The Caldera's Vice

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CHAPTER 16

This Is A Raid!

“Looks like she made herself right at home again,” Virginia grumbled as they stopped at Rinata’s fizzler bar, opening her car door.

Soft music played and instead of a crooning flapper it was a live jazz band. A few customers glanced at them and Renshu in uniform but made no comment, not even a second glance. A meek hush juxtaposed the roar from the previous visit, humbled by the recent raid.

“Bar is not open until mess is clean,” Rinata said from the bar. Renshu turned and saw her picking oversized glass shards from the broken mirror. Renshu and her met eyes.

“We’re not here for fizzlers,” Officer Price said.

“Ah, you come again to raid?” Rinata cocked a brow, her button kitty nose upturned, as she wiped the inside of a shot glass with a swift turn of her rag. Renshu, calm and collected par usual, strolled over.

“No need to worry on that front. We confiscated your ledger and gathered quite a few fraudulent names.”

Rinata huffed, scowling at him as she slapped the damp rag on the bar.

“I notice my ledger has gone.”

She shifted her acidic expression to Price who slid next to Renshu, then to the ledger before continuing.

“So what? Fraudulent names,” she shrugged, “You already raid my bar. What more can you do?”

“A lot, actually,” Price said.

Rinata, unfazed, stood her ground against the police officer towering over her.

“But we’re not interested in getting you into more trouble,” Renshu wagged his finger and leaned in.

Rinata turned her attention to him.

“We’re more interested in those names on the ledgers you supposedly traded with. Specifically Tom Malone.”

“Malone false name. You know this.” Rinata shrugged.

“It’s not for you,” Price growled but Renshu lifted his finger to calm her down.

“Providing the identities of these people will increase your chances of hindering further damage to your fizzler bar,” Renshu said.

“We could let the charges slide,” Price spoke through her teeth without a vein of pleasantness, “If, and that’s if, you provide us with the real names and locations. I assume you’re not above ratting your buddies out.”

“You want name and location of who gives me sparkling water? Sugar supplier?” Rinata scoffed. “You think I give you the name of who gives me Quaph?”

“You also have alcohol here, let’s not forget that,” Price continued with her snarling tone “And prostitution.”

“I have already been to jail,” Rinata shrugged. “What more if I go to jail again?”

“We will level this establishment to the ground so you will have no customers ever again,” Price leaned over the counter, her aquamarine gazelle eyes dissolving to reveal the demon inside, “respectable or not.”

Rinata busied herself with the rag. Despite the gun butt dents, knife scrapes and stains it was clean.

“If that isn’t an incentive,” Renshu continued for Price “Perhaps you will like a monetary gain. It doesn’t look like your Fizzler Bar is doing well enough to start again from rubble.”

Price flicked him a glare but Renshu didn’t acknowledge it. Rinata stopped scrubbing.

“You want Malone, yes?”

Renshu’s lips peeled back in a triumphant smile.

“Yes, that would be nice. Along with all the others in your ledger, for good measure.”

“And I get money after I talk?” Rinata looked up at Price who glared back at her.

“Names and locations first,” she snarled. “And we’ll know if you lead us down the wrong path and we’ll sweep this place clean out of Hellhole.”

Rinata nodded, “I’ll make list.”

She left and disappeared down the hall. Officer Price jumped the bar and ducked below until only her antler’s spiked tips showed. Her chilly tone prickled the hairs on Renshu’s neck.

“I know you were trying to help, but don’t bribe the suspect without consulting me first.”

“Forgive me, Price,”

He dipped into his pocket, taking out his tin with shaking fingers. She rose, clutching a quarter-full bottle of whiskey.

“Just as I thought,” she grunted, uncorking it and downing the remains in a whiplash gulp. He watched, lighting the gasper, and sucking in a drag.

“Can’t trust these people to obey the law,” she tossed the whiskey bottle over her shoulder. The ensuing shatter paused the music, a heartbeat, before it picked up again. He blew out a steady stream from his nostrils.

Rinata returned, sullen, and handed Renshu the list. He accepted it with a dubious, cursory glance over the list of names and addresses. Tom Malone marked the top one.

