Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Rivers of Blood Chapter 2: Hazel (Original Fiction)

Read the first chapter here

“I’m not sure what to call it… intuition might be close, or maybe it’s more of a wild guess. I suppose, if a wild guess, and I mean totally wild, based on nothing but first impressions is consistently correct, I guess it becomes a sort of skill… or talent. Something like that.”

Eric Williams raised his eyebrow at his companion’s dubious claims. Raising the straw to his lips, he took a long sip from his frozen latte with his right hand while raising up his other hand to signal that he had something to say.

Half-closed, jade-green eyes stared back at him. A sly smile formed on her lips in amusement.

“Ahh… that was good,” placing his 20% finished latte quickly onto the glass table between them, he continued, “but anyway, Sheena, you mean to tell me that’s all there is to it? No fancy techniques? 101 rules for profiling a suspect or anything like that?”

Sheena Baker bit her lips stifling a smile.
“No, of course the basics are important. There are plenty of rules for profiling someone – and not just a suspect, mind you. I mean, in this line of work, you should be able to tell a number of things about just about anyone at a glance and you have to base that off of technical knowledge about a number of different things from technology to science to engineering and don’t even get me started on body language… but you know, I don’t think anyone can actively think about these things all the time.”

“Well , that’s a bit disappointing I mean, that time when you arrived at the scene after my father’s murder… you really saved me.”

Sheena’s eyes lit up.

“Oh yeah… that was really horrible. And I don’t mean just for you, I mean for me as well… umm… what, why are you looking at me like that?”

She adjusted her dark-rimmed glasses a bit before continuing.

“Yeah, yeah I get it. You want me to tell you how I managed to identify the culprit, right… which reminds me, it would have gotten ugly pretty quickly if I hadn’t exposed him at that moment.”

Eric nodded in approval.

“Well, it’s a bit hard to explain, but it’s like what I said earlier. I basically make a guess based on first impressions and then I proceed to find evidence that would support that guess – and my guesses often turn out to be correct. Here, let me demonstrate. See that lady coming out of that store over there?”
Sheena pointed to a Forever 21 store across the street.

“Yeah, that girl who is obviously a fashionista?”
“Lawyer. She looks young but she’s Asian, so about 36 years old. I’d say she’s been in practice for about 6 years or so…”

“And this is based on?”

“She’s wearing a $1000 Prada bag. It’s pretty much a status symbol for female lawyers nowadays.”

“Wait, that’s just blind speculation. You mean to tell me that your entire technique is based around confirmation bias?”

Sheena clutched her chest and grimaced hard as if she were having a heart attack.

“Ugh… that really hurts, rookie… just for that… how about a wager?”

Sheena winked coyly at Eric.

“If I’m right, you pay the bill.”

Eric raised his hands to his side

“Well, I figure you’ve got about a 30% chance of getting it, right. So I’m up for it.”
Sheena grinned with the look of a cat that just ate the bird and got away with it.
“Can I borrow your smartphone for a sec? My 3310 can’t display pictures.”

“Sigh… I have no idea why you insist on using that ancient thing. But… shouldn’t one of us go up and talk to her? You know, just ask if she’s really a lawyer like you said. She’s getting into her car now… oh, nevermind. I guess the bet is off. She got away.”

“KA-CHING! Aaand, I win. Here she is. Here’s her name on the roll of attorneys. Government website, no photohsop, no filter, no editing. And if you need further info, she’s pretty active on social media. Even has a Google+ account. I thought nobody ever uses that?”

Sheena showed him the woman’s social media profile. Indeed, the face matched that of the woman who had just sped away on a Pearl White Hyundai Genesis. Atty. Linda Parker, joined the roll of attorneys back in 2012.

“T-that’s simply amazing. You knew all that from just a Prada bag? That’s some intuition.”

“Haha! Hahahaha! You’re so gullible, Rookie.”


