Chapter Three: Fastenings
Two figures carefully went between the two gate posts, with a horizontal pole across the top of them that read Chinoen Shipping District in carved in kanji characters.
"Where did you see the dealer stick the syringes?" Saguru asked, doing his best to be quiet. This was a street whose shop owners lived above their shops, but the road was dark and quiet. It wouldn't hurt to make sure no one witnessed them digging around for contraband.
Saguru asked himself why he was doing this. His future and his life were at risk. He was willing to take risks – after all, he did work for the police - but only for justice, in pursuit of the Kid and for the protection of others. He looked sideways at Casey; well he supposed the boy, loud and tactless as he was, counted.
But that wasn't the reason. The reason was…the reason was that someone had once told him that this was going to happen. Back when he was small, back to a time he could now barely remember, which was strange considering his almost perfect recall. But nevertheless that time was dark and murky in his mind now, for good reason.
But that request – that strange request – about the boy who would come with 'a flower in the glass' had stuck with him, as clear and loud as if it was yesterday. He'd been told he had to help this boy when he came, do everything possible to help and save him. He remembered that so distinctly, even though the rest was a fog. Maybe…maybe if he went forward with this, he could finally solve the first mystery he had ever had to tackle, and the first one he had always failed to solve.
No matter the risk, he had to follow this to the end.
Casey looked mulish. "Not exactly. I saw him come in here. I saw him wait here and then I saw him stick the stuff under…something. And then he ran away from the lights."
Saguru frowned. "What lights?"
"I don't know!" Casey hissed, throwing up his hands. "I told you I'm not very good!"
Saguru scanned the market street, and turned to the gateway they had just entered, and the road beyond. "Hmm. Lights. Headlights, perhaps? A patrol car?" Saguru looked carefully cataloguing the details like he would a crime scene.
"What the verdict, Sherlock?" Casey asked, rolling his eyes.
"The perpetrator was a foreigner, over six feet tall, athletic, but oddly enough he was also a smoker." Saguru headed towards a stack of crates that had been left in a side alcove between two shops.
"You're joking with me right?" Casey was open mouthed. "How the hell did you know that?"
"Please keep your voice down," Saguru murmured as he slipped on a latex glove and ferreted in between paving stones. "The fewer people that see this, the better." The words left a bitter taste in his mouth. That was not a saying for a detective on the trail of the truth.
"Are you sure you're not a Reader?"
Saguru snorted derisively. "There's a cigarette butt here, fresh and still slightly warm. The man in question ran here from the alley when the scaffolding fell, and he'd have had to have gotten here before eleven-thirty. The scaffolding fell at eleven-twenty or so; that's a fairly quick run even over a short distance; so, he's athletic. Probably young, twenties or thirties, or maybe just someone who does regular outdoor work or exercise."
Casey frowned. "Wait, hang on, where'd you pull eleven-thirty from? Why eleven-thirty?"
Saguru nodded at the street. "There's a regular police car patrol in this area. A marked car should pass every ninety minutes or so, and at this point on their circuit that puts them here at around eleven-thirty, maybe a little past. You said he was running away from the 'lights'. A patrol car would have shone a spot light down here to check the street. He wouldn't have run from an ordinary car or a streetlight, but he'd be worried about getting arrested if he saw a police car."
Saguru put the butt in an evidence bag. "Here's what happened. The man ran from the alley after the scaffolding collapsed with the syringes in hand; he either dropped or missed one, because the Task Force found one still in the alley. He's athletic and a fast runner, so he makes it here before the patrol passes at around eleven-thirty. He ducks off the road and stands in between the shops here to have a cigarette, maybe consider his options before moving on. He's able to see the patrol car coming down the street from over the top of these crates," Saguru gestured to the stacked boxes. "Note that if you look from the side of the crates the full view of the street beyond is blocked by the market entrance posts from that angle. So, taller than six feet – I'd say well over, six four or six five. The taller he was the more warning he would have had. He'd just started to smoke, and dropped the still lit cigarette when he spotted the police car. It slowly burned down to the butt here after he was gone, which is why it's still warm long after it was dropped. And he's a foreigner; he wouldn't have had to run or hide from the police if all they saw a Japanese man smoking in the street; for all they know he could live here. A foreigner in a residential district in the middle of night, with no hotels or open businesses nearby would be suspicious enough to warrant questioning. He couldn't be sure they weren't actively looking for him and knows they will arrest him for holding contraband even if they know nothing about the drug deal earlier, so he hides the drug just in case he is caught, and runs, intending to come back later."
