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Heroin and Hell: A FAH Mystery

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

#FAHnARTChallenge: A FAHn Novel in 31 Days

I have set myself a challenge of writing a FAHn novel in 31 days. I wanted this to be manageable [haha], so each chapter will be just one page [between 600 - 750 words], single spaced, 12 pt font, and will use the word of the day in some way that is integrated into the storyline. Readers will see the word in bold, so that it is easily recognizable. Each day, at no particular point, but certainly before midnight Central time in the US, I will upload a new chapter to this blog post.


This photograph (above) of Arms is by the Dublin photographer Luca Truffarelli. Please visit his website to see more of his work: lucatruffarelli.com. The image was modified by our resident researcher in the FAHn Facebook group, Irma Alejandra Gomez. She tells me she used a "peeling paint" filter to add texture to Arms's face and adjusted the exposure "to pop the highlights and deepen the shadows that were already present in the original version." . I think the photo came out brilliantly and suits the plot of this fahn fiction story so well. If you're interested in learning more about the fahn group or about FAH trot on over there and join because Alejandra has dug up a lot of fabulous FAH info that she regularly shares with us, much to our joy!


Some background: this is a Swine's detective agency mystery. The main characters are Foil, Arms, Hog and Mildred, their trusty "girl Friday," and a whole host of new characters. The time is 1954 and the setting is Los Angeles, California. If you want to read the original novel that I wrote about the Swine's Detective Agency then go to "Detective Novels" on this website and you'll see The Case of Warehouse 1. Red Ribbon Murders is the second novel in the series that I'm writing, but that is still a work in progress and has not been finished yet.


TRIGGER WARNINGS: references (some blatant, some implied) to rape, drug use, physical abuse, sex work, and racial slurs (which are appropriate for the time period.)


GO TO CHAPTER 30


#FAHnARTChallenge Day 1: Artist


Prologue

Demons


Arms lay in a dreamy haze on something soft. Waves of euphoric pleasure wafted over him and he felt his body flood with intense warmth. He was in another time and place, for someone was lifting his head and giving him a sweet liquid. He drank and gently settled into the scented cushions. His eyes were closed, he couldn’t bring himself to open them. He tried, but failed, falling deeper into a drugged stupor.


In his visions, he saw her as she stood in the golden fields. It was always her, always the one woman who he had loved long ago. She moved in and out of sight. There she was again, beautiful but distant, a memory that never faded. She was an artist and painted pictures that were so real he felt he could step into them and walk to the ends of the earth with her. Now, he reached out to touch her, or so he thought, but could not grasp the figure. In his frustration, he moaned, and the same someone who had given him the sweet elixir, now dragged a cool washcloth across his forehead with feeble care.


He lay in semi-darkness, lost to the world, to reality, to friends, family, even foes. A woman with bedraggled blonde hair and a tight-fitting dress knelt next to him, staring at the man who she had been told to watch, to care for, and to do that other thing. She didn’t want to think about it now as she looked into the face with the closed eyes and the shock of black hair. He was handsome, she could tell that underneath the beaten features, but now he was also sick from the drugs. The poor creature who lay before her was shivering and sweating. He would need more and it was her task to cook the tar-like substance and inject him. The light in the room came from a streetlamp outside one dingy window and the tiny fire that burned underneath the spoon. As she brought the needle out to give him another hit, she felt the oppressive weight of doing something terribly wrong and she hated herself for it.


The heroin was enticing and plentiful; it had been given to her by the men who brought her to this room of pain. Here they visited her regularly and preyed upon her. She was used to the danger of men, having worked the streets for years, but now she was caught and couldn’t get away. Often in cooking the drug, she felt the effects of its potency, even if she didn’t shoot up the mixture herself. She was lightheaded and had an urge to lie down and go to sleep forever. She willed herself to stay alert, but the hours seemed to stretch ahead of her endlessly. She did not know when her captors had dragged the man through the door and dropped him at her feet. She had lost count of her days in captivity.


“Here’s a deadbeat for ‘ya, girlie,” and they laughed at her, as she moved quickly behind the one piece of furniture, a grungy couch, to escape their hands. But on this visit, she was spared because they needed her. They needed her to perform a task, several tasks in fact, and so they didn’t touch her, or not much, but instructed her instead to keep the nameless man drugged. Clumsily, they showed her how and what to do, impatient with her from the start.


“Don’t fuck it up!” one of the two men had growled at her, as if there was even an option to do so.


It was a strange life now that she led, if it was a life at all, for dying seemed a much better alternative to this horrible purgatory of watching over a man she did not know and forcing drugs into his veins. She wanted to stop, to leave him alone, but the men who came menaced her and forced themselves upon her so that she could only do what they commanded. In very quiet moments when she was completely alone in the dead of night with the man on the ground, she lay down next to him, feeling his warm body against hers and longing to be back on the streets again.


#FAHnARTChallenge Day 2: Costume


Chapter 1

The Swine’s Agency


7 days earlier . . . August 16, 1954


Mildred was wearing her usual costume, or at least that is what Hog liked to call it, for she was flamboyant with color and on this Monday morning the flowers on her dress seemed to jump out in their neon brightness. Foil Arms and Hog spent their days meeting with clients, following up leads, interviewing suspects, and hunting down information on the streets of Los Angeles. As their all ‘round “girl Friday” Mildred provided stability and a sense of cheery lightness in an otherwise very dreary world of crime. The detectives valued her competence, thoroughness, organizational skills, and her reliability. She was a woman of charm and many talents; and she was a woman with her own distinctive style. Her hair was especially striking, as it was dyed platinum blonde, the large curls framing her face like an oversized halo. She was of indiscriminate age, though clearly leaning into her 60’s, and she had a flair for baking that kept the detectives well satisfied on a daily basis.


She arrived to the agency that morning singing to herself in a slightly off-key voice. It was a popular melody she had heard on the radio and she hummed the tune as she surveyed the chaotic piles on her desk, left by busy detectives who toiled away 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. It was Arms who demanded that the detectives keep meticulous notes on their cases, but it was up to Mildred to organize everything, type up the messy and rushed handwriting and file it all away in a timely and orderly manner. The haphazard nature of the piles indicated to her that it had been a busy weekend for the three men.


As she readied for the day, she could hear Arms’s blues music floating down the hall to her office, the twang of the steel guitar reminding her that he would surely be nursing a glass of Famous Grouse whiskey and working on a case. He did not want to be disturbed. The door off the alley opened and Mildred heard steps coming down the hallway. She had worked for the detectives for so long that she recognized each man’s distinctive footfall and she knew that Foil was arriving. He was a jocular character who loved to tease and make her laugh. He rounded the corner into her office, bright green eyes scanning the room quickly, and said, “good morning, Mildred! You’re lookin’ lovely today!”


He said this every time he saw her, but it always made her feel appreciated. She was certainly confident in her own skin, but it was nice to hear the compliment nonetheless. She reached behind her and brought out a plate full of brownies and watched Foil’s eyes light up. “Yes, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” thought Mildred for the millionth time. “Here you are sir, fresh this morning, and ready for the taking,” and she placed the platter down before him.


“You do know how to spoil a man, Mildred,” said Foil, laughing naturally at his own observation. He looked so like the child she had lost, her son Ronald, that she had felt a strong and admiring affinity for Foil from the day she started to work for the agency. In other words, Foil was and always had been her favorite.


