himself being spat at by the various individuals in the lockup cells.
Where the hell’s the watchman on duty for these scumbags, he thought, looking for a moment at the empty desk down at the end of the row of cells.
He walked slowly down the hall, looking for the two men that had been described to him, a Simpa and a Khan. The were-lions and tiger men had been fighting since time out of mind. They usually kept themselves civil when not out in the wilds and their precious Allenian Hills region, but occasionally racial tensions exploded in civilized areas and towns. Apparently such an incident had occurred here, in his jurisdiction, and he was loath to take two men to court for something that could be handled with a simple set of threats and promises.
In the last two cells standing opposite one another before the watchman’s desk, he found the Khan on his left and the Simpa on his right.
The Khan, a sleek and angular fellow dressed in the simple tribesman’s pants of his people, paced back and forth while he wrung his hands before his bare chest, growling in the tongue of his people. The Simpa, on the other hand, appeared to be doing nothing more than thinking, seated cross-legged on his rather small cot. He was wearing a set of bib overalls over a yellow shirt, and had his hands clasped together in his lap. Charamir cared not a whit for the look of lax concentration the man was giving his hands. In his experience, a man who looked so deep in thought was usually thinking over future violence.
“All right, you two, front and center,” he said aloud.
The Khan darted to the bars of his cell, snarling and growling at the Lizardman in his dress uniform, which by now was covered with spit. The Simpa took a moment longer getting to his own cell bars, shaking his head to clear himself of his momentary reverie.
Charamir saw, with some amusement, that the Simpa couldn’t grip his cell bars because the man’s hands were too large to fit between them. The Khan, he noticed, still had a few bruises that hadn’t healed up. The Simpa, on the other hand, looked completely undamaged.
“All right, gents, let’s hear it. I want to know both sides of this story that you can provide.” Charamir pulled the steel folding chair out from behind the watchman’s desk, setting in the middle of the two opposing cells. He took a seat on it, and crossed his left leg over his right. “I’ll hear from you first.” He indicated the Khan.
“Soku colauwikai,” the Khan said, bowing slightly. “Ishim vook tanabek,” he began, but was silenced by Charamir’s upheld left hand.
“In the Common tongue, please,” the Lizardman said with a sarcastic grin.
The Khan warrior harrumphed at this, but nodded his great tiger head.
“Very well, green one,” the Khan said. “I am Desik, of the clan Mortis. I have traveled here to the city of Ja-Wen to locate and bring back my wayward son, Tesik, who has abandoned our people out of foolishness. He is to be a warrior, as his father is and his father’s father before him,” he said, thumping his chest with a balled fist. “But he left us, for he claimed to have no want for our war against those savages,” he said, pointing an accusatory finger at the Simpa. “And when I found my boy, who should he be walking with, but this vokodu.” The Khan once more stabbed a furry finger at the Simpa, who simply stood in his cell, smiling a lopsided, almost absentminded smile.
Charamir didn’t know a lick of the Khan language, but he was pretty sure he had an idea of what vokodu meant, and it wasn’t kind.
“That man has poisoned my son’s mind, and his heart, against my people and against the calling of a warrior! I want his throat in my teeth!”
Charamir once more stilled the Khan warrior with an upraised hand, and turned his oblong, blunt snout toward the Simpa. “All right, now you, big fellah. What’s your side of the story?”
The Simpa gave Charamir a low bow and a charming smile to replace the odd one, and stood up tall and stiff, his hands behind his back.
“I am Talon, of the clan Vahn, member of the class known as Bishop,” the rumbling were-lion said. “We are holy men blessed with magic, and charged with the spreading of the word of our god Liso and our goddess Lison. The boy in question heard our god’s calling, and came to the city seeking aid and fellowship. He was pointed in my direction, and I happily took him into my home, to give him answers to his many questions. He told me of his father’s wishes for his life, and told me as well that he wanted no part of the ancient war over the Allenian Hills region. When this barbarian came upon us, I had just purchased breakfast for my pupil and me, and he attacked me without warrant.”
“A bold faced LIE,” the Khan cried, thrashing against his cell door. “’Twas you who came at me, Bishop! What sort of peaceful god commands his chosen children to set themselves upon the questing fathers of wayward sons?”
“Gentlemen, please,” Charamir held up both hands now. “Let’s take a step back and put things in perspective. Desik, do you know where your son is now?”
“Probably at this preacher’s house,” the Khan said, spitting on the floor. “I want my son back, officer, and out of this zealot’s grasp! I want to have this preacher arrested for kidnapping!”
“I kidnapped no one, brute!” Now there was a flush of anger in the large Simpa’s face, and Charamir could see the desire for murder in those cavernous green eyes. “You were the one trying to hold him against his will! Against the will of the gods Liso and Lison! You, blasphemer! You!”
Charamir stomped one heavy foot on the floor, and brought silence to the hallway.
“All right. We’re going to get the third side of this story right now, the truth,” Charamir said. “Every story has three sides to it. Side one, side two, and the truth. The boy will offer the third side, I should think.
“You,” he shouted, addressing the officer who had just come out of the locker room. “Write down this man’s address.” The Lou pointed to the Simpa Bishop. “Send a couple of officers to pick up a Khan youth there. Have the boy brought here, to me, and we’ll straighten this whole mess out.”
The watchman took the address and darted past the Lou and up toward the front desk.
Charamir frowned. “Gentlemen, settle in and be silent. We’re going to be absolutely silent until the boy gets here.”
* * * *
Thirty minutes later, after both the Khan and the Simpa had been waiting patiently on their bunks for ‘the boy’ to arrive, two patrolmen came down the General Holding hallway with a Khan youth between them, each officer holding an arm just under the elbow. They deposited the boy in front of Charamir, who took in the family resemblance between his prisoner and the youth. “Hello there, son,” Charamir said with a soft smile. “You’re Tesik, correct?”
“Yes, Tesik, son of Desik, of the clan Mortis. Your men claim that my father is here?”
Charamir stood aside, revealing the boy’s father to him. “I see. Ah, I see you have my teacher here as well,” the youth said. “What do you intend to do with them, officer?”
“Well,” Charamir said slowly, drawing out the ‘l’ for a moment. “That partially depends on what you have to tell me. Now, the two of you are going to be absolutely silent for this, or I’ll have you both charged with public assault.” Charamir addressed both men but kept his eyes on the boy. “Now, tell me what happened this morning, to the tee. And no lies, Tesik, unless you want both of these men to go to jail, and yourself with them.”
Tesik nodded, and his father sat gloomily on the floor of his cell. The Bishop, Charamir noted from the corner of his eye, simply sat cross-legged on the floor, no trace of emotion on his face.
