Twenty minutes later, Vincent finally arrived at the rally point. He was wearing the face mask. The inner layer scanned his face using microsensors. The outer layer took the data and randomly changed some elements, presenting a different face to the world.
The other killers were already there. Thunder grumbled across the sky. Rain fell in thick sleets, drenching his face but sliding off the nanofibres in his clothes and shoes.
“Sorry!” Bobby said. “I got lost! I’m so sorry!”
I’m at the rally point. Everybody’s here. Where’s the SDU?
Max snorted. “Don’t you have a map app?”
“It kept sending me round and round in circles,” Bobby groused.
It wasn’t a total lie. Vincent was searching for signs of the SDU. He saw nothing.
Max shook his head. His eyes were still glassy. He must have taken another snort. “Come on, let’s go,” Max said.
Vincent blinked three times and followed Mad Max. The automatic doors opened for the seven gangsters and sole cop. They turned right, passed through another set of automatic doors. They entered a lobby with genuine marble floors, lit in the warm yellow glow of electric chandeliers. A concierge in a sharp grey-and-white suit saw them coming, and glanced nervously at the two security guards behind their desk.
Max’s hand moved to his gun.
Vincent cut in front of Max, marching up to the rent-a-cops.
“What are you—?” one on the left ventured.
In one smooth motion, Vincent drew his pistol and pointed it at the guards.
“On your knees!” he shouted. “Do it now! Hands on your head!”
“I—” the same guard said.
Vincent aligned his SIG with the infinite darkness in the idiot’s eye. “You blind, deaf or stupid?! ON YOUR KNEES!”
Both men knelt, reaching to the sky. Bobby trooped around the desk, gun still on the guards.
“Give me the keycard to the lift!” Bobby shouted. “Do it or I’ll shoot!”
A guard shakily lifted the identity card around his lanyard. “Here! This works as a keycard! Don’t shoot us, please!”
Bobby snatched the card away and returned to his boss. Max had a gun in his right hand. He took the card in his left.
“Good work, Bobby.”
Max raised the pistol. Shot the guards in the face. Turned and shot the concierge.
“What the fuck?!” Vincent shouted.
Max shrugged. “They could have called the police.”
Mad Max is killing people! Where’s the SDU???
Crap. SDU is coming. 3 minutes.
Max marched up to the second of four elevator tubes at the end of the room. He waved the card over the reader. It blinked green, and the doors opened. The gangsters crammed themselves into the car. Bobby hit the button for the tenth floor.
“Hey Bobby,” Max said. “In honour of your initiation, I want you to kick down the door and be the first man in. The rest of us will come support you.”
“You got it, dailo.”
The lift arrived a few minutes later. The men spewed out, checked the signs, and quietly walked to the target. The seven gangsters took up positions on both sides of the door. The cop stood in front of the door, gun in hand, and flicked the safety off. He tried the knob. Locked.
Bobby took a deep breath. Then he charged the door and kicked just below the doorknob.
He tried again.
On the fourth time, Vincent stopped pretending and the door yielded.
He staggered through the door. Loud Cantopop music blasted his ears. There were five men and seven women around him, spread across tables and chairs and sofas in different states of undress. None of the men were Jiang. Bobby pointed his gun at a massive stereo set and fired three times. The music died.
“PARTY’S OVER!” he shouted.
Everybody froze. There was a 60-inch holovision set built into the wall, showing undulating flesh and sweaty skin. Bobby pumped three more shots into the machine, blowing it apart.
“WHERE IS BIG NOSE JIANG?!”
A woman pointed down a hall. Mad Max stormed off. Bobby turned to follow him. Then a half-naked man leapt up at him, left hand reaching out, right hand digging into his waistband.
Vincent side-stepped, left hand snatching at the man’s right arm, and pressed his SIG into his gut. The gangster squashed Vincent’s shoulder in a vice-like grip, snarling. Vincent fired. The gangster shuddered. Vincent mashed the trigger again, but it refused to budge. The gangster headbutted Vincent. Vincent fell on his back. The gangster had a switchblade in his hand. He perched over Vincent, knife raised. Then he danced to the tune of bullets slamming into his face and torso, and dropped.
Vincent blinked. One of Max’s men offered a hand.
“C’mon brother. We got you.”
Bobby grabbed his hand.
“Thanks,” Bobby said, pulling himself up. “I owe you.”
“Hey, no biggie.”
8th floor. Coming.
“Bobby!” Max called. “Come! Come here!”
Bobby did. He entered the master bedroom. Max was standing at the foot of a bloodsoaked bed, training his gun on two naked, bloodsoaked figures. Jiang and a girl. The girl’s head was destroyed. Jiang’s shoulders and knees had been blown apart, and his face was a picture of agony.
“Bobby!” Max said, smiling. “This is your initiation. Kill this tsat tao.”
How long until SDU comes?
“I shot a guy outside,” Bobby said. “Doesn’t that count?”
Max shook his head. “Nah. I saw it through the interceptor. It was self-defence. It doesn’t count. Only murder.”
“Look,” Jiang whispered. “Maybe we can—”
“Shut up tsat tao,” Max said, his voice calm.
SDU is on the 9th floor. 2 minutes.
“Look dailo, no offence, but Jiang is your rival, right? I thought you’ll want the honour of killing him yourself.”
Max laughed. “Him? This tsat tao is way out of my league. He’s not a rival. Just some nose shit to be wiped off. You can do that.”
