“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
My new life began in May of 2076.
It started when I heard the soft strings of a violin, plucking away from across the room. A piano was played not that far away from the violin, it’s low voice rumbling as fabric twirled.
The whine of the violin, the ‘vum’ of the piano, the soft, swishing fur of the dancer’s tails. I watched them in silent awe from beside the buffet, plate half-filled with food on my lap, meatballs stuffed into my fat face. Such grace, such precision, each movement fluid, each bob and weave careful. And here I was, stuck in a wheelchair.
If you told me, right then, that i’d be able to dance just like that in a few weeks, i’d have told you to eat dirt, and besides, the stumps I sat on said otherwise, thighs disappearing at the knee, rolled-up jeans where my lower legs should be. Shrapnel from an explosion took them, along with the only feeling I had down there, too; Spine was severed, struck down just as I got into the apex of my career. Lucky, huh?
I was a cop, and technically still am but, not like before. I was a damn good cop. A good cop.
Like all the others, I went through about six months of academy training, got acquainted with the nomenclature and such, and got shipped out. But I wasn’t in some petty podunk town police department like I am in in now, no, I, was in INTERPOL.
Now you’re probably saying, “INTERPOL? Aren’t they the guys who just tell other police agencies what to do and don’t really do anything hands-on themselves?” Well yes, you’re correct; that’s what INTERPOL does in your neck of the woods. Here, they’re really not the same, not in the slightest.
Here, INTERPOL is essentially the ‘world police’; they supply security for embassies, depose petty dictators, patrol hugely populated cities as gendarmerie if the police are incompetent, and even employ a small private military force capable of rivaling some smaller countries in armaments, the usual. They protect us from ourselves, because no one else will.
Anyways, I was assigned to a special branch of INTERPOL, the Specialized Investigative Offices, or SIO. Think of us as specialized ground troopers, not really detectives/inspectors as we ALWAYS carried guns and were ALWAYS expecting to use them. We were the gloves on INTERPOL’s hands, the other departments their eyes, their ‘army’ the hands themselves. We helped in every little way we could with matters that breached the peace, and I loved it.
I was eighteen when I joined, and I was crippled when I was twenty. The means of which I was crippled are quite unoriginal: I was the pointman (well, woman) in a raid on a Bavarian drug dealer in a city in southern Germany. GSG9 breached alongside me, I had my badge in the air as I shouted, “POLIZEI!” Imagine my face when the warehouse was empty, literally devoid of anything except a bunch of wood pallets stacked in one corner.
As the other officers scratched their heads in confusion, I ran around the room, looking for any sign the dealer had been there. Angry, I kicked one of the pallets on the stack, and was about to storm off when I heard what sounded like a bag shaking right after I kicked the pallet, along with something hitting the ground. I crouched down and tried to look through the cracks between the slabs, and spied something glossy and white wedged in a tiny space between the two. Said glossy and white thing then exploded, and I later learned it was pretty much ancient crystallized dynamite in a bag along with a load of ice in order to freeze it and make it even more unstable, and the bag was slashed with something sharp beforehand. When I kicked the pallet, the bag tore right open, dropping the ice and the stick of dynamite right onto the ground, causing a reaction and subsequently my legs below the knee evaporating into gore as the pallets exploded in my face, sending me at least ten meters back and knocking me out.
Now, i’ve woken up to many unpleasant sights, but nothing is more unpleasant than groggily opening your eyes to blood on your face, bone fragments digging into your lower chest and butt, and two GSG9 members quickly tying tourniquets over the stumps that were a few seconds before your legs below the knee, now looking like bright red pulled pork sent through a grinder, literally spraying blood all over myself and the two people trying to stop the bleeding. At that point I went into shock, vomited all over myself, and went unconscious again. You’re probably asking yourself, “How did she know what blew up? Wasn’t it completely destroyed in the explosion?” Well yes, it was, but I learned of bombs like that after I recovered, and that’s what the official report stated anyways.
My legs were gone and my spine was broken enough that I lost feeling in my pelvis soon afterwards, but at least I healed remarkably fast, physically and partially mentally. I was honorarily given the rank of Sergeant and then discharged for medical reasons (duh), and I went on a search for a home, as before I lived in Lyon, France, near INTERPOL HQ. Considering I didn’t work for INTERPOL anymore and the memories of the place started to hurt, I moved to somewhere much quieter.
The Confederate States of America, more precisely Hillcrest Island, which was off the coast a little ways and counted as a state, apparently. Never really understood the idea of states. I signed up for the police department there, in order to join the forensics team. I thought it would be a nice change of pace. They took one look at my application, then at me.
I got the job within a week, and tasked with being their ‘temporary coroner’ until they got someone official, gave me an ancient text book to learn my duties out of too. But currently, I wasn’t in Hillcrest. Far, far from it.
I was in Venice, Italy, taking a vacation. Six months of cutting open drug addicts and Jane Does is kinda taxing, so a few of the other members of the police department banded together and got me a three day vacation to Italy. Kinda wish it was my homeland of Spain but, eh, beggars can’t be choosers!
I looked into my glass of cheap white wine, something I had watched an employee pour into a large bowl out of a bag, and I could make out the faint reflection of my sad face, big glasses and all. I’m only thirty, but I look at least thirty-five. On good days, i’m thirty-four. And i’m still coming to terms on how I wasted those last few years.
I jumped around a little (sadly not literally) in the seven years before I made it to Hillcrest, and even then it took me two years to just sign up for the damn job. I guess I was trying to forget what happened to me, but how can one forget losing their legs, and the ability to piss and shit on command?
You can’t. Even with alcohol, you can’t forget.
Just like how I couldn’t forget INTERPOL.
And INTERPOL couldn’t forget me.
I finished filling up my plate and wheeled over to a table, nudging the chair out of the way before placing the plate on the red tablecloth and gazing out from the open patio the party was on. It overlooked the grand canal of Venice, a large waterway lined with houses, houseboats, and thin streets that looked like sidewalks to a watery road. The moon hung overhead, full and bright, casting its white light down upon the softly splashing waves. I picked up my plastic knife, and began to cut through the thick wiener on my plate (it was a sausage, get those thoughts out of your head), stabbing the sliced-off piece with my fork before devouring it. Mierda, it was spicy! I don’t like spicy food, which is painfully ironic considering my Spanish heritage.
An odd man walked over to the table, pulled out a chair, and sat directly across from me. I squinted at him suspiciously. “Can I help you?” I asked, putting down my knife before picking it back up, just in case, you know? Plastic is better than nothing.
“To an extent.” The man asked in perfect English with an American accent, quite a rare pair of attributes. He was a Eurasian wolf, that signature orange and gray coat easily identifying him. Quite the rare species to see around these parts, too! On his face was a look of total ambivalence, a slight frown and a deep, worrying stare; an ultimate poker face, if it wasn’t for the fact that he looked particularly determined. He wore an out-of-place black suit, and his eyes were locked onto mine. This was unexpected. “In order to protect you, your name is now Montreza Nappleton.”
Not everyone makes first impressions by telling someone what their name apparently now is. He stuck his hand into his suit and brought out a small file. “Read this file, follow the instru-”
“Okay, okay, first of all, i’m just here for the buffet, and i’m definitely no super spy or some shit. I poke corpses, and nothing else.”
He just continued to stare at me, intently waiting for me to stop talking. “Yes, we know all tha-”
“Oh and now the ‘we’ bullshit. Of course. I’m getting roped into something big, aren’t I?”
“Well if you let me talk i’d tell you exactly what’s going on.”
I gnawed on a sausage, biting off half of it and chewing loudly in order to annoy my sudden guest. He didn’t care, and instead sighed, displaying the first emotion in this little ‘conversation’. “Your time at INTERPOL lead to many sealed cases, and your current job at the Hillcrest police department could do that island a lot of good.”
“Normally I would take that as a compliment, but considering the circumstances…”
“Do not be worried, I am legitimate.”
“Can I see some identification?”
A quick flash of an INTERPOL badge changed my mind. Yep, that was real. I know about goons faking badges in order to get the drop on people, but I had been around those badges enough to identify real from faux, and that was definitely the real deal. “Alright so you ARE real.” I squinted at him. “But please, finish talking quickly and then leave me to my food.”
