CUNNING Chapter One: Business as Usual

DISCLAIMER: This story was written and published in 2012 and has been kept up to show the writer’s growth. It is not intended as professional quality

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It was eleven thirty at night when I returned to the hotel. My rain-soaked trenchcoat clung to my body, and every inch of exposed skin was freezing. The hotel offered little warmth, but it would have to do. Ice cold water filled my shoes and tapped the ground from my coat like a faucet drip. I took a quick sip of my coffee to try and warm up. It didn’t help.

I surveyed the place quickly. The hotel stank of cheap wine and aftershave. The lobby was highly decorated with pricy leather furniture. Painting of all sorts adorned the wall, including one of the building’s founder over the fireplace. The walls alone seemed to be worth their weight in gold. This place was for the wealthy and I wasn’t invited.

Off to the left side stood a maid being questioned by two cops. A translator stood next to one of them. My guess would be she didn’t speak any English. The stairway off to the right was plastered with red tape.

As if in cue, my partner Brock hustled down the steps. He was younger than me, but then again, most people I come across are. He wasn’t quite a rookie, but he hadn’t had his big break. He didn’t know how tough this business could be…yet.

He was shorter than me, yet in much better physical condition. And again, most people are. Brock approached me and offered a firm handshake.

“What do we got?” I asked in my usual stern voice.

“A…dead body, sir.” he told me in a puzzled tone.

“I know that.” I rolled my eyes and told him to walk with me. We made our way past the red tape to the hotel room. I took another sip of the coffee. Its temperature had dropped already. “We got any identification yet?” I asked.

“No…” he told me, his voice trailing off.

“Evidence?” I asked lightning quick. I didn’t have time to beat around the bush.

“We found a pad of paper and a pen. Blood stain on the paper.” Brock’s voice was almost robotic. He had been trained well but he wasn’t invested in what he was doing.

Gradually we approached the room. “Blood stain on the paper.” he continued to report, “I sent it to forensics for DNA analysis.”

“Anything on the paper?” I asked. We traded questions. Just business as usual.

“A list of crimes the dead man committed, sir…at least nine murders.”

When we finally arrived my hand reached for the door- but it froze at Brock’s words.

“Wait!” he warned, his voice full of alarm, “I have to warn you. It’s pretty disturbing.”

I shot him a look as if to say ‘are you kidding me?’ and proceeded to open the door. “Growing up on the streets gives you your fair share of horrors. I’m sure I can handle…” my voice tailed off at the sight, “this….”

On the ground lay an African American, his face swollen twice it’s usual size with purple bruises. His body was twisted and mangled. His right foot nearly touched his head. His right index finger was missing. Limbs were bent in several places. I counted at least fourteen fractures. Deep cuts adorned his body and held blood like a series of cups. A pool of crimson had seeped onto the hardwood floor. At least three vital organs could be seen. I struggled to keep my dinner in my belly.

Brock crouched over the body and examined it with catlike curiosity. He pulled out a few tools and began a rough autopsy. “A bullet through the brain, the heart, and the spine.” he noted. “Don’t see why whoever did this went to the trouble after all this—”

“It’s a message.” I cut him off. He turned his gaze over to me, still in his crouching position. He tilted his head slightly to the side. “What?”

“It’s a message. He’s saying this guy is a cowardly, heartless idiot.”

Brock let out a small chuckle and continued his autopsy.”You think he was a Wizard of Oz fan?”

My eyes dug into his soul with a mind numbing stare. He shut up quick and went back to his work again.

I had seen enough. Just looking at the body washed away whatever cold I had before. My stomach felt like it had a weight in it that kept churning. I pivoted backwards and made my way to the door. Just when I took a step forward I heard the sound of loafers against a hard wood floor. A familiar voice sounded. “His name is Louie Russo.” he said. “He was a hired killer for the Lombardi Crime family…or was.” he let out a small cough. In the doorway stood Commissioner Mason. He soon invited himself in and paced around the room. “Whoever did this hated him.” Obviously. “I mean, they could have shot him and been done with it.” He cast a sorrowful glance over at the body. By now the pool of blood surrounding him had dried into a thick paste. “Instead they took the time to do this.”

“But he deserved it.” Brock chimed in. “Didn’t…he?” he said, less sure of himself. “I mean…he killed others in the past…he had this coming, right?”

When he spoke my blood began to boil and my skin crawled. My eyes lit up with anger. I let out a long sigh to try and contain myself. “Murder is murder, kid. It doesn’t matter who did it or who the victim is.”

Mason slapped me on the back and smiled warmly while he made his way around me. “Always stoic, aren’t you, Jack?” he made his way for the door and made a final remark on his way out. “Since you and your partner seem so heavily invested in this case…I’d like to assign it to you.” With a bang the door slammed shut.

I buried my face in my hands. “Christ…” I muttered. Without looking I made a quick motion to Brock, “Go fetch me another coffee, kid…it’s going to be a long night.”

I cracked my knuckles loudly. Just business as usual…

*** *** ***

I walked briskly outside, my trenchcoat wrapped tightly around me for warmth. The rain whipped in my face and stung my eye. It was a long night for investigations. I had to get to my car and I could barely see! I felt a slight bump as I passed by to see a lean skinny man walking past me. His press pass fluttered in the cool breeze. “WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING, PAL!” I shouted to him.

“SAME TO YOU, BUDDY!” he shouted with a bitter tone in his voice. He jammed his hands into his pocket and started towards the hotel. Boy was he in for a surprise.

I fumbled with my keys for a good half a minute before managing to unlock my car. First thing I did was turn on the heat and press my hands against the A.C. I knew I had to get out of Chicago. It was going to be the death of me.

Author: Connor M. Perry

From an early age, Connor learned how to divide by four. Imagine, for a moment: Connor being born. Two minutes later, he discovers there are three other newborns hot on his heels. He was, as it turns out, a quadruplet. And from that moment on, he needed to learn to share. Everything. At an early age, Connor took to writing so that he could have something that was his. He began writing small stories online for his own enjoyment, and gradually moved to more ambitious ideas. He's published Hush Little Baby on an e-zine called Microhorror (a site that's now defunct, so you'll have to take him at his word) as well as Stragglers in the Cold and Rivenrock in Sword and Sorcery Magazine. He's enjoyed creating the different worlds, characters and relationships you'll find in his stories. He currently lives in Worcester, MA with his girlfriend, two cats, and a collection of swords.

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