“Are you giving me the money?” Rinata threw an expectant glance at Price. Renshu paused.

“You’re lucky we didn’t shoot you.”

Price snatched an unopened whiskey bottle and headed for the door. Renshu lingered, twiddling his cigarette, the gears in his mind unfurling.

“Miss Lenksy?”

“What? You come to rake me through coals, hm?”

“We went through your Quaph stash the other day and it raised a few questions,” he said. Rinata’s sulk flashed into rage.

“I know, your brass boys took out all of my Quaph bins.”

Officer Price glanced at Renshu, perplexion marked every wrinkle in her brow and half open mouth before she turned to Rinata again.

“No we didn’t. I haven’t been informed that your Quaph was confiscated,” Price said.

“Well I leave for jail with Quaph here and I return, Quaph is gone,” Rinata shrugged.

“Was it your typical distributor who may have taken it back when they saw you were raided?” Renshu prodded. Rinata threw her head back in a cackle.

Price said “They’re not going to take back their product when they know they can make a profit.”

“Police bitch correct,” Rinata said.

Officer Price bit back a retort.

Renshu asked, “Any suspicion of who took it?”

“How would I know? My business is in my fizzler bar. I know no dealings other than consignment,” she shrugged.

Officer Price grit her teeth but she cleared her throat and rose, Renshu followed her.

“Thank you for your time,” Price growled.

Rinata smirked.

“Good evening, police bitch.”

Renshu pulled away before Price’s venomous response and tipped his hat, “Good evening, Miss Lensky.”

Renshu was outside, the paper fluttered in his grip as he scanned the list, heading for the Daimler and swung in.

“Do you know where this is?”

He showed her the paper, tapping the address next to Malone’s name. She nodded. “Eastside of Johnny’s Paradise. Near the pulp mill.”

“Guide me,” he started the car and drove down towards Johnny’s Paradise via Belial.

“Sure thing, dick.”

She opened up the whiskey bottle. Bubbles fluttered in the neck with each gulp and brought it down to rest in her lap, a quarter of the unlabeled bottle emptied. She coughed.

“This is pretty strong.”

“Brings in more money that way.”

The twilight sun hung just over the caldera’s ridge and played its tricks on the bottle, glinting in Renshu’s eyes but Price didn’t move it.

“Turn right,” she said.

He turned. Broken street lamps and shuffling demons in dirty rags littered the grime riddled sidewalks.

“I can say this place certainly holds a unique charm,” he chuckled.

Price huffed a bitter laugh, “Charm. Right. You’ve got an interesting way of looking at things.”

“I believe it’s called optimism, Virginia.”

She looked over at him, her aquamarine eyes catching the sun’s last glint as it sunk lower in the horizon in between the looming towers of manufacturing buildings surrounding him. A miracle it reached her at all, and it made her rectangular pupil shrink.

“Optimism doesn’t exist here.”

She made no further comment other than to direct him to the next place. He stopped in front of a dirty brick warehouse riddled with broken and boarded-up windows.

“Go around the back,” she told him when they both shut the Daimler’s doors at the same time. They rounded the warehouse, a brick and mortar shamble with a vented canopy. A large pair of rear doors rolled open, a Tin Lizzy bumbled out which they sidestepped to avoid. Glass bottles tinkled from the open back window as it drove past them onto a ramshackle back road. The doors remained open, the two strolled in. Renshu grinned, the unmistakable aroma of hops and malts wafted from brewing vats, intermingled with boozeleg barrels. A ruckus of shouts, steam hisses, and barrel loading filled the air.

“Well, it’s not exactly what we were looking for, but one distillery gunned down is better than nothing.”

“I’m going to call my patrol officers to come for a raid,” there was no smile as she whipped out her ameche. Onyx demons passed them by, glancing at them both but no one made comment or even acknowledged them.

“Welch, I’m going to need you to send a few patrol officers over to 1784 Warren Lane for a Boozelegger raid.”

“Roger that, Price. We’ll be there shortly.”

“Step on it,” she snapped the ameche closed. A few demons passed them by, one of which she yanked by the overall strap and dragged towards her.