Eric stared dumbfounded at the woman before him who was guffawing so hard that the other patrons of the outdoor café were starting to glare at their general direction.
“Pfft! Sorry about that… and I mean sorry about that EVERYONE!”
This caused the prying eyes to look away… whether it was disgust or embarrassment that they felt at that moment, Sheena did not seem to care.

“Anyway, there’s no magic trick to it. Linda is an acquaintance of mine. That’s the real secret, rookie. You don’t show your trump card until you’re sure you can win…oh, and in the same vein, you don’t take a case unless you know you can resolve it. It may be difficult, it may take some effort, but you should at least be certain that you can actually resolve it before you accept it. As private investigators, we have a responsibility to our clients to resolve the case and not just try our best.  The people who try their best are those who have given up from the very start and are only hoping to win by mere chance.”
The young woman before Eric stopped smiling. She readjusted her glasses and looked straight into his eyes. Her pools of jade reflecting the look of amazement plastered on his face.

“Listen up, Rookie. Fate is a bitch, so you never leave anything to her whims. If something isn’t certain, then that just means you need to find more clues that will lead you to the definite conclusion – that is how we resolve the unresolved.”

“When she said that… she was really amazing. You know how in those movies when a dramatic scene comes up and epic music starts playing? It felt just like that.”

“I see, she was really something, huh? This Sheena Baker?”

Eric turned to the young woman seated in a relaxed yet elegant manner on the barstool next to him. She had long straight, black hair even-cut bangs barely touching her eyebrows and two long fringes at each side of her face that just about reached her collarbone. Sharp, hazelnut eyes spoke of Asian descent, although it was pretty hard to tell beneath the heavy foundation she was wearing.

It had been two weeks since Sheena Baker’s death and Eric was very glad for any opportunity to talk about the meager but very vivid memories that he had of his former mentor – even with a complete stranger that he had met just a few moments before. If he had been more sober, he might have found the woman, who had introduced herself as Mai Sakata to be quite a beauty. Of course, drunken with depression and about five shots of cheap whiskey, he wasn’t exactly in the best mental state to even notice the femme fatale in front of him. What mattered is that she was a living, breathing person who was willing to listen and she was right in front of him at that moment – he needed that.
 Sheena had been cremated unceremoniously – as specified in her holographic will, which was found neatly folded inside her purse, handwritten, dated and signed by her. Sheena had no living relatives and very few people in the police force wanted to be associated with someone in her line of work, so not even the ones she knew came for her funeral wake.
Eric understood this clearly. After all, his father had been a police asset and when the current administration took over nearly a decade ago and began a massive bloodbath based on the premise of ridding the city of drugs entirely. The police officer who had been using his father as an asset to infiltrate a particular criminal group turned out to be the same person who would eventually take his life in an effort to clear his own name. His father died alone in the streets – shot in cold blood. He was an unsung hero who exposed more than six different criminal groups as an insider – and yet, the authorities would never acknowledge his accomplishments. In fact, not a single police officer turned up for the funeral.
“So, tell me more about this Sheena woman. Was she… more than a friend to you perhaps?”

Eric downed his sixth shot of whiskey and signaled for the bartender to bring him another.

“She was… amazing. But, we weren’t like that. I looked up to her. She was the one who solved my father’s case back when she was just a rookie officer. The irony is that the perpetrator was her partner all along. The investigation took place at our house and she just casually named him as the perp and then proceeded to assault him with a boat load of facts that all pointed to him being the killer. Of course, everything she said was merely circumstantial, but she delivered it so convincingly that the guy just broke down completely in front of her. He didn’t even put up a fight. He just put his hands out and instructed her to cuff him and take him in. “

There was a glint in Eric’s eye even as he continued to reminisce his past from his drunken state.

“ I didn’t even know her name back then… but what I could never forget were her cat-like green eyes. I… joined the police force hoping to follow in her footsteps, but I’d heard she already left the force when I finally earned my badge. I didn’t stop though, I kept searching and searching and then… and then… I finally found her.”
“And now she’s gone, is she?”

Mai asked this question in a deliberate manner. No signs of sarcasm or even pity in her voice.