“I shall do that. Anyways, your progress is remarkable, and there have been a few problems cropping up across the globe, a few crimes that even our most veteran agents are having troubles with.”
“That’s not good. Where do I come in with all this?”
“We are bringing back the Specialized Investigative Off-”
“Okay I gotta cut you off again.” The wolf was getting visibly annoyed at this point, frowning slightly and letting his poker face break, allowing him to furrow his brow at me. I don’t blame him. “I can smell the clichés from a kilometer away. You’re telling me, that SIO is being brought back, in of itself a bad idea as we clashed with the main departments, but you’re coming to ME for help, a crippled woman who is just trying to get on in her years, instead of, I don’t know, literally anyone else more capable than me?”
The wolf blinked a few times, and sighed again before sliding the report next to my dish of food. “If, you read the report first, you would’ve learned that the rest of the detectives in SIO are, in fact, deceased. The only people taking these cases are the average barely-qualified schmucks from INTERPOL proper. No, it’s not from assassinations, some of the deaths are too convoluted for assassins to plan out and they all died of wildly varying causes, the last one only a few months ago. You are literally all that’s left, ma’am.”
Oh you’ve got to be kidding me.
“I’m the only one who’s left? You just mentioned ‘veteran agents’!”
“They’re not quite up to the same standards SIO operatives are held to.”
I ignored him, babbling, “Everyone else is dead of presumably odd deaths? What makes you think I want to come back then, and what gives you the gall to come out here, to MY vacation, to ask me?”
“How does two thousand Forands per week salary sound?”
I opened my mouth to say something along the lines of ‘no amount of money will make me come back to that job’, but, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that was indeed a sizable amount of cash. Per week, nonetheless. I turned away and bit my lip. Crap, this was a bad idea, no, an AWFUL one. But, money…
I made up my decision, and looked back at the wolf.
“Do I get dental?”
Two hours later I was in the first class on a plane headed for Lyon, all expenses paid. Getting through the airport was a breeze, as my ‘friend’ simply marched us right through, flashing his badge a few times when needed and giving what I assumed to be either short explanations or vague threats in Italian to whoever stopped us. My wheelchair was neatly packed away as I was kindly shuttled to my chair on a little fancy ‘airplane compatible’ wheelchair thingy, but it was less of a wheelchair and more of simply a chair with wheels on it and handles on the back, which, now that I think about it, is exactly what a wheelchair is. I messed up my analogy, ignore that. Anyways, I was in my chair, and learned that the flight would only take another two hours of my time from me. Eh, I had nothing left to do.
The blanket the flight attendants gave me was draped over my nubby little legs, and that plus my coat kept me warm. Beside me, the wolf (who still withheld his name) sat in the window seat, reading a newspaper printed in German of all things. Where did he even get that? For comparison, I just had the small file in my hands, which I quickly got to (finally) reading.
The file was unmarked, which I found quite strange, but what was stranger was the serious lack of content inside it, which reminds me of a certain game designed by a man named Todd with the number four in the title. There were only a few papers, and the words on them were scarce and vague. I looked at the wolf, and asked, “What, what is this? What are these notes referring to?” The wolf glanced over at me, that same indifference in his eyes as usual.
“Your assignment. Now that we’re on the plane, I can fully inform you about what you’re going to be tasked with.” He folded up his newspaper and set it on his lap. “Recently, multiple high value items have been stolen from museums, private collections, and even a few government facilities. Things ranging from simply paintings to weapon prototypes, all worth miniature fortunes by themselves, but with the amount stolen, the perpetrators have most likely easily padded their pockets with millions.”
“How do you know it’s multiple people?”
He chuckled, which surprised me. “Well, in the places that had any sort of security personnel, let’s just say that the individuals guarding some of the more protected areas ended up testing positive for HIV after they apparently had a ‘joint sensual encounter’ with a female skunk in a pink dress, who spoke with a French accent and had a styled, almost pompadour-like brown set of hair with the front of it bleached, who also picked their pockets for their keys and wallets.”
“So, you’re saying that a skunk with HIV is partially responsible for this?” Those poor bastards.
The wolf nodded. “Yes, we did,” He continued, “And for a while, we thought they were the sole thief. Until,” He reached over and plucked a small bag from a pocket on the inside of the file, “We found this.” Inside the bag was a few strands of brown hair.
“It’s hair, what does that have to do with the robbery?”
“Well, it was found inside a glass display case that used to hold a very large emerald in a very mad Greek millionaire’s mansion, one that was locked electronically, and it belongs to a cat as guessed by the hair’s construction. Strangely, we haven’t been able to identify the species of the owner; we just can’t find any reference to the exact species in our databases. The millionaire was an ant morph, and had no acquaintances that were feline or felidae. Now, we would’ve taken minor interest in this evidence and then filed it away until,” He reached back into the pouch and pulled out another small plastic baggie, this one filled with less hair particles then the other, “We found this after a museum in Mumbai was robbed. More cat hair, and it matches the hair found in the Greek’s collection.”
“So we have a literal cat burglar working with a HIV positive skunk seductress?” I leaned into my chair and adjusted my glasses. “This seems convoluted already. I’m interested. Any more evidence?”
“Well I hate being an exposition giver, so instead of me rattling off everything listed on the few documents inside that file, i’ll have you read them.”
And read them I did. There really wasn’t anything else memorable to take into account; security lasers and cameras were disabled remotely, footage from said cameras were wiped, along with any footage from the last two days, nothing was broken or otherwise disturbed, and there had been three other burglaries: Another private collection had been robbed of a finely crafted violin in Istanbul, a GSS military base in Trepin (a city state inhabiting the Lake Constance peninsula and a melting pot for the world due to its heavy industrialization and positioning under joint control by the GSS, Aldearian Republic, and INTERPOL) had a prototype of some sort of ‘disabling weapon’ stolen from it (most of the text was blacked out), and a research facility in Lyon of all places specialized in genetic research had some of its research papers stolen, a much lesser crime in comparison to the four but still quite peculiar, and the events surrounding the crime made it appear that it was connected to the other crimes.
In my head, I listed off the facts:
We had two suspects, a female skunk, and a currently genderless feline of some sort, exact species unknown.
Four places had been hit: Mumbai, Istanbul, Trepin, Lyon, and Greece.
Items stolen: An absurdly expensive violin, a large emerald, a random assortment of research papers on heritage, two guards virginity, an ancient telescope (stolen from Mumbai), and a ‘disabling weapon prototype’.
Total cost: priceless.
I closed the file and turned my upper body to face the wolf, crossing my arms on top of the chairs left armrest. “Once I get to Lyon, what am I supposed to do?”
“You’ll get your equipment, meet the other SIO employees, well, employee, new recruit mind you, and then start working on your case.”
“What about my job at Hillcrest?”
“Your duties there are postponed until further notice, and your pay frozen.”
Jeez. So I lost my simple, easy job of slicing up corpses, and in return am going back to my stressful job of chasing criminals across the globe like some sort of super spy MINUS my legs. This would not bode well for me.
Little did I know, it would.
We landed in Lyon around two AM in the morning, and I was feeling a little sleepy when I was wheeled into, not INTERPOL HQ as I thought, but instead a smaller building a short distance away; it looked like an apartment block. “I thought we were heading to INTERPOL headquarters?” I asked while being wheeled into the building’s elevator which sat in the middle of a winding stairwell, quite puzzled.
“You first must be acquainted with your living space. We have rented a penthouse apartment for you, all expenses paid of course.” This extreme generosity started to give me some suspicious feelings…
After leaving the elevator, I was pushed down an empty hall. Unlike the other ones I saw in the building, there was only one door, not two rows of them, and the wolf unlocked it by tapping a short code into the keypad attached to the lock. I rolled myself into the living room as the wolf flicked on the lights, and I surveyed the penthouse; three large windows were across from the front door, each one divided into a three by three grid by the crisscrossing muntins. A black leather couch was to my left, pointing directly at a fireplace and with two loveseats flanking it, the furniture making a C shape. A black wooden coffee table sat in the middle of the C, and a large television was mounted on the wall above above a fireplace, and finally a wooden door painted the same shade as the coffee table was to the left of the fireplace.