“Well, I should begin when I left the Hills, officer. My father wanted me to take the test of the warrior, which I had no wish to do. I had told my father many times that I heard a voice telling me to abandon the Allenians and the way of the warrior. I sought teaching where I knew I could find it—here, in Ja-Wen. When I first arrived, though, I was lost. I didn’t know where to go, or what to do. That was when Father Talon found me, only a few hours after my arrival. He told me the god Liso had told him of my coming, and that he was to be my instructor.
“This morning marked the tenth day of my instruction and the first day of many tests that I am to go through. First, the Father bolstered my stamina with a good meal, after which we were to head to the fields due west of the city for my first test. That was when my father fell upon us, screaming bloody murder and threatening Father Talon.”
“He told you no lies, boy,” Desik raged, on his feet once more.
Charamir whipped his tail toward the cell, banging the bars of the cell with a loud clang.
“Sit down, Desik, and let the boy finish his side of things! Now, please continue, son.” He smiled once more at the Khan youth.
“Thank you. I tell no lies, officer, for that is what occurred. My father threatened violence, and when he did so, Father Talon wrapped me in a defensive barrier spell of the Bishop school of magic. No sooner had he done so then my father tackled him to the ground, seeking to bludgeon him with his bare fists. However, Father Talon was able to deflect most of the blows, and returned only one in kind to my father’s face. When they were both back on their feet, Father Talon merely parried and tossed my father about on the ground. Once my father took a hard fall on his chest, but still he came at my teacher. That was when the other policemen came. I fled the scene, and headed back to my teacher’s home, as I had been instructed to do if there was ever trouble. That’s the truth, officer. That’s all of it.”
Charamir nodded, and crossed his arms over his chest as he mulled the situation over. If Desik had only chosen his words better, there would have been no arrest made. If he had demanded the Simpa give up his son, the two men could have fought almost to the death without any interference from law enforcement. However, the Khan had simply threatened death on the Bishop and attacked him. No challenge offered, none accepted, and according to the city’s laws, that meant the Khan warrior had to be charged with public assault. But did he? Did he really have to be dragged through the muck? No, Charamir decided, shaking his head. Best to spare the taxpayers the expense of a trial.
The Lizardman Lieutenant stood up and squared himself with Desik. “You have heard your son’s testimony, and now we know the simple truth of things. In accordance to city law, I should have you sent to the trial cells, but I don’t think it needs to go that far. Your son has expressed his wish to follow the Bishop path, and the good Father Talon wishes to teach him. Your son will be well cared for, I’m sure. Won’t he, Father?”
“Indeed he shall, you speak true,” the Simpa Bishop said, his hands still folded in his lap.
“And Tesik, is it still your wish indeed to follow the Bishop way?” Charamir asked, raising a scaled eyebrow at the boy.
“Indeed, it is,” the boy said, giving the same bow that the Simpa had.
“Then this last question is for you, Desik of the clan Mortis. Will you let your boy live his life as he wishes?”
The Khan warrior dropped his chin to his chest, knuckles standing white on his hands as he gripped the bars of his cell. He growled deep in his throat, and let his hands drop from the cell bars. Desik sauntered to the back of his cell and kicked the brick wall roughly, sending a small tremor through the wall and floor that Charamir could feel in his feet and wandering tail. Desik came back to the bars, and hung his head. He raised his upturned palms in defeat.
“Yes, I relinquish my claim on him, though he is still but a boy. You, however,” he said, pointing across to the Simpa. “You will send me routine messages of his progress and well-being. If I find I have reason at any time to come back for him, you had better steer clear of me. Understood?”
The Bishop smiled, nodded amiably, and got to his feet.
“Good,” Charamir said. “This business is settled then. Father Talon, I’m going to let you out first. You take the boy back to your home for now. Let the testing go until tomorrow. An hour after you’re gone, I’ll release you,” he said, turning now to Desik. “Please don’t give my officers any reason to arrest you again, because next time you will go to trial.”
He turned to the watchman and motioned for him to unlock the Bishop.
Father Talon stepped out, and was embraced immediately by the boy. The two of them left, speaking in hushed tones to one another, not a word of their conversation understood by anyone they passed.
“Watchman, one hour and you let him go,” the Lou said, pointing to the Khan warrior. “I’ll be up in my office if I’m needed again. If I’m needed,” he said, pointing to the watchman on duty meaningfully. “Be sure you’re at the desk, not in the back.”
* * * *
When Charamir finally got settled in behind his desk to read the morning’s reports, what he read wasn’t entirely reassuring. Over a dozen so-called ‘eye witness reports’ concerning the Hookman lay before him, skimmed over and dutifully forgotten. Several arrest reports regarding small time thieves being caught in the act caught his attention more than they should have, but he needed a break from the Hookman case at the moment, and he poured every bit of his focus into these.
“Hmm, no surprise,” he mused, looking at the race of each of these criminals: Wererats, every one of them. Their kind just seemed naturally attracted to criminal and illegal activity.
These too he set aside eventually, looking at the timepiece on his wall. Almost one in the afternoon, and he hadn’t gotten lunch.
Charamir walked around his desk to his office door, and called out for Hollister. The turtle man dutifully appeared a moment later, saluting. “Sir?”
“Tim, could you send someone down to the Happy Burger? I’m sort of missing lunch right now.”
“Sure thing sir,” Hollister replied. He pulled a small notebook and a pen from somewhere in the mysterious depths of his shell. “What do you want sir?”
Charamir rattled off a short order, a handful of Happy Burger Supremes, a large carton of fries, and an extra order of chicken strips for good measure. He was pretty sure he wasn’t going to be going off duty for a while yet, and might very well let dinner slip his mind as well.
Hollister hustled downstairs, where Charamir was certain some poor patrolman just coming on duty was going to be stuck with the actual errand. Oh well, he thought, returning to his desk, I had to pull my fair share of gopher duties when I was a street beater.
Charamir returned to the eye witness reports, picking one out at random from the pile, and read it over thoroughly. A middle-aged Jaft by the name of Ho’kra Mandoom had apparently seen a man rushing out of the alley next to the crime scene last night, a man with a hook in his left hand. The wording, Charamir realized, was different in this report from all of the others, one vital way. “In his left hand,” Charamir whispered to himself, musing. “Not for a left hand,” he said, again in a hushed voice. He looked from this report to another witness statement, which said only that the individual being questioned heard a bit of ruckus from the apartment above her own.
When Charamir’s food was brought in, he tore into it with a vengeance, shooing away the uniform who brought it to him.
After three of the five burgers slid down his gullet, he stomped to his door, and called out, “Tobia, in here, now! If he’s not here, somebody go get him in the next ten minutes or you’re all pulling overtime! Unpaid!”
At the invoking of the term ‘unpaid’, the detective level of the police precinct turned into a flurry of movement, men running this way and that, calling to each other their proposed routes of inquiry in search of detective Vincent Tobia.
