“Shit.” I fumbled in my duster until my hand tightened on the revolver I knew was there; this one had been given to me by one of the police officers who questioned me about Shiv’s shooting. The cop said I couldn’t be too careful, the streets were meaner now and he appreciated what I’d done to get Shiv off the streets. He wasn’t condoning anything…but “The guy had friends” and I was going to be all over the papers…with a shrug he had handed me the revolver and a box of cartridges.
“It’s not marked.” He said casually, “I got a guy. If you need another one look me up.”
If I needed another unmarked gun it meant I had used this one. What was the world coming to when your law enforcement gave out untraceable guns?
I didn’t bother calling Flying-Hawk’s name, I knew there was limited trouble inside and my nose was telling me my friend didn’t have to worry about retirement anymore either. Pushing the door open with my foot, the revolver clutched in one hand, but still in the jacket, I moved into Hawk’s apartment.
I found him in the kitchen. There had been a struggle, a very long, hard struggle. I didn’t see a cabinet in the place that still had a door on it and the fridge was casting a dim glow over the whole, messy scene. Sometime during the fight the table had been flipped over; it was a heavy, hard wood, sort of thing, expensive, beyond my means and Flying-Hawk, sans costume, was impaled on one of the legs.
I knew I should call the cops, but I didn’t. This wasn’t just a civilian death, this wasn’t a home invasion gone wrong that resulted in a killing; this was a hit. I’d passed by Hawk’s living room as I came to the back, his electronics were all still there, his laptop, his television, book reader, hell, even the guy’s wallet was sitting on some ugly clay ashtray on the console to one side of the door.
Whoever it was that did this didn’t get off easy, not that that meant anything anymore, healing, like I said, is a pretty common shine. Bruises or even broken limbs from something like this might be healed already. Skeet could take a shot, I’d seen him absorb the fixings from a double barrel shotgun blast at point blank range, there was more of him on the outside than in and he lived through it, was even up and fighting before the last of the bad guys went down. Skeet was…impressive. And missing. Hadn’t been seen for months. Rumor had it that there weren’t any rumors about it at all.
I knelt down by my friend’s side and noticed how the table leg came up through the left breast of his chest, like what you would do to a vampire if you were aiming for his heart and not his center mass. Both arms were stretched back and lying on the ground, the fingers of his off-hand were coated in blood, like finger paint. His good hand was clenched into a fist.
“Oh Hawk, who did this to you?” I was careful not to step in the blood, it looked, well not completely dry, more like a day old bit of ice cream on a sidewalk; coagulated and dehydrated, so you know it would be sticky to the touch. Looking at his splayed hand, which was resting inside the lip of the upturned table I saw a series of blood spots and splatters that his fingers had made, no doubt as he bled to death right after being shish ka-bobbed on his own table leg.
Standing I looked around at the damage to the kitchen, trying to find a trace of a claw or a tuft of hair, anything that might have provided a clue as to who had done this. It didn’t look to me like there had been any effort to clean up the mess, no wipe downs of the shattered cabinetry or mopping up of blood flecks from the perpetrator. Just a mess. I didn’t find any tufts of hair or even claw marks on the wood work either. There was some blood on the broken out glass on the crisper drawer from the refrigerator. It might be the perps, probably was. Hawk could heal fast, he was no Skeet, but the guy didn’t bleed much. I crouched down over Flying-Hawk again to see if I could discern any tell-tale marks on his body.
Death had left him with livid bruises, something I had never seen on him before; either his body shut down from the massive wound or he has just been beaten to a pulp so badly before his death that it couldn’t keep up with making things right.
I would call the cops, just not right away. First I needed to scope the place out, see if there was anything missing, then I would call them. After that I was going to call in some other talent, unreliable, but us good guys were getting a little thin on the ground. So I headed upstairs to Hawk’s office, first things first.
