3/8/20 - Overcast
Alex Gunn groaned in frustration as he shuffled papers across his cluttered desk. Outside the glass windows that made up the front of his office, the rest of the Hades Central Police Station was a scrambling mess of cubicles and activity extending for several hundred yards. Behind him, a set of bars over the small window looking out over the district kept him distinctly aware of where, exactly, he was – less than a mile from the largest prison in the city.
He'd been investigating a criminal-financial discrepancy related to the Family for the past two weeks, and had been stonewalled once again, this time permanently. The case itself had been a lot of guesswork. It had been bred from financial records that had been confiscated from a set of bars and clubs that had been shut down over the past six months. Each one had been a hive of prostitution, drug dealing and other criminal activity, but even with some of the largest games in the city shut down, they hadn't even made a dent. A couple dozen arrests, hundreds of thousands of dollars in contraband confiscated, and they hadn't touched the underlayer of Dis. Every street gang dabbled in drug and human trafficking. You couldn't walk 600 feet without a group of prostitutes on a street corner. There just weren't enough officers to police the Dis Anarchy.
He'd been tracing payments through the Family, the largest mob in the city, pegging down other businesses that were involved in their operations. The entire case could hardly even be called chasing ghosts – one number here led to another there, but trying to connect the two was like trying to track down a criminal based entirely on what type of beer they drank. He'd narrowed his list down to about half of the businesses in the district. Then, suddenly, one of the mayoral candidate's names had come up. The case had gone beyond closed. Every record associated with it, weeks or months worth of evidence, had all but disappeared. The only files left on it were currently littering Gunn's desk, and he was sure those were only still there because he'd locked them in his drawers. The rest of it disappearing was deniable, but if Gunner came to work and his desk was partially destroyed, there was no way he'd let the force sweep that under the rug.
Such was the life of a Hades P.D. Officer. At least Alex could get off without taking bribes, but most of his counterparts were dirty to the core. You had to be to survive. It was uncommon for someone who wasn't taking payments to survive more than a few months if they were in an important enough position. This time, however, he wasn't letting these actions go. Pushing his piles of papers into a drawer and clicking the lock shut, he stood up and made his way out into the chaos.
The station outside his office was always noisy. Even at night, clicking and creaking and the night-shift workers made enough noise to fool someone into thinking they were working next to a Hades City freeway. Gunn locked his office behind him. Unlike his desk, the janitorial teams had keys to the door, but it was better to at least put some sort of barrier up.
The station chief's office was in the southwest corner of the building's 5th floor, looking over the prison. The chief had almost a quarter of the floor to himself, with dozens of filing cabinets and bookcases cycling through relevant cases. He was a busy man. His office had three secretaries – one for him personally, one for evidence, and one for files. Rumor had it that he'd be getting a fourth soon.
One of the secretaries nodded to him as he walked past, before going back to watching a few other officers rummaging through some of the many filing cabinets. The chief was behind his desk in his office as Gunner walked in, hidden behind dozens of stacks of papers, all needing his signature. He had dark shadows under his eyes and his clothes were wrinkled and stale. The skin of his face was gaunt and gray. He had a cold mug of coffee on his desk, half empty.
The chief always looked tired – a byproduct of always being tired. It was a well-known fact that he'd sometimes spend 3 or 40 hours at a time in his office, running entirely off of caffine or sleep-supplements. He took one day a week off, and spent the entirety of it sleeping. He had a family, but never discussed them. Gunn always took him as an example of what overwork would do to a person. He thought of his own wife, Amy, and what would happen to them or their relationship if they didn't see each other every day. As it was, he wasn't seeing her as often as he liked – he was saving up vacation days for some extended paternity leave once his baby arrived, and that meant that sometimes he had to put in a couple of extra hours.
The chief looked up as Alex strode into his office. Despite his tired appearance, his eyes were bright and alert, looking out from underneath the hood of his brow. “Alex, what can I do for you?” He asked politely. There was no sign of fatigue in his voice.
“I want to know what happened to the Callderson Case, sir.” Alex said directly.
“Alex, I don't know if you noticed, but I have quite a few different cases beneath me at the moment.”
“Financial records, from some of the stores we've shut down over the past couple of weeks.” Gunner clarified.
“I'm afraid I still don't recall.”
The officer groaned in a burst of frustration and stared down the chief, who was doing his best to look ignorant and helpless. “I was in here about it two days ago, sir. I needed your permission to look through some of the older financials.”
The chief stared down Gunner before finally standing up from his desk. His joints cracked as he stood up and stretched. “I shouldn't spend so much time in that damn chair...” He muttered, showing the first signs of exhaustion Gunner had yet seen. “Alex, I'm afraid I can't help you. I just don't know what you're talking about. Go through my files...”
“I already have, sir, and everything I had disappeared. All I have left is in my -” Gunner cut himself off before he could say more. He didn't need to broadcast that he still had a good portion of the case files locked away in his office.
The chief decided to ignore this point. “I have work to do, Mr. Gunn.” He said pointedly, returning to his desk. Alex turned to leave, frustrated. If the chief wouldn't help him, he'd just have to wing it. He'd let the case drop for a few weeks, and keep a close eye on some of the Family busts. Hopefully, someone would find something that linked some of his own data...