Fifteen minutes later, the heavyset detective was standing in the Lou’s doorway, smiling his sarcastic grin. A toothpick waggled at the corner of his mouth, and he picked it out and stuffed it away in a coat pocket. “You wanted to see me?”
Charamir simply nodded, indicating the seat across the desk from him. He wiped his lips with a napkin, and let out a thundering belch as Tobia closed the door behind him. “Nice one, Lou, very nice. Seven out of ten.”
“Thanks, Vince,” Charamir said, pushing the Jaft’s statement across to him along with one other. He had taken the time to underline the most important, at least in his mind, set of words on both statements. “Now, read the one on your right first,” Charamir said. Tobia picked up the right hand document and scanned it briefly. “Anything stand out to you?”
“No, not really. Same crap, different paperwork. Am I supposed to notice something here, Lou?” Charamir smiled derisively, and took the reports back, underlining the selected sections that caught his eye. He handed them back to the detective, and as Tobia adjusted his tie, his eyes widened. He brushed sweat off of his forehead with one considerably large forearm, and tapped the witness report that stood out. “This guy says the perp was carrying a hook. Everybody else told us the guy had a hook for a hand!”
“Precisely.” Charamir dug into one of his remaining burgers. He let it slop down onto its wrapper, and set the half-eaten load of greasy-meat-and-rabbit-food-on-a-bun down. He wiped his hands on a napkin, and folded them together with the napkin between. “Vince, where in the city of Ja-Wen would we find somebody who uses a hook in his or her chosen vocation?”
Tobia appeared to consider this a moment as he set the reports down on his side of the large desk, clearing his throat. “And for the gods’ sakes, you can take that tie right off, man.”
Tobia nodded, ripped the tie off, and stuffed it in one of his pockets.
“I’m thinking either a butcher shop, or one of those moving outfits,” the heavyset detective said. “The movers use big hooks to move wooden packing crates if they can’t get a good hold with their hands. I know, Jeanie and me used a few of those crates when we moved from 82nd over to 14th last year.”
“The hooks,” Charamir said slowly, thinking things through, trying to use his imagination. This is it, he thought, the two men in this office right now are the only ones who really have any idea how to carry out this case. Vince will handle all of the facts, and I’ll have to get inside this psycho’s head. Strange, but it’s going to work. “Did they look like they could be used as weapons?”
“Hell yeah,” Vince said, scrunching up his face and rubbing his throat. “One of those stupid lunks nearly caught me in the neck when I came out of the house to grab my fishing gear! He came back with the hook like so,” he said, rearing his right arm back to demonstrate. “I was only a couple of feet away. If Jeanie hadn’t called out to me to ask me ta bring in the china box too, that asshole would’ve either slit my throat or left me uglier than I already am!”
“Hard task to accomplish, I imagine.” Charamir stood with a smile, standing up and offering the last burger to Vince, who declined with a wave of his hand.
“You’re not exactly prepared to win any beauty contests there, scale-face,” Tobia retorted amiably. “I’m gonna head on over to the Manlifters office and start asking some questions of the supervisors. May as well start somewhere, right?”
Charamir nodded, and off Vince Tobia went, out of the office and then the precinct.
Charamir headed over to his window that faced out into the streets of the city, and pulled two of the slats apart, taking a hard look into the faces of the myriad people who flowed here and there. Most of them would awaken tomorrow morning with simple thoughts in their heads, many concerned with nothing more than the business of working their job, feeding their families, and taking care of the rent and other bills.
Would another citizen of his precinct, of his city, be killed on the end of a hook before dawn?
* * * *
Around eleven-thirty at night, Charamir decided it was time to call it a day. He gave up his office to the night commander happily, and changed out of his dress uniform into a pair of blue slacks and a white button shirt with short sleeves. He reached into the beaten armoire in the corner of his office and took out his tan trench coat, slinging it over his left arm, and resituated his weapons on his belts and back strap.
Out in the city, the street lamps had been lighted by members of the night watch, the torch light flickering and illuminating the streets with a downy light. A thin, moist fog roiled through the streets of Ja-Wen, giving the city around Charamir a sort of ethereal glow and atmosphere.
“’Here for but a blink of the eye’, my friend,” he whispered to himself, his forked tongue darting in and out of his mouth to get a good whiff of the night air.
Something smelled awful, and a few minutes later, heading toward his usual watering hole, he was approached by a pair of beggars, who he instantly identified as the source of the funk in the air. He gave them a few gold pieces, warned them not to waste it on booze, and headed off again for his own liquid enjoyment.
His tavern of choice was a dingy little tavern on Tankard Street, the busiest drinking area in the whole of the city. The tavern’s title was The Scaled Gullet, and catered mostly to his people and Draconus.
Like almost every other bar in the whole of Tamalaria, however, it was owned and bartended at all times by a Dwarf. As he pushed open the full-sized door, the cerulean tinted air of the bar’s interior blew past his body to mingle with the fog, and the door creaked shut behind him.
The inside of The Scaled Gullet was decked out in a humble fashion, with plain hardwood plank flooring, simple oak tables in the shape of sewing spindles, and large stones for seats. Lizardmen and Draconus preferred this arrangement because they were natural rock dwellers. It was the reptile in them, they mostly assumed. The bar itself was a long, low affair, kept at about the average Lizardman’s waist height so that Horace, the owner and present bartender on duty, could more easily tend his patrons. Low, seat-shaped stones on spinning bases stood rooted to the floor in front of the bar, only two of these having occupants tonight as Charamir approached.
Cigarette smoke chuffed from the corner of Horace’s mouth, and could easily be blamed for three-quarters of the tavern’s air coloration. The stocky Dwarf consumed about three packs a day, and had a slowly developing case of the Black Rot, which would probably kill him in about fifteen more years. Whenever he started to hack and wheeze and people asked him if he was all right, he would reply by simply chuffing away a huge cloud of smoke into their face.
He looked up from the mug he presently held in one hand, wiping it out with a cloth in the other, and smiled broadly at the sight of one of his best paying customers.
“Oy, ‘ow you doin’ boss,” he asked as Charamir settled himself into a chair a few seats down from the Lizardman and Lizardwoman at the left end of the bar. “The usual?”
“Yes, the usual Horace.” Charamir draped his coat over the back of his seat, letting most of it spill on the wooden floor, and took the glass tumbler full of gin from Horace. The Dwarf brought him a mug full of house ale and set it next to the small tumbler, and smiled as Charamir pushed seven tin pieces across the counter to him. Silver was no longer used as currency in Ja-Wen—too many lycanthropes.
Charamir downed the gin in one go, and grimaced as it burned its way down to his stomach, where it splashed and mixed with the remaining burger he’d eaten from his lunch before leaving the department house.