The office was untouched, or appeared to be. I had been in it briefly a few times in the past and while my own filing style ran towards ‘Bless this mess’, Hawk’s ran closer to ‘OCD’. There was an old fashioned desktop there, still powered up and spinning softly. An honest to God wired phone sat just off the blotter beside the computer. The desk drawers all had locks, but none of them actually were locked. Inside were realms of paperwork, a cursory glance proved them to be old cases he had been involved in. The single paper sheets summarized each incident, referenced past run ins with the same perp and often didn’t take up more than half a page. A few had two or three pages stapled together. Overall there were hundreds of pages in the desk drawer. Closing it I noticed the outside had been labeled ‘Recent Cases’.
Recent Cases? Spining on the stool, (Flying-Hawk had wings and there were few chairs in his house sporting chair backs) I found myself facing a long three drawer cabinet. The helpful tabs on the drawers were labeled ‘Old Cases’ and further subdivided into three alphabetical groups. The cabinet was almost full. Tens of thousands of cases. These couldn’t all be his, true Hawk was in his early sixties, but he would have had to work a case a day to for forty years to accumulate this much data. As tempted as I was to look up some infamous prior crimes to see if he was involved with them, I restrained myself and kept at the task at hand. The picture of Hawk’s father seemed to be glaring down at me from above the cabinet.
“Sorry, your honor, but your boy is dead. I need to see if he left me a clue as to who did this to him. I won’t go nosing is in his business any more than I have to.” I stood up and examined the painting closer. It was exceptionally life like. The artist was listed as ‘Hoyle’. Holy shit. Hoyle had the shine too, it expressed itself in his unearthly paintings, which were said to capture the essence of the subjects soul. I wasn’t sure if that were true, but if this were genuine it was worth millions. The top of the cabinet was uneven. I glanced around the office, which had a certain Feng Shui about it. Yep, everything was in its place, except the stuff atop the cabinet was uneven. To the right of the picture were several tall pictures, Hawk with Mayor Elby, looked like just before the mayor had been shot in ’89, a vase with dried roses inside of it., a candle with a long, black taper. In front of the picture things were shorter, which is only natural you didn’t want your father’s portrait, a Hoyle, no less obscured behind a candle! However to the right nothing else rose above the bottom of the picture frame either.
“Wall safe?” I asked myself as I gave a tug to the right side of the picture. It held steady for a moment before giving way to reveal a rectangle, long end up with a numeric keypad and a small screen. I knew better than to guess at the numbers. My shine could help me find things, even things as obscure as a PIN for an ATM card or a wall safe, but there was a quirky catch to the ability. I had to be on a job for someone. I couldn’t use it to find things unless someone else wanted to know and struck a bargain with me. All it would take was something simple like “I’ll give you five bucks to find my dog.” and it kicked right in. In fact that very statement is what gave my shine away for the first time. I found the lady’s dog in about ten minutes; she never paid me either, but did thank me profusely. People are like that sometimes. I couldn’t pay myself to make it work either. Believe me as an adolescent I tried that angle to get what I wanted more than once: “I’ll pay myself ten bucks to find three hundred dollars free for the taking.” Or “Here is a quarter to find a woman who will have sex with me right now.” Kids. What are you going to do?
No one was going to pay me to find Hawk’s safe combination, except maybe the police. Very few people knew how my power worked, but the police department kept me on retainer because I was reliable. They didn’t question my asking about the usual rate of pay every single time they called for my help. I went back downstairs to stare at Hawk in the kitchen. Crouching down I looked at both hands again. His off hand had touched the inside lip of the table, not randomly as I had first thought, but in five groups, the first had 3 dots, the second 3, the third ten, the forth 6 and the final group had 9. 33069. Back upstairs the safe opened flawlessly to those numbers. Sitting at the front of the safe, resting against a stack of hundreds was a envelope with my name on it.
I eased it open and read the short printed page within, “Billy, I have a job for you. Find who killed me, the pay is non-negotiable: take the stack of money this envelope is resting against. Bring them to justice. Find out who is killing the shiners. Recent Cases – your name.”
It was signed simply “Your Friend, Flying-Hawk”
I don’t know how he knew, but he was a smart one, he must have figured it out in the decade we had known each other. I nodded, accepting the deal was part of the shine and the pathway to his murders opened up before me.