Casey grinned. "Okay, maybe I am a little impressed, Sherlock. Can you pull off a hat trick and find the drugs too?"
Saguru looked around. "He'd have to put them somewhere he knew they wouldn't be inadvertently discovered." His eyes landed on the communal garbage area in a discreet area close to the road, made of three walk-in wire mesh cages where bags of refuse were sorted and stored for collection by the waste department. There were signs and schedules posted up for use.
"Ewww, do we have to?" Casey face screwed up.
Saguru didn't look any happier. "I'd say he put it in recyclables; according to this, those are picked up Friday. Burnable garbage and non-burnable garbage are picked earlier in the week. He'd want to leave himself the most possible time, just to be sure."
He slipped on a second glove, and gingerly opened the recyclable area. There weren't many bags, that was a good sign. He heard the gate open in the next area, filled with non-burnables. "What are you doing?"
"I don't know much about deduction, but if I were this guy I would have hedged my bets," Casey snorted. There was a rustle as he no doubt prodded some of the contents with a toe.
Saguru tugged aside some of the huge white plastic bags that people of the street had packed their recyclables into, trying to see if any had been hastily re-tied or tampered with. The criminal would probably have been in a hurry…ah, here we are. Saguru pulled open a bag full of glass bottles and spotted something dark and irregular among he contents.
"Hah! Found it!" Casey's voice came from close by. "The guy hid it in the front corner, guess he wasn't eager to crawl through a whole pile like us."
"Please keep your voice down," Saguru reminded the Watcher, carefully storing the syringe in another evidence bag.
The tone of voice from the red head made Saguru unfold from his crouch and turn, his body already sinking into a defensive stance.
"I think it's a bit late to keep voices down, yes?" said a smirking man and his compatriot.
Saguru catalogued even as the adrenaline flooded his system. Short, Asian, but from the accent Canton Chinese – Saguru suspected they called Hong Kong home. They were both in their early twenties and had enough common features to indicate they shared some genetics.
"Thank you for doing all hard work for us," the other one nodded, his eyes following the syringe in Saguru's hand like a hawk. Neither of them was armed, but that didn't mean that couldn't change.
Saguru forced himself to relax his posture. Both he and Casey were effectively cornered by being in the metal cages of the garbage area; the first thing they had to do is either get out of them or get the opponents in here with them. Between judo and fencing Saguru stood a fairly decent chance in close quarters combat, but he doubted Casey would be able to hold his own. His first priority was getting the boy out of harm's way.
"Alright, gentlemen, I can see we have limited options here. I have what you want; you can let the boy go," Saguru offered, crouching down low and keeping the drug in front of him, holding their attention.
The brothers turned to each other. One said jokingly in Cantonese. "Do we want to let them go, brother?"
"Where is the fun in that? Besides, father said no witnesses."
"Sister said we need these two alive."
"In that case, gentlemen," Saguru broke in, speaking flawless Cantonese. "Where's the fun in us smashing these toys and leaving you with nothing?"
"What are they saying?" Casey demanded in English.
Saguru smiled grimly at the two brothers. "You need these, gentlemen. And apparently you need us alive," He gripped the syringe tightly through the bag and pressed a white knuckled thumb against one side, one push from snapping the syringe in two. "Let us go, or you can pick up whatever is left to take back with you," The syringe looked frail in his grip.
The brothers were glaring at him.
"You are idiot," one brother spat at him in Japanese. "You need drug too, yes? What good it is to you broken?"
"I don't need this thing. I don't even know what it is," Saguru shrugged, giving them a tight smile. "If you let us out, we'll give them to you."
Casey turned on him in outrage. "Hang on a minute, Sherlock, we can't…"
"Please be quiet," Saguru cut in curtly. "There's no point in us dying here."
"The boy, he comes out first," one brother offered, glaring at Saguru.
"Sorry, it's me or…" the thumb exerted enough pressure for the syringe to creak like a twig. Both brothers tensed.
