Episode #3

Questions and Answers

Raymond Walters dragged his tired, sore body through the station doors. He'd barely made it into home the previous night before collapsing in exhaustion then had to get up bright and early to make it to work.

"Walters! Look alive." Eddie O'Reilly came up from behind and clapped Ray on the shoulder. "More big news in Devil's Town."

"Oh?" Ray asked, playing it dumb.

"Yeah, a warehouse blew up. No one knows if it was an accident or intentional."

"Did they find anything?" His eyes roamed the station looking for George Peevey and Frank Josephs. How would they react when they'd heard the police had discovered the warehouse they were supposed to be guarding? Surely at least one of the criminals Rueger had tied up and left would give them away.

"Nope, didn't find nothing."

Ray stopped abruptly and stared at his partner. "What? They didn't find anything?"

Eddie shot him a glance. "Yeah, nothing. You sound surprised."

Ray caught himself and quickly changed his demeanor. "No, I'm not surprised. Just...I don't know."

Eddie stared at his friend. "You feelin' okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." Ray rubbed his eyes. "Just tired."

Eddie grinned. "Late night with the missus?" He nudged Ray with his elbow.

"Late night alright." His shock was turning to anger. They'd gotten away with it. The event that could've blown the top off the crime syndicate taking over Triton City had been covered up. More than likely covered up by the police.

"Tell you what-how's about I drive today, huh? Let you getcha rest."

"That sounds like a great idea. I just have to check something out real quick before we head out."

"Sure thing. See you at the car."

Ray made his way to the dispatch unit. He approached a squat woman with curly red hair. "Hey, Bea," he said.

Bea glanced up and smiled warmly. "Raymond, how are you?" Beatrice Gertrude had been a friend of the Walters family for years; as far back as when Ray's father had been a police officer.

"I'm good. I have a quick question."

"Shoot."

"Peevey and Josephs - where are they today?"

"Peevey and Josephs." Bea flipped through a folder and studied a sheet of paper. "Looks like they've been over in Devil's Town. They were called in for the explosion over there."

"Who called them in?" Ray asked. He dreaded the answer, hoping it wouldn't be who he suspected.

"Chief Haggarty did." The answer Ray didn't want to hear.

"Thanks," he muttered and turned back. He'd known for a long time that half the force was corrupted, but had hoped and prayed that Haggarty hadn't been. Don't give up hope yet, he thought to himself. You don't know for sure that Chief is working on the other side of the law. If he was, though, Ray had no idea how he could take down the crime ring now. He'd planned on have Haggarty on his side when the time came to expose the city's dark underworld.

"You okay?" Eddie asked a few minutes late as Ray climbed into the passenger seat of their cruiser.

"Yeah. Fine."

"I'm serious. You don't look good. Maybe you should take the day off."

"Can't afford that," Ray said. "Sara's shoes don't pay for themselves."

Eddie grinned ear-to-ear. "There's the Raymond I know and love."

Eddie, buddy, I think the Raymond you knew and loved is gone. He turned to watch the city pass by outside his window. There was a day when he saw this city as someplace safe and protected. People were friendly and always willing to lend a helping hand.

Now the streets were overflowing with scum and crime. The citizens who would, once upon a time, smile as you passed by them would now stab you in the back for the measley contents of your wallet.

When did it get like this? Or has it always been like this? Has the city changed or have I changed?

"Yo! Ray!"

Ray snapped out of his thoughts. "What?"

"I was asking if you caught the I Love Lucy program last night."

"Oh." Ray shook his head clear. "No. I was out." I should've caught it. That's what a normal person does; sits at home watching TV with his wife after a nice dinner.

"You're seriously startin' to weird me out here. You sure you're okay?"

"Yeah, Eddie. I just got a lot on my mind."

"Like what? What's botherin' you?"

"It's nothing really. Just...I don't know."

Eddie nodded his head and fell silent for a moment. "You know, if you ever need to talk about anything I'm here. That may sound kinda corny and lame, but I mean it."

Maybe not everyone in this city is bad. "Thanks, Eddie. I appreciate that."

"Yeah." Eddie nodded. "How are things with Sara."

"Sara's good. We're good." Ray didn't really want to talk about his personal life right then so he quickly changed the subject. "So what do you know about the explosion last night?"

Eddie shrugged his thin shoulders. "I don't know much. The big theory floating around is that a boiler blew up. Guess they forgot to shut it down when they closed the warehouse."

"I guess so. Are there any other theories?"

"Well..." Eddie hesitated. "I did hear something from my buddy at the fire station."

"Oh?" Ray pressed.

"Yeah, I guess he was in the second truck to get there and when he got there he was held back from the fire."

Ray's brow furrowed. "Held back? What do you mean?"