“This Hookman case really has you bent, don’t it,” Horace asked the Lou as he set to wiping down the bar with an oiled rag.
Charamir smiled easily at the barkeep, who had an ear to lend to anyone willing to talk, and who never repeated what was said to him, not even for money. Horace stood only three feet tall, but his integrity, Charamir thought, stood miles above his head.
“Yes, Horace, yes it does. How can you tell?” He tipped back his mug of ale and drained half of its contents.
Horace merely pointed to the empty shot tumbler and the half-emptied mug still in the Lizardman Lieutenant’s hand.
“Oh, yes. I don’t usually move so quickly, do I?”
“Nope. Not unless, that is, a case has you bent. ‘S a little thing, but I have two good eyes in me head, and you’ve been comin’ ‘ere for years, bucko,” Horace said.
“Ever consider becoming a cop?” Charamir asked, finishing off his ale and wiping his scale-hardened lips.
Horace belly laughed and shook his head, spraying a little cleaning solvent on the bar and wiping it off with a fresh rag, leaving the dark wood of the bar gleaming.
“Can’t say as I have since I left the force back in Traithrock, friend,” Horace said. “That was a crazy toim, too. The War of Vandross, you know. Last great war this continent has seen for a while, thankfully.” His eyes glazed over slightly as he lost himself in memory.
“You serve in the battlefronts?”
“Who, me? No, no, I was just a constable, you understands,” Horace said, shaking his head slightly to clear it of memory. “No, we was never loik this city’s system. Coppers and milit’ry men was always separate entities, ye ken it. I never saw action in that war.”
The Dwarven barkeep paused for a moment before continuing. “Say, have you considered bringin’ in outside help on this case? Maybe a Bounty Hunter?”
“No,” Charamir said, thumping his empty mug down on the counter, hard. He flushed with hot pride and frustration. “I’ll not resort to that. Myself and one of my detectives are working hard on this, and I’m not going to hand things off to some freelance braggart! Not a chance, Horace,” he said more levelly.
“Sorry, mate. It’s just, you know, I happen to know there’s a really good one in town.” Horace let the statement hang in the air.
“Portenda?” Charamir raised a reptilian eyebrow. He shook his head and laughed rather sarcastically. “I think not, Horace. Word is he just left town for Desanadron, in the west. He owns an apartment building there, too. Seems to me he owns property just about everywhere these days.”
“Oy, I think that’s what he wants to do full-toim when he retires from the whole Bounty Hunting gig.” Horace returned to the duty of cleaning mugs, which barkeeps the multi-verse over seem to be constantly catching up with.
Charamir thanked Horace for the drinks, and got up, grabbing his coat and heading out of the smoke-stained air into the foggy streets of the city.
The fine white street-clouds had thickened and started to swirl about in strange little whippoorwills as Charamir started off for his abode.
Somewhere in the streets of his precinct, a young bard played the last notes he’d ever strum out of his guitar, as a large metal hook came around from behind him and speared into his throat.
* * * *
“What a fuckin’ mess,” Vince Tobia said in the pre-dawn hours of the following morning. He had just returned to the latest crime scene with Charamir in tow, the Lizardman dressed in a simple pair of khaki pants and a blue button shirt with a yellow tie. Little pictograms of lizards and snakes basking on heated rocks dotted the tie here and there, a gift from his ever-loving sister a few years back.
Charamir thought it was a cute little tie, but damned if the thing didn’t choke him. He loosened it as he looked down at the shocked visage of the slain drifter, a hole punched in his neck, blood pooled around his head.
The mess Tobia referred to was the long, deep crush of civilians and reporters trying to push past the dozens of uniformed officers that responded to secure the area. Someone in the crowd screamed, “Why isn’t anything being done about this? When are we going to be safe from this maniac?”
Humans, Charamir thought. Too many of them in this city, and most of them too young to remember the terror Richard Vandross brought down on the city. Compared to that war, the Hookman was a teddy bear.
But with more and more newspapers cropping up all over the continent, and the Gnomes setting up these ‘radio transmission towers’ for broadcast of world events from one place to another in a manner of mere hours, the police and militaries of the realm were coming under more and more pressure to ‘hop to it’. Civilians started forming protest groups to force their local governments out of power. Citizen watch-groups sprung up in the smaller hamlets and townships. Science, technology, and the modern media conspired to bring about an age of information-sharing, and Charamir thought the whole continent would be better off the way it had been for centuries.
“Sir, sir, Kent Fishman with the North Ja-Wen Babbler! Can I have a minute to ask you a few questions,” some huckster cried out from the press of bodies before the guarding officers.
Charamir looked up from the body at the reporter, a Human fellow who looked like he’d just been informed of the late-breaking news on his way to the bathroom for his morning piss.
“Vince, could you take care of that man,” Charamir asked softly, turning back to the body. He heard some muffled grunting from the reporter’s direction, and then heard a high-pitched shriek of pain. Someone hollered ‘police brutality,’ another of the new media’s favorite terms, and Charamir hunkered down next to the medical examiner, who was jotting her final notes on the subject as the cadaver wagon pulled up with its two-horse team in the lead.
“Final conclusion, doc?” He looked into the face of the female Gnome as she stood to her full height of two and a half feet.
She stared bleakly up at him, her eyes still full of sleep and a touch of sorrow.
“Killed sometime around midnight last night.” She glanced at her notes. “Single puncture wound to the throat with a hook. Probably bled out before the lack of oxygen had a chance to make him really suffer.” She sighed heavily. “I gave him two gold coins a few days ago.”
Charamir nodded and looked down at the medical examiner for a long moment. He knew she lived over in the 9th district, which would place this man in the Fourteenth Precinct just a few days before. A bard, a drifter, but one who apparently hadn’t been doing too well over that way.
“Anything else, Leah?”
“Well.” She scrunched up her thinly bearded face. “This fellow just came into town not too long ago. And from what I’ve gathered about all of the other victims, none of them had been in town for more than a few months.”
Charamir thought it over, recalling his conversation with Tobia the day before. Movers, he thought. Every one of the victims has been relatively fresh in town.
That’s it! I have to talk to Vince, he thought, scanning the area for the pudgy detective.
“Where’s Tobia? Did you see where he went after he took care of the reporter?”
“No sir,” Leah said.
Charamir tried to look over the heads of the assembled officers and citizens, but his view was obstructed by two large Minotaurs in uniform.
The Lizardman dashed into the crowd, parting them with thickly muscled arms, and found Vince Tobia near the back end, trying to push his own way back through.
“Vince! Follow me!”
Tobia asked no questions, and soon the two officers were a good two hundred yards away from the mob. “Vince, I think I’ve worked out the Hookman’s motive, or at least his pattern of victims!”
