This story contains sensitive content

This story contains kidnapping, violence, gore, and tobacco use.

The rain beat hard against John Dyke’s black umbrella as he meandered down the dark, slick sidewalk. A plume of grey smoke puffed from between his lips and out of the big, oval nostrils of his bulbous nose like a dragon’s warning, daring anyone brave enough to test him and see what would happen. No matter the occasion, trailing a suspect inconspicuously or not, Dyke always had a Nub Connecticut cigar gripped firmly between pursed lips, its embers casting his features in a low orange glow. Hard features, with cold, determined eyes.

His shoes splashed through a large puddle and he cringed at what he felt was the loudest sound he’d ever made. But the man he followed, Jake, didn’t notice. Jake stumbled through the rain, passing other drunks, saying a few words to each other in their drunken language like babbling babies, and continued walking, never knowing Dyke was behind him.

Stalking him.

Dyke’s magnum could sense a fight, the scent of blood in the air, and itched at his side within his worn shoulder holster, wanting out. Not yet, though. He’d get his fun with Jake, but not until Dyke got what he was after. The drunk man turned down an alley, mounds of trash bags brimming with filth on either side of the alley acting as great walls ten feet high, Jake passing through, into the dark safety to piss, no doubt.

He thought back on the woman’s scent as she entered his office, a perfume so expensive John Dyke would have never heard of it if he had asked its name; a springtime rain in a flowery meadow fighting back the oaken barrel odor of his many cigars. Her hair was the color of the whitest sand, only specks of gold allowing her to be called a blonde, she wore it down, its curls lapping past her shoulders. To shield herself from the bitter chill outside, she wore a white fur coat, probably mink or fox, while beneath was a quite revealing admiral blue dress, cut short as to show off her legs. Lauren Commes, Dyke’s most recent employer. He recalled her desperate, frantic explanation of why she had sought him out and needed his help; her kid sister had been kidnapped. A nine-year-old girl taken from her backyard.

Dyke turned down the alley, bringing his sub-nose from its home under his arm, into its rightful place in his hand. He gripped it tight. Jake had meandered a way down, but Dyke spotted him, a wobbling specter about eight yards away. He was still pissing, his stream beating the brick wall he leaned in front of just as hard as the spattering rain.

“Jake.” Dyke’s voice was deep and gruff, meant to come from a tall and burly man, a biker or lumberjack, but instead came from a five foot eight middle-aged man with as extensive of a pot belly as was his file in the Brooklyn precinct’s Internal Affairs office. Dyke cursed the pencil pushers to himself as Jake turned to face him, still pissing. He jumped back, but too slowly, and the drunk man’s urine rained down on his shoes. Dyke cursed aloud, rearing from the stream’s reach. Then the stream lessened and finally ran dry.

Not a second later Dyke had dropped his umbrella to the side and stepped into Jake, bringing the butt of his gun into his teeth with a pop. Jake screamed, clutching his mouth, blood seeping between his fingers. He shoved back with drunken confidence, but Dyke knocked the butt of the magnum into his mouth again, this time hearing the distinctive crack of shattering teeth.

Once cradling a cup of Irish coffee, steam billowing from the black drink, Lauren told Dyke what the police had found. Footprints, then tire tracks. The detectives at the scene suggested it was from a van, but had said they wouldn’t be sure until the lab work came back. If the lab work had come back, the detectives hadn’t revealed it, and when Lauren had asked they gave her a politician’s answer. “These things take time.”

A week later Lauren feared the worst, while her father, CEO Robert Commes Jr., and stepmother, retired model Kelsey Barringer, seemed to be just as dismissive as the cops.

It had been a couple of quick calls to his old buddies in the Brooklyn Precinct for Dyke to get the lab work. The detectives, and whoever had bought them out, had wanted to not seem too eager to drop the case into a dusty file cabinet, so they had put in the work. Two days later and Dyke found the van was owned by none other than Drunk Jake Two Teeth standing before him, staring at the two bloody teeth he had spit into his palm. More were missing, but he had swallowed those.

Dyke grabbed Jake by the collar of his soaking shirt and slammed him against the brick wall, his magnum ready to make another blow to his mouth. “Who hired you?”

Jake spit a glob of bloody saliva onto Dyke’s face and felt it roll lackadaisically down his cheek, followed by a string of insults about his mother. Dyke struck his mouth with the magnum’s butt again.

“Who hired you to kidnap the Commes girl?”

Jake’s features grew hard, cold. “My lips are sealed,” he said, lisping, but with a sense of resolve.

Dyke brought the butt of the gun back into his mouth. Another crack. Another wail. Then the gun was back in its resting position, ready for another strike. “Who hired you to kidnap the Commes girl?”

Blood ran from Jake’s mouth and split lips in a wide river, down his chin, mixing with the rainwater, leaving his skin in light red drops. Jake’s eyes were almost as hard as Dyke’s.

Dyke snarled, his face like a bulldog, then cracked his magnum down into Jake’s nose with as much force as he could muster. Up until then, he had been hitting the man lightly. Immediately, Jake’s nose exploded into blood and skin and cartilage, the force of the blow so hard he fell to the ground. Dyke let go of Jake’s collar and watched him wallow in the rain and what looked like human feces.