Casey, momentarily ignored, had managed to get a hand inside his duffel. "How about," he ground out angrily. "Both of you get your hands up and prepare to run away before you get blown away?" The boy brought up a handgun, hefted with both skinny hands. The gun shook like flag in high winds, but stayed on target.
Saguru hissed through his teeth. Damn it, didn't the boy have any sense? Bringing a gun into the situation was not going to get them out of this. Saguru could see that Casey had absolutely no experience with firearms. The way he held the weapon would blow it straight back in his face from the recoil, and there was no way he could land an accurate shot with his hands shaking from the weight, except by accident. Worse, by the look on their opponents' faces, they did have firearm experience.
"Hey, Charlie Chan and Chuckie Chan, I'm talking to you," Casey taunted as he glared at them, sweating defiance.
The brothers both looked amused. "I don't think you know how to use that, little boy," one smirked while the other laughed.
"So? What are you going to do about it?" Casey spat. "You're Bleeders. What are you going to do? Let one rip and wake the city? I don't think that was in the plan. You don't want anyone to know you're here."
Bleeders? Saguru thought, heart pounding. Oh, bloody hell…Saguru had never seen a Bleeder before, he'd only heard of them in passing a very long time ago.
"Then go on, boy, you shoot. I am sure you cannot pull the lever," one – the elder, it looked like – challenged.
Saguru took a breath and armed himself. "He doesn't need to," he interrupted calmly
Two glass bottles spun from his hands, one striking one brother hard in the chest, one shattered against the other's upraised arm.
It was a second's worth of surprise, another of hesitation; two seconds long enough. Saguru was out of the cage before the second bottle had shattered, and was on the two brothers before they could make a countermove. He yanked sharply on 'Charlie's' arm, tangling a foot behind his leg and following through with a sharp spin and a pull, neatly flipping the Hong Kong syndicate thug onto the pavement with a harsh crack.
He sensed movement behind him and pistoned his elbow backwards in a move not taught in any dojo or training manual, but came straight out of the seedier streets of London. Saguru had chased down criminals since before he'd hit puberty and had plenty of time to learn the dirty bastard school of fighting – he wouldn't have survived long if not. Pain blossomed in his joint and washed through his arm, but judging by the gristly noise he'd heard, he'd managed to score a point blank nose strike.
His body followed his elbow in a whirl to face his opponent, both hands engaged trying to get a strong enough grip for a joint lock, or failing that a decent hold for a grapple. He felt 'Chuckie's' foot connect hard with his shin (fittygomash, Saguru thought vaguely as the pain bloomed, sharp and jagged, the old Britons called shin-kicking fittygomash), causing him to stagger. Chuckie, nose flowing red freely, was quick to press the advantage, shoving enough distance between them for a solid blow to Saguru's solar plexus. Saguru refused to double over with the impact and despite letting loose a harsh gust of breath, managed to knock one hand free to gouge his opponents eye in another street move, forcing his attacker back far enough to follow up with a swift upper cut the sent Chuckie stumbling backwards. Then Saguru was dragged to the ground by Charlie, who had heaved himself up from his stunned body slam into the pavement.
Saguru cursed roughly as Chuckie's foot found its way, hard, into his stomach. He was momentarily paralyzed by the exquisite agony from his midriff. God, he hoped his ribs were only bruised. He hissed through his teeth has he heard Charlie's obscene chuckle in his ear from where he restrained the blonde with iron hands, while his brother Chuckie wound up for another blow.
He hated fighting multiple opponents. There was always someone to take advantage of a blind spot. Bloody damn…
There was a hollow, ominous sound and Chuckie's eyes rolled back. The Chinese man folded up and collapsed silently into the ground at the feet of Casey, who held a bottle in a fist so tight it shook.
Saguru took the opportunity to use his streetwise elbow again, driving it repeatedly into his captor's side until Charlie's steel grip loosened. He thrust his head painfully back into his opponent's chin, shocking him into letting go. Saguru wasted no time getting to his feet, pacing backwards to get some space between him and the two syndicate members; one who was rising murderously, clutching his side with one hand and his jaw with another, and another who was groaning and clutching his head, blood still flowing stickily from his nose.
Casey was clutching his bag to his chest, eyes darting from Charlie to Chuckie, eyes wide. "Uh oh."
Saguru watched in horror as the shape of the irises of the two attackers shifted. Damn, damn, hell, damn! Saguru reached out with one arm, snagged Casey around the scruff and yanked him sideways and away as Charlie Chan stuck out with his most formidable weapon.