Hog rolled in a bit later looking like a man well cared for by a devoted wife. “Good morning, Ms. Flynn,” said Hog, ever the professional. Though Arms and Foil always called her Mildred, there was something that kept Hog from crossing that personal line. She had gotten used to him and his different ways in the office. He was, after all, one of the best detectives in LA and he seemed to compel respect from everybody, no matter what strata of society they came from. Mildred was equally as professional, but there was a twinkle in her eye as she glanced at the plate of brownies and lifted it towards, him. “Good morning, sir,” she said kindly.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 3: Phone


Chapter 2

A Beginning . . .

6 days earlier . . . August 17th


Foil’s phone rang in his office on Tuesday morning and he heard his friend George on the other end of the line. This was Sergeant George Theobald of the Los Angeles Police Department, head of the narcotics squad.


“Hey Finegan, how ya’ been?” and Foil had an immediate feeling of camaraderie and warmth.


“George! Good to hear from you. It’s been a few years. How’s Ruth?” asked Foil, unsurprised at his friend’s sudden surfacing after all this time.


“Yeah, she’s good as gold. Say, listen, Finegan, I got an important case on my hands and I’m putting together a group of men to work with me on a dope smuggling ring connected to Europe, but coming in through Mexico. We’ve had a string of low-level drug dealers shot and killed execution style on the south side of LA. The bodies float up at the port, so they’re being dumped somewhere in the water. You interested?”


This question seemed pointless to Foil. He and George went way back, growing up in the same neighborhood and going to school together. Their mothers were friends and there was a closeness between the men that was like brothers. They went to war together too and though they were in separate divisions, they both returned with the same memories, bonded forever by the pain, trauma and grief of fighting in the trenches. George had married Ruth and had a bundle of kids. Foil was still single, chasing skirts to fill a void, but the two men remained connected and close.


“Yeah, sure, whataya got for me?” he asked, ready for anything George had to throw his way.


“I was thinkin’ maybe your friends, the other two detectives, could be in on it too. We need as many good men as we can get on the ground, undercover. It’s a drug sting we’re planning and while my squad can get at the big guys, we’ve got a lack of thinkin' man power out on the streets. This is unusual, you see, but I trust you and you’d be doing me a favor.”


He paused, waiting to hear whether Foil had anything to say. “Yeah, I’m listening. I gots to talk it over with the boys, but I don’t see why not. It’s a bit slow now and . . .” he was thinking as he spoke about the many cases that they had. It wasn’t exactly slow, but this was an opportunity to work with the LAPD narcotics squad and his friend. Foil had always yearned to do that kind of work and this seemed too good to pass on, so he made the decision right then and there for the three of them. “Yeah, George, we’re in!”


Foil wasn’t too worried about Hog, he was always game for anything, but Arms might be a bit pissed off about a decision made for all three of them without a discussion. Foil would take that chance when he spoke to them later.


“Great! I knew I could count on you! Good to know that I’ll have the three of you involved. You’ve definitely made a reputation for yourselves in the city!” declared George confidently.


“Yeah?” asked Foil, feeling like this statement could go either way on the spectrum of what a reputation might be like in LA.


“Nah, all good! Don’t worry,” and George laughed heartily into the phone.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 4: Cleaning


Chapter 3

Tension

Tuesday, 12:00 noon.


“George said to come down to the precinct this afternoon and he would explain the case. You can meet the rest of the men in the division and he’ll get our assignments in order. He’s willing to pay our fee and it’s a good opportunity for us to expand our business. Hey, Arms, you always said we needed to grow, well this is our chance,” declared Foil in his most convincing tone yet.


They were in Hog’s office talking about George’s proposition. The conversation, which had started out mild enough, had slowly grown more contentious and heated. Hog, as Foil suspected, was interested in being involved. He liked the idea of going undercover and being out on the streets; that was exciting detective work and he had no problem accepting the case. Plus, they were assured their fee, so it was a no brainer for him. But it was Arms who was stalling and keeping the focus on their current cases and the responsibilities that they were carrying now.


Mildred could hear the men’s raised voices as she worked and it was getting harder and harder for her to concentrate. She didn’t like when they argued. It was very rare that the detectives ever had a disagreement, but when they did it could get intense pretty fast. She rose from her desk and walked to the other side of her office, a few short steps, and stood by her door listening.


“I think it’s a bad idea,” she heard Arms’s voice sail down the hall, raised in exasperation. He sounded on edge and irritated, never a good sign. She surveyed the paperwork scattered and in disarray, her piles had toppled over and fallen on the floor. She started cleaning up, but continued to listen to the men talk. It made her nervous when the detectives argued. They always seemed to work it out, but this time she wasn’t so sure. Arms sounded angry when he responded to Foil in the next moment.


“Fuck, Foil, this ain’t no walk in the park, it’s the narcotics squad. We know how those guys operate, they get us in, we do the grunt work, they get the glory. I’m not havin’ it, I tell ya’! George is a good guy, I ain’t challengin’ you there, but what about them other guys,” and Arms’s voice sounded dangerously on edge.


“Okay, calm down Arms.” It was Hog talking now and Mildred could hear that he was going to step in and mediate. She imagined Arms glaring at Hog; she sensed unpleasant tension in the air. There was nothing in this world that Arms hated more than being told to calm down when he knew he needed to do just that. “Yeah?” Arms spat out, “whataya’ got in mind?”


Arms was an ornery sort and didn’t like surprises. Foil had sprung the new case on him as a done deal and he didn’t like that either, but he couldn’t argue with Foil that working with the LAPD might help them expand their business. He just had a hunch it was trouble and he couldn’t shake that feeling. He didn’t mention this to Foil or Hog.


“Let’s give it a try, Arms. Just meet the guys, see what’s up. Hear from George himself. We can’t lose there. We go and make our decision after the case is laid out in front of us. Whataya’ say?” Hog eyed his friend and could see that Arms was relaxing a bit, the fight easing out of him.


“Yeah, okay, I’ll listen to what George has to say.” He sounded resigned, but had a nagging feeling that this new case could be trouble. He just couldn’t pinpoint what kind.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 5: (Protest) Signs


Chapter 4

Police & Politics


Late Tuesday afternoon


The room at the downtown LAPD station was hot and stuffy and full of men. Some were dressed in their uniforms, others in street clothes. Up at the front was George Theobald, Sergeant, laying out the parameters of the case and the assignments. It was more complicated than Foil realized when he was on the phone with his friend, and now he began to understand that Arms may have had a point about the grunt work side of things.


The three detectives would be involved in gathering evidence about the dealer murders that had taken place on the south side of the city and that were, as yet, unsolved. They would likely be going undercover as well and trying to integrate into various neighborhoods. It was dangerous work, but they were perfectly suited to the job.


George gestured to them as they stood in their suits at the back of the room, “let me introduce the detectives of the Swine’s agency. They’ve agreed to help us with this case. You men know this is one of the biggest drug smuggling rings that LA has ever encountered and we need good men on the street. Well, these men are the best!” and he let the words hang in the air with emphasis. The heads of the trained police officers turned to look at Foil Arms and Hog, the eyes sizing them up, and then they turned back to their leader, accepting his assessment of these new men as true and absolute.


George continued talking, “the murders have shocked communities and put fear into the hearts of local citizens who usually help us. People are scared and we have to do something about that!”