Eddie shrugged. "I dunno. I guess there was another group of firefighters already there. They said more people would just cause more of a problem so they didn't let my buddy in."

"I see." So the police aren't the only corrupt institution in this town.

"Yeah, but get this: my buddy sees this guy on the other side of the street watchin' what's going on. He figures he would go ahead and start crowd control, right? Stop the crowd before the crowd even has a chance of gatherin', right? So, he goes up to the guy and starts to wave him off when the guy tells him what really happened.

"The guy says this wasn't just a boiler blowin'. He heard gunshots beforehand and says there were actually two big explosions."

"Two? Really? Did your buddy report that?"

"He says he reported it to the cops on duty, but I ain't heard anything new so who knows if he really did."

Cops on duty – Peevey and Josephs. "Big surprise," Ray muttered.

"What's that?" Eddie asked.

Ray shook his head. "Nothing."

"Whispering Walters," Eddie said and chuckled.

Ray raised an eyebrow at his partner. "Whispering Walters? What's that supposed to mean?"

"Oh, you've never heard that?" Eddie shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "It's, uh, a name some guys at the station call you. Say you're always whispering things to yourself."

"I see."

"I'm sorry, Ray. I thought you knew they called you that."

Ray flashed an enigmatic smile. "It's fine, Eddie. They could've chosen a lot worse of a nickname for me." They both laughed at this then fell into a few moments' silence.

Ray was about to speak when something outside his window caught his attention. A very familiar man in a very familiar blue ball cap was walking down the sidewalk, hands in his pockets and head hunched down. "Slow down a minute," he instructed Eddie.

His partner took his foot off the gas pedal and followed Ray's eyes to the busy sidewalk. Nothing looked out of place to him. "What is it? What's going on?"

"Pull over to the curb up there." Ray pointed to a spot half-a-block up.

Eddie pulled over and parked. "Is something wrong?"

Raymond jumped out of the car without answering while fishing around in his pocket. Keeping the man in the blue ball cap in his perepheral vision he stepped up to a newspaper stand and scanned over the headlines. The words he saw meant nothing to him. All his attention was focused at the unkempt, pock-faced man wearing a dirty, beaten blue ball cap.

He was getting closer. In just a few seconds he would be right behind Raymond. He waited just long enough then spun away from the news stand and right into the man.

"Hey! Watch it!" The man in the ball cap shouted as he was nearly bowled over.

"Oh, sir, I'm sorry." Ray grabbed the man by the arms and supported him. "I swear I can be so clumsy sometimes," Ray laughed when they'd regained their balance.

"Maybe you should watch where you're going," the man growled and continued on his way.

Ray smiled to himself. Oh, I'll be watching where someone's going alright, but it won't be me. He climbed back into the squad car and met his partner's confused gaze. "I wanted to read the headlines," Ray said.

WALTERS' RESIDENCE

"Hey, honey." Raymond found Sara in the kitchen over the stove. He wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her neck. "How are you?"

Sara smiled, relishing the moment of romance. Those moments were getting few and far between so she had to enjoy them as much as she could when they happened. "I'm fine. How was your day?"

She felt his shoulders shrug. "Just another day," he said.

"Anything exciting happen?"

"Not today."

"Good. Maybe you'll get to stay home tonight." She felt her husband's body go rigid. She sighed. "Again?"

"I'm sorry, honey, but Alvarez is out on medical leave," he lied. "They need me tonight."

Sara stepped out of Ray's arms over to the sink. "Why you? Why always you? Can't they get someone else?"

Ray shrugged. "I don't know why they decide to come to me to cover shifts."

"I do. Because they know you'll say yes." She leaned against the counter and put her head in her hand. "When do you have to go?"

"Around ten," Ray answered.

"When is it going to stop?"

"I don't know how long Alvarez is going to be out-"

"No, when are you going to finally stand up and say no? When are you going to put me above your work?" Sara was starting to tremble slightly and a lump was growing in her throat.

"Sara…it's my duty."

"It's not just your duty. It's not your duty to single-handedly save the city. You have a duty to me too. There are others who can be out there why you stay here with me.

"I love you, Ray, but I can't keep being put on the backburner."

But it is my duty - I'm the only one willing to save the city. "Listen, just let me do this this week. Next week if they ask me to cover a shift I'll decline."

"This week? Why not now?"

Ray shifted uncomfortably on his feet. "This weekend is the mayor's ball. I was asked to attend as security."

Sara's mouth dropped in indignation. Mention of the mayor's ball opened up a whole new subject of complaint. "You were asked to be security at the mayor's ball? You were the mayor's son, you should be there as a guest."