To my right was the kitchen, and island sitting directly in the middle of it, counters surrounding it yet again like a C. Whoever set this place up must really like C’s. Another door was at the end of the counter on the side without the windows, leading to what I assumed to be either the pantry or the laundry room.
I’m at the laundry room (what).
I’m at the pantry room (what).
I’m at the combination laundry and pantry room.
The wolf spoke up after a while. “I assume everything is to your liking?”
Normally, i’d say yes, but the fact that literally everything was like a mile above my current position (in the wheelchair) I was a little miffed once again. “No, I see nothing that’s wheelchair accessible.” I crossed my arms and looked at him with a pissy look on my face.
“That won’t be a problem for long, Miss Nappleton.”
“That’s not my na-Hey!” I caught the wolf halfway out the door, grabbing onto the back of his suit after frantically wheeling over to him. “You can’t be stupid enough to think that’s my name, right?”
He looked down at me, and then leaned out the door to look down the hall. He pulled his head back in, and rubbed the bridge of his snout. “That’s the name you have been given in order to conceal your identity.”
“If someone truly is killing off all your previous coworkers, we’d like to make sure you don’t die too. Your new name is to help make sure that doesn’t happen, and tomorrow we’ll have your appearance be modified.” Modified? I don’t want any plastic surgery; I prefer my face how it is, bags under my eyes and all.
“What do you mean by ‘modified’? Do you mean plastic surgery?”
“No. Well, yes, but only minor surgery. Goodnight, or should I say, good morning, Miss Nappleton. I’ll be here at nine AM.” And with that, he was gone, the door clicking as it was closed.
Okay what the hell just happened. In the span of four hours I was scooped away from my vacation, brought to France, deposited in a penthouse (that was quite nice actually), and told my identity was forfeit as was my job, which I enjoyed by the way. ARGH, I wasn’t happy; I was PISSED.
My suitcase sat behind my back in my wheelchair (I fold my clothes as small as possible), and I popped it open on the coffee table before rolling to the door to the left of the fireplace. It opened into a wide hallway that had a door on either side of it, along with a closet at the end; the left door led to the bathroom, which had a large tub and a shower with a see-through glass door, along with an annoyingly tall sink and a toilet. Pretty average.
After forcing myself to get into the bath (which in of itself was a task because the bath was taller than my wheelchair so I couldn’t just shimmy over to it), I thought about how my life was essentially ended just as it started up again; my house was gonna foreclose, my actual job was in limbo, ugh. I began to flick water at the red walls in boredom, looking at the patterns I created. Ugh.
That’s all I could say. Ugh.
The bath was nice though.
After redressing myself and leaving my coat in the living room, I checked out that other door. The other door lead to some sort of hybrid bedroom and study. The part I entered into had a very different aesthetic from the rest of the apartment; the walls were the same burgundy as the rest of the penthouse, but the room was surrounded by bookshelves, completely devoid of books but of dust too. Another large window with nine panes of glass was across from the door, and in front of that was a desk that was scooted next to the left wall, a big leather-coated swivel chair pushed against it. On my right was a pair of glass-covered gridded doors, and inside I saw a pretty bland queen-sized bed with an ugly brown sheet thrown over it, and two white pillows resting against the headboard.
Okay this is entirely off topic but in order for the layout to make ‘visual’ sense to you guys i’m gonna do a quick little thingy, hold on.
Just a few more minutes please.
Now let me give a key for it.
DESK = The desk obviously.
BED = The bed, also obviously.
BR = Bathroom.
+ = The loveseats.
} = The fireplace.
] = The couch.
CT = Coffee Table
KITCH = Kitchen, duh.
LR = Laundry Room
Finally, the equal signs mean doors, and the tildes mean windows. The uh, little bars (minus signs?) mean the counter in the kitchen. That simple enough for you? Good, I hope it is.
Back to the story. I rolled behind the desk and lifted myself into the seat. Comfy. I stared at the door from where I sat, before pushing off the desk and swiveling the chair around. The window overlooked a street that went between two more apartment buildings, before sharply turning to the left and disappearing behind the leftmost building. From where I sat, I had a perfect view directly down the street, and the orange light from the slightly tinted windows shone down on it like a bunch of spotlights, the room I was in included. A lone streetlight sat on the corner where the road turned, casting its white light on the sidewalk, and not a soul was in sight.
I closed the window, and pulled open the drawer on the desk. A few sharpened pencils, some copy paper, and a bunch of lined paper were inside, a ruler too. After pushing the drawer closed and wheeling myself back into the main room, I made sure the door was locked, glanced out the windows, and rolled back into the office, nudging open the doors to the bedroom.
The bed was comfortable, more comfortable than the bed in my home in Hillcrest.
But I had a feeling I wouldn’t be seeing that again.
The wolf was indeed there at nine AM, and I was just finishing wiping the crust from my eyes when I heard the knock on the door. He looked like he hadn’t slept either, but he was dealing with it much better than I was. After pushing me out of the building and helping me into a limousine, he climbed into the driver’s seat as I quietly sipped wine directly from the bottle in the back. It was more sugar than alcohol.
“What’s with all the cinematics?”
“Hmm?” He turned around and angled his head so he could see through the small slot separating the driver’s compartment from the main area of the limo. “I thought you could use some pampering, as you seem stressed, and this job will make you even more so.”
“So you’re trying to… calm, me? Uhhhhhh if the alcohol is free i’m okay with this.”
I promptly began to chug the wine, the blood red liquid dribbling from the edges of my mouth when I finally stopped inhaling it. Wiping my mouth with the cuff of my coat, I shifted over on my seat, repositioning my folded-up wheelchair to my other side and scooting into the spot where it previously sat. Cars zoomed past, the people on the sidewalk fell behind, and bicyclists weaved through traffic. This early in the morning, and already all this activity? It was busier than I last remembered.
After a short drive the limousine pulled up not to the elaborate glass square of a complex that was INTERPOL HQ, but what appeared to be another apartment building. Come to think of it, I think we actually PASSED that building a few seconds beforehand!
I squinted at it through the window. “I thought we were going to INTERPOL?” I asked, turning to glare at the wolf through the slit separating us.
“Not exactly. SIO doesn’t operate in the same building anymore, as the organizations deal with widely different problems; INTERPOL, the big picture, SIO, the little one.” He turned to look at me again. “We’re autonomous. I can take you back to your apartment and schedule another flight for you, if you desire.”
I bit my lip and thought for a moment. This reeks of suspicion, the wine sucked, and my wheelchair kept hitting me with every left turn; should I go on with this? If I go home, will my job still be there? Will I just forget this instance and carry on with my meager existence?
Fuck it, this seems promising.
“No, i’m staying. Take me inside.”
The SIO offices were still in construction apparently, and were situated on the top floor of the apartment building, and when the elevator stopped, it didn’t open automatically. The wolf pulled out a small black-and-purple card, pushing it into an unmarked slot below the buttons for the floors. The shutters separated, and as I was pushed out, I asked, “Seems that you guys haven’t shirked on security.” The box-like security cameras swiveling in the corners of the hall added to my statement.
“SIO currently isn’t operating, Miss Montreza. We’re still looking for more operatives (Operatives? That was a strange choice of word) for field operations (okay that makes more sense). You’re our first.”
Wait what, i’m wheelchair bound? How was I supposed to be a field operative? “Uh, in case you haven’t noticed yet, i’m in a wheelchair?” I turned back and looked up at the wolf.
He just made a weak smile, which only increased my suspicions.
Each of the doors in the hall had empty nameplates hammered onto them, which probably pissed off the landlord but there was no doubt that, if they were harboring a currently top-secret agency’s headquarters, they were getting a fat paycheck.
Or they killed them and just took the building. Either works.