Theobald was a good Sergeant, his men worked faithfully with him, and he ran his unit fairly and honestly. But none of that helped when the public didn’t see the murders ending or the drugs being taken off the streets. Drug dealing in their neighborhoods was bad enough, but dealers getting shot just exacerbated the fear. Worse still, it was young people who were being targeted to sell and to deal. Kids, really, babies getting addicted to the worst street drugs, heroin, cocaine, opium, it was all out there like a plague in the communities. Cheap and easy to get, plentiful, and exceedingly dangerous.


And it wasn’t in the white, wealthy neighborhoods that drugs flowed, but in the poor, black areas of the city. This is where the drug kingpins sold the junk quick and fast. The mafia bosses knew what they were doing when they preyed on the areas where the most vulnerable and desperate lived. Already race relations between these neighborhoods and the police were poor, but the anguished cry from the parents whose children were becoming addicts was beginning to be heard by state representatives in the senate and these political prowlers saw an opportunity to capitalize on the pain of others and push through their tough on crime laws. The outcome of these measures would never benefit the people who were already suffering, but that didn’t matter in the world of politics or to the power these opportunists hoped to gain.*


On that Tuesday afternoon, a feeling of unrest was palpable when Foil Arms and Hog arrived at the downtown police station. People carrying protest signs declaring their lack of faith in the police marched in a circle on the sidewalks; parents at their wit’s end, church organizers capitalizing on the moment of unrest, and the press made up the crowds.


Arms looked at Foil and Hog as they walked inside, “as I said, this ain’t no walk in the park. We’ll be working on somebody else’s case now, we gotta be careful how we tread.”


*What I'm describing here concerning the mafia, drug rings, black neighborhoods, the young people who were being targeted and the political opportunists taking aim in the state senate to push through tough on crime laws actually happened in Los Angeles in the early 1950's. This is part of California's drug history.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 6: 8:00 AM


Chapter 5

Suspicions


5 days earlier . . . August 18th, Wednesday morning


Arms was at the LA port at exactly 8:00 AM to meet with senior officer Richard Hendricks, one of the men on George’s team who had been in the room the previous day and who was heading up the investigation into the dealer murders. Arms had been chosen to work with Hendricks because he was so familiar with the goings on at the port, having been involved in several previous cases of his own, one most recently in which he had to search for a kidnapped young woman in Warehouse 1. He thought about that case when he drove up to park at the port gates.


He was of two minds already about the dealer murders, having been briefed on some of the details. Either someone wanted a cut of the drugs on the inside of the mafia ring and saw this as an easy way to stake their claim, or this could be a vigilante serial killer in the neighborhoods, doing the job he believed the police should do. Either way, Arms felt that the murders would continue if they didn’t move more quickly. The fact that bodies were floating up in the vicinity of port ships said to him that they were deliberately being dumped there for a reason. George’s team seemed to believe that the bodies were being dumped elsewhere, but Arms knew enough about sailing to know that the tide waters didn’t carry bodies like that towards land, but instead would take them out to sea. They would be swept away if dumped farther from the port. No, from his point of view someone was killing systematically and bringing the bodies to this area on purpose.


The police, he thought, had lagged in gathering information and whatever leads they had, dried up too fast. It seemed like someone was getting in the way of their investigation. His uneasy feeling about being involved returned as he looked around and waited for Hendricks to show up. He had met the officer the day before and hadn’t taken a liking to him. But then he was slow to trust anyone. He did trust Foil, however, and had decided to work with the LAPD and George mostly on Foil’s insistence and belief that they would be doing some good for people who didn’t typically get much of anything in this world. The negro communities struggled and too many times were ignored by the police. Arms saw this as an opportunity to change that and to be involved in something that mattered. As he learned about the case and the devastation the drugs were having on neighborhoods, children especially, this is what drove him forward, more than the idea of growing his own business. *


Hendricks was already late when he rolled up in his police cruiser and parked. Watching him get out of his car, Arms once again had a feeling that he would rather be working with anyone else than this police officer. Still, a job needed to be done, so he set aside his annoyance to focus on gathering evidence and learning more about the case.


“Mr. McKenna, pleased to be working with ‘ya,” said Hendricks, as they shook hands, “it’s good to have you on board.” He seemed friendly enough, but he was in his police uniform and Arms knew that this was the first mistake of the day.


Arms preferred to work alone or with one of his friends, but not a stranger whose techniques, strategies, and quirks he was unfamiliar with and didn’t want to learn about any time soon. He could tolerate Hendricks for now, getting as much information out of him as he possibly could about the dealers themselves, the weapons used, how and where their bodies were found in the waters. But after that, he wanted to be alone to peruse the scene and come to grips with his own theories, whether they had changed or not. Anyway, a man in a police uniform strolling about the port of Los Angeles wasn’t going to get any real information out of anyone. That was detecting 101.


*I'm using the word "negro" on purpose here because that is language that would have been used at this point in time in California and in the U.S. at large.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 6: Laughter


Chapter 6

Troubled Waters


Wednesday, late afternoon, moving into early evening.


Arms signed off with Hendricks and walked to his car. Getting in, he sat, dissatisfied with the information that he had gathered from the officer. Hendricks was holding back and he didn’t know why. “Perhaps he doesn’t trust me,” thought Arms to himself, “but then I don’t trust him either, so we’re square on that one.” There was something about the man that he still didn’t like, but similar to his earlier hunch about the entire case, he couldn’t quite put his finger on what was bothering him.


He didn’t drive away. He wanted another look at one of the crime scenes again. They had walked to a section of the port where an inlet formed naturally in the waterways. This is where three of the five murder victims had been found. It was clear to Arms that no human body would naturally drift in the water to that point. “So, the bodies must have been placed there deliberately, but why?” he asked himself. He hadn’t asked Hendricks this question, but had waited for him to offer his own analysis. None came.


Arms made a decision and got out of his car, trusty brown fedora in hand, and walked towards the port gates for the second time that day. He heard far away laughter and knew that some workers were still on the premises, but most had cleared out, going to eat before the night shift men came to unload cargo off the giant ships docked and waiting. The day had already been a long one for Arms, yet despite his uneasy feeling about Hendricks, the man had provided extensive and helpful details about the victims, though no particular reasons why the murders were occurring. Arms found this exclusion of analysis both annoying and troubling. Hendricks seemed not to want to make connections, only provide details of evidence. It was an awkward, rather stilted conversation, if one could call it that at all, but slowly Arms started to get a sense of what the police found at the scenes of death.


First, all the victims were men and black and young, probably no more than 16. They had been shot in the back of the head at close range, while selling drugs. The murders had occurred in daylight and at night, so that there was no corresponding time frame in which to make connections between the victims on that level, it was all haphazard. The weapon used was a military style Beretta, rare, from Italy, so this backed up George’s evidence about the drugs coming from Europe and the ties to the mafia. When found, the victims had little identifying information on them, though they were fully clothed. Through dental records the police were able to trace names, ages, and family members. A disturbing fact was that the bodies had been tied with rope; they weren’t hanged, though. Not lynched, nothing around the neck to suggest hanging before or after being shot, but the skin of the wrists and ankles were clearly maimed and it seemed that the victims were hog tied. In the case notes, which Hendricks did show to Arms, he read that this had happened after death, but it was brutal and unnecessary.


