BY JEREMY RIDDLE
About the author
There had been over a dozen attacks on the homes and “fronts” of known mob figures last night. Over 100 people killed in a single night in, apparently, a single campaign. The logistical considerations for such an operation were staggering.
Parks had been assembling a sort of timeline of these events, and he had discovered something. It wasn’t a surprise, really—he had begun the timeline with the notion in mind, as a matter of fact. What he found was that the order of the attacks virtually precluded their having been done by a single group. They were scattered throughout the city and surrounding areas, and one generally began simultaneously with the end of another (The estimated times of some of the events overlapped, in fact.).
It would be impossible to move a significant force back and forth so quickly, so there had to be several groups involved. The larger the number of people involved, the more ridiculous it all got. Who were they? Where did they come from? They shot it out with armed-to-the-teeth hoods and never lost a man. They killed, with blades, guys with guns.
These were the thoughts simmering on Park’s brain when the initial ballistics results started coming in. This would have taken forever normally, but a massacre of this scale brings down pressure from the top of the boss-ladder to start kicking ass and taking names. Especially when it’s mobsters getting whacked and mob-connected politicians at the top of the ladder. Parks poked through the reports and suddenly the world, already turned upside down, did another sommersault.
At several of the crime scenes, the dearly departed had been shown to the door by .45 rounds, pistol rounds. In three cases so far, the same two pistols. Parks matched up the ballistics reports to his timeline. He frowned, leaned on his fist, read it again, just to make sure.
The same two .45s were used in two of the attacks which occurred almost at the same time at opposite ends of the county. Parks had no doubt that, when the lab was finished, all the other slugs would match up, too.
Was it a question or an answer? What he was looking at was clearly impossible, but there it was, just the same. He didn’t like it, but he found he was beginning to consider the possibility that his dream was real; that just maybe there really was some mega-powerful avenger from the future going around taking out mobsters. He knew that was completely irrational. But everything else that had happened in this case had been, too, and this was a solution that fit the puzzle where nothing else did.
The guy in the dream had said The Twelve would grow out of crime syndicates.
Parks was just shuffling papers and telling himself he wasn’t crazy when his phone rang and he got the word that there had been survivors from the last attack. Two of them, actually.
“Has there been another attack?” he asked. It was 11 a.m. Nope; these were from the last one this morning. “Shit! Why the fuck didn’t anybody tell me before now?”
Reality check, Stevie-boy. There’s a whole slew of homicide dicks working this case, and with all the heat from upstairs, whoever cracks it will be able to write his own ticket. Great. Thanks. He hung up, then stashed his timeline and the other reports he had put together in his desk. Then he locked it. If that’s the way things are, he thought, they can make up their own goddamn timeline. He popped his hat on his head and went out the door.
Braden was sore. The cops had been grilling him since they found him this morning. They didn’t want to hear the story he told any more than Johnny had, but that’s what he told anyway. Whatever they thought about it all, it was obvious that Braden had taken a beating, and somewhere along the line they had decided to let him see a doctor. He was taped up, given some antibiotics and pain-pills and sent on his way without even a kiss. Now, he needed some sleep, and the cops didn’t seem to want to give him any unless he told a different version of what happened. So he just grunted and ached and got more pissed off with every itch.
Then this Parks guy showed up and wanted him to repeat the whole thing again. Only this guy doesn’t act like the others, sit and smirk and titter ‘cause they thought it was all so funny. He asked questions, took notes, acted like he really wanted to know what was the score. If he thought Braden was off his nut, he never showed it. Only thing Braden didn’t like about him instantly was that he wanted to hear so much about the blood and gore parts. What did it look like when he shot that guy’s head to bits? Did Johnny squeal like a pig when the dude in black took his hand? Weird shit like that.
Just my luck, the one guy acts like he believes me is some kind of goddamn ghoul.
They didn’t like it, but Parks made sure the other investigating officers brought him up to speed anyway, and after they did he still didn’t mention anything about his timeline. Let the good cops figure that one out. And he didn’t tell them about dreamcasts from the future that jibed awfully damned close with the story the fat man had been telling.