“But… she seemed like such an amazing woman. It’s hard to believe that someone like that could be killed so… unceremoniously.”
Eric took another quick gulp downing his seventh shot of whiskey. The truth is that he wasn’t really much of a drinker. The first time he’d encountered alcohol was back in high school. It was just after his father had died and his friends convinced him to drink some kind of gin mixed with lime juice and a whole lot of ice. It took no more than half a glass of this before he started feeling light headed and just slightly dizzy. He threw up all night after that incident and woke up with a splitting headache that lasted all day.

Eric had sworn off alcohol since that first encounter, but being a man down on his luck, of very few interests and an even weaker will, he needed something to help ease the pain of Sheena’s death and currently, he found the whiskey very comforting.

He took a quick glance around the room. There were very few patrons inside. He’d deduced that most of them were office workers looking to unwind a bit after a hard day’s work. There were a group of kids by the window: two girls and three guys. They were clearly underage; of course, it was none of his business so he left well enough alone. He felt sure that she would see it that way as well.

“So, Mr. Williams…”

“Eric is fine.”

“Did you ever check the corpse yourself, Eric? I mean, as an investigator, you confirmed her death yourself, right?”
The young man took another swig at his shot glass, but was rather disgruntled to discover that he’d already emptied it a few moments earlier.  He motioned the bartender for another one, to which the man behind the counter firmly shook his head. The bartender, 58 year-old John Morris had been in the business for far too long. He’d seen this pattern countless times before and he understood fully-well that the customer is always right – unless that customer happens to be dead drunk and wants another one.
Eric raised one finger from the back of his balled fist at the gentleman and flipped him the universal sign of strong disapproval. Of course, he knew himself better than anyone else and he was a former private investigator with a criminology degree for heaven’s sake. He understood the levels of intoxication better than some bottle juggling old man.

“The medical officer on the job confirmed it for me when I arrived. It was more than an hour since she’d been shot. Her body was already on the ambulance stretcher – still wearing the same clothes from when we last saw each other. They asked me to confirm her identity.  Apparently, she had no living relatives or close friends – or anyone who wanted to be associated with her for that matter.”
“Ah, so that means you never checked her body yourself?”

Mai Sakata smiled sweetly as she said this.

Eric shook his head.

“No no no, that’s not how it works, miss. The medical officer is a professional – they don’t make mistakes. I saw the gunshot wound on her forehead myself. It was unmistakable.”

“I see… that is quite a shame. So Miss Sheena Baker is really dead…ah, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to stir up any bad memories. It just seemed like you really wanted to talk about it.”
Eric remained silent. She was correct. Until now, he had been a mixed cocktail of dangerously volatile emotions keeping things all bottled up inside.  While the whiskey helped to dull his emotional pain, it acted just like an anesthetic. The pain was still there, it just didn’t hurt as much. In contrast, talking things over with someone like Mai offered him some sense of actual relief.
Sheena had warned him before. In this line of work, you have to operate from the shadows. You need to kill your presence and your identity entirely. You must not exist. You must become no one.
This led him to question more than a few times whether the name “Sheena Baker” was itself nothing more than an alias.
Still, these things were far from his mind right at that moment. When he discovered that Sheena had left the Baker agency in his name, he had been overwhelmed with a flood of emotions – emotions that overloaded his senses so much that in the end, he just felt hollow and empty inside. At that moment, Eric knew that his career as a private investigator was over. As for the Baker Agency, he had planned on selling it off to someone else eventually without ever revealing the real secret beneath it – about the ace detective who clandestinely resolved the most unresolved of cases beyond the watchful eyes of the law.
Eric fiddled with his empty shot glass. Time seemed to slow down as his eyes focused only on the transparent container held between his thumb and forefinger. He noticed that there were actually many tiny scratches on it – indicating that it must have been used countless times before. The glass was thick, which usually spoke of low quality production methods. It bore no particular manufacturer’s trademark or indicia He surmised that the owner must have bought it at some backyard auction or as a set at some thrift shop.
“So… was I wrong? Am I being a bother after all?”

Mai’s voice snapped him back into reality.

“Uh… no, you’re right. It feels… comforting to have someone to talk things over with.”

The young woman smiled sweetly. She lightly tapped the space between her eyes.
“By the way, did you ever catch the killer?

“No… it was a drive-by shooting via motorcycle. You know how it is in this city. It happens every day. I just never expected someone like her… someone so smart, so amazing to die just like that.”

“It really does seem quite unlikely, my friend. This Sheena person was really special based on what you have told me… but rather than that, isn’t it a bit strange?”

“Eh? Strange in what way?” Eric asked genuinely perplexed.

Mai scratched her chin for a bit before answering.

“Well, if you think about it, the victims of almost all the drive-by shootings have all been homeless people or people living below the poverty line – mostly small-time drug pushers working for the big fish. I don’t think there have been any incidents at all of any drive-by shootings happening inside of gated villages or targeting white collar workers, or just about anyone who didn’t look poor. I do not think your mentor would look like a possible target by mere appearance, would she?”

Eric buried his face in his hands. His reply came in a faint, almost unintelligible mumble.

“No… I mean, sure she did dress a bit like a slob but like a nerdy slob. Nothing that would make her a target. I mean, her fashion sense could have used a bit of work, but it’s not like the clothes themselves were cheap. She certainly couldn’t have passed for some hobo.”

“Do you not think it’s worth investigating? You were a private eye until just a few weeks ago, were you not? What’s the use of all your skills if you can’t even help the person that you cared for the most? As a man, you should at least avenge her death.”

“Hey, hey! That’s overstepping the line lady. You make it sound like she was my lover or something. Didn’t I make it clear that we’re not like that?”

Mai giggled mischievously.

“My friend, I didn’t say anything like that at all. You said it yourself… but don’t try to change the subject here. I’m no detective, but even I think there are a lot of contradictions with the circumstances surrounding her death.”
At that moment, Eric would have turned red with embarrassment, but fortunately for him, his face was already as red as it could get from all the alcohol he had ingested.
Mai did not let up.

“With that aside, even if you have no plans of investigating her death, I think… that there will always be people who will need someone like you. Someone willing to resolve the cases that no one will ever bother to resolve.“

Her words did not sink in immediately, but gradually, beyond the tunnel vision, beyond the dizziness he felt from having had one drink too many, beyond the intoxicating smell of the whiskey coming from his own body, a realization was starting to form within the muddled, dormant brain cells of Eric Williams… until finally, the idea came to fruition.
Eric turned to face her. He stared long and hard at her visage. There was a quiet strength emanating from Mai Sakata.

“Say… if I were to continue being a private investigator, would you be interested in a desk job at my office? I mean, things are probably all in shambles in there right now, but you seem like someone who would be a perfect fit for this line of work. I could really use a new partner.”

Mai smiled her sweetest smile yet.

“I would be honored, Mr. Williams.”

“Then,” Eric dismounted  from his bar stool, “If you’ll excuse me, Miss Sakata. I think there are a few people who need my help in here right now.”

Mai raised an eyebrow and then gave a nod of approval. Of course, at this time, Eric had already left her side.

It wasn’t exactly easy. He was clearly far more intoxicated than he had bargained for. So he had to steer himself carefully so as not to fall over on his way to his intended targets. The corner table by the windows seemed so very far away – especially for someone who could barely keep his balance.

They say that walking is merely a series controlled falling, if the person who made up that definition could only see Eric at that moment, they would have been quite proud.
After spending around five minutes and nearly planting himself face first into the wrong table quite a few times, the former detective finally arrived at his destination – the table with the group that he suspected to be underage.

One of the youngsters, a brash teenager, who was much bigger and definitely taller than him, stood up to face the older man.

“What do you want, pops? I think you’re in the wrong table.”

The two girls who were seated in the same booth together giggled in unison while the teenager’s two other male companions glared at Eric from their seats with a dead eye gangster’s stare.
“No, I think I’m exactly where I want to be.”