Raymond sighed. After his father's death Ray had given up the lifestyle one would expect from a mayor's son. As far as he was concerned Raymond Walters was just an ordinary man now. Sara respected his decision, but was still baffled by it sometimes. "I was the mayor's son. I'm not anymore – I gave up that life. I'm just a cop now."

Sara nodded. "I know. It's just…" she didn't finish. Instead she stepped back to the stove to stir the spaghetti noodles she was cooking for dinner. She didn't need to say anything anyway – Ray knew how she felt.

"Can I help with supper?" he asked.

"You can make the garlic bread," Sara said distantly. They finished making supper in silence and then ate with just as little conversation.

TRITON CITY STREETS

Ten o'clock came and Rueger hit the streets in search of a man in a blue ball cap.

Raymond's run in with the man earlier that day had been no accident. It had given him the opportunity to slip a "bug" into the man's jean pocket.

The bug was one of Rueger's own creations - a sonar-tracking device disguised as a regular nickel. When activated it would emit a signal that could be tracked from a monitor Rueger kept with him.

Right now that monitor was sitting on the dashboard of Rueger's nondescrept car as he drove around the city waiting for it to pick up the bug's signal and start beeping - the closer together the beeps, the closer the bug.

So far he'd been driving around Devil's Town without so much as a blip. Soon he'd spread his search out of the seedy underbelly of the city into the slightly better neighborhoods. If there is such a thing in Triton City.

Rueger had his thoughts to keep him company. I hate doing this to Sara all the time, but, like I told her, it's my duty. My father dedicated his life to improving Triton City – what kind of son would I be to let his work and his dreams be destroyed.

Everywhere I look this city is dying; sinking further and further towards the abyss of death and destruction. Drug-dealers on every corner, murders and thieves stalking in the shadows, and a government dirtier than a landfill.

And there's where the problem lies: the government. Ever since Cyrus Mercer took over my father's position the city has gone down the drain. Not that he would notice. He's too busy having balls and fundraisers to line his pockets. It's disgusting.

I know Sara doesn't fully agree with my choice to leave behind that lifestyle, but that's not where I belong. I belong out here on the streets helping people and trying to fix what the Mayor's done not cavorting with him and his degenerates.

A beeping interupted his thoughts. A small light on the small metal box on the dashboard was blinking red. Rueger's heart beat faster. The adrenaline was already flowing through his veins. Calm down, he told his body. Save it for the real action.

The beeping and flashing quicken its pace telling Rueger he was getting closer to his target.

Beep-beep-beep-beeeeeeeeeep...

The tracking device was within fifty yards. Rueger drove another three blocks and pulled his car over to the side of the road behind another car very similar to his own. No one will notice anything out of place.

The streets were empty so no one noticed him run to the alley across the road. Donning the mask, gloves, and fedora his kept in a hidden pocket inside his trench coat, Rueger climbed the fire escape to the top of a building. The buildings were so close together in Devil's Town the jumping from one to another was a breeze.

Five minutes later Rueger was atop the building that should contain his target - a five-story crumbling, run-down apartment building.. He pulled a device the size of a pack of cigarettes from his pocket - a smaller version of the tracking mechanism sitting on his car's dashboard. Using a grid search pattern he slowly walked across the roof.

Beep...beep...beep...beep-beep...beep-beep-beep...beeeeeeeee...

The man was directly below him, no more than two stories down. If only he knew whether the man was alone or not. He made sure he had his smoke bombs and flash-bang grenades easily accessible then stepped up to the ledge. He used the whip he had strapped to his back beltloop to lower himself to the window of the man's apartment.

The window looked in on the apartment's living room. As expected the place was a mess. Magazines and dirty dishes covered every surface of the sparce furniture. Bonanza was playing on the black-and-white TV, but there was no sign of the man he was looking for. He could very well be in a different room.

Nothing to do now but wait..

The man in the blue cap's name was James Jones – sometimes called Jimmy Jonessey. While Rueger was peering into Jonessey's living room he was in the kitchen stashing away the money he'd made selling guns to a local gang leader.

Yes, indeed his life was pretty sweet ever since this town's seedy underbelly was put under new management. The House of Rose they called themselves. Pretty silly name Jimmy thought, but they paid well.

Very well indeed.

The transition of power had gone so smoothly that Jimmy thought he was cruising down easy street. That was until last night when the man in the trenchcoat and mask showed up and took out The Red Rose. Heads rolled for that, but Jimmy Jonessey stayed off the chopping block.

Jimmy closed and locked the safe he'd installed in his kitchen wall. He'd made pretty good money selling the guns from last night's shipment. Luckily the man in the mask hadn't destroyed them.

Tap-tap-tap-tap.

Jimmy stood still and listened. Noises from the neighbors always leaked the the apartment's paper thin walls, but this didn't sound like it came from behind a wall. It sounded like it came from his own living room.

