Lyz and Corbin tried their hand at some research. It’s more like “tried” because all they turned up was bupkis about prophetic dreams, Louis Corsone, and all the other strange stuff going on. The funny thing is there’s no record of Corsone. Anywhere. It’s like he doesn’t exist and not even the almighty Google could avail them this information.
Well, it wasn’t a complete waste. Department-7 got a thin lead when Norman Rockwell got a phone call. Ms. Fellows wanted the Corsone Syndicate’s hiring boom to be looked into considering the volume of shadowkind they were working with now. The lead was the related associates of the Syndicate. You know, the dealers, the fences, the thugs, the fixers, and the rest of the infrastructure that makes organized crime run like a….like organized crime. Yeah.
So Lyz and Corbin hit the streets and did some leg work. They turned up a dive called the Drunken Shot. You could play pool and get mugged inside. You know, neighborhood friendly. Hosts birthday parties with complimentary razor blades for all boys and girls.
The manager, John Sloan, was supposed to be in with Corsone’s people, so he’d be about perfect to squeeze for information. They’d turned up some dirt on Sloan. The guy was skimming money off the top to support his devastating methamphetamine addiction. Lyz bought the tequila, Corbin brought the bananas. Together they tried to buy meth. It’s more like “tried” because Sloan was cagey and Corbin wasn’t willing to press his luck and get exposed. That meant leaving the place in a body bag.
So Plan B. In the intervening hours, Lyz and Corbin cased the joint and set themselves up to break in after last call when Sloan would surely be in the back counting the money. This plan, at least, went their way and they made ingress through the back door and found what passed for an office. They found receipts, paperwork, food wrappers, and a general assortment of junk. They did find a safe, which electrocuted Lyz when she tried to crack it. Corbin said, “That was shocking.”
What they needed was proof. Damning proof Sloan was skimming, and when Lyz finally got he safe cracked they’d found it: the books. It didn’t really matter what the books said. All they needed to do was take the books and leave a little love note from the Boss: “I know, asshole.” Leave it right in the safe where the accounting used to sit and Sloan would have to change into his brown pants. They cheesed it out the back when they heard movement and waited for their psychological trap to be sprung.
Right on cue, Sloan busted through the back door in a cloud of profanity and Benjamins as he ran down the alley, shoebox full of stolen cash under arm. Corbin caught up with him before he got to the street. Had to hold him up at gunpoint mugger style just to get him to surrender. While Corbin put Sloan against a wall, Lyz started in with the questioning. They tried a tactic that hadn’t quite worked for them before and said they were agents of the Boss. It’s more like “tried” because it turns out Sloan was canny and knew, “If you were with the Boss, I’d already be dead.”
Corbin might have liked to play hard and fast with the rules, but he was no killer. He might not have been completely certain about Lyz’s motives, but he knew she wouldn’t be working for Department-7 if she was actually as cold-blooded as these goons Corsone employed.
Bluff called, they knocked Sloan out and discussed what to do with him. Eventually they settled on putting him on ice. Literally. They dragged him inside the bar, handcuffed him to a rail, and put his bare feet in a bucket of ice. Piled the rest of him up with as much ice as they could find, too.
Every man eventually breaks when under extreme stress, such as during sleep deprivation, rush hour traffic, tax season, or in this case, hypothermia. Sloan’s crippling meth addiction meant he’d be itching for a hit eventually. It was a weakness they were going to exploit. Corbin couldn’t have gotten away with this as cop, but Department-7 allowed him more latitude with investigations. To him it meant bad guys couldn’t use law and procedure as a shield anymore.
So they did a little song and dance. A bad cop, crrrazy cop routine. Ralph was John Sloan’s in to Corsone’s business. They called him “Jaws,” because it turned out he had a wicked underbite, not to mention a cave man like disposition. Sloan met Ralph here every morning to hand over Corsone’s take of the Drunken Shot’s money. Didn’t ask no questions. Didn’t know anything else. Have a nice fucking day. Who the hell are you guys anyway? You’re dead. I’m dead. We’re all dead. Stop putting ice on me!