The victims were treated little better than animals and then thrown in the water to rot. The first body was more decomposed than the rest because of how long it sat, stagnating in the heat of the summer. Arms ruminated on various scenarios and questions about the case. The shooting victims had come from neighborhoods that were nowhere near the port. How were they transported? And what was the purpose of bringing them to water. Perhaps the murderer assumed that the bodies would be washed away. But after the first victim was found, why did he return and dump more bodies in the same spot? This is what Arms needed to look at again, the inlet that Hendricks had showed him. He seemed to remember seeing something, a rope? A frayed piece of cloth? In the moment, he thought it might be a trick of the eye, but now he was convinced that there was a clue left behind by the police.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 8: Dreams & Nightmares


Chapter 7

Shanghaied

August 18th, Wednesday late evening.


Arms was being watched, but he didn’t know it. A man stood not too far off in the changing shadows of the early evening and took note that Arms didn’t drive away from the port after he parted from the police officer, but instead he had sat in his car for at least an hour. This scout had all the patience in the world. He had one job to do and he was being paid very well. He was to watch the man who had arrived that morning at the port, a man whose distinct description he had received from someone on the inside, and never let him out of his sight. He was close enough to Arms to hear officer Hendricks address him as “Mr. McKenna” and now he had a name to go with the physical description. Throughout the day, as the two men walked here and there, talking, the scout had tailed them and kept an eye out for both men’s movements.


Now the scout watched as Arms walked towards the port gates again and he made sure to follow him stealthily, sticking to the growing darkness of the building’s shadows and when out in the open, waiting for Arms to get far enough ahead that he wouldn’t notice or hear a footfall behind him. As an ex-military man, the scout was trained to be invisible. He also carried a gun.


Arms made a beeline for the inlet. The scout watched him and knew that he would have to be closer to his mark to incapacitate him, as instructed. Arms, oblivious to the person who hovered near him, was lost in his own thoughts about the case. He was meant to meet with Foil, Hog and George back at the downtown police station that evening to share their findings. He had a hunch that he could discover more if he went back to where the bodies were fished out by the police divers. The scout meanwhile was alert and determined; his job was to watch and to act only if there was a need. Now he saw the need to act had arisen.


Arms walked up to one section of the large inlet and stopped. This was not a small body of water, but a fairly vast area in which ships often docked to unload cargo or pick up passengers on cruise liners. He was only interested in one section, one spot, in fact, where the murder victims had been found and where he was sure he had spotted something floating in the water when he was there earlier with officer Hendricks. Then he saw it, a piece of frayed rope, almost hidden among some algae and weeds. There was the clue that the police had missed.


And then Arms stopped thinking, for the scout had come up behind him and hit him with the butt of his gun, hard, at the base of his skull. He dropped to the ground, stunned, but still conscious; the moment felt like a dream, everything moving in slow motion. He tried to find his own gun, reaching out in desperation, but it had fallen and been kicked away by his attacker. Struggling to rise, he was knocked in the back of his knees, toppling hard, hitting his face on the ground and feeling blood ooze from his nose. Still, he tried to stand, but he was at a disadvantage already, for he had been completely caught off guard, so that he was shocked and reeling. The scout continued to ratchet up the violence towards Arms with several hard kicks to his stomach, forcing him to ball up into a fetal position to protect himself. The ambush was quick, sudden, and intensely brutal.


Then he felt something sharp and stinging enter the side of his neck and the world swam in front of him in a hazy warmth. His last nightmare vision was of a man’s heavy boot directed at his body, and then nothing. The scout picked Arms up like a heavy sandbag, threw him over his shoulder and walked to where his car sat, hidden. His instructions after this were straightforward and simple. Bring the man to an abandoned building near the LA port, leave him in the room with the girl, and disappear forever.


*I realize that the word dream and nightmare should be plurals, but I'm taking a writer's poetic license to use them as singular words in this context. Close enough, I say!


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 9: Food


Chapter 8

On The Hunt

August 18th, early Wednesday morning (same day and time period Arms is at the LA port)


Hog walked along the steep, concrete embankment that ran next to the Los Angeles river. The sun beat down on him even at this early hour of the morning, the August heat relentless. Out in the open with no trees around him or shade of any kind, he realized that wearing a suit to do this job was probably a mistake. He was heading towards a woodsy area where he knew homeless men, drug addicts, the jobless, or anyone else who just wanted to disappear, slept rough. There they could hide from everybody, including the police, who often patrolled the river looking to roust people from makeshift camps and send them on their way. As Hog looked out in front of him, he spotted up ahead the beginnings of the green bushes and low growing trees that butted up against an overpass crossing the river. He hoped that he had the right place because he didn’t fancy traipsing too far along the river that day only to come up with nothing.


In the narcotics squad briefing room the day before, Hog had volunteered to find an old informant who he felt could help with the case, someone he had worked with before and he trusted implicitly. But George was uncertain and, actually downright suspicious of bringing in anyone from the outside that he didn’t know.


“I’ll personally vouch for him, he’s a good ‘un,” said Hog, feeling the pressure to keep the case running smoothly.


But George was undeterred, “No, I don’t think it’s a good idea myself” and he turned to Foil, saying “whataya think?”


This was an uncomfortable moment for Foil, who trusted Hog implicitly. He could tell that Hog wasn’t happy about him being asked to make the final decision concerning a lead of Hog’s, so he said, “yeah, I think it will be fine. Hog’s never gone wrong in that department,” and left it at that.


George seemed to take this as approval and all clear from Foil and nodded to Hog, showing that he was okay with this plan after all, but it was a very tense moment for the Swine’s men, who typically worked together with ease. Arms clocked the exchange and registered a feeling of discontent about being involved; he didn’t like having their judgement questioned by George. He saw immediately that this was not an equal partnership and it never would be, but he didn’t say anything, preferring instead to simply observe.


This unpleasant exchange stayed with Hog, as he walked towards the overpass. Of the three detectives in the Swine’s agency, Hog had the most connections out on the streets of LA. He seemed to befriend and grow a coterie of undesirables and wayward souls who ended up working for him in some capacity. Whether he paid them outright was another matter. Sometimes he offered them a place to sleep, other times food, still others only did it for the booze to feed their addictions. Hog stopped short of supplying drugs to anyone, but otherwise, his informants were loyal and traded their own skills for whatever Hog could provide them in their moment of need.


He stopped to wipe his sweating brow with a pocket handkerchief and saw smoke rising up into the sky. He was close to a camp and would have to tread carefully, as Arms had warned him to do when they first arrived at the police station and encountered the protestors. He walked more slowly and took out his gun, just in case there was trouble. Then out of the blue, someone took a pot shot at him and he dove to the ground.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 10: School


Chapter 9

Stinky Pete


Early Wednesday morning continued . . .


Hog lay on the concrete breathing hard; he wasn’t particularly scared, but what passed through his mind were his kids and his wife Laura. They would all be off to school by now, just going about their day, but here he was lying on the ground wondering who would want to shoot at him. Sometimes he marveled at his life, one side was all about adventure, dealing with crime, criminals, and the underbelly of LA, the other side was so normal. At home he had a wife and children who kept him sane and sobered him. And now he thought of them with a deep and satisfying love that filled his heart with fortitude. He still needed to get to the camp to see if he could find his man. He surmised that if he stood up with his hands in the air, he might have a good chance of warding off another bullet. But he wasn’t sure if that was such a good idea.