“HEY! Don’t you cause trouble in my establishment, you drunk idiot! I’m warning you, I’m calling the police.”
John Morris, the old bartender shouted from behind the counter.

Eric raised his hand.

“It’s fine, Bartender. I just want to show these kids a little magic trick… unless, you know, you really want to call the police. In that case, I’m not the one serving liquor to minors am I? Just saying…”
With a grumble, the bartender replied, “Hmph! I… uh… I didn’t see a thing. Carry on, sir.”

“Right, so where were we…?”

“Pops... I’m warning you. If you try anything stupid, I’m going to knock some teeth out.”

“Yes, yes, of course you will, umm… I’m Eric, by the way. Eric Williams. You might say I’m a traveling magician. I do magic tricks. Reveal the unrevealed. That sort of stuff.”
“We’re not interested in your magic tricks, old man.”
“Well… well… just give me a moment, will you? I promise... entertainment.”

He tapped the brash teenager standing in front of him on the chest as he said this. This earned him a good shove, but almost miraculously Eric managed to retain his balance.
“Hey, hey. Don’t be so mean, Chris. Let him show us what he can do first.” Said the girl seated by the window. She had brown eyes with matching straight brown hair tied up into twin ponytails.

“Yeah… hmph! You can beat him up after he entertains us for a bit.” One of the male companions chided -- a delinquent with a red bandana on his forehead. Eric could not help but muse inwardly that this guy was dressed for the wrong decade.”
“Th-that’s a bit mean.” The other girl added. She was a brunette with nondescript features and a rather shy demeanor.

Eric shakily regained his footing.

“So… with that out of the way, let us begin.”

Eric grabbed the five glasses of alcohol that the kids had been drinking from. He eyed each one carefully, especially the girls’ glasses. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that the glasses were almost full.

“Hey – that’s!”

Eric raised his hand right at Chris’ face.

“Shhh! I promise I won’t ruin your drinks. I just need them for a little bit… so… observe the glasses carefully, do you notice anything?”

“Umm… the drinks are different? The guys all ordered some kind of clear liquid, while we girls have this funky colored drink.”

“Bingo! Good job, shy girl… um what’s your name again?”

“It’s Emily, Mr. Williams.”

“Excellent… but if you please, would you try one of the guy’s drinks, Emily? Here’ I’ll wipe the lid if you’re worried about an indirect kiss or something to that effect.”

Eric took a piece of tissue paper from the table and carefully and meticulously wiped the lid of the glass of alcohol and offered it to Emily.

Taking the glass, the girl took a tiny sip. She licked her lips and furrowed her eyebrows.

“It’s the same. It tastes the same as ours. It’s the same drink, isn’t it?”

“Bingo! You got it right again. Good job, Emily.”

“Wait, if it’s the same as ours, then why does it look so different?”

“Ah, excellent question, miss twin-tails.”

“Mary. The name’s Mary.”

“Well, Mary… as to your question, that brings us to my little magic trick. Observe…”

Eric quickly dropped two small capsules into the two remaining drinks on the table that didn’t belong to the girls. Immediately, the capsules dissolved into bubbles and emitted a dark blue-inkish powder that spread all over the liquid. When the capsules had completely dissolved, the drinks were indistinguishable from that of the girls.
“Ta-dah! You see, I just added a little substance called Rohypnol into these two glasses. If that name didn’t shock you, then perhaps you’re familiar with a little something called ‘the date rape drug?’ Oh and if you’re wondering where I got that from. I stole it from your good friend Chris there when I gave him that little love tap on his chest pocket.”


Chris, clearly infuriated, suddenly threw a massive left hook at Eric. Clearly, this youngster was not without training, Eric thought. Boxing, perhaps?
Chris’ punch was strong yet cleanly executed. If Eric had been a fraction of a second later in moving his head slightly downwards and to the right, he would have been floored in an instant.

“Hey, kid.  Have you ever watched this old Jackie Chan movie called Drunken Master? Nah, I guess not. Anyway, the more drunk the protagonist became, the stronger his kung fu got.”

