The caldwell police station had two separate faces to it: the front entrance on Tenth, with all the steps, which was where the TV crews filmed the shit you saw on the evening news, and the back one, with the iron bars, where business was taken care of. In truth, the Tenth Street facade was only marginally better-looking, because the 1960s-era building was like the profile of an aging, ugly woman. There were no good sides.

The squad car Lash was in the back of pulled to a stop right behind the rear entrance.

Advertisement

How the fuck had he ended up here?

The cop who'd arrested him came around and popped the door. "Step out of the car, please."

Lash stared up at the guy, then shifted his legs, unhinged his knees, and towered over the human. Fantasies of ripping the man's throat open and turning his jugular vein into a soda fountain were all but undeniable.

"This way, sir."

-- Advertisement --

"No problem."

He could tell he made the SOB jumpy by the way the cop's hand drifted over to the butt of his gun in spite of the fact that they were in full view of the CPD home team.

Lash was led through some double doors and down a linoleum hallway that looked like it had been installed when the shit had first been invented. They stopped at a Plexiglas window that was thick as an arm, and the cop yammered into a circular metal patch that was mounted on the wall. The woman on the other side was all business in her navy blue uniform, and about as attractive as the male cop.

But she took care of the paperwork quickly. When she was satisfied that she'd pulled together enough forms for them to fill out, she slid the stack under the window to the cop and nodded. The door next to them let out a beeeeeeeep and a clunk, as if it had burped open its lock, and then it was another beat-to-shit linoleum stretch that ended in a little room with a bench, a chair, and a desk.

After they were seated, the officer took out a pen and clicked it. "What's your full name?"

"Larry Owen," Lash said. "Just like I told him."

The guy bent over the papers. "Address?"

"Fifteen eighty-three Tenth Street, apartment four-F for right now." He figured he might as well go with the addy from the registration on the Focus. Mr. D was going to bring the fake driver's license Lash had used when he'd lived with his parents, but he couldn't remember exactly what was on it.

"Do you have any identification to prove you live there?"

"Not on me. But my friend will bring my ID."

"Date of birth?"

"When do I get my phone call?"

"In a minute. Date of birth?"

"October thirteenth, 1981." At least, he thought that was his fake one.

The officer shifted an ink pad across the desk, got up, and freed one of Lash's cuffs. "I need to fingerprint you now."

Good luck with that, Lash thought.

He let the guy take his left hand and pull it forward, watched as the pads of his fingertips were rolled and pressed onto a white piece of paper with ten squares in two rows.

The policeman frowned at what he saw and tried another finger. "Nothing's coming up."

"I was burned as a child."

"Sure you were." The guy did the roll and press a couple more times, and then gave up and redid the cuffs. "Over to the camera."

Lash went across the room and stood still as a flash went off in his face. "I want my phone call."

"You'll get it."

"What's my bail?"

"Don't know yet."

"When will I be out?"

"Whenever the judge sets the bail and you pay it. Probably this afternoon, given how early in the a.m. it is."

Lash was recuffed with his hands in front of him and a phone was pushed over to him. The officer hit a button for speakerphone and dialed Mr. D's cell phone as Lash recited the digits.

The cop stepped back as the lesser answered.

Lash didn't waste time. "Bring my wallet. It's in my jacket in the back of the car. They haven't set bail, but find some cash ASAP."

"When do you want me to come?"

"Get the ID here now. Then it's whenever the judge sets the bail." He looked at the officer. "Can I call him again to let him know when to pick me up?"

"No, but he can dial our precinct line, ask for the jail, and find out when you'll be released that way."

"You hear that?"

"Yup," Mr. D said through the tinny speaker.

"Don't stop working."

"We're not."

Ten minutes later, Lash was in a holding cell.

The thirty-by-thirty cinder-block room was standard-issue with its bars across the front and its anti-Kohler stainless-steel toilet and sink setup in the corner. As he went over to the bench and sat with his back to the cell wall, five guys checked him out. Two were clearly druggies, because they were greasy as bacon and had evidently had their brains pan-fried earlier in the night. The other three were his peeps, even though they were just humans: a guy with massive biceps and a good dozen prison tats in the opposite corner, away from everyone; a gangbanger with a blue do-rag doing the rat-in-a-cage pace at the bars; and a skinhead psycho who was twitching by the cell door.

Naturally, the druggies didn't care that someone had been added to the mix, but the other ones sized him up like he was a lamb shank at a deli counter.

He thought of the number of lessers who had been lost tonight.

"Hey, asshole," Lash said to the sw'old-up one, "your boyfriend give you those p-tats? Or was he too busy fucking you in the ass?"

The guy's eyes narrowed. "What'd you say to me?"

The gangbanger shook his head. "Gotta be out ya damn mind, white boy."

Skinhead laughed like a blender, high and fast.

Who knew recruiting would be this easy, Lash thought.

Phury did not dematerialize to ZeroSum. He went to Screamer's instead.

As it was nearly the end of the night, there was no wait line outside the club, so he just walked right in the front door and went back to the bar. While hard-core rap thumped, the dregs of the party set were hanging on to their buzzes with death grips, drooping over each other in the dark corners, too blitzed even to have sex.

As the bartender approached, the guy said, "We're last-calling it."

"Sapphire martini."

The guy came back with the drink and flipped a cocktail napkin out flat before putting the triangle glass down. "That'll be twelve dollars."

Phury slid a fifty across the black bar and kept his hand on the bill. "I'm looking for something. And it's not change."

The bartender looked down at the green. "Whatchu after?"

"I like to ride horses."

The guy's eyes started cruising the room. "Do you. Well, this is a club, not a stable."

"I don't wear blue. Ever."

The bartender's eyes drifted back, and he gave Phury the once-over. "Clothes as expensive as the ones you've got on... you could wear any color you like."

"I don't like blue."

"You from out of town?"

"You could say that."

"Your face is a mess."

"Is it. I hadn't noticed."

There was a pause. "You see that guy in the back? With the eagle on his jacket? He might be able to help you. Might be able. I don't know him."

"Of course you don't."

Phury left the fifty and the drink and walked through the thinned-out, spaced-out crowd with a single-minded focus.

Just before he got within range, the guy in question sauntered off, leaving out of the side door.

Phury followed him into the alley, and as they stepped outside, something fired off in his mind, but he ignored it. He was interested in one and only one thing... was so locked in that even the wizard's voice was gone.

" 'Scuse me," he said.

The dealer turned on his heel and gave Phury the same kind of head-to-toe the bartender had. "I don't know you."

"No, you don't. But you know my friends."

"Do I." When Phury flashed a couple hundred dollars, the guy smiled. "Ah, yeah. What you looking for?"

"H."

"Perfect timing. I'm almost out." The guy's class ring flashed blue as he put a hand into his coat.

For a split second, Phury had an image of that dealer and the druggie in that alley, the ones he and the lesser had walked up on all those nights ago. Funny, that encounter had started the great slide, hadn't it, the slope taking him here, to this moment, in this alley...where a little envelope full of heroin landed in his hand.

"I'm here"¡ªthe dealer nodded in the direction of the club's door¡ª"pretty much every night¡ª"

Lights hit them from every direction¡ªcourtesy of the unmarked police cars parked at the foot and the head of the alley.

"Hands up!" someone yelled.

Phury stared into the dealer's panicked eyes and felt no sympathy and no complicity. "I gotta go. Later."

Phury wiped the memory of himself from the four cops with the guns and the dealer with the aw-fuck-me expression and dematerialized with his buy.

-- Advertisement --