The wolf pushed me to what was originally the building’s penthouse, and as I rolled in, I noticed that it had a similar make-up to mine; red brick walls, large windows, and lots of open space, much more than mine actually. All furniture had been removed, replaced with two rows of desks, three in each row. The desks all had waist high one-piece privacy dividers in front of them, brown like the desks. Don’t know what the point of those were, but, eh. A few cabinets were propped up against the walls, and I saw what looked to be a white-and-black canine of some sort bending over and scribbling things on the nametags with a marker, muttering words to themselves.
The wolf pushed me over to them, and I heard the dog in front of us whisper, “And this one, this is case files for Italy, right? And this… is Poland… hmmm.”
“Ahem, Mister Rihardo?”
Rihardo? It hurt my head trying to mentally pronounce that.
The dog in front of us turned around, saw who was talking to him, and spasmed in surprise. Then they saw me, and spasmed again in surprise. Odd.
“O-Oh, sorry, I was just organizing the file cabinets by location a-and, uh, yeah.” He stood up, straightening his back, and I stifled a giggle with my hand; he was short! Like, around five feet, maybe a little less. They wore an open hawaiian shirt, with light yellow flowers laid over a brown background of the splotchy silhouettes of palm trees, accidentally making it look a little bit like vomit. Under that, Rihardo wore a blank blue t-shirt, and he had some kinda big tan cargo shorts on, along with flip flops. He was faintly smiling, but, he moved quite a bit, and held his slightly-shaking hands together in front of himself, squeezing them as if to stop them from shaking. What an odd fellow.
The wolf sighed.
“Rihardo, meet Montreza, Montreza, meet Rihardo.
I meekly raised a hand. “Uh, hi, i’m Montreza… Nappleton, and i’m assuming, but I may be incorrect, that you are Rihardo…” The wolf fought back a chuckle.
“Oh, i’m, Rihardo, R-Rafael Rihardo, b-but you can just call me Rafa.” He moved nervously, twiddling his fingers a few times before going back to just squeezing has hands together, his eyes locked onto me with the occasional dart around the room, mostly behind me. He must be extremely shy, I thought.
“Well it’s very nice to meet you, Rafa.” I pointed to his clothing. “Did you get pulled from your vacation too? With the hawaiian shirt and flip flops?”
He looked down at himself, and then back to me. “Oh, n-no, I just like w-wearing casual clothing, that’s all.”
I nodded in agreement. “Fair enough.” I wondered for a moment on what to say next, then realized something. “Wait, your accent and name… are you ¿Español?”
He lit up, smiling goofily while still being a little twitchy. “Sí, en realidad!”
The wolf, trying desperately to fight back a smile and failing horribly, announced, “I’ll let you two get acquainted as you are currently the only members of SIO, but do not worry, more are on the way.” He walked off, and Rafa and I began to chat.
After Rafa wheeled me into one of the newly-constructed offices, he plopped down on the pleather-covered couch, and I slid myself onto it.
When he started talking to me in our native language, Spanish, he still seemed quite nervous and stiff, and he looked at me with… horror? I didn’t know if I should’ve felt worried, ashamed, or agitated, so I just ignored it, and over time he began to loosen up.
Apparently, he was a twenty-six year old ‘hacktivist’ as he called himself, who got caught by INTERPOL trying to break into their databases in order to find information on a suspected pedophile he and his group of fellow hacktivists, whose names he withheld when I tried to push further, explaining that INTERPOL interrogated him for their names but he never told them and didn’t plan to especially now, were trying to dox and flood news websites with information on. He was caught, but offered a deal: work for INTERPOL in their new SIO division, and he wouldn’t be put away for many, many decades. He accepted the deal.
I explained who I was, an almost thirty-and-a-half year old retired police officer who was working at a place called Hillcrest’s police department until taken from my vacation and brought there, and he listened with interest… and a look of worry on his face.
Why did he act so oddly around me? Granted, I don’t know how he acted around other people as I just met him with literally one other person in the room, but I made a mental note to observe how he acted with other people.
“…and that’s all about me.” I finished, shrugging. “Still find it odd that an old fart like me is heading back into field-work after all these years, but i’m not exactly smart now, am I?”
Rafa awkwardly chuckled, “H-Hey know, from what I know, you seem to be a perfectly competent, uh, ‘old-fart’?” He said those last two words apprehensively, grimacing a little; he was afraid to offend me! It’s like the poor guy had barely talked to anyone his entire life.
“Heh, see me when i’m drunk. Actually, don’t. Even I don’t want to see me when i’m drunk.” I giggled. “Heehee, well, it’s very very nice to meet you, Mister Rihardo.”
“P-Please, just Rafa.”
“Alright, Rafa.” I extended a hand to shake, and he looked at it in confusion. “I’m extending my hand so you can shake it, Rafa.”
“OH! Yeah, right!” He grasped my hand and sloppily shook it, barely even holding onto my hand.
After sliding back into my wheelchair, with no help from Rafa as he seemed to be still quite strangely shaken up, we wheeled back out into the main room of SIO HQ. The wolf had poured himself coffee from a new coffee machine, price tag still attached. He turned to us and took a sip and then opened his mouth to talk, but instead coughed and spat coffee all over himself. Too hot, i’m guessing. Grumbling, he got a napkin and wiped off his suit before groaning, “Ignoring the mess I just made, i’m glad to see you two warming up, because as I said before, it’s just you two currently.”
I crossed my arms, looking at the wolf with contempt. “Yeah, but i’ve got one last question; what’s YOUR name?”
The wolf smiled, baring sharp white teeth. “That’s a question for another time, Miss Montreza. I am simply the one in charge of SIO, your, ‘chief’ of sorts.” He danced around the question, which annoyed me greatly. Come on, I knew him a total, what, twelve hours? He could at least have the dignity to tell me his name after how long we’ve known each other! That was a joke, but I still found it strange.
There I was, a cripple in a wheelchair, a shaking border collie-lookalike who was more boy than man next to me, and a fool who attempted to make themselves look powerful but failed horribly with their little coffee accident in front of me. What’s next, an amber-eyed idiot of an insect with a passion for short sleeves, pant legs, and hoods walking in?
I nervously looked at the door, and no-one walked in.
Wait a minute, that was quite the specific thought I just had; I don’t know any sort of, quote, ‘amber-eyed idiot of an insect with a passion for short sleeves, pant legs, and hoods’, unquote. Odd, but let’s ignore that.
“Alright. You missed a spot on your left forearm.” The wolf wiped off the brown splotch on his left suit sleeve to no avail, as it had already stained. I then whistled, “Sooo, when am I getting my equipment?” Whatever that may be.
“Once I get these damn stains off my suit, hold on a moment.” Wolfie cursed! He left the room, trying frantically to scrub off his suit with another napkin, this one wetted under the sink, and returned a minute later with an entirely new suit. He must keep spares in the limo.
“Alright, let’s, ignore that too.” He looked down at me and nodded slightly. “Miss Montreza, if you please,” he motioned to the door, and I nodded, the wolf looking at Rafa next, “We will be seeing you later, Rihardo.” Rafa nodded, and I wheeled out of the room.
FINALLY I was taken to INTERPOL HQ, where I was given a choice of service sidearms by the armorer there: the Glock 17, a large handgun with a frame made of plastic and a magazine capacity the same as the number in its name, fit well in my equally-large hands, but I felt a little weary of a gun that had no manual safety, exposed cocking piece or hammer, and single-action only, and after voicing these complaints I was presented a Beretta 92SB. I politely declined; now THAT was a big pistol, and I was shown next a Sig P6. It fit my hand like a glove, better than the Glock, but the lacking magazine capacity and chambering of .356 Auto, or 9mm Parabellum in some parts of the world, while weakly recoiling and semi-plentiful, didn’t appeal to me.
Finally, I was shown something quite appealing; a USP compact with a chromed slide.
Turning it over in my hands, I muttered, “Nice, niiice, this gun is sw-” I looked at the stamping on the barrel.
I threw it at the armorer.
I like big guns, and I cannot lie, and .40 Kurz (or .40 Smith and Wesson as it was once called) is piss poor in every conceivable way. Heavy recoil, negligible power increase over .356, lowered magazine capacity, guns exploding from it. Ew.