He always called it the city of filth and misery; New York. Dyke had been born here, raised here, married here, divorced here. He never left a day in his life. He hated it. The crime, the trash, the traffic.

Dyke recalled as he sat behind his desk, puffing a cigar, scotch glass sitting empty on the mahogany, Lauren Commes before him, her coffee cup empty.

“Ten thousand dollars to locate my sister,” she confirmed. “And a five thousand dollar bonus if you kill the son of a bitch who took her.”

And she was serious. Dyke studied her and he could see a rage roiling inside her crystalline blue eyes. Fifteen thousand dollars would put him well over his goal. He could buy that condo in Miami and have some money to spare. He could finally leave this place.

The short barrel of the magnum found its way inside Jake’s mouth, and Dyke watched the man piss himself. A drunk man’s bladder was a pandora’s box.

“You have three seconds to answer me before I blow your tongue out the back of your head and find someone else to answer my questions,” Dyke said. “One.”

Jake stared at the gun, going cross-eyed.

“Two.” Dyke cocked the hammer back and rested his meaty finger lightly on the trigger. That made Jake scream and try to speak with the metallic weapon shoved in his mouth. Dyke eyed him for a moment, then pulled the gun out and got him onto his feet, and against the wall, the magnum angled upward against his cheek.

“I don’t know who–”

Dyke pressed the muzzle hard into Jake’s cheek, his finger growing heavy against the trigger, pressing it down ever so slightly.

“Wait!” Jake screamed. “Wait! I don’t know who hires me, they’re always anonymous. But I can tell you where they go, where they have me take them.”

The rain had stopped as Dyke left his car at the shipyard’s entrance and made his way to the warehouse. He was still soaked, though, his socks sloshing inside his shoes as he walked, his felt hat two shades darker. He lit another cigar as he watched the building, camera poised and ready. Bringing an eye to the viewfinder, Dyke aimed and steadied the long zoom lens onto two men, thick builds, both bald, both in all-black three-piece suits, and both armed with MP5s resting in slings at their waists. They guarded the entrance, and well above them, Dyke saw light shining into the dark gloom from the skylight and heard a man talking into a microphone, although his words were unintelligible at this distance.

Running low through the shadows, Dyke made his way to the warehouse’s unguarded side. No windows, no doors. He mumbled a curse, then fixed his eyes on a stack of large wooden crates reaching high. Maybe high enough to see through the upper window. Shaking his head and steadying his breath, Dyke began to climb.

“Why do you take the children there?” Dyke said, knowing he would hate the answer. Jake breathed through his mouth, sucking in the rain as it ran down the pulp of his nose. Weak, he had slunk back down to the ground and peered up at Dyke, brought to sobriety through the pain and the fear.

The .45 caliber bullet traveled through his left eye, expanding his brain into charred mush, and painting the wall Jake leaned against with viscera, skull, and hair. Though the crack of the shot was muffled by a sudden roar of thunder, Jake’s final words still rang in Dyke’s ears. “They buy them.”

As Dyke witnessed the conjugation inside the warehouse, his stomach churned and he felt likely to puke. He clenched his jaw tight and held it back, bringing his camera to his eye and snapping as many pictures as he could.

Inside was set up like an auction room, a short stage against the far back wall, before it over a hundred foldable, occupied chairs. An auctioneer, a thin man with a pointed mustache and an evil smile, stood on the stage, a microphone in one hand, the other gesturing to children, girls and boys all no older than fourteen, half-clothed, standing in a line behind him.

The warehouse’s other occupants were dressed in fine Italian-made three-piece suits and lavish dresses, the wardrobes and jewelry of everyone in attendance probably costing more than Dyke made in a year.

Dyke cursed again. Through the camera, he spotted the Brooklyn District Attorney laughing beside another man. Dyke’s eyes narrowed, his fingers turning the zoom to its maximum. The Governor of New York.

A few rows behind the two men Dyke saw the former president and his bulldog wife conversing with a tall man, his starch white hair styled short, and obviously charismatic, but also… off. He had a certain evil smugness to his features Dyke couldn’t fully grasp. Beside that man was a woman with dark hair, a pearl necklace hanging low down her chest, wearing that same smirk.

The more Dyke looked, the more people he thought he recognized from movies, billion-dollar industries, and the world stage. He couldn’t believe it. He took pictures of all of them. Then he spotted Robert Commes Jr. and his wife Kelsey Barringer.


Dyke whirled, peering down at the two guards from the front, aiming their automatic submachine guns right at his chest. Protecting the camera in a football carry, Dyke slung his magnum from its holster like a cowboy, but not before the cacophony of gunfire struck him in a deafening soundwave. He dove off the boxes, smacking the concrete ten feet down.

But with adrenaline pumping through him, Dyke immediately rolled and fired, expending all six shots at the guards. They ducked for cover, and so did he, crouching behind a crate. The camera slung across his back, Dyke hastily pulled up his pant leg and brought a Glock 43 from its holster. Ten more bullets. He ran, firing wildly at the guards as their heads popped over cover and fired back. Dyke heard a grunt, and the symphony of bullets lessened by one man.