“Where’s Tom Malone?”

The demon mumbled. She lifted him several inches above the ground. Renshu gulped, glancing at the other demon who reached for his hip.

“Answer me.”

“Back office,” the mumbler indicated with a nod to the back of the building where a shack jutted hid behind boiling vats. Price chucked the mumbler and stormed for the office, Renshu in feeble tow. She banged the door, the blinds rattled against glass with each rap, and pulled back, reaching into her trouser pocket. The door opened, revealing a thick, tall white demon with emerald eyes that glanced at her officer badge.

“What can I do for a lovely dame like you?” he sucked a cigar that was as fat as his sausage fingers.

She flashed him her Captain’s badge “This is a raid and you’re under arrest for unlawful manufacture and distribution of alcohol.”

His eyes glimmered something awful but it only lasted a moment.

“Bup, bup, bup,” he rose two palms in surrender before dipping into his pocket. Price flinched for her pistol.

“Now don’t be that way, sweetheart, just wanna show you the greens to get me outta this jam,” he pulled out a fat wallet. “How much it gonna be to keep that pretty mouth quiet-”

“I can’t be bought,” she drew her gun and pistol whipped the wallet from his burly hands and in a second round smacked his knuckles. He yelped, bit down on his cigar until it fell from his mouth but didn’t trouble himself for either dropped item to nurse his bleeding digits.

“If I may interject,” Renshu said, but a loud clamor interrupted him. Shouting, gunshots, and giant doors thrown open cut him off. Police officers rushed in through the open doors, running through the warehouse with pistols held poised at an angle, Lieutenant Cooke leading them.

“This is a raid!” He shouted into a megaphone. He eyed Price and saluted her before running off again, gun in hand.

“Goddammit,” Malone snarled from behind Renshu.

Price turned to him, her cute gazelle eyes hardened by her furious brow, “Now are you going to cooperate or am I going to have to force these cuffs on you?”

Malone sighed, extending his wrists.

“I’m not gonna put up a fight, sweetheart. What can I say? Can’t resist a dame in uniform.”

“Flatter someone who cares,” she clapped them on the boozelegger but his large wrists had her adjust and cuff him a second time, cinching the cuffs so he winced.

“You play rough, sweetheart. Bet your hubby likes it when you slap the bracelets on if you know what I’m sayin’,” Malone sniggered, then nodded down to the cigar still burning near his slickers “Mind plugging me with the cig? Sure could use a smoke.”

Price looked down at the cigar still burning near his slickers, bent down, and rammed the hot end onto his bleeding knuckles.
“God damn, ya cranky broad!”

“I’m divorced,” she snarled.

Renshu cleared his throat.

“Mr. Malone?”

Malone turned to him, Renshu tipped his fedora, “Detective Renshu Karasu from Mayville.”

“Evening, detective. At least one of yous got a scrap of manners,” Malone’s eyes glittered with tears.

Renshu flipped the list between his fingers for the kingpin to see.

“Would you care to tell me which of these people distribute Tastees? Your sentence could be shortened if you answer correctly.”

“We didn’t agree on that,” Price snarled, but Renshu ignored her.

Malone gave the sheet a good look over, “Can’t say I know any of these fellas.”

Price rolled her eyes, “Sure.”

Lieutenant Cooke appeared, out of breath and flushed.

“The warehouse is secure. All we need is the kingpin,” he looked up at Malone, smiling “And it looks like you’ve nabbed him.”

Price pushed Malone’s gargantuan body over, “Throw him in the slammer. Get him out of my sight.”

Malone looked down at her, bobbing his chin as if to tip his bowler hat, “You take care, sweetheart.”

She glared without comment as Cooke towed him away.

“Let’s follow up on the list,” she told Renshu.

“Right behind you,” he followed her back to the double doors leading into the twilight.

Thundering strikes of metal echoed across the warehouse. To Renshu’s side, two police officers wailed on an overturned vat with hatchets. Beer rushed out of the gashes, spilling and bubbling into the dirt. He paused, a second’s worth of musing.

“How wasteful.”

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