I was shown one more gun, and this one, this one stuck with me when I left the building, in an issued shoulder holster stuffed into my coat:
The Colt Double Eagle, matte silver finish, .40 caliber. Not the piss poor .40 Kurz, no, the REAL .40 caliber: 10mm Auto as they called it. The eight round magazine was worrying, but with 10mm being relative to goddamn .41 MAGNUM in power, it was definitely felt good holding in my large hands, which it also fit even better than the P6.
I was wheeled to the building’s gun range, and the wolf put up a paper target for me, pressing the button on the side of the booth, and I watched as the target was pulled twenty-meters away from me as I plucked rounds from a box of ammunition and clicked them into the magazine. Before loading the gun, I locked back the slide and managed to single-feed a round, releasing the slide on the round before pushing in the magazine. I thumbed down the decocker, and the hammer snapped back into the uncocked position, the springy tab of metal also popping back into place when my thumb slid off of it. Bliss.
I slid on my earpro, and left the safety glasses on the table as the pair I already wore would suffice. I took to a typical ‘thumb forward grip’, but found that the slide release dug into the fingerpad of my left thumb, and switched to a more classic ‘cupped’ grip, with my left hand wrapped around the front of my right one.
It kicked, but I could handle it. I emptied the rest of the magazine into the target, taking a second or two between shots to regain my sight picture until the slide locked back, the gun empty. I plucked a warm brass case out of my hair and flicked it down the range, sucking on my slightly-burnt finger while ejecting the magazine of the pistol onto the little table in front of me, laying the empty gun next to it.
“Now THAT,” I giggled as I craned my neck back to look the wolf, who I am now going to refer to as Wolfie from now on, who was taking off his ear protection, “Was enjoyable.”
Our next stop was, suspiciously, a bodmod clinic. As the limo pulled into a parking spot, I groaned, “Let me guess, we’re here to change my appearance?”
“You are a very observative woman, Miss Nappleton.”
“Just call me Montreza.”
After maneuvering the limo into a spot meant for a car a third of its size, Wolfie helped me out, and began to push me towards the door of the bodmod clinic, and before he shoved me into the waiting room after pressing the handicap button by the door (the ones that make the doors automatically open), I glanced back at the limo. It, kind of, jutted out, a lot. As in the street between the rows of cars was entirely blocked, and a few disgruntled drivers honked their horns in useless anger as they were trapped behind it.
Because of that amusing situation, I entered the clinic with a smirk on my face. The place was almost abandoned, with only a sleeping hobo laying across some of the seats with a newspaper over their face and a receptionist bored out of her mind being the few living souls in the room. Wolfie went up to the receptionist, who was sitting behind a thick bulletproof window, and whispered a few things to her through the slits cut in the glass for talking, small enough that no one could stick a gun barrel through. The receptionist, a brown-furred mutt of some sort with a streak of unnatural purple hair surgically placed onto her head, turned to look at me, squinted, and whispered something back to Wolfie, her eyes still locked on me. Something felt off.
Once her eyes let me out of their invisible grip and she turned back to Wolfie, I browsed the little magazine stack on the squat coffee table in the middle of the room. I picked up the stack and read the spines of the magazines: cooking, self care, gossip, it had everything a boring well-rounded stack of magazines should have. And considering how unwrinkled they were, I don’t think very many people even touched them. I flipped through the stack, wanting to look at the pretty pictures, and by pretty pictures I mean stock images of women stiffly standing in various positions with plastic smiles while blurbs about erectile dysfunction and how to toss a salad floated around them.
One magazine caught my eye however, but it was only due to the pervert inside me taking interest. It was a magazine called Starr, a weekly tabloid that talked about the lives (and deaths) of whatever celebrities were popular. On the cover this issue however, was probably one of the most ‘oversexed’ individuals i’ve ever seen: Lupaiya Salerno.
She was some popular-for-no-reason-except-big-booby red fox cover artist who, as is probably already obvious, has some big melons on her chest. The kind that completely obscure her sternum and most of her lower body. Beachball boobs. At least her brown hair was pretty; probably a bodmod. She was wearing a black nightgown that was at least two sizes too big, and had a microphone in one hand, the other one raised into the air as if she was beckoning someone above the camera, and he eyes were looking in that direction too. A large black ledge was visible on the bottom of the picture, and that made me realize something; this was probably an attempted creepshot during one of her concerts that was just not-creepshot-y enough to work as a cover for a magazine. She had some pretty nice (and large) gold hoop earrings on, and some professionally applied lipstick on her lips, which were decently plush for a species with usually tiny lips.
I have no interest in music with vocals, nonetheless the people who provide the vocals. She also looked like a slut, which added to my dislike. The article attributed to the picture was on
Wolfie waltzed back over to me as the receptionist disappeared from behind the desk, slinking behind the wall and out of sight. Wordlessly, Wolfie pushed me towards a set of double doors, and my wheelchair pushed them open. The inside of the clinic looked like a hospital, and, for all intents and purposes, pretty much was. It’s just that, instead of fixing horrible injuries like splinters in your thumbs or stubbed toes for a massive premium, they dealt, with body mods (bodmods for short).
Body mods were a semi-new fad that came into being after some dumbass fell into a vat of chemicals at some factory. They had blonde fur, but after they were pulled out of the vat, their fur was a dark brown. Also their flesh was burnt to a crisp and their eyes liquefied but that’s not the point of the story. After hearing about this, some other dumbasses started trying to dunk themselves in chemicals to die-I mean, dye their fur, and also sustained similar slightly-worrying injuries, but science prevailed, as with the research gained from these people-dunkings led to the creation of new special ‘chemical cocktails’ that essentially dyed your fur but didn’t melt your face, and the rest was history. Nowadays, they’ve expanded into hair transplants (like the receptionist’s awful-looking bubblegum colored hair) and prosthetics. My hair is perfect how it is, big, beautiful, and brown. Those three terms can apply for a lot of things, now that I think about i-hey, wait a minute!
“So what’s happening?” I asked Wolfie, looking up at him.
“We make you not look like you. Everything is prepared and set up, so, we’ll only be here for a short while, don’t you worry.” I started to worry. After a few seconds of silent thinking, I turned again, asking, “How, exactly are you going to make me not look like me?”
“You hair will be permanently altered and colored, your breasts will be made larger through implants, and one last thing, but, i’d prefer to keep that a secret.”
“Wait what, you’re gonna make my boobs bigger?”
“We don’t have to, if you want.”
I thought of the consequences; would they make them beachball sized? Like Lupaiya? The thought of me with comically large breasts wasn’t exactly pleasant, so I asked, “I’m all for it if you don’t make my breasts larger than my chest.”
“Only a… minor increase is necessary.”
I began to sweat through my fur.
While being prepped for surgery, I felt unusually calmed. To be honest, it was slightly enjoyable being pampered and prepared, although I had a sneaking suspicion my organs were going to be harvested. Before they began preparing me however, I had to go to the little ladies room. My uh, bathroom procedure is a bit complicated.
Due to my spine having been severed at the waist in the explosion, a specialized ‘metal diaper’ was grafted to me, WITHOUT my permission. Turns out the doctor for my procedure was some sort of super religious nutwad with a bunch of money dumped into his pocket to try out a new combined adult diaper/chastity belt thingy. I signed the agreement to test it out with the tourniquets still on my stumps, loopy from bloodloss. Yeah it’s just as bad as you think it is; it’s a big metal pelvis piece that, if I could move my stumps, I would be able to move within the full range of movement, and it bulged quite a lot in the front and back. There was a metal hatch on the back of it, inside which held… for a lack of better words, a waste bag. It always filling u,p and dios MÍO the smell!
Sparing you the rest of the details, I poured out the bag, put it back in, battened down the hatches, and pulled back up my floppy pants, which was pointless as they had me undress right afterwards with a female nurse’s help. They dressed me in a blue-spotted hospital gown, and put me into a new wheelchair. As I was rolled to the operating room, I noticed how breezy it seemed to be in the clinic, and how unprotected I felt.
