by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson
“We are here investigating the disappearance of Modo Kwasi. He used to work here until he disappeared,” Johnson told the guard.
“The name rings a bell,” said the guard. “What did he look like?”
Johnson showed him a picture.
“Ah... that guy. An idiot. I thought he quit or something. Wasn’t my shift; can’t tell.”
Another car appeared from behind, and the guard took keen interest in it. Johnson looked at it in his rearview mirror. It was an artful car, clearly shaped for looks, not aerodynamics. One of those custom jobs you could get if you had the money. The engine emitted a weird noise; it was an old-fashioned fuel-burner and did not have an over-computerized fuel-cell generator like most cars. That meant he could not immobilize it if he had to chase it. As a cop, he immediately hated it.
A man stepped out of the car. He grinned. He was so thin he probably looked a lot taller than he really was. His black suit over a black turtleneck gave him the general look of a Catholic priest, the grin gave the impression he might be Satan.
Johnson stepped out of his car and discretely put his hand on his gun.
“Good day,” said the man.
Johnson spotted another man sitting in the other car. He looked again at the man in front of him. He was offering him his hand.
“I am Nero. First name Frank, but nobody ever calls me that,” he said and smiled. Or grinned. It was hard to tell. The guy in the car waved.
“Detective Johnson,” said Johnson.
“I suspected as much,” said Nero, “the car is a dead giveaway.”
Johnson looked at the car. It was a gray Hissatsu 400. Nobody bought those but the government. They were big and ugly, looked like big rats. Civilians wanted Hissatsu 300, which was medium-sized and ugly. It looked like a smaller rat.
“Are you here because of the theft?” asked Nero.
“Tell me about the theft,” said Johnson, and managed to hide his surprise.
“A month ago an employee went home with about a gallon of tranquillizers and some minor equipment. We reported it immediately, but nobody came. Since you are here...”
“Yes,” said Johnson, “since I am here, let us go inside and talk to some witnesses and look at some security camera footage,”
While Nero was returning to his car, Johnson tried to get a better look at his passenger. He was familiar, somehow.
* * *
Dr. Oberheim was already waiting for him when he came in. He greeted them with coffee.
Johnson and Tubbs looked at each other but had some coffee anyway.
Nero and the other guy entered seconds later but did not get any coffee. Nero gave the doctor a rather suspicious glance when he did not get coffee, and did eye him a bit sideways for the rest of their stay together.
“That employee you reported for stealing, you know where he lives?” asked Johnson.
“Which one?” asked Dr. Oberheim.
“The latest one,” said Johnson.
Nero looked vaguely annoyed at hearing that. The other guy was looking at a picture on the wall. Johnson recognized him, and did not like what he saw. The hands were a dead giveaway.
“Ah... yes,” said the doctor, and checked his pad. “A Mister Finch, stole some happy-liquid on Wednesday. Then there was Doctor Emmerich, who took a bucketful of the same stuff, and some equipment to administer it.”
“A popular item to steal,” said Dr. Oberheim. “To this day, ten people have taken it.”
“What would the street value of that be?” asked Johnson.
“Ah, they don’t sell it,” said Dr. Oberheim. “Usually they are found at home next week, still high.”
Johnson looked at Tubbs. “Check out this Emmerich guy,” he said, and turned to the doctor. “Where does he live?”
Dr. Oberheim told him, and they looked the guy up.
“Send someone to check on him,” said Johnson. “Tell him to call us with info on the place.”
Nero and that other guy signalled the doctor, and exited the room through the personnel door.
Johnson got a good look at the other guy. It was definitely who he thought it was. The mangled hands were a dead giveaway, for sure; they were all malformed, cut up and scarred. He got a good look at them when he was running his fingers on the picture in front of him. The sleeve had fallen back and some more of his arms were exposed; the flesh of his arms seemed to have been carved off the bones and re-attached.
The bones themselves were shaped a little oddly, especially around the knuckles. And the face, the strangely cut-up lips on an otherwise clear and handsome face. A face that could make money selling aftershave.
Tubbs noticed also, and tugged at him. “That’s that Felix guy, from the FBI list,” he whispered to Johnson.
“I know... shh!” whispered Johnson.
“Surely this is not what brings you all this way,” said Dr. Oberheim.
“Of course not, but since we are here, we like to use the trip.”
“Let’s go to the office then,” said Dr. Oberheim.
* * *
Predictably, they got very little additional info on anyone who had ever disappeared from the company. Johnson was getting into a strange mood as well. He was getting dizzy and feeling generally down. Tubbs seemed to suffer the same effects.
They met Nero and his odd friend on the way out. They were speaking to a guy in a labcoat.
“There’s that guy again,” said Tubbs and showed Johnson his pad, “Felix Gilfer. He is eighth on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.”
“I know who he is,” said Johnson. “I know the guy he shot.”
“He only shot one guy?”
“Yes. But killed a few. Does it not say ‘vehicular manslaughter’ in the file?”
“No. But it clearly states he all but tore down a hospital.”
“That is how you end up on the FBI’s Most Wanted list,” said Johnson.
“Yeah, I remember that one. What a bizarre case.”
They reached the car.