“What? There is no pattern, sir.” The Human detective pulled his superior out of the main road before he could be run down by the cadaver wagon.
Leah waved to the two of them as she bumped along on the back of the open wagon, and they nodded to acknowledge that they’d seen her as well.
“Sir, they vary in age, gender, race,” Vince Tobia started.
Charamir waved his hand back and forth, catching Vince’s attention and silencing him.
“Vince, Leah was actually the one to give me the idea, and you too.” Charamir’s heart was beating rapidly now. “None of the victims have been long-time residents. They’re all from out of town. They’re outsiders, Vince! Which means our man is either a mover, or someone who at least has a thing against newcomers into the city. Maybe a little bit of both. Did you find out anything interesting yesterday from that moving company you went to check out?”
“Um, hold on a minute.” Vince reached into his inner breast pocket. He drew out a green memo pad, and flipped it open. He slipped past a few pages and came to his latest entries. “Here we go, sir. One of the part-timers, Ton’tara Mekshu, just quit to go join the Pro Relocation Company. They’ve got a warehouse and all of their moving wagon trains over on Hailstorm Road, in the thirtieth district. That’s Fifth Precinct territory, sir,” Vince said, eyeballing his boss worriedly.
“Something wrong with the Fifth that I should know about, Vince?” Charamir crossed his sizable arms over his chest, and waited for the detective to answer, because the man wasn’t normally the sort to look worried or hesitate like he was doing at that moment.
“Well, sir, it’s nothing big, really,” Vince Tobia lied. “Just a simple misunderstanding between professionals.”
Charamir took a moment to consider Vince’s reputation, his mannerisms, and his past record. The man had a fairly clean slate, though several of his former partners throughout the system had complained about his often brutal interrogation tactics. He’d even made a full-grown Khan man cry once by consistently mashing the poor slob’s balls with his size ten loafers. Charamir hadn’t cared much about that, though; the suspect in question was a rapist, already convicted and sent through corrections once. Without his tool of the trade, maybe he’d learn something different.
“And how simple was this misunderstanding, Vinny? Was it politics? Was it a fistfight? Did you fuck his sister or something?”
“Um, well, sir, his sister’s my wife, actually,” Vince Tobia confessed. “Jeanie has a brother who’s a sergeant over in the Fifth, and they never got along too well. I was at the Spotted Goose a few months back, and he happened to walk in and start talking trash about her to me. I, sort of broke a chair over his head, sir,” Vince said awkwardly.
Somehow, Charamir wasn’t entirely surprised. He’d seen Vince defend his wife’s honor on a few occasions, because apparently she’d been a bit of a tramp in her youth. Vince didn’t truck with anybody who claimed to be an ex-boyfriend or, more infuriating to the man, an ‘ex-customer’ of hers.
Charamir patted Vince on the shoulder and started to lead him around the corner onto Elven Ear Avenue.
“No worries, detective.” He gave the man a companionable shake. “I’ll do all of the talking. Just leave things to me, Vince, and we’ll get all the cooperation we need.”
* * * *
“I’m very sorry, Lieutenant, and I sympathize, but we simply won’t cooperate with this savage you call a detective,” Captain Violet Arrowhead said as she seated herself behind her desk.
“I beg your pardon.” Charamir was stunned almost to the point he couldn’t speak. Here was a fellow police officer, a pleasantly husky Storm Tribe Werewolf woman in her full bestial state and wearing a power suit with knee-length pant sleeves, smiling at him as she refused to offer assistance. “Violet, we’ve got a serial killer on our hands and we may be able to get closer to him! You’ve got to let us work the area!”
“I don’t have to let you do anything, Lieutenant,” she replied, using the rank with emphasis. Her gray fur was slicked to her skin with sweat on this hot, muggy day, and for just a moment, Charamir found himself wondering what she looked like in her humanoid form. He brushed the thought aside, and glared angrily at her. “And you will address me as Captain, Lieutenant Kooteck. At least so long as my office door is open.”
Vince Tobia huffed aloud, stood up, and went to the door, exiting the office and pulling the door shut behind him.
“There, that’s settled,” Charamir said, moving over to the door and office windows, shutting the blinds. He whirled toward the Captain, who had crossed one hairy leg over the other and leaned back in her comfy swivel chair. She undid the top two buttons of her blouse and started fanning herself with a manila folder on her desk. “Now let’s get something straight between you and I, Violet. I like you, as a person and as an officer of the law. But you’re being highly unprofessional here.”
“I don’t think so, Charamir.” She stood and slid open one of her windows that overlooked the city. Her office, unlike his, was four stories up instead of only two, because the Fifth Precinct housed the city’s Anti-Gang Unit on the second and third story. She turned to face him, and sat down easily on the windowsill, shifting her form into her humanoid state.
Hot damn, Charamir thought. She’s gorgeous! He shook his head, cleared the thought from within, and tried to pry his eyes away from her ample breasts and set them on her face. It took a few tries, and she laughed openly at him, noticing the effort it took. “I’m being very professional. I’m taking over this part of the investigation.”
“Bullshit, Violet,” he snarled, sitting down heavily in one of the visitors’ chairs. He put his feet up on her desk, which apparently didn’t blow over too well with her, because her body involuntarily shifted right back to her bestial state. “You’re turning this into a pissing contest, and all because my detective happened to break a chair over one of your grunts’ head.”
“That could have been brought to the attention of the Commissioner, Char, and I did you and that fat son of a bitch a huge favor not doing just that,” the Captain countered right away. She flew around the desk and pushed his legs off of it.
He could smell her thick musk odor on the tip of his reptilian tongue, saw the swelling and retreating of her chest as she panted in the heat and anger. Oh, couldn’t you do that in your humanoid state? It’d look soooo much better, he thought, giving in once again to his more carnal instincts and thoughts.
“I know, Violet, and I can’t begin to tell you how much we thank you for that. But we caught this thing first, and I want to nab this fucker myself.” Charamir got slowly to his feet.
In her bestial state, Violet stood a full inch and a half taller than Charamir, though in her humanoid state she was a foot shorter than he. The smell of her sweat, the swell of her chest, and the slenderness of her body even in this form, all conspired to turn this meeting into one big come-on for him, and he fought against it with all of his willpower. “Please, just, let us do our job.”
She grinned widely at him then, showing rows of dagger-like teeth only inches from his face. She took one step closer to him, and to his own horror, he could feel a part of himself rubbing against her thigh.
Well, that’s embarrassing, he thought. “Is that the only reason you’re here, Char,” she cooed, leaning her lupine snout in close to the side of his reptilian head. “Because you know, what you’re thinking of besides your job is pretty taboo stuff.” She whispered those last words directly into his ear slit.