So far so good. Up the food chain. The discordant duo had Department-7 pick up Sloan for more questioning. The plan to get dirt on Ralph was much more straightforward: a simple ambush. They lied in wait for when he came to the bar to pick up Corsone’s stake. What they didn’t expect was Ralph to be a BD&H. He smelled them before they could get the jump but at least it was two-on-one. The standoff ended when Ralph thought he could pull a fast one, but Lyz and Corbin shot him to the ground first.
First-aid and a Department-7 evac later, they had both Sloan and (wounded) Ralph in an interrogation room. Sloan was duly cowed at seeing “Jaws” in such bad shape. He knew, just knew Lyz and Corbin were going to be ground under Ralph’s boots. The problem was he didn’t know anything else. As a low level flunkie he’d been kept in the dark. Ralph, on the other hand, was a real piece of work. Even when wounded, defeated, and humiliated he remained defiant. Defiant beyond rationality. It was a mystery and a dead end that would have to be resolved later. Department-7 had a more urgent task for the discordant duo.
Like the Goblins “G”, lots of shadowkind didn’t integrate well. They brought over a lot of bad habits that didn’t fly well with modern society. You know, like sacrificing children to profane gods. And squeezing from the middle of the tooth paste tube. It was the former that had gotten Department-7’s attention this time and troglodytes were to blame.
The chase sent Lyz and Corbin into the sewers (really, where else would troglodytes hang out?), but not before a pit stop for fishing waders. Icky-icky-poo. After they bypassed the crossbow rigged to a trip wire, they heard yipping. It sounded like voices but not human voices. They seemed to be talking about the child and wondering what Griss wants with it. As if they were supposed to be there, Lyz and Corbin rounded the corner and said, “What does Griss want with it?” The kobolds, the voices ended up being, beat a hasty, panicked retreat deeper into the sewers. Lyz and Corbin pursued closely behind.
The kobolds lead them to a slightly more livable part of the sewers where they had made camp and apparently built an altar. Griss the troglodyte was looming over it, knife in hand, human child primed for sacrifice. Lyz and Corbin let the lead fly to try to take out Griss before he could finish his gruesome ritual. It’s more like “tried” because the troglodyte took multiple gunshots before going down in a bloody heap and not before he plunged the knife home.
To make matters worse, the kobolds had knives too. Knives and guns. When the smoke cleared it was kobolds down, but another wrinkle had presented itself. Lyz and Corbin were being watched by scarab beetles. That might not have been unusual elsewhere, but this wasn’t exactly Egypt and the scarabs weren’t exactly organic. Attempts to capture or kill these mechanical bugs failed, but they did lead Lyz and Corbin to whomever was watching them.
Sewer or not, the man stood in a finely tailored suit busily distracted with a smartphone. The scarabs flew over and landed in his pockets. He looked human but not quite human. Snakeblooded. Corbin said, “How’s the reception down here? Do you have Verizon, cuz I can’t get any reception down here?” The smug SoB not only didn’t respond, but gestured for them to wait until he was finished with his tapping. And they waited. And they waited. And this really cheesed Lyz’s onions, so she demanded she tell them who the hell he was. She punctuated this with a hammer cocking of her gun.
It wasn’t important, of course. Lyz and Corbin were busybodies it turned out, messing in affairs that didn’t concern them. Stupid, insolent, worthless mammals that didn’t know their betters when they looked upon them. It wasn’t any matter, of course. They had enough ritual sacrifices for their ominous, non-specific plans.
This was beginning to sound familiar. In fact it not only sounded like Lyz and Corbin’s dream encounter, but it sounded a whole lot like all the lip they’d been getting from every two bit thug they’d tangled with so far. They were fed up with it and wouldn’t even let Snakeblooded Jerk Man finish his monologue. They just wanted to know which villainous creep they had pissed off this time and get over with it. Get in line, there are other people that want us dead first.
Lyz and Corbin achieved only a moderate success in ruffling Snakeblooded Jerk Man’s scales. That paltry victory would have to be enough, because Snakeblooded Jerk Man foiled any attempts to detain him. He may have been outgunned, but he was able to deliver his warning and walk away unscathed.
Master Sorrastis and the Infinite Serpents were displeased.