|I am ten years old and looking out my window into the courtyard. Amidst the wilting flowers and the brown grass is a single tree. I know it is one of the last trees to be found on the entire eastern seaboard, and I am proud to have it growing in the courtyard belonging to my apartment complex. I think it is one of the most beautiful things in the entire world. It's tall and majestic and so very pretty with all of its flowers and bright leaves. I see my little five year old sister playing in the grass underneath the bough of the old, great tree. I go outside to frolic in the dying grass and-|
I wake up with a start. I can hear gunshots a few buildings over, and the clogged traffic on the smoggy streets a couple hundred floors below me. I can hear the drug dealer next to my apartment screaming at somebody over the phone. I can hear the wife screaming and the children crying because daddy is drowning in his cups again. I can hear the thunder of a storm that's bound to come any hour now, but refuses to make landfall.
I could hear all those things and much more, but what really awakened me up was a simple nagging suspicion that somebody was killed while I slept, and that it would my sorry ass having to pay for the repercussions.
Turns out I was 100% correct. Funny how I'm always right when shit is about to get eviscerated by the fan of fate.
I never thought of myself as that piece of shit until I was shoehorned into working for City Law Enforcement.
But hey, I needed the money and you can't turn down an employer who can bring murder charges against you as quickly as bolt of fuckin' proverbial lightning.
The conversation between myself and the Enforcement Captain went sorta like this:
Dickhead: Hey, Vanderhoff!
Myself: Yeah, what do ya want?
Fascist Dickhead: You're gonna work for the Force on an “as needed” basis, you won't get paid squat, there's no benefits, no official records, and Enforcement will take credit for any cases you manage to close, if any. Do we understand each other?
Myself: Doesn't seem like the best job opportunity, I think I'll take my talents elsewhere. If it's all the same to you of course...
Retarded Fascist Dickhead: No it ain't all the same. This isn't an offer that you turn down lightly.
Myself: Well, then, I'm turning it down – forcibly– have a nice day, Captain.
Motherfucking Retarded Fascist Dickhead: Oh, whats this? A warrant for one Volio Vanderhoff. Oh my, it appears you're wanted for the murder of a young boy, six years old! My, my, Mr. Vanderhoff. Looks like you're under arrest.
So that's how I found myself looking down at some sliced up corpse in one of the more decrepit slums on the south side of the City. For some meteorological reason the rains had still not come and it was hot enough to fry an egg, or in this case a body, on the sidewalk.
The dead man's flesh was charred and the pool of blood that his dismembered body parts floated around in certainly was bubbling. There's a reason I wear my trench coat and hat in the zenith of summer, it's not possible to make sunscreen strong enough to block out the dangerous burning rays anymore.
An Enforcement officer was rummaging through the man's pockets when I walked up to the body to get a closer look. When I knelt down beside him, he looked up and flashed me wide smile.
Pearly was one of the better officers on the Force. As far as I know he has one of the more solid arrest records and only accepts the occasional bribe.
“You got tacked to this one, huh, Vanderhoff?” he asked as he pocketed a twenty he found in the corpse's pocket.
“I got the assignment this morning from our friend the Captain,” I said with audible pain in my voice.
Officer Pearly snorted. “You think Cap'n would have at least warmed up to you by now, I mean, like, you've closed more cases than half of the Enforcement detectives combined.”
“Let me just say this about our dear Captain,” I said. “Remember the glaciers? Yeah, the Captain is just like a glacier. He's a cold man, with a scary amount of shit going down beneath the surface. As soon as the light of day hits him, though, he'll melt, melt, melt.”
Pearly mocked wiping a tear from his eye and said, “Damn, Vanderhoff. You should have been a poet.”
“Ehh, fuck you. Who's our victim?” I motioned towards the body baking in the sun.
“Well, I haven't actually gone through the trouble of identifying him. I'll leave that up to you-”
“Welcome. But I can tell you he's a member of the Souljers, one of the big south side street gangs. Think religious zealots funded by drug money with some human trafficking and you gotta a pretty decent picture. He's got the gang's symbol tattooed onto his chest.”
I looked down at the corpse, the man's chest was a hideous mound of oozing cuts, slash marks, and gouged holes. A barely discernible image of a cross, apple, and snakes was etched into the decaying flesh.
“Well, Pearly. You got better eyes than I do.” I looked closer at the wounds. “What happened to this fella?”
“Shot, stabbed, sliced, beaten, strangled, I'll be damned if I know,” said Pearly.