“He’s been on the list for over two years, and there he is!”
“He has money,” said Johnson, “and he is harmless, for the most part. It is his friend who is dangerous, the one not on the list.”
“No. Forgot the name. It was something generic, Smith or Brown or someting. He has left the country, for good, I hope.”
They got into the car.
“Don’t worry about those guys, I know guys around the Canadian border, and they tell me these stories. Stuff of legend, much of it. I can’t believe half of it, but sometimes I wonder.”
Johnson buckled down. “I have the strangest headache...”
* * *
Nero went to see Dr. Oberheim in his office just as Detectives Johnson and Tubbs were leaving.
“You talked to them—” he began.
“Yes, I did,” said Dr. Oberheim, “I told them as much as they needed to know.” Dr. Oberheim smiled politely.
“They looked a bit under the weather when they left. Did you by any chance give them anything?” asked Nero.
“Yes, I gave them some coffee,” said Dr.Oberheim.
“And what did you put in the coffee?” asked Nero.
“The same stuff we give the new employees.”
“And some milk.”
Nero shook his head. “You may have just made this bad,” he said. “You do realize they are now in an uncontrolled environment, don’t you?” He looked at Dr. Oberheim, who did not seem to realize what Nero was talking about.
“We need to fire up some units. Hand them some guns. Just in case they get ideas,” said Nero.
* * *
Johnson and Tubbs parked their car by the side of the road behind some bushes to get some sleep. It had occurred to them that they had been poisoned, and they were determined to prove that the International Biotec building was full of illegal, amoral and generally disgusting things.
When they woke up the world was blurry and spinning rapidly. They exited the car and puked, each by his own tree.
“Damn,” said Tubbs as he leaned against a tree, “we’ve been poisoned.”
“I think so,” said Johnson.
“What do we do then?”
“Sleep it off, I think,” said Johnson, “then we go and kill those guys.”
“Yeah...” said Tubbs, and vomited again.
After sleeping some more, they woke up again and this time went to a fast food place to get something to eat. After that, they did not much feel like going back to the station. Johnson dropped Tubbs off somewhere convenient and went home to sleep some more.
Detective Johnson arrived at work at midday. He looked around before he sat down at his desk, and ordered a pizza. After it had arrived and he had ignored the stares of some of his colleagues, he started to wonder where Tubbs was. So he called him. It turned out he was at the movies.
“What film are you watching?” he asked.
“Some war epic,” said Tubbs, “Shh... some stuff’s gonna blow up...”
Johnson waited while the stuff exploded. It sounded very graphic.
“What war is it?” he asked Tubbs when it had subsided.
“Who cares?” said Tubbs, and hung up. Johnson didn’t notice, he was too busy hanging up himself.
To pass the time, he began reading the case files. His own case file was almost entertaining. It posed an interesting challenge for him. How to break into the International Biotech building and expose all their illegal and villainous operations?
Johnson figured he’d need guns. And some explosives. Perhaps he could get some guys from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to go with him? They seemed always willing to participate in small-scale invasions. They had heroically killed five dogs, an old woman and a small kid in just the time he had been working there. Wounded countless others.
“What do you have in mind?” asked agent Pyun of the BATF when Detective Johnson had run the matter through him.
“Well, there’s a guy on the FBI list who frequents the place, I saw him there just yesterday. If we go there to investigate and see him, we can invade the place and look anywhere we want.”
Agent Pyun nodded approvingly.
“It’ll be fun,” added Detective Johnson for emphasis.
“I’m in. I’ll call my partner and have him arrange us some cars.”
Pyun went to the armory with Johnson. They got SMG’s, rifles, shotguns and handguns. Some flash grenades, some pellet grenades, some smoke grenades. Johnson picked out a rifle. 6.5mm, with a 40-round magazine, scope and bipod.
He put it back. It was a little too much. And he had no idea how to operate it. Changing the magazine took a little getting used to. Not that the SMG was any better, but it was much smaller, so he could have two. He grabbed a handgun to go with it.
Pyun filled his pockets with grenades and got a rifle. He picked out an SMG for his partner, and off they went.
Pyun’s partner, agent Moorhuhn, waited for them in the car park. He had managed to organize two cars. “Where’s your partner?” asked Moorhuhn, when they had been formally introduced.
“Tubbs? Wait, I’ll call him to see where he is,” said Johnson and called Tubbs.
Moorhuhn and Pyun got in their car and headed out.
“Hey, where are you?” asked Johnson when Tubbs answered.
“It was such nice weather when I got out,” said Tubbs, “that I decided to go to the park and have some ice cream.”
“Aha... you will miss the fun,” said Johnson.
“Is it work-related fun?” asked Tubbs.
“Yes,” said Johnson, and grinned to himself.
“Ah, I’ll do it later,” said Tubbs. “Bye!”
Detective Johnson shrugged. He got into the car and followed the BATF agents. The car Moorhuhn had secured was somewhat more powerful than his regular ride, and it could pass all the other cars on the road as if they were standing still. He passed Moorhuhn and Pyun, giving them a signal as he barrelled past them, and disappeared into the traffic.
* * *
Copyright © 2013 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson