Chapter 12:



Behind a two-way mirror, trapped within an interrogation room, Sean’s foot tapped against the tiled floor like an unrelenting engine. His erratic twitching worsened as he realized the consequences of being caught. For John, he watched all this from the opposite side of the mirror, standing with Elle and Captain Richard Dallas.

Richard Dallas had been the chief of police for the Undercity for as long as John could remember. The moment Darcy Private Investigations opened, Richard had been both a boon and thorn on several different cases. The world-weary police chief, once a fit individual reduced to a portly shape due to depressed overeating, rubbed his eyes as they watched their suspect slowly unravel. He was dressed in a too small suit coat and a button down stained with morning coffee. Coupled with stress lined throughout his face, Richard appeared much older than John thought him.

“He’s going into withdrawals,” John said, “Whatever he’s been taking, it’s doing a number on him.”

“Has to be Red Juice,” Richard said, “These augmented junkies live off the shit. Keeps their brains from rejecting the augmentations.”

Elle had been unable to look away since they got there. She knew very little about augmentation. “Why would the brain reject it?”

“Normally, it doesn't,” John explained, “A reputable doctor has the tools to assure it won’t. The back-alley scammers these guys use rarely do, so they concocted something called Red Juice. Numbs the brain into thinking everything is fine. Explains why I crushed his skull into a wall five times, and he still got back up.”

“Red Juice is becoming a real problem,” Richard lamented, “For augmentations, for pain reduction, because it's ‘cool’. Worse part, it’s not illegal.”

“It’s illegal without a prescription,” John said, “Doubt he has a card for it.”

“I can guarantee he doesn’t…” Richard said. He shut the blinds and left Sean to his withdrawals. His detectives would deal with him later, and Richard had more pressing matters to attend to. “Sean Addler… he’s been on our radar for a bit now. I find it surprising that we just so happen to catch him, today, because you’re their John. Tell me, why were you there?”

It was a fair question. “Got a case from a Neko. Guy’s been stalking her.”

“She report it?”

“What do you think?”

“Bah… we could have struck this guy quicker if she had.” Richard tossed a mean glare Elle’s way. “If you Nekos weren’t so skittish, I could do my damn job.” Elle had no idea how to take his jab, and John moved the conversation away from her.

“Who exactly is this guy?” John asked, “He’s not just some sleazy talent agent.”

Richard directed them to follow to his office. They headed through the busy police precinct, a collection of dashing officers who were stretched too thin. With budget cuts to the Undercity, it was no surprise. The Uppercity had five precincts to the Undercity’s one, which did little to help the Undercity’s sprawling size. There was a reason why crime was so high. Most crimes went unreported, and the ones that were rarely got taken seriously. It kept the PI business lucrative… usually.

Away from other ears, Richard shut the door to his office. It was messy, much like John’s back at the agency, but Elle could sense “organized chaos” here. The window in the back would have added some much-needed light if it wasn’t directed towards the face of another building. Richard told them to find a seat, but the only chair was covered in papers. John tossed them on the desk and directed Elle to sit.

Richard sat. “Who’s the girl you're working for? I’d like to question her about the situation.”

“You know I can't tell you that,” John said, “Breaks confidentiality. Now, why don’t you tell me who Sean Addler is, so I can give my client some peace of mind?”

Richard scoffed. “You PIs are all the same. You think you’re above us. That you’re actually helping these people.”

Elle piped up. “We are helping people.”

Richard didn’t even acknowledge her. “Who’s the skirt?” His comment took Elle back.

“She’s my secretary, assistant, and I guess, now, my savior. She saved my life back there.”

“My name’s Elle!”

“Well, Elle, you should talk to your boss here,” Richard grumbled, “He is an expert in helping people. You should ask him about the Nile the Nose case. He was great at helping people with that one…” John was none too pleased with Richard’s jab, and Elle wondered what Captain Richard meant. John never mentioned a case involving a Nile, and the first Elle had heard of him was from Skeeters. Judging from John’s disdain, it must have been something big.

“This isn’t about that,” John shot, “Who is Sean Addler?”

“Sean Addler is a trafficker,” Richard nonchalantly admitted, “His business is giving hopeful Neko girls a chance in ‘show business’ and then tricks them into hellscapes. We have suspicions that he’s been shipping girls in and out of Yorktown. Now, who he works for or what the ring is, it’s hard to say.”

“The police have a running list of the trafficking rings,” John said, “The mayor of Undercity made a pretty big deal about that a year ago. Supposedly, you guys had the ‘number’ of every major sex trafficker in the city. Now, there’s a ring you don’t know about?”

“It’s been a year, John,” Richard said, “Mayor made that announcement and fucked us. Sure, it looked great for him. Good for the polls and reelection, but he gave us away. Rings began breaking apart, moving, changing names and shape. But that didn’t get reported by the news, did it? Coolage’s boy would look bad. Can’t have that.” Richard shook his head in disgust. Four years’ worth of work down the drain. “This is something different, a different type of ring. John, what do you know about the medication Sorogeth and the term Breeders?”

“Never needed Sorogeth before,” John replied, “But Chief, if you do, no harm in it.” Elle tried to stifle a laugh as Richard’s face turned red hot. “Never heard of a Breeder unless you’re talking a dog breeder.”

“I wish I was,” Richard muttered with a hint of weary seriousness. He offered John a cigarette before lighting one himself. “First, Sorogeth’s becoming a problem. It’s made its way far into the black markets and not just for treating impotence. In large quantities at once or spread over a long period of time, it causes ‘issues’.”

Richard reached into his stack of papers, finding one from the mess and reading it. “We had a case a couple weeks ago: a husband and wife. The wife was unhappy with her husband’s… marital ability, so she began to sneak Sorogeth into his food. At first, didn’t do too much, but that level of dosage over six months began to take effect. Sorogeth might be good at the moment, for a willing participant, but it’s much more sinister than that. See, Sorogeth tricks the body into a state of arousal, but it isn’t enough to fully trick the brain. Now, if you are already ‘in the mood’, it can serve as an enhancing element. If you are not… well…”

“It’s like your body is betraying you…” John muttered.

“Trapped is how it's described. In that case I mentioned, that was exactly what happened. Everything about the husband's body was ready to go, but his mind wasn’t there and couldn’t figure out why this was happening. It induces immense panic in an individual… and if the act is happening, it can be utterly breaking.”

Elle could barely believe her ears. Who would dare do something like that? She saw ads for Sorogeth on TV or heard them on the radio. Was it that dangerous? John seemed unaffected by the news, almost as if he expected it. He asked, “So what does that have to do with Breeders?”

“Sorogeth has become quite… popular amongst the trafficking crowd. For the reasons you can imagine.” Richard paused, eyeing Elle closely. “She may want to leave for this.”

“I’m fine…”

John nodded. “She’s as much a part of this as I am.”

Richard sighed. “Fine… Don’t say I didn’t warn you. You're aware that the Neko population is quite susceptible to trafficking. It’s one of the largest crime operations here in the Undercity. Amongst these groups, there are some with very specific interests. We believe the one that Sean Addler belongs to is a Breeder group.” John’s shoulders slumped as he already began to realize what Richard was saying. “These men have a fetish for not just forcing themselves on Nekos but also impregnating them. A lot of the time the children are abandoned… or reinserted into the system… Or, if the mother is lucky, terminated… but not by the safest means.”

Elle covered her mouth, unable to speak at the very thought of it. How could someone do such a thing? She thought of Amber and the danger she was in. The danger she could have been in… She said, “Please tell me you know where they are?”

“We’re working on it…” Richard said, “Arresting Sean might help.” Even Richard’s voice lacked the confidence that Elle hoped for. “Sorogeth is being used illegally to maintain the status quo for this group. There are leads to where the drugs are coming from but not the girls.”

“Coolage Group know?” John asked.

“Of course. They claim Sorogeth is perfectly safe.”

John hated that he couldn’t be surprised by this. “I may have something that can help. Got a picture of some strange symbol left in our client’s apartment.” He tossed the photo of the strange symbol to Richard. The police chief examined it with a lost curiosity. “Recognize it?”

“I do,” Richard said, perking up both John and Elle, “We’ve seen this symbol around. Marked on things related to trafficking groups. We’ve never seen it before, and our contacts are either stumped or hiding something. You believe Sean left this?”

“It was in the apartment,” John replied, “I showed it to him too, and he freaked the hell out. Kept referring to a ‘they’. I assumed this symbol represented who he works for.”

“I would think the same…” Richard studied it a bit long, “Do you mind if I make a copy?” John agreed to it, and Richard passed it off to one of his officers. “See, a few days prior, we discovered a case of Sorogeth in a warehouse… That marking was placed on it, as well as a host of other shipping boxes.”

“Where’d the boxes hail from?”

Richard smirked. “That’s proprietary knowledge.” Ah… hit with his own medicine. John snickered. “I believe you have what you need, Mr. Darcy. You can report back to your client that all is well, and she is safe. Safe from this anyways…”

“I can…” John said, “I appreciate your time, and good luck with everything. I hope you can stop this group.”

“I do too. For the sake of Yorktown but mostly my sanity.” Richard and John shook despite the razor-sharp animosity that Elle could sense. She kept her mouth closed; a sizzling rage slowly grew inside her. After a brief farewell, they left Richard’s office and the precinct.

Out in John’s car, as he took off into the evening sky, Elle’s blood boiled and showed no signs of cooling. “So that’s it? We’re done?”

“Technically, yes…” John said, “The man stalking Amber is in police custody. Not really anything else we need to do.”

“What about everything the police chief said? That Breeders thing is… how can anyone do that?”

“There are sick people in this world…”

“We need to stop them,” Elle demanded, “The police clearly know something. We need to ask them or help them or steal the information or something!”

John nearly choked. “You want to steal from the police?”

“Well… maybe not that…”

John sighed. “Elle, one thing you’ll learn about this job, it eventually ends. There’s always a loose end or two. You can’t fix everything. Amber is safe; that’s what matters.”

“Just because Amber’s ‘safe’ doesn’t mean she’s safe,” Elle hissed, “What about me? What if I had ended up in something like that…?” John clenched the wheel in his vehicle. He didn’t want to think about it. There were risks and issues that could affect anyone in the city. They could get in a car accident right now. Those were the risks.

“You’re right,” John said, “No one is safe. Safety is a dream really. In this city, it comes easy to some but not to everyone. We should be thankful that you and I are for the most part. And Amber too.”

Elle frowned. “Are we safe, John? What about Nile the Nose? You said he was dangerous. Not that you helped him…”

John’s fingers tightened around the wheel. He went to speak multiple times, but the words left him. What could he say to her? “There’s a lot to unpack there.”

“Traffic always sucks. We have time.”

She really had him trapped. John rubbed his face, stretching his eyes and skin until it hurt. “Fine… you got me.” Right on time too. They were just about to stop on the expressway. Leave it to traffic.

So, John opened up. “About two years ago, Darcy Investigations was really struggling to make ends meet. You think it’s bad now? I constantly had the landlord knocking on my door. Creditors left threatening messages on my voicemail. I couldn’t go out without seeing some guy in the shadows, watching me, writing stuff down. I thought it was all over. Some days, I thought they were going to kill me.”

John jerked the wheel, sending his CX-7 into another lane. The person behind him laid on the horn, but John wasn’t focused on the road. “Cases were coming in, sometimes. It wasn’t enough to deal with the creditors. Then, I get a call from some guy representing Nile the Nose. Now, I heard things but nothing concrete. It was nerve wracking. I was going to turn it down. I thought it was too risky. Elle, do you want to know what they offered me?”

“A lot?”

“Enough to pay off all the creditors, pay my rent for almost a year, and still have some left over…” John explained, “I couldn’t turn it down. I agreed to speak with Nile, and we met at some backwater building in District 13. Yeah… I was nervous, but Nile and his men were nice enough. They explained it simple to me. There was some show girl, Bianca Fairweather. I will never forget that name… She accused Nile of raping her at a club, and there was evidence. A lot of evidence. The police and prosecution turned it into a whole thing. They were going to throw the book at em’, burn Nile not just for the rape but everything he had ever done that they could never pin on him. Net-hacking, smuggling, murder, you name it.

My job was simple. Create doubt. A fraction of doubt if needed. If her case fell apart, it all fell apart. They gave me an advance, said if I did well there’d be a bonus. It kept the creditors off me while I worked in peace… You know what Elle, I found something. Not enough to throw her entire case away, prove Bianca was lying, and let Nile off scot-free. We never needed that though. I manage to get them to question the timeline of events… off bull shit evidence. The jury couldn’t come to a decision, and Nile was acquitted. If you’d like to know what I did with the bonus I got, I paid off the rest of the creditors. The rest of it… I locked it away. My own secretary quit on me; she couldn’t look at me. That money I gave you, when your check bounced, where do you think I got it from? There you go, Elle. How I know Nile the Nose.”

Elle was silent as she stared at John, trying to process everything he said. How should she feel? It was all… it was all so terrible. The man she’d worked with for six months, idolized in a way, told her friends and family what a good boss he was, was like that… A cog in the system… No better than the gangs or the police. John couldn’t look at her.

“I see…” Elle muttered, “I…” She stopped, unsure if she should comfort or scold him. No… he didn’t deserve to be comforted, but Elle couldn't bring herself to yell either. Instead, she turned towards the window. “Thank you for telling me…”

“Go ahead and feel less of me.”

To the window, Elle said, “I’m just disappointed.”

John could not disagree with her. In the end, he ended up helping only himself. That was Yorktown though: people devouring each other. John didn’t have to like himself. Zilitoft helped with that; an injection a day kept the thoughts away. Every day, John felt further from how he used to be… hopeful and young… like Elle was now. It felt like an eternity ago.

He merged off the expressway. “I know Elle… I know…