“Shut up, pops! I’m going to fucking murder y--- AAGH!”

Chris screamed in pain. Eric delivered a vicious inside leg kick into his thighs before he could complete his sentence. The exclamation point came quickly via an overhand right from Eric delivered into the sweet spot just below his chin. Chris doesn’t expect drunken busybodies smaller than him to do that. Chris is a bully. Chris fell back to his chair on top of both of his buddies unconscious.
“Will I be expecting any more trouble from you boys?”

Eric beckoned them to come hither in the best Bruce Lee pose he could muster.

“N-no sir!” They answered almost simultaneously.
“Well, I guess that’s that. I trust you ladies will be more careful in the future?”

“Th-thanks a lot, Mr. Williams. What should we do about these guys?” Mary asked.

“I leave that up to you, Emily.”

“It’s Mary. Emily is the shy one, remember?”

“Right, I leave that up to you, Mary.”
“Ok… just one more question: who are you really?”

“Me? Well… I’m just a private detective passing by, I suppose.”

Eric smiled and then turned gracefully on one foot, but he crossed his legs over while doing so and fell flat on the floor face-first.  It’s not a wise idea to attempt a pirouette while drunk after all.

“I’m ok… I’m ok!”


Three days after that incident, footsteps once again rang out through the narrow passageway that led to the Baker and Company Security and Consultancy firm. It had been quite a while since this had happened. Eric Williams, the new owner of the agency, adjusted his necktie. He had decided to start anew after all and if he was going to play private eye – he had decided that he might as well look the part.

The front door creakily swung open.

“Welcome, I’ve been expecting you.”

She sat down on the small sofa in front of him. He immediately understood that she wanted him to ask the questions now.

“Why did you do it?”

“Someone was watching us ever since we entered the crime scene. They would have gone after both of us, so I had to prove that we weren’t a threat. The rest can be explained with B-grade movie prosthetics and pulling a few strings with the local TV station.”

Eric turned on Sheena’s old mmx PC. In hindsight, he regretted waiting until now to do it. Now he’d have to wait at least 15 minutes on minimum before it finished booting up
“Who did it?

“It’s a crime syndicate. What I know so far is that it’s a weapons dealer with massive connections to China and quite a few friends in government.”

“That’s not much to go on, is it?”

She smiled sinisterly.

“Nah, we also have this.”

She tossed a small vial at him. He caught it crisply with one hand.

“Careful with that. One drop is enough to kill an elephant if ingested. It attacks the nervous system directly. Once inside the body, it just turns the off switch.  It’s also highly corrosive on skin.”

Eric opened a drawer from behind his desk and carefully placed the dangerous vial inside.
“Bill Taylor and Cindy Garcia’s deaths are definitely connected. It seems the boyfriend stumbled upon a hornet’s nest. Had some lab rats examine that vial. It’s poison. It’s not some kind of party drug. It’s a new type of chemical weapon that they’re manufacturing. This version is not yet perfected, but once it’s fully-developed, it’s apparently going to be more lethal than Sarin.”
“I see… well then, I suppose it’s a mere formality at this point, but welcome to the team… Mai Sakata.”

“Glad to be on board, boss. So, what’s our next step?”

“We need more evidence, Mai. Three people have died so far in a case that was never formally accepted by this agency. It began with the death of Bill Taylor, that led his fiancé Cindy Garcia to seek help from this office, but Cindy was killed shortly after and then they went after Sheena Baker as well. The deaths of these three people are strongly connected. We need to gather all the pieces of the puzzle and expose the people behind these murders – or else, this city- maybe even the entire world will be drowned in rivers of blood.”
At that moment, the windows 98 startup tune chimed in. The old mmx clone PC had booted up.

Rivers of Blood Introduction: END
Thank you for reading the pilot chapters of Rivers of Blood. This is as far as the story goes for now until I can get more chapters ready. I'm currently writing the 4th chapter of this piece. Do let me know your thoughts on this -- the story I mean, and not your unwarranted "constructive critique," thanks~

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