Charamir, remembering the real reason he was here, took several flustered steps back and watched her throw her head back and laugh as she took on her humanoid form. She shook her head gently, and smiled invitingly at him. “All right, I’ll give you clearance. But only because I like you, Char.” She returned to her seat behind her desk. “When you’ve wrapped this Hookman case up, why don’t you and I have a little, well, less professional chat.” She eyeballed the bulge at the front of his pants that refused to go away.
He cleared his throat loudly, and made the ‘eyes up here’ gesture with his right hand.
“I think I’d like that,” he said with an awkward smile. “And Violet,” he said, opening the office door.
She looked up from her paperwork and raised an eyebrow.
“Thanks.” He pulled the door shut behind him, and found Vince Tobia standing off a few feet to one side of the door, sipping coffee out of a Styrofoam cup.
“Everything go okay in there?” Vince asked, sipping his coffee.
“Just fine,” Charamir said, sighing heavily. He looked down at his groin, and was pleased to see that it had finally calmed itself down for the sake of his integrity. “We’ve got the go-ahead. Let’s get the hell out of here.”
“Not too friendly, was she,” Vince asked with a half-assed grin. “Still sore about me clobbering my brother-in-law?”
“A little bit, Vince, just a little bit,” Charamir lied. He’d done an awful lot of that lately, he thought.
* * * *
Ton’tara Mekshu, it turned out according to his supervisor, had just headed out that morning to service a move paid for the week before. “Guy’s a real blessing,” the Elf supervisor said as he offered the officers a cup of coffee while they walked with him through the warehouse. “Any time someone asks for the day off, he’s willing to come in and work the shift for them. He gets a lot of hours, all times of the day, too.” The supervisor stopped in front of a set of shelves to log in new inventory. “He tells me he was born and raised here in the city.”
“Mr. Waters,” Charamir said, pulling out a notepad of his own. “What’s Ton’tara’s race?”
“Oh, he’s a Human,” the supervisor, Waters, said. He didn’t take his eyes from the shelves or his clipboard.
“And, does he mention anything about his political views or opinions, Mr. Waters?” Vince looked over at his superior with a skeptical look, but was pleasantly surprised by the supervisor’s response.
“Well, he does seem like a bit of an isolationist.” Waters turned to face the officers as he marked the final box on his sheet. He tucked the clipboard under his arm, and directed Charamir and Vince to a square card table that many of the employees used to eat their lunch at or play poker. “He doesn’t mind moving folks from one part of the city to another, but he really grumbles when some out-of-towner decides to go from temporary digs at one of the hotels to a permanent residence. Of course, a lot of the guys do,” Waters said.
Charamir and Vince exchanged a quick, grinning nod, and turned their attention back to the supervisor again. “Has he made any abnormal requests, Mr. Waters? Anything out of the ordinary?”
The supervisor appeared puzzled, and crossed his arms defensively. Oh boy, Charamir thought. This is where he asks…
“What’s this all about anyway, gentlemen,” Waters asked. “If you suspect or know something about one of my employees, I want to know about it right now.” The Elf took off his baseball cap and set it down on the table.
Vince brought the conversation to a close before Charamir could think of how to respond, thankfully. He stood up, sighed, and stretched.
“Thank you for your time, Mr. Waters. We’ll be getting back to you.”
As the two detectives started down the street, Vince paused to pop a cigarette into his mouth, and struck a match on the seat of his pants, lighting and puffing on his smoke. “What was that last question about, chief,” he asked Charamir.
The Lizardman liked and respected Vince Tobia, as well as Leah the medical examiner, but something that her reports revealed to him that it hadn’t to her or the pudgy Human detective leapt to his mind.
“Vince, do you remember the Seventh District Slasher,” Lieutenant Kooteck asked, guiding his associate around the corner.
The Fifth Precinct’s territory was home to a dense population of criminal hangouts, pawnshops and street-side food vendors, and Charamir unerringly veered for a hotdog huckster. “Two dogs, mine with ketchup and relish. Vince?”
“Mustard and sauerkraut,” the detective said without so much as a glance at the Half-Jaft vendor. “Yeah, I remember that hump. Went around the Seventh District hacking up hookers. Seven victims all totaled, hey thanks Mack.” He tossed his half-smoked cigarette to the cobblestone street to smolder itself out. “And when they finally caught him, they found a bunch of the girls’ parts in his ice box. He’d been nibblin’ on ‘em for weeks.” Vince bit into his weighted hotdog.
Charamir raised an eyebrow at the vendor, who had turned from his natural light blue shade to a sickly green in the face.
“Vince, let’s take this conversation elsewhere.” The Lizardman moved away from the squeamish vendor.
As soon as he felt they were safely out of earshot of the half-breed, he continued for the detective, who was still chewing his food. “Yes, we found him because someone mentioned that the good doctor seemed to be keeping the strangest night hours. A uniform officer made a note of it, and brought it to the attention of Major Suren over at the Eleventh.”
“The bodies had been cut apart with surgical precision,” Tobia supplied as Charamir tore into his own early lunch. “Body parts removed. I think the M.E. on that one was Coburn.” Vince Tobia chuckled. “I remember for a while we were running around all of the examiners’ offices, checking them out just to make sure, ha ha!”
Charamir didn’t join in his laughter, because Leah, who worked almost exclusively with their department, had taken a large amount of offense to having her own lab rummaged through as if she were a common criminal. Charamir had still been a detective at the time, but he’d already developed a mutual respect with the Gnome woman. That case and the inquisition brought down on the heads of the city’s examiners had nearly destroyed the good working relationship that he prized so much.
“Chief, what’s your point in bringin’ that old news up?” Vince tossed his empty wrapper into a refuse bin.
“My point is, HEY YOU TWO,” the Lizardman suddenly roared, pointing to a pair of young Wererats who were handing something in a small white baggy to a teenage Human. The entire trio looked up at the officers as Vince drew out his badge and his baton. Thunder magic crackled around the wood of his weapon, and Charamir smiled wickedly at the little criminals.
Before he and the detective could so much as take a step forward, the three youths screamed and darted in three different directions, dropping their baggies and money to the street. Charamir had only been addressing the drug dealers, but since all three had left without their things, he felt even better.
Vince headed across the street and picked up the baggy, looking at it critically. He opened it, took a whiff, and his eyes watered, widening as Charamir approached.
“What was it?” the Lieutenant asked.
Vince Tobia walked a few feet, and started dumping the contents down an open gutter vent.
“Slipstream,” the detective said, shaking the baggy out and then dropping it, too, down the drain. “Nasty shit, sir. Works on Humans, Elves, Gnomes and Lizardmen mostly. Dangerous.”
“Narcotics on it?”