Tap-tap-tap-tap, it rattled again. It sounded like someone was tapping on his window!

Grabbing a butcher knife Jimmy crept into the living room. It was too dark to see anything outside. He moved closer, knife at the ready.

Just some dumb pigeon trying to get some food, he thought to himself, but still thought it best to be cautious.

He was right at the window now, he face inches from the glass. He could see the lights of the city, but nothing else. No bird or anything. Maybe it flew away.

Crash!

The window exploded inward and something large and heavy slammed into Jimmy. He flew to the ground, his knife flying from his hand. Before he could gain his bearings he was hauled off the floor and slammed against the wall. He got a good look at his attacker then - it was him! The masked man that attacked them the night before.

"Evening, Jimmy," the man said in a raspy voice.

"Who are you? How do you know me?"

"That doesn't matter. I came here for a reason."

"I ain't squealing!"

"We'll see about that." Rueger pulled the crook off the wall and whipped out a pair of handcuffs. One end went around Jimmy's wrist and the other was slapped to a radiator. Rueger stepped back and looked the thug over. "Now then," he said, his voice taking on a lighter, almost friendly tone. "I think we got off to a bad start. My name is Rueger. I like to think of myself as Triton City's protector. Her defender.

"Last night you helped ship a large amount of illegal weaponry into my city. I want to know where it came from and who it's for. The guy in the red suit mentioned something about a rose. Would you happen to know anything about that?"

Jimmy's answer was a wad of phlegm spat at Rueger's feet.

"I thought that might be your response." The friendliness was gone from his voice. Before Jimmy could react Rueger kicked him in the side. The man howled in pain. "Care to give me an answer now?"

"I ain't squealing!"

Another kick flew into Jimmy's ribs. Rueger bent down and grabbed his face in his hand. "Give me the answers I'm looking for. Who are you working for? What are they doing with those weapons?"

Jimmy said nothing.

"The silent act isn't going to help you." Rueger opened his jacket and pulled out a small tube about six inches long. He opened it and pulled a syringe out. Jimmy's eyes widened at the sight of the needle.

"Wha-What are you going to do? What is that?"

"A neurotoxin. My own making."

"What's it do?"

Rueger smiled behind his mask. "I'm glad you asked. It's actually designed to affect the body in different ways, depending on how much is injected and where it's injected. For example, if I injected just a drop of this in an arm or leg it would feel like you got shot. Very painful. A full injection would make you wish you could cut the limb off.

"A shot in your stomach would make you convulse and throw up uncontrollably. It also causes hallucinations and would very well take you to the edge of your sanity.

"An injection in the neck or face…well, I don't know what that would do; I've never done it before." He locked eyes with Jimmy. "But there's a first time for everything, right?"

Jimmy whimpered and shook like a scared puppy. Rueger moved the syringe within an inch of Jimmy's body and moved it around, taunting the criminal.

"I don't believe you!" Jimmy yelled.

"Then let me show you." Rueger jabbed the needle into Jimmy's thigh and injected only a small drop. The man screamed bloody murder. Rueger clamped his hand over Jones' mouth so as to not alert the neighbors. "Believe me now?"

Jimmy Jones nodded his head. Tears were streaming down his face from his fear-filled eyes.

"I don't want to have to do that again, Jimmy," Rueger said. "Don't make me have to." He took his hand away. "Now then, tell me what you know."

"I-I…" He could barely get the words out over his sobbing. "I'm just a goon. I don't know much, I swear."

"That's okay. Tell me what you do know."

"It started a week or two ago. My buddy called me up saying he had a job for us. Said there were these guys in town looking to hire guys for jobs. Willing to pay top dollar too."

"What do you know about these people?"

"Only that they're the most powerful guys in town. Call themselves The House of Rose. They came in quick and took over."

"What do you mean 'took over'?"

"This town used to be run by the crime bosses; the Fritolis, Gambons, Winchesters. Then The House of Rose shows up and puts all the others out of business."

Rueger mulled this over in his head. He was aware of the crime syndicates running the city, but the thought that one group could sweep in and over throw them? Outrageous. He turned back to Jimmy. "What about last night? Where'd the guns come from and where were they going?"

"Came from somewhere in Europe. I don't know where they was going. Our job was to guard them until someone came to pick them up."

"And then what? What was your next job?"

"I heard talk about some kinda ball. Supposed to be lots of richy riches."

The mayor's ball. The Roses were planning to strike there. Rueger slipped the syringe back into the tube and back into his coat then pulled out another tube and syringe.

"Hey! What's that? I answered your questions!"

"You did," Rueger said. "I appreciate that and now you're going to sleep." He jabbed the needle into Jimmy's shoulder and injected him with a sedative. The man was out within seconds.

When he woke up his hands were free and the masked man was long gone.