“Why is he like that daddy?” I can remember asking my father about my Uncle Pete.
“Some people, well, they live a lot of life in a short time and it makes things tough for them. Your uncle Pete, he’s like that.”
I didn’t understand at the time, but after living a lot of my life in a short time I had a better idea of what he meant. My uncle Pete died young, he got a bad case of lead poisoning; double ought buck from a self-inflicted wound to the head. Dad was gone too, along with ma and my oldest sister, all I had left were an assortment of aunts and cousins. And my grandfather, that old man wouldn’t die, at a hundred and one he said he would outlive me. From the way I live my life old gramps might be right.
“Give it up, Shiv, we got you.” I called out to the rather dangerous man standing between me and the ninth story window of the CMEA building downtown. ‘Shiv’ was a killer, a man I was contracted to find and turn over to the authorities by the family of his last victim. He had the shine too. His powers ran more towards violence, strength and stamina; mine ran more towards low intellect, finding things and the ability to take a hit. Trouble though, it came free as a side dish to my ‘shine’ dinner. Finding things made me without peer in the world, ever wonder how good guys found the bad? Face it, a normal guy runs into trouble a few times in his life, a law enforcer probably more, but me? I could find trouble by closing my eyes. Even better if I knew an area well I could pinpoint where a major problem was going to present itself. I was still working on the ‘when’ aspect of it, but typically by parking my ass in the impending location trouble would follow within three hours.
I knew Shiv would be trouble than I could handle, so I had given the local ‘do-gooder’ who went by the handle ‘Flying-Hawk’ a call and asked him to help me pin this meat head down. Flying-Hawk had spotted Shiv going into the half constructed CMEA building after I had more or less found the guy using my abilities.
Now the question in my mind was, “Will he jump?” Some shiners could take a nine story fall. I’d never tested those waters, but I’d known men who could do it. Boomer, for one, but he’s dead; falling damage is different from grenade damage and he fell on one of those in Afghanistan to save his squad. I hear he’s being considered for a Medal of Honor. Shiv turned to face me; I guess jumping through the open window was off the menu.
“Who are you?” he demanded. A perfectly legitimate question. My shine usually meant the first time a target saw me was the first they had met me.
“Alice’s family sent me.” I like to keep things short.
“Too bad for you then.” Shiv started forward and shook out his hands, blades like those of a popular horror movie villain sprang from his fingertips.
I held up a finger. “Wait, Shiv. Do you think I came alone?” Flying-Hawk landed softly behind him.
Shiv glanced back and snorted, “Him? I know about him. He’s a pacifist, he won’t get involved.”
Fuck me, did everybody know? Flying-Hawk should have changed his name to ‘Peace-Dove’ after his conversion to Buddhism three years ago.
“He’ll still rat you out to the authorities.”
Another snort and a look of contempt as Shiv stalked forward “Let him. I can relocate. You have an easy choice dick; get out of the way or die.” Shiv lunged forward as I back pedaled to the open doorway while reaching for my Taser.
The retorts of the revolver were loud and the smell of gunpowder quickly mixed with the metallic tang of blood. Shiv half turned to look at the man who shot him, a look of surprise on his face. A look wiped off of it by another shot from the ugly looking revolver Flying-Hawk was pointing at him.
“Geezus Hawk!” I yelled, “You didn’t… I thought you were…”
“I’m getting old Billy, I’m tired of wrestling with every new shiner that comes along and wants to piss on my turf. I started that rumor about Buddhism myself.” Flying-Hawk said. He stepped forward and kicked the body. Fast healing was common power, but, apparently, not one the Shiv possessed.
I nodded at him and looked at the mess. “He’s still dead and you shot him. Word will get out now.”
“No, I didn’t shoot him; you did.” Hawk tossed the gun to my feet, it was a cheap revolver, the kind you buy in a pawn shop after you’ve been mugged one too many times.
“He turned on me, you shot him to save my life, but he kept coming, spinning at you and you had to put him down before he killed you. Self-defense. I saw the whole thing. I’ll light an incense stick tonight while I meditate for him. I hope that his next incarnation is something of a more peaceful nature.”
It could work, I’d be dragged through the mud, but like Hawk said, he was getting old. I owed him too, though, but from what just happened I was having a hard time figuring out who would be in whose debt after tonight. Instead I nodded and picked up the gun. I emptied it and then reloaded after putting my prints all over the bullet casings. Flying-Hawk nodded in approval. Cops check those sorts of things.
“You got the gun off a street punk who tried to mug you.”
“I remember the attempt clearly, it happened last Thursday and I forgot to take the gun out of my pocket after checking it out.”
“Lucky for us, it turns out.”
I nodded agreement, “Yeah, lucky for us.”
Flying-Hawk had that look about him, the guy was younger than I was, but he’d lived too much in too short of time. “Old, huh?” I asked him.
“I’m thinking of getting out. What about you, Billy? You ready to hang up the gumshoe hat and retire?”
I laughed, I couldn’t help it, to his puzzled face I said, “I don’t know what you’re making, but my job doesn’t come with a retirement plan. I’ll be doing this until they tell me my Social Security won’t be there for me, and then I’ll keep doing it until I die.”
He shook his head, “All the old ones get killed off, Billy. I don’t want to be one of them.”
The sirens were wailing a few blocks away. Funny how gunfire always brings the police.
“If you’re out, who’s left? Boomer is dead, Skeet is MIA, no one has seen Ruby in two years and the Castigator still has another seven years for that murder two charge. That’s assuming he gets paroled.” All the heroes were disappearing, but guys like Shiv, they were popping up in droves lately.
“Someone will step up. The poor fool.” Heroing was a thankless job, most were prone to being vigilantes so they could avoid the numerous lawsuits that always dogged them as they rounded up the bad guys. Flying-Hawk looked me over closely, “Maybe you.”
“Me? I’m older than you are.”
“That so? You don’t look a day over 35. And you aren’t wore out yet, I can tell. You could keep a lid on things until Cast gets out.”
“Not me brother! I ain’t got the chops for this.”
“That’s just because you do it wrong, Billy. None of us is clean in this business, none of us. Come by sometime after this mess blows over. I’ll confess to you and set you straight. What good is retirement if I can’t walk down the street to buy a liter of milk?”
None of us is clean in this business? What the hell was he talking about? The boys in blue came in just after that and things took more than a few days to blow over, by then I’d almost forgotten what he’d said. Almost, but not quite. The world is full of surprises, shiners, corrupt heroes, fake Buddhists, what was next? Standing outside of Flying-Hawk’s door I knocked politely. The door swung open at my first touch, the place was dark, cold and smelled of decay.