“Oh yeah, and don’t worry sir, I’ve got a few drinkin’ buddies over at the Second where they’re based out of,” the heavyset Human said, standing up. “I’ll have them come around the area and scope it out. Now, what you was saying before. About the Slasher and the Hookman, because I hope you’re going to tie this together for me.”
Indeed I shall, Charamir thought. He pitied Vince his lack of imagination, but damned if the man wasn’t valuable. He remembered every case that Charamir referred to, even if he hadn’t worked it himself. Charamir attributed Vince Tobia’s encyclopedic knowledge of the city’s legal history to his love of law enforcement. If ever a post of command were offered to him, Vince would probably refuse, preferring the footwork of a detective. I think I do too, come to that, the Lieutenant thought.
“Indeed, I am. We took the connection between the medical examiners’ reports on the victims, and coupled it with the offhand comment of a citizen that a foot patrolman had been smart enough to write down, address and all. When all of the factors were added up…” he let the statement hang in the air for Tobia to finish.
“We tracked down the good doctor and found the Slasher,” the Human detective said, snapping his fingers. “That’s right! Turned out the guy had been a combat medic for years, and his wife started hooking on the side because she didn’t think he was giving her enough of an allowance. He turned his rage out on other pros ta get back at her! Okay, so, you’re looking for unusual requests made by movers because, why?” Vince lit another cigarette.
Charamir and the detective walked around another corner of the sidewalk toward a coffee shop. The Human wouldn’t need the caffeine, but Charamir had only consumed two cups since getting in that morning, and he was sore for another dose.
“Because, Vincent, Leah’s reports all state that the wounds were made with a hook. A hook, never the same hook. Hello, medium coffee, dash of creamer, load of sugar,” he said to the pretty young Lizardwoman tending the counter.
Charamir took a moment as the woman turned around to admire the pattern of her scales on the back of her head, as well as the fin-like spines atop her shoulders.
Vince gave him a friendly nudge, and cocked his head toward the serving girl.
Charamir smiled and nodded at his companion, and the two of them looked up when she handed him the coffee and said good-bye. They exited the coffee shop, and Vince laughed out loud.
“Aw man, the look on your face there was precious.” He gave the Lieutenant an amiable punch on the shoulder. “You know she was way too young for you, man,” he added, to which Charamir raised a hairless eyebrow. Vince planted the cigarette in his mouth, inhaled, and led the ranking officer back down the street, back toward their own Precinct house. “I know how to tell a Lizardman or Lizardwoman’s age, sir.”
“Oh, so you know about the, ah,”
“Yeah, the size and stiffness of the scales,” Vince said. “The smaller the individual scales and the softer, the younger they are. How old are you, sir,” he asked with a sardonic grin.
“Oh shut up, Vincent. Look, back to what I was saying.” Charamir blew on his coffee and took a sip. He grimaced. “Too much creamer. Anyway, back during the Slasher murders, the medical examiners all agreed that the same weapon had been used to kill the girls, even if several tools were used to dissect them. The reports stated very clearly that the implement of death was the same knife. Ergo, my friend,” Charamir began.
“If we find a mover who’s been requesting new hooks,” Vincent Tobia said, his eyes glowing with revelation.
“We find our Hookman.”
* * * *
In the early evening, an Elven man dressed in khaki pants and a beige button shirt came upstairs to the detective division of Charamir’s Precinct house. He had in his outstretched hands a large plastic crate, a blue, open-topped affair filled with folders.
Timothy Hollister got up from his desk, one of the few still occupied at this late hour by a daytime officer, and asked the Elf what he could do for him.
“Boss said to send these over.” The Elf handed the unwieldy crate to the Sidalis.
Hollister set the crate easily down on his own desk, only requiring one arm.
“What are they,” the mutant asked politely, smiling at the Elf as the man handed him a clipboard and a pen.
“Don’t know, don’t care buddy. Just sign the bottom line.” The man tapped his foot impatiently.
Hollister signed the clipboard, and bade the man adieu.
Charamir and Vince Tobia came out of the files office behind Hollister, both of them having spent the last few hours combing through the old notes they kept on the Slasher case to confirm their suspicions from earlier in the day. They had thus far read through five of the seven victim reports, unable to locate the last two, but they indeed did find that every examiner had agreed—the same weapon had been used.
“What’s with the crate, Tim?” Charamir asked, rolling down his shirtsleeves.
Hollister had been looking at the copy sheet he had been handed after signing the clipboard. Now he looked up at his superior.
“Well, I don’t understand why, Lieutenant, sir, but a man just dropped these off from a moving company.” The Sidalis held the sheet out to the Lizardman, who snatched it free, glanced at it, and handed it on to Vince, who had removed his tie hours ago.
Charamir dipped his hands into the crate, took a third of the folders, and headed for his office.
“Vince, you take a section, and you too Tim,” he called over his shoulder.
“What am I looking for, sir?” Hollister asked.
Charamir’s office door closed with a loud bang, and Vince Tobia fished in for his third of the pile. “Detective Tobia?”
“Employee requests for hooks,” Vince grunted as he dropped his heavy load on top of his own desk across the aisle from Hollister.
Tim needed no more explanation than that; he knew this case had been eating away at his Lieutenant. Every commanding officer’s first major case ate at them until it lay closed in the file room. Most did not have the good fortune to ever solve their first major case, and they were usually written off as ‘unsolvable’ because the man or woman in charge simply hadn’t seen enough major cases to deal with the situation.
Perhaps, Timothy Hollister thought happily, Charamir Kooteck will break that mold.
* * * *
At fifteen minutes past midnight, Vince Tobia finally found what he was looking for. In truth, he had found what he was not looking for almost immediately. Their primary suspect hadn’t requested a single new hook since working for the new moving company. He had, in fact, requested several days off to get married to a woman he’d met from out of town, and according to the afternoon supervisor’s notes, he had changed his opinion of out-of-towners rather quickly.
However, the day shift supervisor, the man they had spoken to earlier in the day, had ordered a crate of mover’s hooks from Solomon Strafford’s Smithy Shop a week before the first of the Hookman murders. One employee’s request for a new hook had been immediately denied by the day shift supervisor. As a week went by, several more requests were put in, each one denied by the Elven man that Vince and Charamir had spoken with that very same day.
“And as you can see here, Vince, the afternoon supervisor just approved a request addressed to him yesterday. He took it from the day shift super’s crate in the man’s office.”
“We have to find him,” Vincent Tobia said in a rush.
Charamir shot up from his chair and tore his trench coat from its hook on the wall. “I think the Hookman’s next victim is going to be the afternoon supervisor.”
“Right,” Charamir said with a wicked grin as he strapped his service sword on his hip. “Because the Hookman certainly wouldn’t truck with someone else handing out his tools.
“Timothy,” Charamir shouted as he ducked out of the office.
