I was irked. After all, I thought I’d done a pretty damn good job at playing the ignorant beat cop. I had mixed in the blustery-failing-at-being-a-bad-ass from Detective Lowe backed up by a streak of insecurity and low self-esteem that made me more dangerous than if I truly believed I was as tough as I was pretending. Sprinkled in sophomoric humor that would revel in Eagle’s bad jokes and tastelessness. I had even iced the cake with a bit of misogyny clearly thinking of women as sex objects and little more once I’d zeroed in on his flare of arrogant male superiority. I was a lesbo beat cop who didn’t care about what the higher ups wanted and thought this entire job was a waste of time. I wanted him to think he was in control while pretending that I thought I was.
It had been going pretty well. Johnny Bates hated his ex, her sisters, her mother and even his sister. He thought he was the intellectual superior in the room. And he thought he had us over the barrel with his supposed previous agreement worked out with the much more professional contingent that had come before us. I let him think that. I didn’t press him for any actual proof of this plea agreement he swore he had coming when I knew damn well he hadn’t gotten anywhere near the sweet deal he’d promised. They believed in God, not Magic. There was no way in hell that any previous inquisitor had listened to his claims of storm-making and taken him all that seriously.
When Shane had sent us from the room again I was riding the adrenaline high of a con going well. I loved that sensation: the glorious sheen of manipulation done well. It was art, nearly erotic art at that, when done right. This thrill was better than any BTL or drug. A strategic game that required pieces and moves that weren’t obvious and with the rules always changing. I lived for it. Honestly, I admitted to myself it was probably why I’d let the con with Lowe go so far as to actually be moving in the direction of an engagement. Yes, having an inside man was important and I’d laid the groundwork with the coroner from the vamp job as a back up plan for when Lowe outlived his usefulness. But I hadn’t really wanted to let it end. The joy I took out of letting that small man believe that he was in control had been overwhelming in its pleasure. Even when he annoyed me, I used those irritations to spur me into higher levels of manipulation making him pay for his aggravating behavior with his heart and soul. In the end, he had loved me. Wanted to control and own me. Thought he had me. And I played puppeteer to his desires. And then the drekhead had gotten himself bit. And wasted it all. All the potential I had teased out of him…Gone.
Which reminded me that I needed to sow more seeds with that coroner. Detective Taylor was a decent “in” but I had to work through Mavryck to make it happen and that added a variable not always controllable—not to mention that he knew me as Lowe’s fiancé and I’d always have to be extra careful to keep the Sateen persona separate from Renata when he was in the picture.
An internal message on my comms pulled me from my thoughts as Tavi shared, “This guy doesn’t seem that afraid of the cops, it might be better to come at him as Grindstone.”
I didn’t disagree with him, in fact, it was the play I had originally considered, a runner group here to kill him, but willing to take the higher payout to ‘rescue’ him. I just didn’t like the idea of this oilstain having any idea of who we were.
While I was considering our options I hadn’t paid much attention to the conversation Shane was having with him until I heard the derisive laugh of our captive, “Yeah, you’re not cops.”
I tried to keep it going just a bit longer even as I felt the façade I’d carefully crafted begin to crumple beneath his scrutiny. The arrogant ass looked from Shane to me and back again, his smirk begging to be shot off the side of his face by a perfectly precise round to the side of his jawline. I bet I could remove just the lower mandible if I were careful about wind variance and used a smaller pencil pointed round.
The cold metallic room seemed to get even smaller as Tavi and Mavryck shifted on the wall and drew up their shoulders in defensive gestures. They didn’t realize it, but had this been a con on me I would have immediately known that I was right in my speculation by their reactions. They were subtle, but their discomfort at being “outed” was visible to those who played these games.
Luckily, Johnny wasn’t watching them, he was glaring at me and waiting for me to fully crack. I could tell he wasn’t really sure of his guesswork and I considered for a moment holding onto our game plan. After all the “paperwork” was there on the tablet and he was even now demanding to see it again, I knew as badly as he wanted that plea deal that I could convince him that it was genuine if I just kept at it.
But like I’d said, I was irked.
He’d smirked at me again.
Honestly, chip-truth, I kind of lost sight of the end-game for a minute when I realized I was banging his head off the table.
The blood that splattered the chrome shiny surface made me calmer and the next time I banged his face down I made sure to angle it in such a way that he kissed that unforgiving metal. I wasn’t really satisfied until I saw his lips split on that impact. He wouldn’t be smirking again anytime soon.
My threats were delivered with ice cold vindictiveness meant to shred any sense of masculine pride he had while utterly obliterating his sense of safety. I wanted him to realize just how easily we could erase him, delete his program without even exerting ourselves. As I explained in chilling detail, “I could give a fuck less about y’ or about yer damn storm. Fuck’it this whole place could be the next modern day Atlantis for all the fucks I give. I’m here as a favor for a friend of a friend that I don’t even care if we make happy. Ye live or die, ye stop the storm or ye don’t. No skin in the game. Let the world drown for all the fuck I care.”
And I realized I meant it. This was a diversion. A small step away from ending the Viruses that had taken my son’s signature code and used it to create an army of assholes. I didn’t even really pay attention to him as he sputtered through bloody lips something about a book and a library of mages. The hand that I had at the base of his skull tightened in a vicious clamp around the sensitive nerve bundles there, this time when I slammed his head down I would snap his neck and end it. But a glance up revealed Mavryck’s worried eyes….
“Where’s this library at?” I snarled.
As we departed with our information gathered, I glanced back at the now unconscious and slumped form of the Johnny Bates. I wondered if he’d ever know that the sole reason he was still breathing was because a skateboarding street punk wanted to impress his girl’s father.