At the last minute, I took a detour. Instead of going back to the station, I drove along Mistletoe Avenue, down to the Old Quarter. I parked in front of an old block building with a sign that read Moe’s Moose Burgers. I shook my head slightly at that sign.
Anyone who actually ate here was asking, no, begging, for food poisoning.
Inside, the place was just as seedy as it had been the last time I’d been here. Two or three ‘regulars’, i.e., ‘drunks’, sat at the bar, nursing drafts. I was surprised to see that one was an elf. That was odd. Especially for this place.
Moe was a fairy. A Hamerite. He was also a bookie. One of the more well known in Pole, in fact. He was also very careful. He’d been arrested a few times, but nothing had ever stuck.
I liked Moe. I know, I know what you’re thinking. I’m a cop, I’m not supposed to ‘like’ crooks. That’s true, I guess. But Moe was. . .well, Moe. You couldn’t help but like him. He might be a gambler, a bookie, but he wasn’t a thug.
“Well, well, well,” I heard his gravelly voice before I saw him. “Look who comes to visit!” Moe appeared from behind the bar, smiling broadly. He was big on smiling.
“Hello, Moe,” I grinned at him. “How’s business?”
“Ain’t hardly keepin’ the doors open,” he shook his head in mock sorrow, his hand sweeping around the nearly empty room. “Just ain’t no business for poor old Moe.”
“I bet,” I snorted, and he belly laughed.
“What brings North Pole’s finest to my humble establishment?”
“I’d like a word,” I admitted. “In private,” I added. He looked at me for a minute, then nodded. He led me to a room in back of the bar, where we sat down on opposite sides of a desk literally creaking under the weight of all the paper piled on it.
“Good grief, Moe,” I chuckled. “Aren’t their laws against overloading a structure like that?” He snorted.
“You ain’t interested in my desk, Kalef,” he replied bluntly. “Unless I’m misinformed, which I never am, you’re here about that Privileged elf got himself killed last night.” I shook my head.
“Never could get one over on you, could I Moe?”
“Not for lack o’ tryin’,” he snorted again. “Way I hear it, your boy was set up by the other elf. Hammerfell.”
“You know Hammerfell?” I asked. He eyed me warily.
“Was in to me for about five,” he admitted reluctantly.
“Moe, I know you better than that,” I told him flatly. “You aren’t on the list. I’m just trying to find out what happened, and why.”
“Well, the ‘what’ oughta be pretty plain,” he grimaced. “Way I hear it, you scooped ‘em both up with a shovel and broom.” Lovely imagery. Thanks, Moe.
“That’s closer to the truth than from it,” I nodded. “I got my suspicions that Hammerfell did set Airdancer up. What I can’t figure out is why, and for who. No reason I can find, yet, for Airdancer to be on anyone’s bad side.”
“Might want to check out the stables, then,” Moe replied.
“Racing stables?” I asked. “I plan to. What should I be checking on?”
“Airdancer wasn’t real popular with some,” Moe told me flatly. “‘Tween you and me and this here overloaded desk, word has it that he was juicing his reindeer. Big time.” I sat back on that one.
‘Juicing’ means the same thing in Pole that it does someone else. Doping the reindeer who pull the sleigh was completely illegal. If one had been to the vet, and had anything injected, even just a pain killer or anti-biotic, then it didn’t race. Period.
“Would anyone in particular be upset about that?” I asked evasively.
“Done said all I can,” Moe shook his head. “Or aim to. This is big, boy. Real big. Too big. Best thing you can do is leave it be. Find the one who killed him, and let that be it.”
“Speaking of which,” I changed the subject, “we ID’d the killer as a Tolite named Slashknife. Know anything about him? Like where he might be holed up?”
“He uses an abandoned warehouse in the industrial district sometimes,” Moe replied, scratching out an address. “No idea if he’s there now, but I doubt it. If he’s got a hole to hide in, it’ll be deep. That’s all I got,” he handed the paper over.
“I appreciate it, Moe,” I told him. I meant it, too.
“Git,” he shooed me on my way. “Remember what I told you, Kalef. Don’t get too deep in this. It ain’t healthy.”
“I’ll remember,” I promised.
I decided to go back to the station after the visit with Moe. I had a lead on the Tolite, and that was enough to get a team together and see if he was there.
The SWAT unit would be the best choice, I decided. The Fugitive Unit would likely use them, anyway, if I went to them. While SlashKnife was technically a fugie, he was also still technically a suspect. That meant he was mine to deal with.
But I had no intention of trying to take a violent Tolite on my own, or even with a partner, if I’d had one. Just wasn’t a heathy decision. Not if one wanted to stay healthy, anyway.
As soon as I reached the station, I reported to the Captain’s office. He was still on the phone, his face red, and angry looking.
“Where have you been?” he demanded.
“Running down a lead,” I told him. I was kinda surprised at his attitude.
“You get anything?”
“I’ve got an address where SlashKnife is known to hang out,” I nodded. “An empty warehouse. I need the SWAT unit to search the place, and. . . .”
“No,” Redshirt said, cutting me off. “We’ll do this ourselves. Gather everyone in the office, and call the other’s in from whatever they’re doing.”
“Sir, this Tolite is dangerous,” I objected. “The better play is to let the SWAT guys take. . . .”
“I make the decisions around here, Bonespear,” Redshirt cut me off again. “Now do what I told you. Give me that address. We’ll leave in fifteen minutes.” I nodded, and went back out to the room. I spread the word, as ordered, and then went to get my vest. I didn’t wear it all that often, but today was turning out to be an unusual sort of day.
By the time I got back, everyone was gathering around Redshirt.
“Now, we’re going in hard and fast,” he told everyone in his best ‘Captain’ voice. “We’ll enter each exit in teams of two. I called the Planner’s office, and there’s three personnel doors, four roll-up doors, and two fire escape doors on the catwalk inside. Bonespear, you’ll take Ironhammer and Coldforge, and cover the roll-up doors. They’re all together so the three of you should be able to handle it.”
“The rest of you have your assignments. We’ll enter, then sweep to clear. Any questions?”
“Chief, shouldn’t SWAT be in on this?” Thomas Angelhair asked. He was third in seniority on the entire force. He was still a Detective Sergeant because he wanted to be. Maybe some clarification here. Redshirt is the Chief Detective, which is why we call him, well, Chief. His actual rank is Captain. But, he prefers Chief. Of course.
“No,” Redshirt replied shortly. “This is our case, so we do it ourselves. Anything else? Good. Let’s hit the road.”
I rode with Ironhammer and Coldforge in their unit. We discussed the situation on the way over. None of us liked it. We decided that we would try the doors when everyone else went in. If one would open, then we’d go in to assist. Redshirt might not like it, but he could just be pissed, I guess.
Everyone parked a block from the warehouse, and got out. We were quiet, since noise carries across the snow. Each team had a shotgun, and we had two, since I had brought the one from my unit as well.
“Let’s go,” Redshirt ordered. Everyone made for their assigned doors. Nearly every detective in the city was on this. I hoped no one needed us for anything while we were all gathered together like this.
Units checked in by radio until everyone was set. Redshirt was the last to arrive, predictably. Yet he had insisted that he’d be the first one in.
“Now,” his voice cracked across the airwaves. All five doors went at once. Ironhammer tried each of the roll-ups, but none would budge.
“I guess we wait here,” he shrugged, backing up to take a position away from the doors.
We could hear the others inside, as they made their way through the building. At first it was just calls of ‘clear’, ‘clear’, one after the other. Then, suddenly, it was different.
“Hey, there he. . . .”
And the whole building seemed to erupt in noise.