Mark Graves sighed and threw his dinner jacket onto the back of his 2 seater couch. The window of his penthouse suite opened out on the lazy miasma that was the smog of the Leyland Industrial Park of coastal Hope City. He poured himself a bourbon and looked over the skyline. Flopping down onto his couch he toasted the horizon and took a long smooth drink as he sat back and thought about his next move in this elaborate chess game he had started.

It didnt matter what he did he would still lose a piece. Strategies, tactics and events unfolded in his mind. He sat there for what felt like hours but finally he drained his drink and stood up. He reasoned within himself that if he had to lose a piece on this chessboard the least he could do was choose which piece was expendable.

He walked down the stairs to ground level, during which he thought out his plan. He felt slightly out of breath after his walk but his mind was active and turning its gears to solving the crisis. Exiting the stairs he walked past Jeff, the doorman.

"Evening Mr Graves"

Mark bowed his head slightly in response

"Evening Jeff. Hows the wife and kids?"

"Doing fine sir. Thank you for asking."

Mark left his apartment building and walked past the local newspaper, Hope's Herald. He went to walk past the building but something tugged at him. He paused for a few seconds then walked into the newspaper offices. Taking the elevator up to the tenth floor he left and walked into the newsroom.


The man sitting the corner at his desk typing furiously at the keys looked up and saw Mark waving. He looked puzzled for a few seconds than smiled and walked over.

"Graves, what the hell are you doing here?" the smile never left his face

"Nice to see you too Jake. I thought I'd stop by to see how you are doing"

Jake grimaced.

"Uh-huh. No...really, why are you here."

Mark sighed

"Can you keep something safe for me?"

"What do you mean? Keep what safe? Why?"

"I may be...out of touch...for a while and I need something protected until it gets passed to the right people"

"Mark you are making less sense than usual. What are you on about?"

Mark reached into his back pocket and pulled out his Blackberry.

"Can you make sure this is secure and well hidden."

"Mark, I aint going to look after your electronic little black book!"

"Jake please, its important. It leads to something that is worth killing over"

Jake nodded and took Marks' PDA and tucked it into his inside pocket.

"After this is over I want an explanation and it better be one hell of a doozy"

Mark smiled slightly and nodded

"Thanks Jacob"

"Jake, NOT Jacob. Jacob died a long time ago"

"Yeh i know and it was a shame it ever happened.

Mark left the newspaper and walked towards the local police station. The area seemed to take a downhill shift in architecture, graffiti and vandalism. Gangs seemed more prevalent. On street corners, alleys and even in plain view, business was conducted. Sometimes with gang colours and sometimes with $300 suits, but corruption and crime smelt the same regardless. The local police were similar. Full of corruption, laziness and almost entirely untrustworthy...except one.

The police station was a tall brownstone which had been reinforced with steel back in the 20s when the mobs had a good foothold on the city and the police were militarizing against them in the war against the bootleggers. It didn't do much good as the prohibition law was repealed circa 1933

Mark walked into the reception area and walked up to the desk sergeant. There was very little through traffic. Most cops took money from suspects to avoid bringing them in, unless there a crackdown of some sort was in place and even then only very rarely did this occur. The desk Sergeant was a man called Lewis. He had been manning the desk for as long as Mark knew

"Evening Lewis, is Will here?"

Lewis nodded and without uttering a word he gestured with his chin over towards the back of the station. Mark saw him seated at a desk in the back corner of the station. Dirty blond hair, unwashed and unkempt. Muscular build with shoulder harness carrying regulatory .45 automatic firearm. White shirt, with patches of sweat showing and cut jeans to complete the ensemble.

"Hi Will, you looked like a hedge dragged you backwards through a combine harvester."

Will looked up and gestured.

Mark walked over and sat down. Will cleared some workspace and took a deep breath

"Mark, good to see you, as always. What's up?"

Mark shook his head. "Nothing much, just investigating something and i need to at least let you know some of what's going on."

Will sat back in his chair and his eyes took on a clarity that seemed to outshine his surroundings

"Anything you need help with?"

Mark tried to put on his stern look and it almost worked, but with Will, it just seemed to dissolve before fully forming.

"Nah, this is something i have to do alone"

"Mark, for as long as i known you, you haven't HAD to do anything alone"

Mark smiled

"How long have i known you again?"

"West Kowloon, Victoria harbour, about 5-6 years ago"

Mark laughed.

"Oh yeh wasn't the time where..."

Will and Mark both laughed and said


Mark's face suddenly became somber.

"Will, this is hard for me to say but I may not come back from this..."

"Let me come with you then?"


Mark composed himself

"Will, i have left instructions with Jake and i have documentation naming you as successor to Syndicated Networks if i am missing for over 6 months. According to law statutes if a notice of death is published. A court shall not declare me dead if within six months after publication of the notice information is received which proves that I'm alive. So it's really no biggie if things turn out ok"

Will looked at Mark

"Mark, I know Law. And there is no way the board of Syn will accept a local Detective as the CEO of Garth Electronics, never mind a board member of Syndicated Networks."

"Go see Lee"

Will scoffed, "Lee Eadee has less love for me than most of the guys in the tank right now. To be completely honest he hates my guts. Can't you find any other way to do this?"

"Will, what do you want me to do? Jake can't handle it, Adam is a mercenary, despite his noble intentions. Zachary is a junkie and Ben can't stay in one place for more than 2 days without getting jittery. Plus the little matter of we are all on the run from people, legal or not. And you are the only person I trust with all that information I have"

"If it happens, I'll do it BUT you know I will handle it on my terms. No bull and no crap"

"I know Will. Wouldn't have it any other way"

Mark left the station with hopes more raised than they had been that day.

Now he just had to hope that the sacrificial lamb would do what he was supposed to

To be continued...