Shadows of God

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Chapter 24

A bald potbellied man sat at his paper strewn desk, pastry wrappings and pink boxes all around him. The rotund man wore a white button down shirt ringed with dried sweat that failed to cover the entirety of his stomach and pants incapable of covering the top of his butt crack. With a maple glazed muffin in one hand, Senior Detective Alphonse Didacus looked over his notes on the new scourge of Damokles. A case given to him after he was taken off the hopeless investigation into the identity of the Crusader vigilante. This new case was yet another unsolvable case. Another attempt to dim the legacy of Alphonse the Fat, as the younger Detectives enjoyed calling him behind his back. That was fine for Alphonse. Each time he was given something impossible, he did just that, the impossible and weighed down his gravitas bit by bit. This new case was something entirely different though.

Four months ago, the Precinct Chief threw a file down on his desk and told Alphonse to find the leader of some unaffiliated organization that was sweeping through Old Town. Only, this organization wasn't really an organization at all. At least, not in any definition the veteran detective recognized. No ‘regular’ organization could grow as fast as this one while fighting against affiliated organizations. No organization could maintain a power base without actually having a recognized power base. No organization operated like this one and Alphonse was struggling to come to grips with all the newness.

About eight months ago, something happened with the Crusader and his powers changed. He no longer relied on fire and seemed to control the air itself, all fine and well with Alphonse since the superhero still fought for the right side. But about a month after the change in the superhero, a terrifyingly coincidental story emerged from deep in the heart of Old Town. From a place where even the famously dangerous Four Old Men knew to tread lightly and only if necessary.

Anything from the ruins of the Minoan Palatial Grounds was a bad thing. To this day people still believed that was where the Mistress of Death slept. Alphonse used to think those kinds of beliefs were foolish until he found the remains of a five year-old girl there. Some sicko said the the Lord of Perdition told him to butcher the pitiful child as though the Divine and the Lord of Perdition actually existed. And that was the kind of place this organization was coming from? A white sprinkled muffin went down Alphonse’s gullet and the Detective turned back to his notes.

Seven months ago, there was this story about Judge Gregory Oulixes, a Federal District-Judge of Old Town who was found dead in his home. Apparently he died of a heart attack in his sleep. Commissioner Knight and Mayor Gunderson worked very hard to make sure no one knew the truth, but Alphonse had been in the DPD too long to not know how to ferret out secrets.

Apparently, Judge Oulixes had a ‘friend’ in Old Town he visited regularly. On one of the nights the Judge was with his friend, someone paid them a visit. The details get fuzzy because of Damoklian ways, but the next morning the Judge and the friend were nowhere to be found. When the Judge didn't show up for work or at any of his homes for a week, a search was undertaken to find him. Three days later, a beat cop found the Judge suspended in the air by chains between four crumbling columns in the ruins. The late Judge had a gaping hole seared through the middle of him with a note tacked in the open space. That was all Alphonse could discover before the city leadership shut down his investigating in that matter.

Sometime after the Judge was found, another story began circulating about William ‘Little Willy’ Adonis, one of the Four Old Men. Little Willy was the leader of the Red Claws Organization, an affiliate of the Black Stripes Association. He was Captain of the Black Lion district in Old Town and nephew of Handsome Jack, one the Eight themselves. In other words he was two steps from untouchable. Well, someone most definitely touched him. Little Willy was found stuffed into a barrel with knives and daggers jammed into the container. From the pictures taken at the scene, Alphonse could tell someone pushed that knife-filled barrel down a bumpy hill. The picture of Little Willy after his ‘trip’ was one of the most gruesome crime scene photos Alphonse had ever seen but not the last.

Alphonse was put on the case of this new organization following the death of Little Willy and those two stories were just the tip. Since then the Senior Detective has found numerous people, all criminal leaders of Old Town, in knife filled barrels or with holes seared into different parts of them. Something about the burns in the photos tickled Alphonse’s memory and he looked up the case files of the investigation into the Crusader. The burn marks were similar in their circular pattern, but the newer burn marks were much bigger and burned significantly hotter. Alphonse would have put these murders at the feet of the city’s superhero, but the Crusader has been sighted all over the city except Old Town. As a detective, Alphonse would have said that the Crusader was avoiding Old Town, but that wasn’t reason enough to blame the man. However, Alphonse had no doubt that this new organization was in Damokles because of whatever happened to the Crusader.