It was a sound so loud it was barely a sound at all – it was the essence of loudness distilled into a blunt instrument of a tremendous size, ringing out across the night and probably quite audible for blocks and blocks away. No one hearing it could ever believe it would issue from a human mouth, without actually seeing it.
It hit the street like an aircraft bomb. Windows popped like soap bubbles. The bags of recyclables in the garbage alcoves folded inwards on themselves, their contents turned to shrapnel and dust. The pavement shivered underfoot, gaining a fine webbing of tiny cracks. Terracotta and stone shouldn't break so easily, like it was a mirror. Wood fared better because it was slightly more flexible, but the crates and doors all shed flying chips and sprinters anyway, adding to the unholy hailstorm swirling in the wake of the sonic scream.
Saguru dragged Casey ahead of the waves of forces turning the air itself into a weapon, his long stride keeping him ahead of the edge of the main jet stream, which followed them doggedly as their assailant turned to keep them in his sights. They had to stay out from direct line of sight of the Bleeders to avoid being hit.
But the syndicate members could turn in one spot faster than Saguru could outrun, and he managed to shove Casey down with one hand before diving for safety himself; not quite quick enough for the wall of psychically charged air to slam hard into his shoulder and back as he ducked.
Thankfully, luckily, the Bleeder's scream was limited by lung capacity. The terrible sound cut abruptly, leaving a ringing, aching silence behind.
Saguru groaned. Whoever thought air was soft and malleable and harmless had clearly never experienced this before. Up until right now he had been one of those people; not anymore. His shoulder and back felt like someone had hit him with a sledgehammer wrapped in sandpaper; there was a stinging wetness seeping into his shirt under his coat and his bones hurt like they'd been twisted in a vice.
Saguru staggered to his feet, dragging Casey with him, shaking his head to trying to somehow dislodge the ringing sensation. Their only chance was to get some distance between them and the Bleeders – the further away you went the less effective the weapon; at least, that's what Saguru hoped. The sound had to keep dispersing as it went, the waves getting weaker as they travelled; that was how it usually worked.
As if usual had any place here.
Nevertheless, with no other viable options, he grabbed Casey's duffel because the boy would be slowed by it and pushed the red head ahead of him. "Run!"
Two things ultimately saved them. One, Charlie stopped to help Chuckie to his feet, so they could both strike together. That gave the blonde detective and the red haired psychic enough time to rise up from where the first blow had stuck them down, which in turn gave them a slight head start.
And two, as magnificent a weapon as the Chan's power was, it didn't score high points for subtlety. The silence that came in the wake of that almighty sound had not lasted long. Lights had come on, the market street people had come out of their homes to defend them, check for damage, find out what was happening. There were many of them; more came running in from the alleys and streets over, because here being a good neighbour was good sense. The home you helped to save today would mean your own was protected tomorrow. They crowded into the street, making the private act now a public forum, and giving Saguru and Casey the leeway they needed to start running. They were almost to the end of the street by the time the two brothers had pushed their way past the enraged and confused crowd and could chase after them. They weren't stupid enough to let loose another scream, even if it would effectively clear a path; they didn't want witnesses that could spread tales of impossible screams and destruction. Bad enough there were any at all.
Saguru made to go right at the end of the street; he knew if they headed that way they would be able to intercept the patrol car in the area and the police presence would probably force the brothers to back off most effectively. The only thing worse than witnesses for them were the police.
But Casey yanked him to the left. "Follow me!"
There was no time to argue. The syndicate brother's footsteps were echoing behind. If they got within a good range then it would all be over. Shouldering the duffel with his bad shoulder and ignoring his protesting bones, Saguru followed the boy as he raced with a commendable amount of speed to the left and up the road.
Casey ran and dodged up the street, diving across the road and onto the opposing footpath, blasting past a couple of pedestrians and leaping over a bag of garbage that had been tipped onto the street, never breaking stride. Saguru kept pace with him, watching the smaller figure as he stretched his tendons to near breaking point when he lengthened his stride. Behind them guttural curses rang out as the criminals gave chase.