Hell, I felt unprotected ALL the time. I was nothing more than a torso sitting on two useless stumps, and my upper body strength wasn’t that good as I had neglected to work out the last few years. I asked the nurse exactly what they would do to me, and they reiterated what Wolfie said: small breast implants, hair coloring, and something else that she said she wasn’t allowed to say under ‘the police wolf’s’ orders. That didn’t help with my pre-surgery worrying at all.
The nurse, joined by two others, lifted me onto a stretcher and I laid back, trying to not let my worry grow. Actually, I began to chuckle to myself.
In less than two days i’m being employed by a shifty organization connected to INTERPOL and having my identity modified with no idea how i’ll look like when I wake back up.
Life isn’t living if you don’t take risks, and I think this was the best risk I ever took.
They pushed me into the operating theater, and I was lifted onto the bed in the middle of the room. As the lights dimmed, a clear facemask with a hose trailing off of it was placed onto my mouth. I didn’t need any instruction; I breathed deeply.
I vaguely tasted root beer, and then I found my eyes covered with dark clouds. As the feeling returned to my limbs, I realized that I had just woken back up. To me, it had been only a few seconds since I fell asleep, but, it had definitely been longer than a few seconds.
As my senses rushed back to me, I felt my body jump, and the feeling of my tush on a stiff seat. I blinked a few times, and glanced around, the bright lights above me not helping. Doors were passing me, and I was being pushed down another hall. I shifted in the wheelcha-wait a moment.
I feel my butt touching the chair.
I put my hand on a leg. I could feel it through my jeans. Someone redressed me when I was out.
“I can feel?” I vaguely mumbled, still loopy from the anesthetic. I COULD feel.
My boobs hurt.
“Sadly, we couldn’t finish all of your physical changes today.” Wolfie sighed as he turned the ignition of the limo, “Those, we do somewhere else.” I was still waking up, and partly in shock. I pulled my legs in, pressing together my atrophied thighs, then spread them, feeling the weak muscles pull under my skin. They fixed my spine. That made me determine that maybe losing my house and previous job wasn’t THAT bad of a loss.
I slowly lowered myself onto my side, and stuck up whatever was left of my right leg into the air. I waggled my knee, and the excess pant leg wiggled in the air in response to my waggle. Sweet.
“Only a little while longer, Miss Montreza.”
“What, d’ you mean ‘only a little while longer’?” I slurred, sitting up and squinting out the window at the passing cars in the other lane. “Aren’t I, supposed to go home and, reeeecooperate?”
“We are a bit strapped for time, so we’re going to have to rush the modifications. We can’t currently deal with the robberies, but there’s more pressing matters to attend to: the Polish embassy here in Trepin burnt down two hours ago, and there’s evidence of arson. ”
What does THAT have to do with INTERPOL? “Wwwwell what if it’s just a random act of arson? Whazzat have to do with, foreign affairs.”
When the limo stopped at a red light, Wolfie turned to look through the slit at me and said, “I know your head isn’t in the right place at this time, miss Montreza, but this was an embassy, and Poland is not happy in the slightest. And someone spraypainted ‘whore’ in Polish on one of the walls of the embassy, the only wall left standing I might add. Other Polish embassies have been burnt down across the world, and all of them have had ‘kurwa’ spray painted on the side with red paint.”
I began to sober up quite quickly. “Wait, the entire building was burnt down?”
“Most of it, but not all.” He looked back at the light, and then added, “We’re almost there.”
‘There’, I learned, was the Trepin Institute of Technology, but due to a massive traffic jam on the road that we were driving on, Wolfie decided that going to the crime scene first would be a good use of time.
I practically fell out of the car when the door was opened, too weak to push myself back up, and I sat there with my upper body just hanging off the side of the seat. Wolfie had been speaking to a police officer in English before opening the door, and the officer, a red fox like me, gave me a strange look and asked Wolfie, “Uh, is she having a hangover or?”
“No, she went through some, ummm, procedures about thirty minutes ago. She’s still tranquilized.”
“I can feel my legs. And my brain.” I added woozily.
The officer, who had an American accent, blinked a few times and said, “Okay, fine, she’s woozy, she can still do her job right? Because I have a ton of Polish dudes breathing down my neck about this whole me-” Wolfie raised his hand and shushed him.
“Miss Nappleton (there’s that name again) is a professional, even if she is slightly incapacitated, she can still help.”
“I think i’m gonna, HYURGH” I vomited and fell out of the limo onto my pile of vomit on the sidewalk.
The American-accented officer just closed his eyes and bit his lower lip. “Okay, whatever, go do whatever, i’ve got paperwork to do and Poles to deal with.”
Wolfie picked me up (not having legs means i’m relatively light) and put me into my folded-out wheelchair, and I squinted at the carnage in front of me as I wiped my mouth off with my sleeve; the building was a wreck, smoldering ruins that still popped and crackled, embers floating up and away from charred logs. The Polish flag on the flagpost hanging from one of the few remaining walls was half burnt, and as I looked at it, it began to smolder, and finally crumpled against the wall as pieces of material broke off and fell to the ground, immediately turning to ash. Although I had no Polish ancestry in me, I still felt slightly sad about their national flag desecrated by flames.
Firefighters blasted the still-flickering flames with high-pressure fire hoses as others shot down the outlying flames with fire extinguishers, and after someone barked a few orders in French, a firefighter ran up with an arm full of glass bulbs filled with liquid and began to throw them into the base of the fire, rapidly extinguishing it. The firefighters close to where the bulbs were being thrown had donned their masks after the orders were given to the one with the fire grenades, and everyone quickly spread out from the building, not wanting to breath in any of the toxic fumes the grenades gave off. I saw a few INTERPOL Enforcers standing by with embarrassed looks on their faces. Something tells me that they were supposed to be the ones making sure something like this DIDN’T happen.
“The body is over here.” The police officer with an American accent said to Wolfie, sniffing and wiping off his nose with his hand. “Don’t touch it.”
“Body?” I asked. “I thought this was an arson?”
“Yes, but our arsonist had to get close to the building,” Wolfie informed me while pushing me to a small crowd of people, “There was only one guard posted today, and sadly they got in our criminal’s way.”
The crowd parted as Wolfie pushed me towards it, and I adjusted my glasses as I looked upon the chalk-outlined corpse; a lynx in a ceremonial soldier’s outfit laid on the ground, arms at his sides with his forearms jutting forwards/pointing upwards, and his eyes were stuck open with a glazed over look. Yep, he was pretty dead. “Why am I supposed to look at the body? I’m a forensics expert, well, not necessarily an EXPERT but I dabble, didn’t have to do much in Hillcrest, but seriously why are you showing me the body? Why am I even here?” I turned to Wolfie for answers, and he just groaned.
“Miss Montreza remember that you are a detective again. I expect you know what to do.”
I looked down at the corpse.
“Wheel me closer. You have a notepad?” Wolfie obliged to both, pulling a pen from his breast pocket and a small notepad from a pants pocket and handing them to me before nudging me closer, and I leaned forward and squinted at the corpse. His rifle was a drill one with a fixed, nonworking chrome bolt; absolutely useless. It laid by his side with the sling still wrapped around his right arm, so I marked down on my notepad: ‘Drill rifle by side, nonworking model’. His service pistol, the weapon he was supposed to use in emergencies, had the holster unbuttoned, but it still sat in there unmolested. ‘Pistol left in holster, holster opened, attempted to draw it?’. I touched my own holster through my jacket as I looked at it, making sure my own wasn’t unbuttoned, but my eyes were finally drawn to the bloodied chest of the soldier’s uniform. Four ragged bulletholes tore through his dress uniform, leaving bloody splotches all over his chest, and they formed a line across his upper body. ‘Swept across chest with bullets, four holes’.
“Somebody sprayed him.” I said as I tore off the note, folding it up and putting it into a pocket on my coat.
I pointed at the dead soldier’s chest. “See the pattern of the bulletholes? Somebody shot him across the chest with something probably full-auto, like this.” I stuck out my arm, made a finger pistol and rotated it to its side, and did a chopping motion at the slightly spooked crowd in front of me. “He got four across the chest, so there must be at least four shell casings around here, most likely more if it was with a full-auto weapon.”