The idea that someone came to Damokles to fight the Crusader was a much more comforting theory than the one that kept pulling on Alphonse like the smell of muffins in the morning. He avoided thinking about this theory. The string of thoughts that came with the implications to his theory were terrifying. Alphonse tried to keep the thought out but once again he was considering the possibility that the Crusader-

“Alphonse!” a voice shouted from down the hall.

Interrupted from his thoughts, Alphonse sighed and turned down to look down the white walled hallway. He saw the Chief’s blonde head poking out of his office and staring directly him before he beckoned the detective with a finger. Alphonse drooped and sighed. He may be a veteran, but it still felt like he was being summoned to the principal's office whenever the Chief called him. Alphonse just picked up a chocolate sprinkle muffin before wiggling himself backwards out of his desk to obey the order.

Chief Von Kendricks’s white-walled, blue-rugged office seemed to be a room dedicated to the Chief’s success and prowess. Medals, plaques, framed degree certifications, awards in every make, model and version lined the walls of his small office. There were trophies of all sizes on two shelves on either side of the window behind the Chief’s desk, the small golden figures twinkling in the sunlight. Alphonse hated coming in this office. Stank too much of self-importance. An award or two was nice, but what was going on here was overkill.

When Alphonse walked into the office, he saw the Chief standing in front of a wall that somehow had a white dry erase board sandwiched between a showcase of medals. The Chief was a lithe handsome clean shaven man a foot taller than Alphonse with police academy cut blonde hair that never had a strand out of place. His back looked as though there was a pole driven through his spine and just like his hair, nothing was out of place on his black uniform. The kind of man who made the Police Academy proud. Chief Kendricks never heard Alphonse enter and Alphonse plopped down in one of the seats in front of the Chief’s desk with a grateful sigh. He knew he looked like a freshly glazed muffin with all the sweat on him, but he was too busy licking the chocolate off his fingers and wiping that morning’s collection of crumbs from his shirt to care. When he was done, he looked up and the Chief was staring at him, lip curled in disgust.

Portly detectives were considered something of a disgrace to the force, but Alphonse was too good at his job to be fired. Just too fat to be promoted.

“Yes, sir?” Alphonse asked as he finished cleaning his shirt.

Chief Kendricks sighed and motioned to the dry erase board behind him as he took a step to the side. The board was a black tape rendition of a street map of Old Town. There were once four colors that filled in the map, a smattering of differing colors dotted within. Now, those same four colors had been pushed to the edges of the map and one color filled in all of Old Town, black.

Being reminded that some unaffiliated organization took seventy-four square miles of the worst gang infested real estate in the city made Alphonse reach for a muffin, but with none to be found, he was left trembling for a second.

“What progress has been made, Didacus?” Chief Kendricks asked in a loud stony voice.

“There’s been no progress,” Alphonse said with a frown. He just told this to the Chief just last week.

“And why is that?” A deep rumbling voice asked from the phone on the Chief’s desk.

The unexpected voice startled Alphonse and he instantly turned to stare at the phone.

“Commissioner Knight is on the phone,” Chief Kendricks said as he walked over and sat down behind his desk. “He wanted to see what progress has been made on the case.”

Alphonse stared at the phone, surprised to feel a slight trepidation. His fellow detectives worshiped the ground the Commissioner walked on and followed his words like law. The story of an urchin from Old Town rising through the ranks to become Police Commissioner was one to be lauded, but that was all. To Alphonse, the Commissioner was a man to be respected, but no man should be venerated. His mother always told him, every man still had to move their jaws to chew their muffins. By the Divine's balls, Alphonse missed his mother’s muffins…and her of course.

“Well, sirs,” Alphonse began as he took out his notepad. “There’s no issue of effort here. The problem is that no one, and I mean no one, has ever seen an organization like this.”

Chief Kendricks’ reddening face stared at Alphonse. He inhaled to shout, but he was cut off by the Commissioner.

“Give me specif…” the Commissioner trailed off and Alphonse could hear a woman’s voice in the distance followed by Commissioner Knight’s muffed replies.

“Sorry, gentlemen.” the Commissioner said after a brief repose. “My free time I thought I had was just taken. Detective Didacus, write a full report on the progress you’ve made and send it to my office.”

“Yes sir,” Alphonse replied a little faster than he meant to. Okay. So maybe Alphonse revered the Commissioner just a little bit, but only a little bit.