“Max, please—” Jiang uttered, squirming.
“Shut up tsat tao,” Max said, and shot him in the crotch.
Jiang screamed. Bobby flinched.
Where is the SDU?!
Mad Max laughed. “What’s wrong tsat tao? No more tsat, ah? That makes you a yeem tao!” Max cackled. He turned to Bobby. “Go on, finish him. He’s not even a man anymore.”
10 seconds. Hold on.
“Okay, dailo. Just one problem.” Bobby raised his pistol. “My gun is jammed.”
Max squinted at the SIG. The slide was locked back. The chamber was stuffed with a partially-ejected shell, jammed in place with scorched bits of clothing and flesh. Max shrugged. “It’s okay. You can use mine.”
Max flipped his pistol around, holding it by the frame, the offering the butt to the undercover cop. Vincent noticed the muzzle was pointed directly at Max’s gut.
“Thanks dailo,” Vincent said. He took the gun in his left hand. Kept it pointed at Max.
Then Bobby dropped the gun to his side. Turned. Looked at Jiang in the eye.
“Goodbye Jiang,” he said.
He raised the gun.
Placed his finger on the trigger.
There was an explosion. Gunfire.
Vincent snapped away.
“What the fuck?!” Max shouted.
Two black-clad men burst through the door, training their carbines on the men. “POLICE! DROP THE WEAPON!”
Three days later, Vincent found himself in Loke’s office.
“It was a good shoot,” Detective Sergeant Eugene Loke said. “You’ll be cleared pretty soon.”
“Thanks,” Detective Constable Vincent Lam said. His face was drawn and tight.
Lam looked into the eyes of the bland man in the bland suit across the bland table. He sighed. He nodded. “Yes.”
Loke smiled. “Nightmares? Insomnia?”
Lam bit his lip. “Yeah. Something like that.”
“Well, you’re on administrative leave now. Take it easy. Talk to the psychiatrist. It’ll do you good.”
Lam nodded. “Yeah. I’ll do that.” He sighed again. Looked away.
“Something you want to tell me?”
“All those people killed…” Lam sighed. Looked up. “Their deaths were preventable.”
“We didn’t know that at that time.”
Lam frowned. “You read my reports. You know how Mad Max got his nickname.”
Loke nodded. “Yeah. Look, for what it’s worth, I told the other guys the same thing. I told them Mad Max was going to go on a rampage. They didn’t believe me.”
Vincent spat a long and colourful curse. “Mad Max is a triad. That means he’s OCTB’s business. Not Cybercrime or Commercial Crime. How the fuck did they get so much control over our operations?”
“They’re not the problem. I talked them around. The real problem is Inspector Sin.”
“Head of OCTB? What about him?”
Loke’s voice dropped into a conspiratorial whisper. “This doesn’t go any further than you and me, okay?”
“Okay,” Vincent said. He blinked once. Hard. His retina reported the reappearance of REC. The one function he installed without telling the HKPF.
“Inspector Sin is…a frustrated man,” Loke said. “He’s tired of triads being arrested and bailed a few days later. He’s sick of gangsters getting their hands on guns and malware and illegal cybernetics and printers.”
“Everybody on the Force is,” Vincent said.
“Thing is…well, he’s been micromanaging undercover operations lately. This one too. When I told him I was calling the SDU, Sin told me to hold off until both gangs were at Jiang’s place.”
“He said, previously, we could only convict Mad Max and his gang with possession of illegal printers, wetware and cybercrime. Chickenfeed stuff. They’ll get ten years max. They’ll be allowed bail, so they’ll pay up and just disappear. On the other hand, if they’re caught carrying guns, it’s twenty years and no bail. At least.”
“They were planning to kill people!”
“Yeah, when I told Sin that, he said, ‘Good. Let them kill each other. When they’re done, we can sweep up the survivors, then lock them up and throw away the key.’”
“Son of a bitch!” Vincent said. “Did you bypass him?”
“I did.” Loke sighed. “The SDU team leader said the same damn thing.”
“What the…” Vincent shook his head. “WHAT THE FUCK?! I knew a lot of cops were jaded, but…”
Loke buried his face in his hands. Shook his head. “Some cops think the law just isn’t enough anymore. More and more of them are filling the upper echelons these days.”
“We’re not pawns in a game of cops and robbers!”
“Tell Sin that.”
“Have you told Internal Affairs?”
Loke chuckled bitterly. “What’s the point? Sin’s a politician. He’s very tight with the head of IA. Sin can kill any complaint against him with just a few words.”
“Goddamn,” Vincent said. He sighed. “What can we do?”
“What can we do?” Loke repeated. “Our jobs.”
“That’s bullshit and—”
“Look, we’re both frustrated, but there’s nothing we can do for now. Go take a break. You earned it.”
Vincent sighed. “All right.” He stood. Blinked hard and made for the door.
He turned. “Yeah?”
“One last question. It’s okay if you don’t want to answer, but I want to know: If the SDU didn’t arrive in time, would you have shot Jiang?”
Vincent frowned. Pursed his lip, scrunched his eyebrows. Then he said, “You know what’s the one law every undercover cop can’t break?”
“Thou shalt not murder?”
“No. Thou shalt not break cover,” Bobby Song said.
Detective Vincent Lam left the office.
If you’ve enjoyed this short story, check out my latest novel HAMMER OF THE WITCHES! It’s got black operatives, cybernetics, demons, magic and gods galore! You can find it on Amazon here.
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