“The other officers did indeed find a few shell casings.” Wolfie brought me to them, and I asked for a pair of latex gloves, which I was quickly provided. I was provided a latex glove and lifted one of the shell casings away from the little number marking it next to it. I was told the photographers had already taken their pictures, and the fires roaring behind me illuminated the back of it.
A few numbers were stamped on the back of the rim: 9mmx21. A cartridge for places where military cartridges were banned. We were in France; France doesn’t allow civilians to own firearms in military calibers. I knew of no machine guns chambered in 9×21, so this was essentially a dead-end. I began to write onto a new note: ‘9×21 IWI casings, ammo used by civilian guns, apparent dead end?’.
“Nine by twenty one, Israeli, a cartridge for countries where nine millimeter Luger is banned.” I shook my head. “Any civilian owned handgun could’ve shot these, and I don’t know of any machine pistols or submachine guns in this cartridge.”
Wolfie, visibly disappointed, exhaled and said, “Miss Nappleton, or should I say, Inspector Nappleton (I hate this new name he made up for me), I think you’ve done enough here. Your appointments are due, and it is within both of our interests if you get them all done relatively on time, and,” He turned to the road behind us, “It looks like traffic has cleared up quite nicely.”
I opened my mouth to say something, but was cut off by a new sad-sounding voice to our left. “I may be of some help to you, detectives.”
“Oh, I am not a detective,” Wolfie responded to the person I hadn’t seen yet, “I am simply acting as Inspector Nappleton’s chauffeur for this evening.” I don’t know if that was a lie or if it was the truth; the limo made it lean a little towards the truth. I had dozed off slightly when Wolfie began to talk with the unseen stranger, and shook my head before turning to look at whoever owned that voice.
A sad looking gray wolf, similar to Wolfie in the fact that they too were wearing a suit and were the same species but with a much more grizzled face and distant look in his eyes stood there, hands by his sides. “I know why he writes ‘kurwa’ on the walls.” His suit, compared to Wolfie’s, was a size too big and quite saggy, but under it was a man of quite the impressive and hulking size, at least six feet four inches in height. He actually had hair, not unlike me, but it was nothing more than a puff of pure gray (not mottled like his fur) on his head and down the sides of his face, emulating sideburns. A bodmod.
“He? You know who the killer slash arsonist is?” Case solved, I thought, if this guy isn’t bullshitting me, but he looked a little too grave to be lying, then again, he could be a pretty good liar!
“Yes. I know exactly who he is. My codename, back when I worked for the GSS, was ‘Polska’.”
Codename? GSS? Wolfie and I simultaneously gave the other wolf a look of confusion at the sudden shift in the exposition-laced conversation, and he let out a sad sigh. What is it with wolves and sighing?
“It is, a long story,” I just noticed that he spoke with a remarkably heavy slavic accent, “So I will not burden you with it. But what I can say is that your criminal is not European, he is African, a hyena, and i’m the reason why he is doing these things. I killed his mother.”
Things were about to get interesting.
Arson is the act of setting fire to property. Murder is the act of killing someone. Both are pretty bad. Both together, now that’s really bad. And considering the juicy bits of info I was writing down on my notepad as the Polish wolf fed it to me in the limo, the guy who did all this was going to go away for a long, long time. Or six feet under. Whatever comes first.
“…and that is all I can tell you.” The wolf finished, before reaching for one of the complimentary wine bottles. I brushed his hand away and said, “No no no, we were just getting to the good parts!”
“I am not the one to decide whether I can tell you about what I did or not; that is up to the GSS.”
“Do you think the GSS cares about what you tell me in a sealed limousine with,” I knocked on the window, “Bulletproof glass and doors?”
“Yes, they very much do.” The wolf, whose name was Gennady Orlov, an obvious alias, was technically of both Russian and Polish descent; his mother was Russian, his father Polish, and they lived in Poland only a few miles over the border. He spoke Russian as his first language, and he applied for citizenship in Poland and officially became a Polish citizen in 2056, and was apparently ‘chosen by the GSS for a “specialized initiative”’, but he refused to clarify. I doubted there was any truth to this story, but it was all I had. I slapped his hand away from the wine bottle again and he gave me a sad look. Well, as sad a look an already depressed-looking forty-one year old could give someone. “Look, Gennady, can I call you Gen?”
“Gen, this guy has killed someone. The people in the embassy barely escape with their LIVES, and considering that he’s done this before… he’s not stopping anytime soon. WHY aren’t you telling me his name?”
Gennady snapped at me, “Because the GSS will kill me if I do!” I was taken aback by the man’s sudden shouting, and he quickly resumed his sulking. “Look… Mrs. Montreza…”
“Miss Montreza… I don’t want to die just as much as you don’t want to die. Even if I just tell you here, in this limo, with no one else around except for your butler-”
Wolfie pulled back the screen and corrected, “Chauffeur, not butler.”
“Chauffeur, whatever, here to hear me, they will still find me when you conduct your investigation and they see that you’re talking to people you should have no idea to talk to, arresting people you should have no reason to arrest, and finding ‘leads’ you were never supposed to find… they WILL track it all back to me.”
I leaned forward slightly in my seat. “Are you being watched by them constantly?”
“Yes! That is why I do not want to say anything else, not only for my safety, but for yours and your chauffeur’s too. The things I know are dangerous, and i’m sorry that all I could offer you was vague information miss Montreza.”
“Call me Inspector, but honestly, thank you for the information you’ve given me, it will definitely help.”
“It was of no problem to me to tell you those few things, Inspector Montreza.” Eugh, his diction was pretty awful, but the name ‘Inspector Montreza’ had a bit of a ring to it that I liked.
Wolfie let him off at the nearest bus station, and I rolled down one of the windows to wave him off.
Gennady waved back, and as he did so, a jackal with a flat cap on his head, pair of black sunglasses on his face, and one leg bent over the other rustled his large newspaper. Wait…
Most jackals were from Africa. So was our killer. Normally I wouldn’t note that fact, but, so soon after Gennady and I talked abou-wait a shit-tickling second.
“GENNADY!” I yelled as I fumbled to unzip my jacket.
Gennady looked confused for about a fraction of a second before his head turned slightly, and he saw the falling newspaper and large suppressed submachine gun in the jackal’s lap. My spine tingled slightly where the incision was, and I gave up on unbuttoning my coat, simply ripping it open, pulling off all the buttons at the same time and dropping them all onto the couch inside the limo while yanking my Double Eagle out of its holster.
Gennady had a split second to do something, but the gun was pointed at him, and as the gunman was about to pull the trigger, Gennady figured out what to do. He threw himself backwards with all his weight, into the glass window of the stall and the face of a mouse advertising body hair scissors, and it shattered in an instant. I pulled my three dot sights onto the now-confused gunman, who looked towards me, probably thinking I shot Gennady because of how he fell, and tried to raise his submachine gun into a firing position. I squeezed the trigger, the first trigger i’ve pulled in a combat situation for over ten years.
The gunman slouched down on the bench, revealing two bulletholes in the glass behind him. The submachine gun clattered to the concrete, and blood seeped through the pierced jacket of the wannabe assassin. I looked over at Gennady, and saw that he too had his own handgun out as he laid on the bed of glass shards, pointed at the now-dead hitman, and he began to carefully get to his feet. My ears hurt, but not as bad as they would’ve if I had fired the gun without sticking it outside the limo so the sound could spread out; maybe I should invest in some ear plugs.
Gennady walked over to the limo and gasped, “M-Maybe you should use hollow points? Your bullets went through him a, what do you say, hot knife through butter?”
I unloaded my gun as I spoke, responding, “Yeah well I chose ammo that would be able to punch through low-level body armor like butter, but I guess it punches through flesh and bone too.” I pulled back the slide and ejected the chambered round into my hand, pressing it into my magazine. The magazines held eight, plus one in the chamber, so I had nine before the short gunfight.
“What are you doing?” Gennady asked, peeking his head through the window.
“Checking to see how many times I fired.” I checked the magazine’s witness holes. “I fired thrice. You?”