The overnight Lieutenant was sitting at an empty desk, waiting for the Lizardman to leave for the night. Both she and the Sidalis shot up from their seats as Charamir called to Hollister.
“Sir,” he said, saluting stiffly.
“Hollister, get your mace, you’re with us. Chambers!”
The woman stood stiff and erect, suddenly as militant as the Sidalis. “You take care of this house while we’re gone! If anything comes in, any news at all, you send me that pigeon.” Charamir pointed to the messenger bird that Hollister had appointed to him a few days before.
Chambers nodded, and headed into the commanding officers’ office.
Hollister headed off to the equipment room, returning a minute later with his spiked mace on his left hip. “And Chambers!”
The woman returned to the doorway, standing to attention once again.
Charamir smiled benevolently at her, and said, “And if any newsies come snooping around, break their ever-scribbling fingers.”
She smiled back finally, and gave him a comical salute.
Charamir’s blood was up. He felt the thrill, once again, of the hunt.
* * * *
When the three officers showed up at the Pro Relocation Company’s warehouse, they were not at all surprised to find the night watchman inside the small security office, gutted like a fish.
That makes an even ten, Charamir thought bleakly, unsheathing his sword silently from its leather scabbard.
Vince Tobia left his crackling weapon in its loop for the time being, to avoid throwing off light and noise, and Hollister kept the head of his mace low to the floor as the three of them moved stealthily, one by one, through the second door and into the darkened warehouse.
The large interior of the warehouse smelled faintly of dust and grime, and machine oil long since dried into the concrete floor. The moving company used autocarts, useful little mecha devices designed and patented by a Gnome fellow in Desanadron about a year back, and the oil most likely was for them. In the dim gloom of the central chamber, with only moonlight spilling in from the skylights above, Charamir could faintly make out several of the contraptions ahead and to his left. They glinted in the thin moonlight, strange, arachnid-looking devices that ran on an energy source he could not begin to fathom.
Though Charamir and Vince’s movements remained still and quiet in the dead air of the warehouse, Hollister was having difficulty. His large, heavy feet clomped whenever he took a normal sized step, and he wound up taking up the rear of their line as they moved along the outer walls of the main warehouse interior.
Makes sense in a way, Charamir thought rather uncharitably. He’s the one with the huge fucking shell armoring his back. But he didn’t think they would be ambushed from behind by the Hookman. He assumed for the time being that their serial killer was up in the supervisors’ office, which was set at the top of a set of steps against the wall they were trying to approach by way of sliding along another two. A single torch burned dimly in the sheet metal wall’s bracket next to the office door, which Charamir could see was open a crack.
As they slid along the last wall, perpendicular to the one they wanted, Charamir cocked his head to the side and brought up one of his scaled hands. He thought, for a moment, that he’d heard movement out in the center of the warehouse space, somewhere among all of the shelving units and machinery.
He put a finger on his free left hand to his ear slit, and both Tobia and Hollister nodded. Shit, so he’s not in the office. But it’s so dark in here, he could be hiding anywhere, waiting for us.
After all was said and done, Charamir would look back on that night and think that Hollister’s devotion to duty and his mutant body had saved the three of them. One of the autocarts’ engines blared to life, and a set of blinding light flashed them all in the face as they turned to look at it. Hollister, reacting out of pure instinct, stepped in the way of the autocart as it darted toward them at top speed, smashing aside crates and knocking over shelving units. He turned around and crouched down, pulling his head and arms into his shell, waiting for the impact.
Charamir threw Vince aside and leaped away from Hollister as a maniacal laughter tore through the air.
There erupted a sudden crunching sound, and Charamir thought for just an instant that Hollister’s shell had caved in, crushing him under it and the autocart.
He lay sprawled on the floor for a moment, and rolled over onto his back just in time to kick a shadowy silhouette that was standing over him in the crotch.
Thinking he’d just saved himself from the Hookman, Charamir sprang to his feet, and felt Vince’s familiar, chubby fingers gouge into his shoulder. “It’s me, you fucking dolt,” the Human detective growled as he clutched his aching balls.
Charamir, stunned at having struck his own subordinate, looked up then at the crashed autocart. It had crumpled on impact with Hollister, the entire front end crunched up around his shell and leaking thick gobbets of oil from the shattered motor casing. However, there was no driver in the bucket seat, and he scanned the surrounding area with his slowly adjusting eyes, spotting movement a short way off.
The Elven supervisor they’d interviewed earlier was crawling away from the accident, a bloodied hook in his left hand.
Proper procedure would have been to send Vince around one side of the shelving units and take the other, boxing the suspect in and forcing him to surrender. Charamir wasn’t feeling quite so generous at the time, however, and he motioned for Vince to help him push on the unit that towered over them. Tobia smiled, and together, the Lizardman and the Human thrust their arms into the shelving unit, slowly toppling it into the next one, which started a domino reaction.
The Hookman looked up for a moment and screamed as thousands of pounds of crates packed to the rim with people’s temporarily housed belongings crashed down on top of him.
There was a loud squelch, and a pool of blood started to form from underneath the pile.
Charamir smiled savagely, picked up his discarded sword, and sheathed it. Vince looked at him, hands on hips, panting. “Let’s go check on Tim,” the Lieutenant said, and together, the three officers exited the warehouse. Their work here was finished.
Out on the streets, a cigarette in his mouth, well-earned as far as he was concerned, Charamir spared one last thought to the Hookman; Good old-fashioned justice.
* * * *
Excerpt from the Ja-Wen Crier:
Today, officers Charamir Kooteck, Vincent Tobia, and Timothy Hollister were awarded medals of honor from the city’s Police Commissioner for finally solving and closing the Hookman murder case.
Through use of standard investigation measures, Lieutenant Kooteck and Vincent Tobia, along with the assistance of a medical examiner, discovered a critical component of the case. When conjoined with information gleaned from interviews with several individuals, officers Kooteck and Tobia discovered the Hookman’s motives for killing his victims.
With the assistance of Timothy Hollister, who accepted his medal after being released from a local healer’s, the officers cornered and attempted to apprehend the Hookman in Pro Relocation Company’s warehouse in the Fifth Precinct’s territory. Captain Violet Arrowhead stated that she was aware of the officers’ operation, and had given them clearance to proceed on their own initiative and instincts. During the apprehension attempt, detective Hollister was run down by an autocart, and detective Tobia was physically attacked as well. Thankfully, neither officer was seriously injured.
Due to a tremendous amount of resistance, officers Kooteck, Tobia, and Hollister were forced to use lethal force to stop the suspect. However, the city Commissioner had this to say of the trio’s actions: ‘I have no doubt in my mind that the officers involved exercised every option available to them, resorting to lethal force only as a final and extreme necessity.’
This marks the closure of Lieutenant Charamir Kooteck’s first major case since taking command of his Precinct.