Dyke’s glock was dry, so he kept running.

He groaned and clutched his side, his hand coming back bloody. Dyke watched dozens of blacked-out SUVs pull up to the warehouse, their owners hurrying inside to their armored safety and speeding away. On his camera, Dyke had enough evidence to have half the state’s politicians arrested, if not a third of the country. CEOs would crash and burn, and princes would be shunned by the public.

Breathing laden and his side soaked in crimson, Dyke finally slowed to a halt outside the Brooklyn Precinct, its fluorescent lights emitting cold rays onto the street, melding with the early morning light. Dyke already heard the roar of chatter, the static of radios, and ringing phones all blending together, all of it overwhelmed by sudden sirens as two cruisers pulled out of the parking garage and raced off. The car door slammed and he stumbled on the curb.

Dyke took each steep, exhausting step up the stone stairs with conscious effort, then pushed open the dark oak door. Stepping inside, the aroma of old coffee swam around him, and a few officers stared. Eyes narrowed, he scanned the bullpen for his old partner. He found him studious as always at a desk overcome with stacks of files; Kenny Loggins, a name he had cursed his parents for, but now had learned to live with.

At his ex-partner’s cubicle, Dyke looked Kenny up and down. Tie slung limply around his opened collar, with his grey suit jacket thrown over the back of his chair, dark bags at rest under his eyes, and in need of a shave.

“You look rough,” Dyke said.

“I can say the same about you,” Kenny said, gesturing to Dyke, sopping wet, covered in dirt and blood. Dyke lit a cigar and told Kenny the whole story, from Lauren Commes to Jake to the warehouse and the flying bullets. Then he set the camera on Kenny’s desk. Kenny eyed it as he scratched at his ginger stubble. He pulled a hefty file from the top of a stack and gave it to Dyke. Kenny’s flip phone vibrated, he glanced at it, then turned it off. He pointed.

“That’s a missing persons case I’ve been working on. An eight-year-old boy was abducted on his way home from school,” Kenny said. Then he pulled another file, then another.

“Looks like you’re the designated cold case detective,” Dyke said with a raised eyebrow, looking at the dates. Every case involved children, and from their pictures, Dyke thought he recognized a few.

“Is that camera what I think it is?”

“Your ticket to a promotion and a raise?” Dyke joked. “Yeah.”

Four days later, Mary Commes’ body was found. She was bare, glossy eyes staring into the void. Rotten, green-yellow bruises coated her skin like painful flowers, with old scars slithering between them. Her wrists had been bound tightly, cutting her skin and her hands’ circulation, turning them their own shade of dead blue. Lauren had invited him to the funeral, but Dyke couldn’t stomach the idea of looking at her parents, knowing what they were. He had gotten paid, though, and bought that condo.

A week later he got a call from Kenny; the camera was stolen from evidence. Dyke stood there for a long moment, phone to his cheek, mouth ajar. His cigar fell from his lips and sent ash and embers across his cheap tiled floor. He was stricken with the nauseating realization that everyone who partook in the auction at the warehouse would keep walking free. Dyke knew why that man and his wife acted so smug. They knew they couldn’t be touched. And not for a lack of trying, but the reporters wouldn’t touch the story, saying they needed evidence for such a huge conspiracy, unlike every other one of their articles.

Miami’s humidity plagued its people, the air a stagnant blanket over the whole city, and the only solace Dyke found was during its nights. Those nights he prowled, hunting, magnum at his side, just like in New York. A specter on the cool breeze, exacting a justice the city craved. Not tonight, though.

Dyke wiped the sweat off his brow with a handkerchief. His tie was strewn in the passenger seat, and his collared shirt was unbuttoned halfway down his chest. The asphalt simmered, sending waves of heat rippling into the dark sky, an ocean’s breeze nothing but a far-off desire. Even the palm trees sagged, roasting alive. The whole city was ablaze.

The stoplight’s glow stretched bright fingers across the car’s hood, and Dyke found himself watching the lust of a couple in their apartment to his side.

A gunshot rang out across the empty street.

The man’s wife had tracked him down and put an end to his affair herself. As the second gunshot reverberated against the buildings and sent a few dogs into barking fits, Dyke lit a cigar and drove away through the neon.

People. The people of New York were what he hated the most, although he didn’t pretend he wasn’t one of them. He was just as rough and unforgiving as anyone in that city, but to get away from that, Dyke thought he could change. Maybe. To come to Miami and start a new life, a better life. One of tans and piña coladas. He quickly discovered that people, the same people he wanted to rid himself of, weren’t just in New York. The same people were everywhere, bound to evil.

May 29, 2023 15:47

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John Werner
01:17 Jun 08, 2023

Impressive attention to detail. Well done!


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J. D. Lair
23:52 Jun 05, 2023

What an engrossing detective story! I thought your details were well thought out and some of them really packed a punch (literally lol). Hard to think you wrote this in a week. Well done! Welcome to Reedsy GW. Hope you stay a while. :)


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Rabab Zaidi
06:06 Jun 04, 2023

Interesting but too long


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