They’d think I was certifiable, and they’d probably be right.
As for Johnny Fabrizzi, he didn’t have a story yet, just a cut-off hand and a lot of missing blood. He was under arrest on suspicion down at County General. It was only a temporary charge, until they could cook up something better. Kidnapping and assault would have been better, but that would have had to have been made on the word of the fat man. It was obvious that someone had tied him up and kicked the shit out of him, and the who part of his story was probably just what he said. But nobody believed anything he said and they hadn’t checked up on it yet. They were all waiting for him to say something different.
Parks didn’t wait. He picked apart some details.
ITEM: Mike Casey, the owner of Mike’s Bar & Grill. Parks called him, and he said Braden had stopped in last night and spilled the same story about what happened to Tony Zip & Co. to a whole roomful of his customers. He said he knew Braden for years and had always had an impression of him as a no-nonsense straight-shooter, extremely intelligent, even if he does talk like a “guinea thug.” Parks, half-Italian, smiled at this, thought “bite it, McPatty,” then moved on. Casey characterized Braden’s demeanor last night as in stark contrast to his usual smooth veneer, and said he had never seen him like that. In the final analysis, Casey didn’t know if he believed Braden or not. He had not yet seen the news about the mobsters being killed.
ITEM: Reached at work, Robert Castle, who had also been present at Mike's B & G confirmed what Casey had said in every respect, though more skeptical of Braden.
ITEM: There had been a street shooting last night of two apparent muggers, done in exactly the way Braden had described. None of the other investigators working on the gangster killings had looked into this yet, and Braden’s wallet had been found on one of the muggers. For several hours Robbery-Homicide had been trying to locate Braden for questioning in the matter. No one had told them he was on cop ice yet, and Parks didn’t either. In the dark, just like me.
It didn’t necessarily prove anything, but Parks had verified the parts of the fat man’s story that were verifiable. There was something else that made it look solid to Parks. It took some balls for the fat man to flat-out say Fabrizzi’s boys had snatched him off the street and roughed him up. If anyone believed him, Johnny would now be under arrest on his word. Samuel Braden hung around with gangsters, and it’s unlikely he had any illusions about what they did to guys who did what he had done in telling that story. Balls, or connections, and there weren’t connections that good.
“So,” Parks thought, “what have I got?”
A super killer from the future? Braden said the guy—he called him the Reaper—seemed to be almost indestructible, eating gunshots like they were candy and coming back for more. On the other hand, he had duked it out with Fabrizzi, and Braden said Fabrizzi had looked pretty good against him for a while there. Also, this Reaper had apparently been wearing a flak jacket—he took it off and left it at the crime scene. Braden couldn’t explain this. He said he had seen the guy multi-perforated from neck to nuts and there was no way this was just some guy with a vest. The lab was picking the vest apart now. Then there was what the Reaper had told Fabrizzi:
For Harold King and what you would do to the future, you will die by my hand.
Of everyone in the entire world, Parks was the only one who could provide a possible explanation for the second part of that statement. If Fabrizzi was somehow a progenitor of The Twelve, it made sense that the Reaper would kill him. Or maybe it was the Fabrizzi organization. Whatever. Whoever Harold King is, and how he fits into all this Parks guessed time would tell.
Parks sighed, leaned back in his chair. “Do I really believe all this?” He couldn’t bring himself to fully commit to it. “This is just gone!”
He found himself revisiting all the old mind exercises he used to play in his youth when confronted with time-travel stories, trying to apply them to the current situation. If the guys that contacted me were from the future, wouldn’t they already know if the Reaper succeeds or not? Or maybe they’re only from a possible future.