Five shots in total. Gennady’s pistol was nowhere to be seen, and his suit was still just as sloppy, maybe even more so with the glass fragments embedded in it. I didn’t get a good look at his gun, but I think he was storing it in a waistband holster on his side.
The sky was darkening fast, and a streetlight flickered on, illuminating the corpse of the hitman in an eerie orange glow. I just stared at it, and I didn’t see a corpse. All I saw was paperwork.
And all I got was paperwork, along with Gennady’s praise for my quick thinking and quicker reaction times, so that made it mildly worth it. I finished filing away my officer-involved shooting (or inspector-involved shooting if you want to get literal), and wondered about this new iteration of SIO as I did so. For now, it was just me and Rihardo, with Wolfie, who by the way still hasn’t told me his name or mentioned himself as anyone or anything, as our… police chief? It was odd. This was definitely not like it was fourteen years ago.
Rihardo tapped me on the shoulder as I pushed the filing cabinet closed, and meekly said, “Y-Yah know, I can write the reports for you; you can just tell me what happened.”
“Uh, no, I tend to fumble when talking about things that I only have scant memories of, but thank you for offering.” I wheeled away, thinking ‘weird!’. Rihardo seemed to be sweet, but he was still quite odd, even after warming up to me a bit. Something about the way he looked at me… didn’t sit right.
I doubted that jackal was our killer, he seemed more like a hired gun, and the submachine gun he used was chambered in the normal nine-millimeter Luger, and the barrel was welded to the receiver, so this wasn’t our murder weapon. Another life just thrown away like used toilet paper. But it was the assassin’s fault: he threw his life away to be an assassin, and he got his just deserts.
“Inspector!” Called Wolfie from his ‘office’, which was nothing more than a corner of the penthouse with a cubicle wall erected in front of it, and he walked out from behind it, hands behind his back, “We still have, one more appointment tonight.”
“I seriously don’t want to go to any more ‘appointments’. I’m exhausted, I feel horrible, and I just killed someone half an hour ago. Is now REALLY the best time?”
“Yes, it absolutely is, and you will enjoy the results of this surgery, I promise, I truthfully do!”
I sighed, and closed my eyes as I held my head in my hand. “Fine, if you say so.”
The next fifteen-or-so minutes were a blur. Wolfie drove me to a large research center of some sort, I didn’t really catch what it was, but it was a large white square of a building with two ‘bands’ of windows wrapping around the bottom and top floors, most of them obscured by blinds. He helped me out of the limo like normal, and swiftly brought me in. Even though he pushed me past a bunch of security guards and people wearing lab coats, no one tried to stop him, or even ask him what he was doing here; they were expecting him. No, they were expecting ME.
He pushed me into a bright white room, and my eyes locked onto a large adjustable chair, like a Dentist’s, but with more straps, which definitely made me just a smidgen worried. Surrounding it was a bunch of ominous machines covered in screens and assorted displays, beeping and buzzing as they loomed over the chair.
“What, is all this?” I asked Wolfie, looking back at him, slightly worried.
“Machinery and an adjustable chair.”
“No, I mean, why am I here?”
“To show you that your help is needed.”
I raised an eyebrow, and my mild worry developed into a confused look on my face, mouth agape as I tried to comprehend all this. “I’m just a disabled inspector, sir, I don’t understand what this all IS.” I looked back at the chair and machines, mainly focusing on the chair. Wolfie noticed what I was staring at and deeply chuckled, before patting me on the head (which, if I was expecting it, would’ve gained him a bleeding bite mark in his paw).
“Miss Nappleton, with you, a few of my associates can kill one bird with two stones. Don’t you wonder why I got your spinal cord fixed?”
I looked down at the blanket covering what remained of my legs and wiggled the stumps a little. “Yes actually. It seemed so, random. Especially the fact that you took me to a BODMOD clinic of all places to have the surgery done!”
“You’re getting legs, Montreza.”
You could hear a pin drop.
“…you’re lying. That’s impossible, full limb transplants aren-”
“…aren’t developed enough, I know, I know.” Wolfie reassured me and hand on my shoulder. “They’re going to be mechanical, working prototypes if you will. Your injuries are perfect for the test of this university’s newest prosthetic limb design.” He began to wheel me towards a set of double doors as he spoke. “You won’t be able to walk well at first, you will experience severe nerve pain, and you will feel quite dizzy whenever you stand up, but hopefully that will all go away with time. Just imagine, if this works,” He stopped pushing me and turned around my wheelchair, crouching down in front of me with a small smile on his face and ambition in his eyes, “Imagine how good this would be for veterans, for injured peace officers like you. You’re going to be the trailblazer, Montreza. You, are the phoenix, rising from the ashes.”
“I don’t feel like a phoenix.”
“Oh, but you will.” He turned back around my wheelchair, and pushed me through the double doors. “You will.”
A phoenix huh? I looked down, at the blanket on my lap. My eyes drifted from one stump to the other. I’ll be able to walk again. I looked back at Wolfie and smirked.
“I want my legs.”
Time seemed to speed up at that point. Wolfie introduced me to the neurosurgeon who’d be wiring me up for the prosthetics, but I was too busy thinking of the future prospects of all this. I’d be able to WALK! I hadn’t been able to do that for a decade! I would be able to run, jump, kick, crouch, all of it. By the time I was wheeled into a bathroom to undress myself into a hospital gown (and also empty my bladder), I had quite a large smile on my face.
Then I realized I had to go through my average ‘bathroom procedure’. I stopped smiling. Damnit.
My ‘bathroom procedure’ was complicated, due to not only me being previously paralyzed, but because the doctors that put my lower body back together after shrapnel tore it to pieces decide to, without telling me, BOLT ON A METAL DIAPER. Well, calling it a metal diaper isn’t that appropriate. It was more like a very fancy waste disposal system installed onto my lower body. It was stainless steel with smooth curves, as to not snag on anything, and I gave up wearing underwear over it a long, long time ago.
I rolled my wheelchair next to the toilet, putting a cover on it before pulling myself on with the provided hand rails. I put my thumb into the detent on the front of my pelvis and pulled down the curved ‘access door’, pulling out the small rectangular bag full of, well, you guessed it, pee. I unhooked it from the small tube that connected it to my bladder, and promptly dumped the contents in the toilet.
I’m not going into detail with the disposal of physical waste, but after I managed to close my fancy metal diaper up and undress before donning the gown, I rolled up to the sink, which was lowered for access by people like me, and viciously washed my hands. I rubbed the fur shampoo so hard on my lower arms that there were quite a few orange and white hairs left in the sink when I was done. When I left the bathroom, the nurse that had been escorting me around was standing right where she had left me. The woman, a long snouted and longer eared marsupial of some sort, probably a kangaroo; I regrettably don’t know all the species of Morphs off the top of my head.
When they laid me onto that odd chair, I was calm, all worry eliminated from my system. It was probably because of the Valium. I even smiled when they put the oxygen mask on my face, happy that I was being given a second chance. I would need a cane for a while, sure, but I would be able to WALK!
They started the oxygen machine, and the air flowing into the mask tasted like root beer. “Root beer?” I commented.
“Yep, sorry if you don’t like it.” The head nurse, a fox like me, responded as they fiddled with one of the machines.
“No, it’s fine. I actually…”
My previously wide-open eyes slowly closed as sleep grabbed ahold of me. It was almost instant.
What wasn’t instant were the dreams afterwards.
I dreamt of a broken future.
Meeting new friends and enemies. Meeting friends that become enemies. Enemies that become friends.
My body shattered into glass. Now that I think about it, that was probably me remembering my little accident a decade ago.
Blood on my lips. I could taste the iron. Not my own.
Me, standing in the rain, wearing an odd outfit, staring down at some crumpled-up form at my feet, my hands gloved and curled into bloody fists, an empty cuff swinging from one still clamped around my right wrist.
And then, cold darkness.
Precognitive dreams, maybe?
If so, so be it.
My new job was replaced with my old one.
I’m getting my legs back, in a way.
The wolf called me a phoenix. I’m not, i’m the next closest thing. A fake. A fauxnix.
And I will rise from my ashes.