“I will be expecting that call tonight, Kendricks,” the Commissioner said.

“Yes sir,” Chief Kendricks replied, face still as red as a muffin with a fresh coat of strawberry glazing.

“Until then, keep up the good work you two,” Commissioner Knight said and the phone clicked.

Chief Kendricks leaned forward and closed his end of the line and then turned that strawberry red face on Alphonse. “Did your brain go as soft as that fat belly of yours?” he asked.

“I’m sorry?” Alphonse asked, wondering if he just heard what he thought he heard.

“You heard me you-“

“Let me stop you right there,” Alphonse said, holding up a hand. “First off, I’m not the problem here, we both know that. Second, my weight is my weight. I still perform at my job so you can go ahead and just drop that there if you don’t want a call from Internal Affairs. And third, if you finish what you were about to say, I will transfer to another precinct tonight. I will gladly leave you wallowing in this mess with no hesitation. Then, I will ensure that you never even see the seat above you. Call me a liar. Go on. I dare you.”

Chief Kendricks jerked like he was slapped. His face grew redder and his eyes expanded.

“Did you just threaten me?” he asked.

“No, youngster,” Alphonse said with a smile growing on his face. “I made you a promise. Don’t think that I’m still at this position because of incompetence. I’ve been working for longer than you've been living. With my track record, precinct chiefs across the entire country will move the heavens to make space for me and my fat belly. We both know I’ve worked with nearly every Battalion Chief in Damokles and you’re still relatively green with the brass. Keeping you right here in this donkey’s ass of a district won’t be hard. Do. Not. Test me.”

The Chief’s face never changed, but something in his posture told Alphonse the man was defeated. Chief Kendricks was still his supervisor, so Alphonse immediately went into reconciliation mode. Just because he couldn’t be fired didn’t mean the Chief couldn’t make his life a living hell of paperwork and walking.

“Did the Commissioner call specifically for an update on the case?” Alphonse asked in friendly tone.

Kendricks grunted something that sounded affirmative and Alphonse whistled. If the Commissioner was overstepping his Battalion Chiefs and the Colonels to directly access a Precinct Chief, then the pressure from above must be heavy. If the pressure was this heavy then the order must have come directly from Mayor Gunderson. If the Mayor himself was ordering this, then the order must be coming from the Eight. If the Eight were getting involved, then this organization was something very serious.

“That’s a lot of weight on your head, Chief,” Alphonse said in his continued campaign of reconciliation.

“Tell me about it,” Chief Kendricks said. “Fill me in and start from the beginning. Maybe there’s something we’re missing.”

And just like that and he was as good as he was going to get with this Chief without trying to losing weight.

“As I said earlier,” Alphonse said as he looked down at his notepad. “This organization is nothing like anything we have seen before. For starters, no one knows who the leader is. No one even has the breakdown of the leadership or where they are centered.”

“Then who do they take their orders from?” the Chief asked with a frown.

“That’s exactly the thing,” Alphonse said. “There’s too much coordination for them to not be getting their orders from the same place, but no one knows who is giving those orders. This man’s identity is a mystery to everyone. The only people who've even seen the man were the Four Old Men, but there's no chance I was getting near any one of them. Not after Little Willy.”

“That’s common sense,” the Chief said waving his hand. “To take Old Town without causing another war would require the cooperation of the Four Old Men. I want to know how he got their cooperation.”

Alphonse sighed. “Probably by taking one of their number from the depths of their stronghold,” he said, “then stuffing him into a knife-ridden barrel and shoving him down a hill.”

“You really think this man has the balls to take on the Eight?” Chief Kendricks asked.

“He already is!” Alphonse said.

“And still no one knows what this man looks like?”

“This is Old Town, Chief,” Alphonse said. “Not just Damokles but Old Town. The people here are good people, but they don’t talk to us unless we have something to make them talk to us.”

“You don’t have anyone in the district with some ties somewhere?” Chief Kendricks asked.

“Oh I did but they’re all either dead or missing just like every other informant we had in Old Town,” Alphonse said as he looked as his notes. “The district is practically a dead zone for us now but, I was able to-“

An explosion on the wall made Alphonse snap his head up to see coffee running down the walls, three medals bouncing as they fell to the blue carpet in a pile of ceramic shards. He turned to see Chief Kendricks on his feet, his face beginning to turn that strawberry glaze red again. The Chief took a deep breath and the color receded. He pulled back a drawer in his desk, taking an identical mug out.