Casey turned so sharply he nearly overbalanced, ducked into another alley and scrambled up a mesh fence blocking access to the other end like a monkey. Saguru followed gamely, losing a little ground because his shoes didn't have the right grip for climbing and his hands were still gloved. Still, natural athleticism helped him vault the obstacle with speed and follow Casey to where he'd run to the end of the alley.
"Throw me a notepad!" Casey yelled from where he'd halted, breathing hard.
Saguru, still running and keenly aware of the pursuers now tackling the mesh fence, reached blindly and closed a hand around a thick writing pad in the heavy bag, throwing it to Casey as he reached him.
The boy wasted no time; he threw the notepad like a frisbee out into the street, right into the windshield of a slow moving truck just beginning to pass by. The driver was startled by the sudden bang of the pad on his windshield and slammed on his brakes, causing the truck to squeal to a halt as it rolled past the mouth of the alley. It came to a final stop just past them and Casey darted towards it, tugging loose a securing strap on the canvas strung across the sides and crawling inside. Saguru sighed and followed, throwing the bag in first and then hastily jumping for the entrance, as the truck started to move again.
It was pitch black inside the truck and it carried a damp smell. Saguru crawled blindly, and ended up sticking his arm elbow deep in a tub of water, feeling a scaly body brush his wrist and flinch away. Oh…oh no…
"Gah! What the hell are they-" Casey yelped as he was splashed.
A scream burst out behind them and shivered the truck's back panel like a drum. The canvas rippled, restraining straps tearing as they struggled to hold. Casey and Saguru both clapped their hands over their ears as the cargo around them rattled and splashed and the floor shook. The world was full of darkness and noise inside the truck.
But the truck was picking up speed; the driver was protected by the truck itself and, while he had to have heard the ear splitting sound, he was buffered against its effects. They were out of range within moments, the driver wondering why the hell his side mirrors were both shattered but otherwise none the wiser.
Saguru groped in his jacket pockets with wet sleeves, rocking with the trucks bumping progress. His back and shoulder stung and ached, his ears were still ringing and his sternum was bruising nicely. Between the heist with bloody Kaitou Kid, the scaffolding, the sudden upsurging of dark memories hailed by a prepubescent psychic with a mouth, the goddamn psychic mafia hitmen and a truckload of carnivorous fish, he'd officially had enough for one night.
He found his penlight and switched it on. It wasn't much, but in the dark of the truck it went a long way. Casey dug around in his duffel, and withdrew a rather larger torch.
"Whoa! Look at that!" he yelled past the roar of the truck engine.
There was a convex bulge in the back panel of the truck where the Bleeder scream had struck; like some giant had planted his fist there in a rage. Around them were tubs, buckets and containers of all descriptions, including some very familiar filing boxes.
Saguru gloomily shone the penlight into a bucket. The piranha inside wriggled around in a particularly frustrated way, confined in a too small space. It looked like the Task Force had managed to round up all the fish; they were now probably on their way to their temporary tank, waiting for the aquarium personnel to collect them once space had been found.
"Yuck! Why are they transporting buckets of blood?" Casey wrinkled his nose from his side of the truck.
Saguru turned to look; yes, a few of the containers at the very back of the truck were red with blood. The fish inside had been victims of the Bleeders screams, even past the protection of the truck. Looking at the poor animals, you could see why that particular psychic was called a Bleeder. Imagine a sound so loud it could literally rupture your insides…
Saguru shifted uncomfortably. His shoulder and back were aching in earnest. "They're piranhas. The Chan Syndicate's screams were enough to kill those closest to the back."
"Piranhas? We've jumped into a truck full of man eating fish?" Casey yelped, hastily backing away from the tubs as far as he could. Which wasn't far, he'd had to push a few together just to have enough space to sit.
"Piranhas aren't man eating," Saguru sighed, trying to make himself comfortable. "That was a myth started by native guides in Brazil in the 1900's."
"Yeah, right. Pull the other one, it's got bells on," Casey snorted. He dug around in his duffel, withdrawing two syringes and checking them in the darkness. "So, once the truck gets where it's going, we should be safe to go back to your place."
Saguru blinked. "My place?" he repeated blankly.
Casey swept a hand over his damp face. "Of course your place, Sherlock," he replied irritably. "I'm staying with you, aren't I? So therefore, we go to your place. QED. Aren't you a detective, or something?"
Saguru groaned. Just when he thought it couldn't get any worse.