Chapter 1

The rain poured down on me like a hot shower. The wet drops brought a slight relief to the heat that had beat down on the city during the day, but it wasn't much; not to mention that as much as I had prayed for rain over the past few weeks, tonight was not the night I wanted it to finally break.

I stood on the sidewalk, clinging to a light post like I had it in a headlock so that the ocean of moving bodies wouldn't sweep me up and carry me away with the current. My eyes were fixed on the sidewalk opposite me, and I was focused in on one person in particular.

Monica Helsiner moved with the flow on her side of the street, bumping and shoving past people as she made her way east. She had a distinguished green jacket and little black dress on with fishnets that showed rips and tears below the knees. She was a fish out of water.

To anyone else, she might have just looked like the rest of the gutter scum that moved towards their dead ends and rat holes, but to me see looked like an upper-class that decided to go slumming for the night. She was a fake, even if no one else noticed.

Through the rain it was hard to get a fix on her with my left eye. If it hadn't been for the almost fulsome jacket, I'd have probably lost her in the never ending crowd.

I used my left eye to zoom in while I let my right eye pan out and take in my surroundings.

Despite the bad luck of the hot rain, I did have one thing going in my favor. There had been a car accident a little ways west of where we were, so all of the vehicles in the street were at a stand still. There were still a few motorbikes and what not weaving in and out of the traffic, but I could avoid them easy enough.

Had Monica been walking this exact strip only an hour ago, there would have been no way for me to cross and follow her. My whole stake out would have been for not, and it might have been another week before she would make this kind of move again.

Lucky me.

I start to move to the other side of the street, lest the drivers start getting impatient and ramming into each other to get around the accident.

The sounds of horns honking, people shouting profanities, and the general hum of the crowd made me nervous that I might not hear a motorcyclist roaring towards me, but I couldn't take my eyes off Monica. She was the only thing that mattered at this moment in time.

Just as I made it to the other side of the street, the rain stopped, and Monica headed into a dive called The Purple Diamond.

She could have picked any one of the thirty or forty bars that lined this particular strip, but she picked the one with the loudest music and the rowdiest crowd. I knew right away that I wouldn't be able to get any audio, but I could at least get some video and some quality images.

It didn't take me long to get to the door, as the people behind me shoved me forward. I had to brace myself with my left foot to avoid missing the club's entrance all together, and reached out with my right hand to grab the metal frame around the tunnel that lead to the entrance.

I took the few steps to the dark purple door and opened it to be greeted by the roughest, most tatted looking bouncer I'd ever seen. He was obviously tweaked and looked like he was on the verge of an overdose. With a guy his size, I didn't want to anywhere around when his fuses fried and he became a bezerker.

He gave me a once over and turned back to face the door. Being that I wasn't face down in the street meant that I was okay to go in.

I'd lost Monica already in the over crowded bar.

There was a dance floor to my left, but it was just packed with people standing and moving the way that single cell organisms do under a microscope. Along the back wall was a long bar that stretched from the end of the dance floor to the opposite wall.

There wasn't a free standing spot in the whole joint, except for behind the bar maybe.

The broken mirror behind the bar and the people that looked as if they might climb over and start ransacking the place made me respect and pity the owners and tenders.

The music that was playing over the ridiculously sized speakers had a deep, wobbling bass. The bass was so powerful that I couldn't tell you anything else about the song.

Paige, scan for the green jacket. I said.

I felt my left eye twitch and jump as far left as it could go. It slowly started to move back to the right, and stopped nearly straight ahead of me.

Located the green jacket, Erik. Paige responded.

I don't know what I would do without her.

Monica moved fast for an upper. I was starting to get the hint that she'd been doing this for years.

She stood in the middle of the grungy dance club with at least twenty men hovering in a circle around her; facing her. She had a mixed drink in one hand, and some old money in the other. I could see her raise the hand of money up and she mouthed something out to the crowd.

The fact that nobody snatched it from her, stabbed her, beat her, raped her, or any one of the hundreds of things that happen in bars like this showed me that not only had she been doing this for years, but she was well established here.

Nobody rolled her because they knew that she would be back and it would be another payday. It was a form of self control from the worst beasts in the zoo, and that told me that there were lots of paydays and that these paydays were large lump sums.

I zoomed in with my left eye and took a few snap shots of the money going into a large, black man's hand.

I moved my eye quickly and got an image of the man's face, sweaty and smiling.

In return for the cash, the man gave her a medium sized ziplock baggie full of purple powder.

It was one of the largest bags of boost that I had ever seen.

My mouth began to salivate just a little.

And with these images, I had proof that her husband's fears were justified. His wife, like so many others, was a junkie. She was a booster.

I zoomed in even closer, just to make sure that I could get the beautiful color of the powder in all its glory, and snapped another picture.

I got a few more pictures of Monica grinning, tearing open the bag, doing a few bumps off of her pinky nail, sharing some purple with her bar friends, and then heading back towards me. I did all of this for good measure.

Sometimes, if you don't get every single picture during the interaction, the employer will go into denial.

And that's why my right eye had also been taking video.

You just can't be too safe when it comes to the paycheck.

Of course, James Helsiner wouldn't be happy with the information that I had to give him. Then again, he should have known without ever needing to enlist my services.

He had a higher echelon woman that disappears for entire days, a bank account that had been nearly depleted, and a wife that wouldn't sync up with her own husband. I'd warned him before he ever gave me the deposit that the painting was on the wall, but he needed proof. He needed vindication. He needed to know that his wife was a boost addict. His wife had effectively chosen the purple over their marriage.

It didn't matter how long that I'd been doing this job, and it didn't matter how many cases I'd worked, it always surprised me how much people are willing to pay to get proof of bad news.

I was always willing to oblige them.

I took the last of my photographs and stored them into Paige.

Pictures stored, she said.

Thank you, Paige.

It only took me thirty minutes on foot to get back to my office. Sometimes, having my place of work that close to the slums was a bonus, but sometimes it wasn't.

My neighborhood had its gutter rats, but the population was tolerable. The moving rush of the sidewalks was that of a stream instead of an ocean current. I had no trouble breaking away and moving to the office building where I worked and slept.

The building itself was just like all the buildings in the area. It was old and made of deteriorating brick. The insulation was shit, so I spent a large portion of my day sweating in my chair. It wasn't nearly as tall as the buildings in downtown, but it wasn't as run down as the buildings in the slums.

Most importantly, it was the best that I could afford.

I opened the door to the lobby and was instantly greeted by a few gutter rats. There was one female with rotted out teeth and hair that was gathered into matted chunks. There was a male with the same smile, but his hair had long expired.

"Boost?" The man said.

I couldn't tell if he was selling or buying, but I didn't care. I wasn't going to do either.

I brushed them off and walked between them to the staircase that also acted as a seat for a couple other boosters.

I made my way up to my floor, the fifth, and pulled my keys out of my jacket pocket. I walked to the door labeled "503. Erik Rohner, Detective." I put my keys in the door, unlocked all five of them, and made my way into my office.

The rain had cooled the office down considerably, but I longed for more.