I nodded and said, “Okay then, Pearly, can you call Enforcement and have them send down a medical transport? I want to get this body back to the lab. The clock is ticking.”
The enforcer only broke out into laughter.
I frowned, puzzled. “What?” I asked. “What's the big joke.”
“The joke is that you are sometimes the most naive person I know, Vanderhoff. This guy is a nobody. He's a freaking nutjob gang banger. He is so far below the grid that most people's piss gets more recognition than he does, even when he was still breathing. Why do you think there's no Medical Examiner here? No Crime Scene Enforcers? The only other person to show up besides us was some nobody reporter. And why? Because this guy,” he gave the body a vicious kick, “is not connected, rich, or famous. He doesn't exist. The only reason this whole thing hasn't been swept under the carpet is cuz Enforcement doesn't have to, it's going to happen naturally. And if you manage to find this fella's killer, well, that just good PR.”
I looked down again at the body. Pearly began to walk away, wiping the blood on the sole of his shoes on the cracked cement.
I asked, “Why is it like this, Pearly? A man is dead a nobody gives a damn.”
Pearly looked over his shoulder and thought for a moment. “Nobody has anymore damns to give, Vanderhoff.”
I see the storm coming. It is one of those flash megastorms that just hit with a sudden ferocity that's unmatched in nature. The winds begin to gust and I am almost thrown up against the walls of the apartment building. I lean forward so that I am almost parallel to the ground. A clump of dead bushes is ripped up by the gales and flies off into the air. Windows behind me begin to shatter. My sister, her long hair whipping through the wind, begins to cry. I finally reach her and grab her hand and we struggle to take cover beneath the tree and-
I woke up in a dingy room in a dirty bed. I looked around and noticed all the medical equipment, then I realized I had bloody bandages around my stomach.
I heard a door opening nearby. A figure approached me out of the darkness. I looked frantically around for a weapon, preferably my gun.
I failed to find anything. The figure was approaching fast. Panicked, I took a swing at him. I felt something tear and I fell to the grimy floor with a groan and thud.
My vision began to dim and I saw the figure kneel beside me.
“Oh dear, Vanderhoff. Trying to punch the man who saved your life. It brings tears to the eyes I don't have.”
He stabbed a needle into my neck and my eyesight came back into focus.
My doctor shook his head and stood up. I looked up and immediately lowered my gaze. I hated seeing those two empty eye sockets.
I got to my knees and groaned. Aye-Aye the doctor stood me up as well and forced me back onto the bed.
“Why do you never wear the sunglasses I buy you?” I asked the blind medic.
Aye-Aye grinned deviously as he unwrapped my bandages. “It's the look I imagine seeing on your face. It's how I get my jollies.”
“Well,” I said through gritted teeth while he poked and prodded my wound, “Only five more years of this, huh?”
“Oh joy. Five long years of indentured servitude. Honestly, I don't know what's worse anymore, prison or fixing you every other week. You're like some sort of cheap child's plaything, always needing repair!”
“What was broken with me this time? I can't seem recall what happened.”
“Take a shot in the dark,” said Aye-Aye, snide as ever.
“I was shot? Who? Where? When? Tell, me doc.”
Aye-Aye shrugged. “How would I know? I only ever get to see the aftermath of your disastrous escapades. And stop calling me doctor, you know I don't have a license.” He paused. “Oh look at this!” He finished unwrapping the bandages. “You've torn open the wound again! I'll have to go get my instruments! Again!” He left the room in a fuss.
“Wait!” I called out after him in vain. Aye-Aye was a character. I had saved him from two decades sentence in a penitentiary, which is pretty much a death sentence unless you're lucky and you got connections. And Aye-Aye certainly had neither.
He had been a prominent black market doctor and a leader of a group of organ pirates, scavengers who prowled the streets of the City for the recently dead and stole all the fleshy valuables, you know, livers, hearts, eyes.
Now, some of the gangs to offense to the desecration of their boys' corpses. The almost constant warfare amongst the various criminal underworlds created a great pool of resources for Aye-Aye to exploit.
So, when a couple of gangs banded together to take care of the doctor for good, he had been overwhelmed. The street thugs had beaten him bloody, gouged out both his eyes and left him on the steps of Enforcement HQ.
Dropping your opponents off at Enforcement is a sign of great disrespect. It's generally acknowledged that getting blown away on the street is a swifter and kinder death then the slow, agonizing nuerotoxin known as the justice system.