He lifted his head and thought he could see a man standing not too far off. He wasn’t going to get up, he decided, but would just try to make contact.


“Hey mister! I ain’t the police!” he called, letting his voice ring out across the space between him and the stranger. He could see the man had a gun, a rifle, and he lifted it again; maybe he was going to shoot, maybe he wasn’t, but Hog needed to make sure the man didn't see him as a threat.


But lying on the ground all day wasn’t going to get him anywhere either. Hog made a decision to stand. “I’m getting up now,” he yelled, “don’t shoot! I’ll put my own gun down on the ground. I just want to talk to someone!” He couldn’t tell if the man was listening to him or not. As he moved, he kept his eyes on the gun away in the distance.


“We don’t need no trouble here. We got rights,” the stranger yelled, holding the rifle tight in his grip and against his chest.


Standing fully now, Hog held his hands up to show he was unarmed and decided it was best to leave his gun behind in order to make contact with the stranger. He stepped forward and began to walk slowly towards the camp. The man watched him, the gun still raised. There was definite tension in the air, but Hog sensed that the man wasn’t going to shoot. As he got closer, the man seemed to peer at him with interest and finally recognition. In the next moment, Hog was staring at Stinky Pete who was laughing and shaking his hand.


“My god, man, I thought you was an undercover cop or one of them social workers come to rat us out. They’re everywhere now, always finding our camps and trying to Christianize us with their silly words come from the bible,” and he laughed heartily, looking at Hog out of his good eye, the other one covered with a patch like an old pirate. He was a tall, imposing man of a broad build and a deep, bellowing laugh. It’s a wonder the camp stayed so hidden because Pete’s voice rang out like thunder across the wide river.


“Well, it’s good to see ‘ya Pete! You’re looking shaggier these days. Thanks for missing me with that bullet, the wife and kids would never have forgivin’ ‘ya for mowing me down with your rifle there,” and Hog returned the handshake, heartily.


“You need me then, do ‘ya?” asked Pete, knowingly. “Yeah, got a drug case and some murders to solve; I need some underground information and I think you’re the man to get it for me. Just need to sit and talk for a while, ‘ya got the time?” And Pete laughed again, “time is all I got!” and he turned to walk into the woods with Hog following behind.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 11: Habit


Chapter 10

A Stand Off


Wednesday, early morning moving into mid-day . . .


Walking out of the scorching sun into the shade of the trees and bushes along the river was like moving into another world. It could have been a magical one for a child exploring, but what Hog saw when he passed into the undergrowth was just sadness. The misery of men confronted him as he followed Stinky Pete to his campsite, one of the few that looked decent and well cared for. This was a makeshift place with the detritus of men’s lives scattered around them; tents pitched and sagging, trash strewn haphazardly, men sitting on the ground, leaning against trees, sleeping, eating, shooting up drugs, drinking, pissing into the river, it was all there for a newcomer like Hog to see. He observed it, but simply nodded his head at the various men in the camp, acknowledging them and moving on. Maybe there were 15 or 20 of them, crammed into the darkness of the shade, hiding from the police, social workers, the sun. There was a stench of something rotting, Hog thought old food, more than, let’s say, a body, but he couldn’t be sure. He didn’t want to know. He had an agenda, needed to talk to Pete and deal with the case.


Pete had a campfire going, that was the smoke that Hog saw rising above the trees near the overpass. Hog sat on a makeshift chair and listened to the cars whizzing by above his head. “Here ‘ya go,” and Pete handed him a tin cup with what looked and smelled like coffee, but Hog suspected would taste like something else.


“Thanks,” said Hog and took it, not wanting to offend. This wasn’t his house and he knew enough about Pete to know that any slight would be noticed. “How long ‘ya been here?” asked Hog, making small talk, drinking the brown water, and ignoring the movements of the other men around him.


“Oh, maybe ‘couple months. Come down from the north, where I been a bit. Had a job in construction, but it dried up. I don’t make a habit of stayin’ in one place too long. Lookin’ to move on south soon, so you better get goin’ on what you need,” and Pete looked pointedly at Hog with his one good eye.


“I got a case, it ain’t mine, but the police, the narcotics squad,” and Hog let that hang in the air for a moment.


“You workin’ with the cops now, are ‘ye?” asked Pete with suspicion in his voice. “I ain’t lookin’ for no trouble, Mr. Flanagan, so maybe I ain’t ‘t right man for ‘t’ job,” and he stood up, looking worried and from Hog’s vantage point, larger than life.


“Hey, hold on Pete! It ain’t much, but I got you cleared with the Sergeant. I got your back, ain’t nothin’ goin' to happen to ‘ya! I promise ‘ya that! Nothing!” And now Hog was standing too.


The two men looked at each other. “Listen,” said Hog, “I promise ‘ya, I just need some underground information and yous the man to get it for me. In and out, that’s all I need and then the job’s done. I’ll pay you what you want, just name your price and I’ll get it.”


And to show he was good on his word, he sat down again. In the parlance of negotiations, the man who sat down first was the one who showed his trust to the other. Pete sized up Hog and sat down too. He needed something badly and Hog could get it for him.


“Okay, you gots a deal,” said Pete, and settled back to hear what Hog had to say.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 12: Book


Chapter 11

A Plan & A Gift


Wednesday, very late afternoon . . .


“Dealers are dying,” said Hog. “They’re bein’ shot. Execution style. Youngsters, younger than 16. Negros. In their own neighborhood. What I need from you are names of higher up dealers, men who could be targetin’ these kids. You got ways in, I know you do, and I’m lookin’ for the big men. This is blood money they’re makin’, it ain’t right, ever, kids, it’s kids who are dyin’ . . .” and he trailed off.


Hog could be a hard man, but when it came to young people, he had a big soft spot. He thought of his own son and daughter at home and tried to put himself in the parents’ shoes of the kids who were being gunned down in the street, left for dead, to be found later by friends, relatives, even strangers. Five kids had been murdered so far and Hog knew they would continue unless he could get some definitive information about who was behind these attacks.


Then Pete spoke, “I don’t know about this shootin’ shit, why the kids, the little guy on the street ain’t no threat. He just there to hand off the junk, pick up the money and turn ‘round to sell some more. It don’t seem right, somethin’s up,” and he spat at the ground, sending out a wad of chewing tobacco that hit the earth with a thud.


Then he put some more chaw into his cheek, tucking it behind his tongue where it would sit for the rest of the day. This was a habit that Hog found rather disgusting, but tolerated because he genuinely liked Pete and always had. Each man took the other as they came and that worked out for the both of them. They were silent for a time, thinking, and then Pete said, “I’ma goin’ to see what I can do. I ain’t promisin’ too much, Mr. Flanagan. These’re dangerous men I ‘tink you’re dealin’ wit, but kids is kids and it ain’t right, I ‘gree wit ‘ya on ‘tat one!”


“So, you’ll help me, then?” asked Hog. “Certin’ I’ll help ‘ya!” said Pete, and he slapped his knee for emphasis. “Them negros don’t deserve this, them kids, parents, it ain’t right. I’ll get on ‘tis tomorrow. I promise ‘ya some news by nightfall. You’re right I got my ways,” and he laughed heartily, sending the booming sound out to the trees that surrounded them.