If this is the case, why would the Reaper contact them and tell them of his plans in a future that will no longer exist if he succeeds? (Or that will only exist as some sort of alternate universe.) Parks actually came up with a flimsy answer for this—the Reaper wanted a record of his deed somewhere, if only in some obscure alternate universe—then he came up with a more solid one—that the Reaper had done this because, in their time, they had the ability to contact me in the past. My, but didn’t that make Mother Park’s little boy look important! Always nice to think you make a significant impact on future events, and, in so many words, that’s exactly what the dude from the future had told Parks.
This was more fun than a paddy-wagon full of whores, but it was getting him absolutely nowhere. He still hadn’t convinced himself that he believed any of this, and he was wasting time trying to avoid doing so.
Then something happened.
The phone rang. It wasn’t his phone, but he answered it.
The voice was smooth and precise. “It’s all true, Mr. Parks. All of it. We trust you will act accordingly.” There was a click, then a dial-tone.
Parks just sat for a while with the phone to his ear, probably looking pretty stupid. Then he hung it up. It wasn’t his phone. He didn’t know whose it was; he had just sat in the first chair at the first empty desk he had come to after talking to Braden. He was in a broken-down precinct house he had only been in once before, many years earlier. No one knew he was here except three homicide detectives and his friend Pat Essen from bunko. Essen was the one who had called him at his office and let him know what was up with Braden and Fabrizzi. It wasn’t Essen on the phone just then. It wasn’t the three bastards from homicide; Parks could see them in semi-huddle around a desk not far from where he sat.
Even if it had been one of them, they couldn’t have read my mind.
Parks got up and headed downstairs to the holding cells. No one else would ever believe the story Samuel Braden had told. All the major crime families with operations around the city had lost people last night, and they’ll all come gunning for him. On the other hand, the cops will pin something on him, probably the killing of those muggers, and, even if it didn’t stick, it would put him in a cage for a while, and a while is all the syndicates would need. Left where he was, his goose was cooked. To ashes.
Parks came to Braden’s cell and opened it up. “On your feet, fat man; time to go.”
The guys who had brought Braden in wanted to sweat him down and come out heroes for cracking the uncrackable case. They had taken him to this particular station because it lacked certain modern amenities that would have made secrecy impossible. Things like logging in everyone who goes back to the holding cells. There was no official record of Braden ever having been here or of Parks ever seeing him. Parks was able to lead Braden right out the front door, no questions asked. At a curious glance from the desk sergeant, Parks gave him a knowing nod. The desk sergeant didn’t know, but he nodded right back and let them go just the same.
They got outside and Parks took Braden to his car. “Get in.” Braden gave him a hard look. He didn’t know what was up, but then whatever it was, he must have resigned himself to it; he got in. Parks got in, started the car.
“Must be your lucky day, my friend,” Parks said. Braden grunted. Parks drove a few blocks from the station and pulled over to the side of the road, turned to Braden.
“Here’s the score,” he said, and told Braden what it was. Braden took it all in without comment. At the end, Parks said, “I’m turning you loose. You’ve got to disappear.” Easier said than done, Parks thought; Braden was the dictionary definition of “conspicuous.” But he didn’t argue the point, either. “Anywhere I can take you?”
“Bus station,” Braden said.
“Doesn’t matter. Got any money?”
“Enough for a bus ticket, anyway.” And they went.
Braden was broke, beat up, and sleepy. The cop had given him enough money for a bus ride—he didn’t know where to, yet—and there would be a little left over, but not much. He didn’t know where he was going to go or what he was going to do when he got there.
I guess I’ll have ta’ make it up as I go along.
He was shuffling up to the desk to buy his ticket, when a kid—couldn’t have been more than 17 or 18—walked up to him, said his name. Braden froze, figuring he was done for, but nothing happened. The kid looked at him, sort of grinned.
“We have a mutual friend who requires your assistance.”
Braden looked at him, uncomprehendingly.
“He asked you to tell what happened. You did. Now, he needs you again.”
Braden thought he was getting the picture, then a voice in his head removed all doubt. “Go with him, Samuel Braden, and you will be safe.” He knew the voice, so he smiled and went along.
Death Deals is copyright Jeremy Riddle. It may not be copied or used
for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews.
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