The Public Security Bureau was slow to act, but when it finally rolled into motion, it was unstoppable.
At daybreak, the PSB descended upon the Wood family farm. Investigators. Special Agents. Crime scene technicians. A team of Enhanced SWAT operators for security.
Clark’s men greeted them. A motley crew of deputies from all over the island, mostly junior men with a sprinkling of veterans, a core of patrolmen backed by a couple of detectives and specialists. With their federal counterparts, they walked the ground, hunted for evidence, and protected the civilians.
Inside the living room, Clark laid down the law. The PSB Special Agent In Charge bleated something about jurisdiction and responsibilities. Clark cut him off.
“We handle the shooting. You take care of the corruption.”
“Detective, we can’t—”
“I’m giving you everything. The bodies, the weapons, the wonderweapon, the Godtech, the cherry on top of the cake, Sheriff Josh Smith and his crew of merry men. You get to go after the biggest fish on this little island. We’ll take care of the rest.”
“The shooting is wrapped up in this case.”
“The shooting took place on private property, involving private citizens and Moreno Island law enforcement. It’s got nothing to do with the Peebs. We can investigate it ourselves. We’ll work with you here on aspects pertaining to corruption, but otherwise we are in charge here.”
“We saw evidence of railgun fire from the upper floors. Can you comment on that?”
“Are railguns illegal?”
“They’re not considered firearms, or any other kinds of prohibited weapons,” Kayla said.
“They’re not even mentioned in the law,” James said.
“There you have it. The shooting is MISD business.”
“We have the technical capacity to assist you—”
“We have our own crime scene unit.” She leaned forward. “Look at it from the big picture. You’re looking at attempted assassination, terrorism, and high-level corruption involving the Sheriff and the New Gods. You do this, you’re sweet with the Temple Commission forever. Leave the chickenfeed stuff to us.”
“Special Counsel Temple is going to want to know about the shooting.”
“We’ll talk to him about it. But there’s no reason for PSB to get involved. You get everything but this, and that’s final.”
The SAIC threw up his hands.
“Fine. But remember: if there’s any blowback for this, it’s coming straight at you.”
When the PSB set their hearts to it, they could move efficiently.
By noon, headlines flashed across the newspapers. It began in Moreno Island, rippling outwards to encompass Babylon, then the rest of the country.
SHERIFF JOSHUA SMITH ARRESTED
Temple Commission alleges corruption, murder-for-hire
The news replayed the same five-second clip across countless channels. Head lowered in defeat, still dressed in his uniform, a group of ESWAT operators escorted Smith out of his office in heavy shackles.
Variations of the same story flooded the Net. The brave reformer Janet Clark versus the caretaker sheriff Josh Smith. When Clark grew too popular, Smith tried to have her killed. With the help of her bodyguards, she survived no less than three separate assassination attempts, and tied the final batch of hitmen to Smith.
There was no mention of who these bodyguards were.
The evidence was slim. Circumstantial, even. But for the attack on the farm the PSB might not even have cared at all. Which was why, three hours after the arrest, emails appeared in multiple PSB inboxes—the crime tipoff page, SAIC’s, the principal agents assigned to the investigation—originating from a one-use only email address. Attached to each email was a series of video clips from the Gold Star Hotel.
Clips that showed the shooters, the Sheriff, and the representatives of the New Gods meeting in the same room.
With Smith eliminated from the race, and the registration deadline passed, the election was as good as won. Nonetheless, regulations still had to be obeyed. Janet Clark would remain a Detective Sergeant until the day after the election.
She’d won by default. Which wasn’t as decisive a victory as being acclaimed to the office. But Kayla knew she’d find a way to make it work. After what they’d just handled, this was nothing.
Kayla wouldn’t be around to see it, though.
The Woods family home was totaled. The Woods had put out the fires, but the damage was deemed too extensive to be easily repaired. As the engineers, insurance company and architects argued over what to do next, the Woods relocated to a small town deep within the heart of the island. The Clarks went with them. So, too, did the ESWAT operators.
This wasn’t the end. The end of the beginning, perhaps, but not anywhere close to the finish. Until the New Gods were driven from Moreno Island, the Woods and the Clarks would always be at risk.
And anyone who associated with them.
“You sure you don’t need me around anymore?” Kayla asked.
“I’ve got James and a team of ESWAT operators with me. I’ll be perfectly safe,” Clark said.
“The New Gods are still here.”
“They’ll be hunting for you. You need to go underground, fall off the radar for a while. Easier for you to do that on the mainland than over here,” James said.
“What about you?”
“My place is here. I need to watch over my family. And my client.”
Kayla chuckled. Janet smiled. James raised an eyebrow.
“What?” he asked.
“Nothing!” the women sang.
The flight to Saint Lucille was long and winding. The gravcar flitted from town to town, throwing off anyone who wanted to trace their flight path. Once inside the city limits, they made a straight shot for the ferry terminal and landed right outside the main entrance.
“Thanks for everything. You saved this island from the New Gods,” Clark said.
“All in a day’s work,” Kayla said.
“Once I take office, I’m going to clean up this island once and for all. If you ever get into trouble with the New Gods again, come back here. You’ll find a safe haven on Moreno Island.”
“Thank you. And James?”
“Take care of yourself too. Look after everyone here.”
“Sure. As for you, look after Yuri too.”
Clark grinned. “He’s someone special to you?”
Kayla smiled, shook her head, said nothing.
Shouldering her backpack, she grabbed her duffel bag, her railgun and tactical gear safely stowed within, and entered the terminal.
It was as dead as ever. A half-dozen people waiting for the evening ferry, none of whom had noticed her. She was still early, at least a half-hour to go. She bought a ticket, sat by a bench, and contemplated her next step.
The distant lights of Babylon beckoned to her. It was her second home. She hadn’t been born there, but she’d spent so much time there she thought of herself as a Babylonian.
But it was too dangerous to stay there. The New Gods would be hunting for her in the city, at least until their internecine conflicts brewed up again. As soon as she made landfall, she’d have to leave for calmer waters.
She didn’t know yet.
She had plenty of time to figure it out.
But there was one thing she did know.
Wherever she went, she’d fulfill Yuri’s final request. To hold the line until he returned.
She didn’t know how long it would take. He didn’t know either. But it would happen. She was sure of it. In a world of darkness and corruption, he shone. Babylon needed a man like that. Sooner or later, it would draw him back into its orbit, to destroy him or be transformed by him.
She knew it would be the latter.
She had to guard against the former.
The New Gods would know that too. They wouldn’t leave him alone. They couldn’t. His very existence threatened theirs. There would be a final reckoning.
She’d have to prepare for that. And prepare him, and the rest of the team, too.
She had her mission. She would carry it out. All the way to the end, whether bitter or glorious.
The ferry docked at the pier. The gate opened for boarding. The passengers shuffled along. Kayla grabbed her things and joined them.
Next stop, Babylon.
And after that, wherever the mission took her.
This story is over, but there is a wider universe waiting. Check out BABYLON BLUES on Amazon.