“Let’s see now, yous can help me git what I need, it’s special this time. It ain’t money, that’s easy to get and to give.” And he pulled out a small, red, leather-bound book, which he opened and thumbed through until he found the right page. “Here it is, yes sir ‘e,” and he handed Hog a piece of well creased, folded paper. Hog opened it and saw a picture of a ceramic dog, white with a red collar. It was clearly expensive, but coveted by Pete.


“It’s Momma’s birtday comin’ up, ‘ya see? Ain’t it pretty?” Hog nodded, marveling at this giant man’s shy grin as he stared at the picture.


“Okay, I’ll get it for ‘ya,” said Hog, and he tucked the piece of paper into the inside pocket of his suit. “Best be goin’ Pete. Meet ‘ya back here tomorrow night?” Pete nodded.


Walking out of the undergrowth, Hog breathed deeply, taking in the air around him after the stifling stench of sad men. He had made the right choice in involving Pete; despite the man’s transient life, he was solid and true. Hog found his gun where he had left it and strode back to his car. It would be good to see Laura and his children that evening, he always thought of them with love and adoration. But first he had to go back to the police station and meet with Arms, Foil and George to discuss the case.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 13: Squatters


Chapter 12

A Friendship Revisited


August 18th, Wednesday morning (same day & time Arms is at the LA port & Hog is getting shot at)


Foil was sitting in a squad car at the downtown police station. He was going to ride along with George into some of the affected negro neighborhoods and look at the locations where the murder victims had been gunned down. Foil needed to get a better lay of the land and this was the best way to do it. Plus, it was good to be with his friend on his home turf, spending the day with the best in blue and learning the ropes of what a sergeant did with his team. Foil had always wanted to be on the police force, but the war got in the way. When he returned home, he was rudderless and drifting from one job to the next. Offered the opportunity to get an education, he took it and there met his friends, Hog and Arms.


When Arms’s uncle was killed and he decided to open the Swine’s agency, Foil came along for the ride. They made a good team, the three of them, and he did not regret his work as a detective. He was good at what he did and slowly they had built up the business so that now, as he learned from George, they had a good reputation, even among the police in LA. It was a good feeling he had when his friend told him, but he still yearned for that special kind of admiration that a police officer was shown by the average citizen. Private detectives were often treated with suspicion and derision, but a police officer, he believed, simply got respect wherever he went.


And sitting in the police car, Foil pondered what it would be like to be where George was, as a sergeant of the largest narcotics squad in the country. “Yeah,” I could get used to this kind of work,” he thought. At that moment, his friend returned from an errand, and said, “You ready Finegan?”


Sliding into the driver’s seat of his squad car, George drove out of the parking lot onto the boulevard, heading towards the first neighborhood, which was across town. It was hot, even this early in the morning, and they rode with the windows down. George was in his full uniform and had an imposing air of importance and command.


“Yeah, this case, Finegan, it’s a tough one,” George was saying, as he drove. “It came up on us fast and the murders, plus the drugs, the shittin’ mafia thugs who we can’t keep down. The Superintendent is breathin’ down my neck, so we got to get somethin’ on this case. My men are good, but we don’t have enough guys on the ground. That’s where you come in, and your friends, of course,” and he looked over at Foil.


“I got your back, George. We’re not kids anymore, but you know I’ll help you; always have, always will,” and Foil meant it. “Once a friend, always a friend,” that was their motto, growing up. Ever since they were young, there was a kinship between them. Now coming from two different worlds, but with the same drive to solve crimes and to find out the truth, they were bonded together.


“You remember the time we went into that abandoned building,” asked Foil, and he looked at George, who knew exactly what he was talking about.


“Yeah, them squatters was there,” laughed George, “it’s a wonder we didn’t get killed, Finegan! They chased us out of there so fast, we didn’t know what hit us and I jumped through that open window, landed hard and you helped me get home. My ma nearly tore my hide off! If you hadn’t a lied for me and told her I fell off my bike, she would have killed us both!” and the two friends laughed at their hijinks, feeling the fondness of their youthful friendship once again.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 14: Energy


Chapter 13

A Murder Scene


Wednesday morning, moving into midday . . .


George drove into the neighborhood that had been targeted recently in South central Los Angeles and parked outside of a small grocery store. The men’s laughter had died away as they got farther from the police station and closer to the black parts of the city. Foil had grown up in a mixed neighborhood and was generally liked by the negro families that he lived near, including some of the kids. They weren’t exactly friends, but they weren’t enemies either. In his detective work he had learned to be open minded and careful about judgements. In order to get information out of people he had to keep the lines of trust open, no matter who they were or what color skin they had. George had grown up in the same area, but on the other side of the tracks and his family was less tolerant; his father was especially foul-mouthed about people different from him; racist comments were ever present in the household. In that moment of arriving in the neighborhood, Foil suddenly felt doubt about his friend. “Like father, like son?” he wondered, but he didn’t think so. George, he felt, was a fair man who treated everyone with the same respect and care.


The neighborhood seemed quiet; it was clean and well-maintained, the houses small, the storefront inviting. Some people walked along the sidewalks, older folks who were just out for the day. Children were in school, but one young mother walked with a pram and a couple strolled arm in arm, casually. It was a lovely view, from what Foil could see, but he felt an unpleasant energy as soon as they drove up, like they were not wanted there and, in fact, that maybe leaving might be the best option. Yet, seeing the crime scene was a necessary part of being involved in the case.


“Just over there in that alley is where the first kid was found,” said George, getting straight to the point. “It was a shocking crime, a kick in the gut for a place that already suffers with growing drug problems. Come on, I'll show you the scene."


George was the kind of man who could part the red sea; people stepped aside and let him pass. The two men turned down the alley and walked to the crime scene. Foil saw a large dark spot on the ground; that was the blood of the first murder victim. No amount of scrubbing would ever lift that stain, it would be a mark of death forever in the community. Foil looked at the concrete walls of the building opposite and he could see blood spatters, but nothing else remarkable stood out to him immediately.


He turned and looked around him. Why this alley? It was open above, he could see the sky, the sunshine beating down on him as he stood, trying to understand the scene and what took place the night of the killing. Whoever murdered the kid, didn’t bother with the person receiving the drugs. No other shots were fired, just a single bullet was recovered from a Beretta pistol. “Give me a moment, George,” said Foil, “I want to walk the scene alone. You mind?”


“Naw, you take your time. We got all day. Two more kids got shot standing out in broad daylight on corners, another one, near his own home at night and one kid we found in a stranger’s garage. The guy had no connection to the kid at all.” Five murders in all, so far.


“Did you find the drugs?” asked Foil, “any evidence of what was being purchased?”


“Yeah, it was heroin. Rocks of black tar, cooked down to inject. It’s a lethal strength that only comes from Mexico. Deadly and potent. Ain’t nothin’ for kids to be takin’ that’s for sure.” In George’s voice Foil heard a hint of anger, but also of sadness.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 15: Wordplay


Chapter 14

Foil’s Discovery

Wednesday, early afternoon . . .


Foil walked away from George, looking for anything that might stand out to him and that didn’t belong in an alleyway on the south side of Los Angeles, in a quiet neighborhood, among law abiding citizens. He looked closely and carefully at the ground and at every foot of space that he could see. In his years as a detective, he had learned that it was easy to miss information, to overlook clues, and to forget about corners, especially outside in the elements. The light of the sun might blur a vision and a person could miss something that mattered to a case. Now he bent down here, crouched there, squatted, at one point even crawled along in the gravel of the alleyway, examining every nook and cranny for anything that might not have been noticed by the police. It was true that they had combed the area, but a crime scene could turn up all sorts of new clues through a different pair of eyes and an objective perspective.