“I’m sorry, you were saying?” Kendricks said.

Alphonse would let the Chief deal with whatever he was going through on his own. “I was able to get in contact with some friends in the area and they told me a few interesting things,” he said. “Whoever this leader is, the man is making himself into a hero with the people of Old Town.”

Another explosion of white ceramic on the wall.

“WHAT?!” Chief Kendricks erupted.

Alphonse nodded. “Apparently, this leader has changed the game in Old Town,” he said. “The man is not only ruthless, but he's also a disciplinarian. He's laid down strict rules for his organization and his people are obeying. The people love him for it and are now protecting that organization. Have you even considered the fact that we still don’t know the name of this organization?”

The Chief’s eyebrows gradually rose as he leaned back in his seat, wiping the moisture from his forehead. “But why?” he asked rubbing his temples.

Alphonse flipped through his notebook until he found the page he sought. “It seems this organization has made Old Town safer,” he said with a finger on the page.

Chief Kendricks’ hands froze mid-circle. “The average weekly arrest numbers haven’t changed though,” he said quietly.

Alphonse flipped a page. “They will soon,” he said. “The people we’re rounding up are the ones who are allowed to commit crimes in Old Town. Apparently its in order to get word of this organization to spread in jail and prison. That trend won't continue for much longer as this organization solidifies their control in Old Town.”

“That can’t be right.” Kendricks said sounding panicked. “You must be wrong.”

“These people are something out of…I don’t even know,” Alphonse said after a brief silence. “One thing I do know is that this is a foreign invasion.”

“A foreign invasion?” the Chief asked.

Alphonse nodded. “The way this is happening feels like something out of Gamma," the detective said thinking aloud. "The thing is there isn’t enough flash. The underworld of Sigma just recovered from a costly war involving their branches in Sextus and there isn’t enough killing for this organization to be from Xi. But those are to only places I can think of. Who else would be dumb enough to take on the Eight not just in Iota, but in Damokles of all places?”

“That would make sense.” Chief Kendricks said. “If this was homegrown, the Eight would have all the details or likely even be behind it.”

Alphonse nodded. “This definitely isn’t something homegrown,” he said. “There’s too much rigidity for this to be Iotan. Their level of organization is unprecedented and the fear this mystery leader creates is palpable. I even got a tongue lashing from old lady Henrietta.”

“The liquor store lady on Cobbler Street?” the Chief asked. “She’s the sweetest woman in the world. What did you do?”

“Nothing!” Alphonse said. “All I did was walk into her store to try to ask her a few questions and she set me ablaze with her tongue.”

“But for what?”

“She said it was a shame that detectives only came around when Old Town was becoming safe again.”

The Chief got to his feet and walked over to his window to stare out at Old Town. “Excellent work as always, Detective,” he said as he clasped his hands behind him. “I need you to find out as much as you can as fast as you can.”

Alphonse nodded and began to get up when a light caught his eyes. When he looked at the source, he found beads of perspiration on the Chief’s forehead. That made Alphonse frown and he sat back down.

“What is really going on?” Alphose asked.

Chief Kendricks frowned. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“We may not be friends but we’ve always been cordial and respectful ever since you started here,” Alphonse said. “Today, you’ve been like a cat with a stick in its ass. Then there was the Commissioner himself on the phone for a simple case update. There’s more to this than what you’re saying. What’s going on?”

Chief Kendricks looked up at Alphonse with a bitter twist to his mouth. He just sighed and shook his head.

“Who are you going to tell anyways?” he said chuckling bitterly. “The Eight have requested a safe haven to be arranged.”

That made Alphonse swallow hard. This wasn't good. This wasn't good at all. When the Eight requested a safe haven, the police were pulled from an entire district for an agreed upon time. Whenever the Eight requested a safe haven, it was for one of two things, a meeting or a war.

“When?” Alphonse asked.

Chief Kendricks shrugged. “I haven’t heard anything about a date, but the request has most definitely been made,” he said.

“But if we can identify and deliver this leader before that, then maybe we can avoid serious bloodshed in the streets.”

Alphonse was shocked at the feeling emanating from his stomach. Fear, genuine fear, the kind of fear that made him pray to a god he wasn’t even sure existed. Pray that the Crusader was on the balls of his feet. Damokles was going to need him more than ever because Alphonse didn’t know how to even begin attempting to find the leader of an organization they still didn’t know the name of.

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