“Alex, wait.” The chief said, just as Alex reached for the door handle. “When you talk, we do listen.” He said. “But I'm afraid I can't help you. I suggest you take what you have home and look over it. And I expect to see you at Frazier’s tonight, at 5:00, like usual. Order me a beer.”
Gunner closed the door without saying anything, and hurried back to his office. The chief had practiced this code with him before, though it had been over a year since he'd come to him about anything so serious he needed it.
When you talk, we do listen. The chief's office was bugged, Alex should check his own as well.
I can't help you. That was honesty – Alex had more freedom because his office was one of the only ones on the floor that was overlooked. The chief was on the Mob's payroll (against his own will), and everyone knew it.
Take what you have home and look over it. The files that Gunner had weren't safe where they were. He'd have to take them with him on his way out or they'd disappear too.
Frazier's tonight, 5:00. Order a beer. Alex hadn't gone to drinks with the chief since he'd gotten his office in Special Crimes. Frazier's was a bar a few blocks from the station, and there were certainly nicer places to drink in the city. Something was there that Alex would need to continue his investigation. He unlocked his office, sat down in his desk, and started going through his files again. A missing link here, a number off there... when he got to the bar that evening, he'd know what to look for.
At 4:30, he called his wife. He was going to be late. Don't wait up.
One of Dis' many appealing features was it's complete lack of available parking. Despite most buildings being 2-3 stories and made up entirely of apartments, in a lot of areas there was very little in the way of organized parking. The only way this was counterbalanced was by many residents not having a car to drive (or being unable to afford gas). As a result, if you found a spot anywhere close to where you were going, you took it. And so, Gunner found himself walking 4 blocks to Frazier's, only to find a car pulling out directly in front of the door as he walked inside.
Frazier's was about as low as you could get in Hades – any lower and you risk a raid from a gang or the police. The black, smoky room wasn't much of a lighting improvement over the cloud-covered dusk outside. The scent immediately changed from engine exhaust to cigarette smoke and filth. Everything in the bar was built out of dark-brown wood, from the bar to the chairs to the paneling on the walls. Leering faces peered out from corners and underneath hoods, and there was a continual murmur from dozens of mouths as illegal trades and deals were made. The only accompanying sound was the creaking of the cop's footsteps on the floor and a radio in the corner, weakly flickering classic rock out into the room.
Gunner had donned his leather jacket over a gray shirt he'd found in the trunk of his car. The shirt had a stain on it from something-or-other (probably why he'd thrown it in the trunk), but it fit in well with the seedy atmosphere. He was glad he wasn't wearing his police gear, although his jacket was still a little too nice for the setting. In retrospect, he realized he could've dumped it in a gutter once or twice before coming in for a better effect.
Still, as he stood at the bar and glared at the bartender for service, he felt assured in his role. This wouldn't be the first time he'd acted the part.
“What do you want.” The bartender said hostilely.
“Coors.” Alex put a slight rasp in his voice for effect. “And a better fuckin' attitude.” He moved back his jacket and showed his 10mm, stuck in his waistband. He'd left the actual holster in his car, for effect.
The bartender snorted. “You lookin for trouble, fuck-o? Cuz you're about to find some.”
Alex ignored him. “Listen, asswipe. Boss wants this month's payment from you, now.”
“Bullshit. I pay next week, just like everyone else.”
“Oh really?” Alex asked. “You want me to go tell my guys that? Because we can be back here in fifteen minutes with that trouble you were asking about." He gave himself a moment to savor this line. "Now go get the money." As the bartender moved off, Alex added as if in afterthought, "also, boss wants all your financial records for the past year. I didn't ask why, and you better-fuckin-not either. And where the FUCK is my beer?” He banged his fist on the counter, shattering the room's quiet atmosphere.
The bartender stared at Alex for a minute, as if debating how he'd look with a cap in his face. Alex kept his hand on his pistol. Then the bartender moved off. The bar's activity resumed. A dusty bottle of beer was passed down the counter and Gunner cracked the top off against the countertop.
The bartender came back a minute later, carrying a plastic bag filled with cash and a folder full of papers. He passed it to the officer without a word, this time not making eye contact. Alex took a last swig of beer and backed off, the papers and cash in one hand, the other still on his weapon. “See you next month.” He threatened. “And next time, you'd better have a better fuckin' attitude.”
The door to the bar could not close fast enough, but Alex was a block away before he finally breathed easy – he hadn't been followed. He laughed slightly at the release of tension, shaking his head and stuffing the papers under his arms. He left the bag of cash at the entrance to an alleyway – if the police got their hands on it, it might tip off the mob about what he'd been doing the past few months. If he dumped it, it'd look suspicious if the wrong person got wind of it. If he kept it, he was pretty sure his wife wouldn't be thrilled about buying something with stolen cash, even if that thing was a new appliance.
There was the fact that everything he'd just done was illegal and probably punishable by time in jail if Internal Affairs caught wind of it, but as Gunner walked back to his car, he was pretty sure he still had the moral high ground.