And while he searched, he thought about why a young man might get shot at point blank range by someone who could just as easily have brandished a gun, scared him and got away with the drugs without killing. A perpetrator might have overpowered the victim, even. But the murder seemed unprovoked and meaningless. It was simply a deadly act of violence against a small-time dealer who was nothing but a cog in a giant churning wheel of money and power. According to George, in each situation, the person buying the drugs ran for his life, but he was not shot at or pursued. Five murders so far, five senseless, brutal killings like the kind Foil saw on the fields of war, not in an urban environment.


He was preoccupied with his thoughts, when out of the corner of his eye, he spotted something glinting in the sunshine. He stopped walking and leaned down to inspect the area more carefully. He saw a small, silver packet tucked behind some weeds. Had it fallen there by accident or been placed purposely to hide it? He wasn’t sure. He walked back to George, turning the packet over in his hand, realizing very quickly that there were some words stamped on it and maybe a symbol of some kind. He knew that drug rings often took pride in marking their packets with individual names These represented the standard of production and who was selling it.* A find like this might break a case wide open or confound the narcotics team even further.


“Hey, George, look what I got here,” and Foil handed the packet to his friend.


George held it carefully in his hands, turning it over like Foil did before him. “I’ve seen something like this before, but not over here in this part of LA. Over on the west side of the city, near the railroad tracks. We busted a small smuggling ring coming over the border and tracked their mules to Union Station where they were tryin’ to disappear. They had bags full of these silver packets. Heroin and lots of it. We thought we got ‘em, but shit, it looks like the fuckers are still out there. This gives us a lead, for sure, Finegan! Got a thank you for that! Excellent work,” and he slapped Foil on the back in admiration.


“Yeah, it’s a find alright, but what’s stamped on it?” asked Foil, peering at the edges of the small packet. “Probably ain’t any sophisticated wordplay, just looks like letters or a symbol, but I can’t tell.”


“The team back at the station can track the drug stamps. We got a catalogue of them. Crazy shit the drug cartels put on their junk. “Hell dust, smack, black tar, thunder. We got a whole book on the names of this shit,” and George turned to walk back to the police cruiser to take Foil to another crime scene. It was going to be a long day for both of them.*


* This is accurate and true, according to recent drug history and culture. This practice of stamping heroin bags by drug cartels and gangs reaches back into the early 1970's. I'm stretching the truth here in fiction to make a good story.

*These are real slang terms used to describe heroin on the streets.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 16: Pub


Chapter 15

Mr. Taylor’s Garage


Wednesday afternoon into early evening . . .


The day had already been a long one when Foil and George arrived at the final crime scene, the garage where the fifth murder victim had been found only a few days before. This was the freshest evidence Foil would see so far.


“This is a touchy one, Finegan,” said George, as they pulled up to a small bungalow. “His name is Taylor. Let’s see, first name John. A local business owner, I think he’s a grocer. He’s been very cooperative; I’d like to keep it that way. I’ll take the lead here.”


Foil could see that the lights were on, indicating that someone was home, but he didn’t think that a large policeman coming to this man’s door in the evening was going to make anyone feel better. “I think I can handle this,” said Foil, giving George a nod to sit in the car, while he approached the door. Knocking and waiting patiently, Foil was greeted by an older black man, who seemed drawn with worry in his face and tired.


“Good evening, Mr. Taylor,” said Foil very politely, “I’m Seán Finegan, a private detective working with the police to solve the murder of the young man found in your garage. May I take a look at where you discovered him? I only need a few moments of your time.” Foil let this request hang in the air, hoping his relaxed demeanor would help Mr. Taylor trust him.


Mr. Taylor, who had already spotted the police cruiser in his driveway, seemed very reticent to continue the conversation with Foil. However, deciding that it was best to do what was requested of him, he sighed visibly and walked to his garage door, opening it and stepping inside. Switching on a light, he revealed an old Nash and not much else. The space was clean and neat. “It’s been a trial, sir. Lord help me, but I have no idea how the boy got here,” and his eyes held a look of worry and something akin to despair.


“I’ll be quick, sir, if you could just show me where you found the body?” asked Foil.


Mr. Taylor walked to just behind his own car and pointed to the ground, saying, “it was a sight sir, I shall never forget. Lord help him, the poor child.”


“Yes, sir, I can believe that, I’ll be out of here quick,” said Foil again.


He saw right away that there was no blood stain on the garage floor, no spatters on any of the walls; the space was just a dumping ground, not the place of death. “More fuckin’ mysteries to solve,” thought Foil, feeling the futility of the day press down upon him. The first find had been a real lead, but so far, the rest of the crime scenes had yielded little. He walked slowly around the garage examining what he could and then he saw it, a silver packet just like the one he found that morning. He bent down and picked it up, sliding it into his suit pocket so that Mr. Taylor didn’t see it.


Turning, he said, “Thank you, sir, for your time. I’m done here. I don’t think there is any need to return. You’ve been a great help,” and he walked out to the police cruiser, past a very relieved man. Getting into the car, Foil produced the silver packet for George to see and smiled. “I think our murderer dropped this when he dumped the boy’s body in this poor man’s garage. If we can we trace the drug stamp, we might have our man.”


“Come on Finegan,” said George with exhaustion in his voice, let’s hit Billy’s pub. One won’t hurt us and I think we deserve it after this last find.”


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 17: Fitness


Chapter 16

Absence

Wednesday, nearly midnight . . .


The downtown police station was quiet. Only the night duty officer was awake and a few men coming in for their midnight shifts. George, Foil and Hog sat in George’s office waiting for Arms. The heat of the day had abated and at this time of night there was even a cool breeze in the air from the open windows. But the men were restless and tired. An hour into waiting for Arms, they were none the wiser as to where he was and Hog was getting antsy. “Where the fuck is he?” he growled, pissed off that he had to sit around and wait for his friend.


Foil was more nonchalant, “he’ll be here. He won’t let us down.” He was thinking about the drug packets at the crime scenes; he wasn’t sure they were dropped randomly by someone running off after a gunshot or whether they had been placed deliberately to throw the police off the scent; he was partial to the latter theory. He and George had handed the silver packets of heroin to officer William Benson of the narcotics squad. Foil wouldn’t know from which faction of Mexico the drugs came until the next day, when they could talk to Benson again.


“Hey, let’s get going,” George said, sounding frustrated and on edge, “we can’t wait around for one guy to show up. If we’re goin’ to work this case, it’s got to be done fast to get the man power out on the street. I got to keep track of everythin’, so spill the info you got.” He was talking to Hog and it was clear he wasn’t amused by Arms’s absence. George saw it as a sign of disrespect first and second, as a weakness. His estimation of Arms had not been high from the beginning and now it was even lower


Hog related his meeting with Stinky Pete, detailing only the information that mattered concerning the case. “He’s gettin’ me some names; he said by tomorrow night he’d have them.” At this, George visibly scoffed in disdain. “He’ll make good on his word, I know that,” said Hog confidently. “He gets in places and manages to unearth the worst kind of criminals.”


