Saturday, February 27, 2010

Braudel: Fate, and a Break, on Jammed Streets

This is from the Prologue to Bounty Hunters: Crowded, unraveling Manhattan, March of 2109. Braudel's homicide squad is slammed; he has two red-ball cases running at once. He's solved one, made the 'vid and the street papers, but can't get caught up on the other. At the new homicide in this series, he gets a tip handed to him from one of the first officers on the scene. He has no idea that his tipster is another investigator doing tactical. Or that he will be on her investigation team later in the year.

Eventually the wagon came for the vic. Fricke and Verdero were waiting for someone to lock up. Braudel walked two blocks to Paddy Brickell’s Irish Pub and ‘Dub Station. This made the sixth knife murder in an all-night grocery store in three weeks, and he was the investigator for all of them. The Boiler Case had taken his full attention for one of those weeks. He needed momentum. So maybe this ‘dub.

The back stairway was plain. He pushed on the door, hand on his Lapis. She sat on the plastene-covered mattress, applying mascara. Great ankles. Two sleeves of gaudy tattoos: this trickster was never leaving the curb.

“I’m recording this conversation, Miss. We’re here for my job and not yours.”

“Right, Spike.” She batted her eyelashes at him. “Your jerk is five-seven or so, very light brown, with brown hair. He’s called Barrata, and he’s mean as shit. He lives somewhere around the Crimson Club. Or so Cat Charlie says. That’s on East 23rd.” She held out her ‘dub registration card. “I wasn’t there. I only caught the Cat. You want a wit to that, there isn’t one.”

He checked his Police Pad. Her name was Lily Smile, born Las Vegas, Nevada as Lily Miles. Her ‘dub stats were in order: no priors. He didn’t believe her anyway.

“Where’s this Charlie Cat? I want to talk to him.”

She shrugged. “Cat Charlie’s a street kid. Won’t talk to a cop, Braudel.”

So she knew him from the ‘vids, too. Because he’d never run into her before.

She stood, slinging her bag onto her shoulder. “That’s one big you owe me, if this Barrata checks out.” She plucked her ‘dub card out of his hand. “Good work on the Boiler Case.”

Okay, fine: it was a tip, anyway. “Don’t call me Spike the next time we meet. You know my name.”

She started on his shirt.

“No.” He put his hands around her wrists. She looked up: dark brown eyes like his, only larger, painted. He smelled perfume, a little sweat. He never did ‘dubs. He liked amateurs, the babes who wanted to dance, play, get busy for laughs.

But just this once: make the spot and get some sleep.

She finally spoke. “I’m buttoning, not unbuttoning.”

He looked down. Yeah, he’d dressed in a hurry all right. She disengaged her wrists.

“I like kids, you know. So I mean it, about the Boiler thing. Take care of yourself.”

“Is Cat Charlie a boy or a girl, Miss Smile?”

“Didn’t drift that past you, huh?” She grinned at him. “I’ve never been sure. The Cat’s too young to tell.”

She slid her skinny lacy ass out. Braudel used his PolPad and started looking up Barrata in the cop’Base. It didn’t work. He tried some variations: finally Barry Resata, 616 East 23rd, previous convictions for StreetKing possession, right description.

Braudel got on his TeleSat. A sweet nice face showed on the ‘screen.

“Officer Verdero, you’re detailed to me and my heap until I say otherwise. Call it in and then wait for me.”

He sat down on the rent-a-bed just for a minute. He put his elbows on his knees and rested his head on his hands. Two dead girls appeared inside his eyelids: the ones that kept him from sleeping, the ones in the boiler.

Time to get moving. He walked into the bar, still wondering if Lily’s tip was a set-up.

“You know Lily Smile?” He had to shout over the prismatic banshee band.

Brickell’s face lit up. “Fine bartender, sweet girl,” he yelled back. “She treat you right?” He pointed. “You don’t look happy.” He laughed, but Braudel couldn’t hear it.

Braudel lifted two fingers. “Tell me about her.”

Brickell poured two coffees, yelling, “Stops in sometimes. That’s all I know.”

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