George seemed unimpressed, but at this point Foil took the lead and explained what they’d found at the crime scenes in relation to the murders. When he revealed that he had discovered two silver heroin packets, Hog was impressed. “Nice job with that one, Fingo, you probably got the first big lead in the case!”


Then George cut in abruptly, “so where’s your friend with his report? I don’t have time to play games,” and he looked vicious. “Is he even sound? What about his mental fitness? He seemed spaced out this morning, like he wasn’t even listening or paying attention. I don’t know about your friend, but . . .” George was on a roll and gearing up for more. Hog and Foil looked at each other; they both knew that Arms was never late.


Foil spoke then, abruptly cutting George off, his voice was steely and hard.“Arms is the best detective in this city. He is a man of integrity. If he’s not here, he’s got a good reason.” Hog could hear the fury in Foil’s voice and knew he was trying to keep his cool.


“Let’s call it a night,” Hog said calmly and rose to go. “We’ll talk to Arms in the morning when he gets to the office; he’ll get his report to you first thing. We’ll make sure of it,” and he reached out to shake hands with George, who saw this opportunity as a way of effectively calling a truce. The tension eased and all three men said goodnight, walking out of the police station to go their separate ways.


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 18: Edinburgh


Chapter 17

Realizations


August 19th, Thursday . . .


By midday at the Swine’s office, no one had seen or heard from Arms, this included Mildred who had been asked immediately if he had shown up in the morning. Hog was annoyed at his friend’s absence, but he had a lot of cases to take care of so he let himself be preoccupied and hoped that Arms would come rolling along in the afternoon. Foil, however, was beginning to worry. George’s anger and lack of faith in Arms’s abilities was also troubling him. He had been especially shocked by George’s comments concerning Arms’s mental health. He seemed to want to paint Arms as an unreliable man who couldn’t focus. Moreover, he implied that Arms might not even be capable of running a criminal case. All these accusations came out of left field and suggested that George might have an ulterior motive for painting Arms as incompetent, but Foil wasn’t sure what that would be.


Foil knew Arms to be a man highly particular about time keeping. This alone was a tip off for him and made him feel uneasy. Even if his friend was unhappy about being involved in a case, he wouldn’t let that come between him and finding out the truth and catching killers.


“Somethin’s up,” Foil thought, as he sat in his office. And then he clarified to himself, “no, somethin’s definitely wrong.” He got up and went in search of Hog, who at that moment was toiling away on another case and hadn’t let himself even begin to worry about Arms.


“Hey Hog, you got a minute?” asked Foil, as he stood in Hog’s office doorway. “Yeah, whataya need?” said Hog.


“It’s Arms. Somethin’s wrong. He wouldn’t just disappear like this. Didn’t he go to the LA port with an officer? Kendricks? Hendricks? I can’t remember, but I think we both know that he’d never have blown off that meeting last night and he certainly wouldn’t keep us out of the loop in a case we’re all workin’ on. I got a bad feeling about his absence and all that malarky about Arms’s inability to pay attention or keep his mind on the case! I don’t know what George is playin’ at, but I think it’s about time we do some sleuthing of our own!”


Hog was easily persuaded by Foil’s insistent tone. “Yeah, I just thought it was a good idea to get the hell out of there last night, the tension was high, but I’m with you. None of this feels right to me. The narcotics squad got us all separated and on different errands for them. Arms warned us that we’d do the work and the team would get the glory, we should’ve listened to him!”


At that moment there was a knock on the door. It was Mildred with a package in her hands. “Sirs, something’s arrived from Scotland, Edinburgh to be precise, for Detective McKenna. I just thought you should know since he’s not in yet. I would usually put these sorts of things in his office, but . . . well . . .” and she stopped talking.


“Yes, Mildred, you can leave the package with us and we’ll take care of it,” said Foil, seeing and understanding the look of worry on Mildred’s face, but not wanting her to say too much, lest she get upset. “I’m sure we’ll see Arms soon,” he reassured her.


When Mildred had gone, shutting the door behind her, Foil said, “first thing to do is get to the port and have a look around. We know at least three of the murder victims were found there, maybe Arms discovered somethin’ he wasn’t supposed to. Then we’ll track down that officer who was with him; funny that George didn’t mention that report; it’s like he doesn’t want us to know anythin’ about what happened there. Like he just wants it rubbed out.”


#FAHnArtChallenge Day 19: Chaos Trigger warning: discussion of rape


Chapter 18

Lilly


August 19th, nearing midnight on Thursday . . .


Lilly jolted awake, breathing heavily. She was very frightened as she looked around the room. The light from the street lamp cast shadows on the walls and she saw the outline of the couch in the corner, her shield against so much pain. She turned to look at the man on the ground, the one whose name she didn’t know, his face appearing less bruised. In this moment, he seemed in a peaceful sleep, but the drugs had made him that way. He had only been with her for just over 24 hours, yet it felt like ages. She tried to calm down, breathe more slowly, relax in the quiet of the night. But she could never relax, she could never find any peace. Her body was sore, and she was losing hope that she would ever get away and escape the terror that she lived daily.


She thought about her life on the streets with longing; the sex work seemed easy now. Only a pimp to worry about and a couple of shitty johns to fend off in the night. Now she was such easy prey and there was no one who cared. She was alone in the world, forgotten, abandoned, lost forever to an invisible life. They had picked her up on one of her evening shifts; the car was cool, easing the heat of the summer, the man was nice, at first. But then they didn’t let her out; they wanted more from her and she tried to fight to open the door. Then the bag over her head, the darkness, the sheer terror, and nothing. They hit her with something hard and knocked her out. She woke up in this room. “How long have I been here?” but she had no answer. The days dragged on and the nights were even longer. Until the two horrible men brought the stranger to her, she couldn’t imagine how she would go on. She wanted to die.


But then the stranger arrived, or was dumped at her feet, dragged and dropped, really, and she had to perform the terrible task of keeping him drugged. She did not question why, for doing so would have gotten her beaten, again. She just obeyed and did what she was told, even though she felt the deep shame it brought every time she did it. “Why did they want him drugged? Who was he? Where did he come from?” The questions whirled around in her head until she didn’t know what to think anymore.


She was hungry and thirsty. They only fed her twice a day and barely anything at that; she felt like an animal when the food came, she could barely contain herself and they laughed at her and shoved the bread and water towards her. Then they touched her, forced themselves upon her, and left. She couldn’t put into words what she felt. “Do I feel at all, anymore?” The stranger had suddenly and inexplicably given her a purpose and had made her life less about chaos and pain and more about care. Though what she was doing to him had to stop. She knew she was killing him and her heart wouldn’t let her do that. She could not kill a man, even to save herself.


Beside her, he moaned. She turned to look at him, his face calm, but he was wan and growing weaker. “I cannot hurt you anymore,” she said out loud into the space and air of the room and heard her own voice as if she was listening to an unknown person. She couldn’t remember the last time she had spoken aloud; she had only cried and screamed to not be hurt, to not be raped. There. There was the word that she hadn’t been able to say and now she thought it. Conjured up out of her nightmare the real reason for her fear, the raping of her Self and the scorching of her soul, leading her into deadly actions of hurting another human being because she was told to, because she was feeling immense pain herself.


“I have to stop,” again her voice astounded her. It was as if it rang out from her heart, the sound peeling like bells in her ears, but she was only whispering.


#FAHnARtChallenge Day 20: Tour