“Make sure to get the flake to Undercover Ops,” Mack called out to the CSU guy currently taking pictures of the drugs on the table nearby.
He went back to reading the witness statement Rookie Rio had gotten from the cute huntress girls.
‘No. Not cute. Don’t think that.’
Everything in Rio’s statement matched up with what they’d said to him. Guy in a hoodie, light eyes, knife, thugs had guns, one got away. There were other details that weren’t really relevant, so Mack flipped the notebook closed and handed it back to Rio with a nod.
“Canvass pick anyone up?” he asked.
Rio shook her head. “Did you expect it to? We can never catch this guy.”
“Not Jackstabby. The Junior thug. He’d be the first one of Junior’s men to survive one of these attacks, save those freaky twins. If we can grab him before he gets back to Junior, we might be able to get some details about the attack that the huntress girls didn’t know.”
Rio nodded slowly, eyes unfocused. Her ‘I’m about to ask a question’ face.
A second of silence passed.
“What is it?”
“The, uh, huntress girls. Are–are we doing any follow up with the school or anything?”
Mack’s eyebrow popped up. “Like what?”
Rio seemed to be confused by the question. “Like telling the headmaster that they need to keep kids out of the line of fire. Why are there two teenagers that looked like they were out on a date in a knife-and-gunfight in a garage? They have no business being here!”
“Mmph,” Mack grunted.
Being the annoyingly insistent rookie that she was, Rio stood waiting for a real answer instead of accepting Mack’s gruff response as one.
“Seemed like they came out okay to me,” he finally replied.
Rio scoffed. “Did you see the brunette? She was shaking. Sh–they’re kids. A child shouldn’t be anywhere close to shit like this.” She gestured widely at the guns, drugs, and bodies in the garage. “And this–you recognized her, right?”
“She’s the girl that interrupted Torchwick’s Dust robbery spree.”
“Children shouldn’t be throwing themselves at armed gangsters, Cap!”
“They’re not just children,” Mack corrected. “They’re child super soldiers.”
“Didn’t look super to me,” Rio griped. “What if they’d gotten shot? Are we supposed to just be okay with carting teenage girls out of here in body bags because they got themselves killed?”
“You know they’ve got that aura shit, right?” Mack asked.
“Is it enough to stop bullets?” Rio asked sarcastically, like she was assuming the answer was ‘no’.
Mack scoffed. “You weren’t there for that joint huntsman-T.R.T. hit on Torchwick’s old nest, were you?”
A frown creased Rio’s face. “No, why?”
Mack made his gaze unfocus dramatically. “I watched one of those crazy jackholes take a grenade to the face and shrug it off like it was a mildly stinky fart.”
Rio blinked. “… What?”
“Yeah. They’re insane. And there are insane, superpowered fuckers on the other side, too. Like Torchwick’s wife, or those True freakshows, or Jackstabby over here.” He jerked a thumb toward the bodies that were now being zipped up in heavy black bags.
“That name’s never gonna catch on,” the rookie muttered.
“You want to be on traffic duty next week?”
“Jackstabby it is.”
Mack huffed in humor. “But yeah. We can’t do much against jackholes with personal forcefields and superpowers. We need jackholes of our own.”
Rio rolled her eyes at Mack’s word choice, which–yeah, it was fair. He’d never been the most eloquent guy. “But teenage girls? Why would they even consider running into a gunfight alone and unarmed?”
“Oh, they’re a bunch of psychopaths with hero complexes, all of them,” Mack answered. “Think of them like drug dogs–they’re great at what they do, and they do something we can’t do ourselves, but we need to keep our hand on the leash.”
The ME’s bustled past them, breaking them apart for a few seconds with their gurneys of dead. Officers were quickly moving into the vacated space to get some extra pictures of the blood pools. Mack wasn’t sure why; it was pretty clear what had happened here. He wouldn’t fault them for going through the motions, though.
“Seems… off,” Rio said as she stepped back to Mack’s side.
Rio waved a hand. “The leash thing.”
“Oh.” Mack shrugged.
The reality was that everything was going to shit. For whatever reason, more and more people were popping up with ‘aura’ and ‘semblances’, and the bad guys the police were having to deal with were getting further and further beyond their means and capabilities. A few self professed heroes coming in to slice and dice the tougher to crack nuts was fine with Mack. It made his job easier–or at least, it brought it down from ‘impossible’ to just ‘hard, but a few drinks will keep you sane’.
“So… leash?” Rio asked.
“Should we talk to the headmaster? Tell him to, I dunno, remind his students to be careful and not play hero out in the mean streets of Vale? They should keep to their monster-slaying unless we call for them, don’t you think?”
Monster-slaying. Grimm. Yeesh. If Mack was ever jealous of the abilities of huntsmen, the knowledge that he’d be expected to use those powers to go fight those freaky-ass monsters knocked it right out of him.
“Maybe, yeah. I’ll talk to the Big C tomorrow.”
Good, at least that was over.
“Bison!” Mack called out.
“Sup?” came an answering shout from behind him.
Mack turned around. Bison was bagging all the magazines from the rifles in the crates, the long horns on the side of his head yellow-orange in the colored lighting. Rifles that were definitely much higher in firepower than anything Junior had brought in before. A reaction to this killer, or was this indicative of something more? Junior was supposed to be a tame one.
Mack would need to speak to Torchwick about this soon.
“You good with managing this? I’m heading out. Shift ended half an hour ago and I’m not needed here.”
“Sure,” Bison replied. He was one of the senior officers in Precinct Three, the Dancetown Precinct, one of the senior ‘Clubbies’ as they were called by the other precincts. He’d handled crime scene management plenty of times.
“Thanks. And Rio–” he clapped a hand on the rookie’s shoulder and gave a dramatic pause “–stop bullying child heroes.”
“Ah ah ah!” Mack interrupted her. He pointed at the old school watch on his wrist. “Off the clock! I no longer care.” He gave her a purposefully annoying smirk and walked away.
Outside, the squad cars and ambulances arranged around the storefront had both blocked traffic and attracted a crowd. The bright flashing lights of the vehicles illuminated curious bystanders, couples and families that had been out enjoying their Saturday nights.
Sighing in resignation, Mack ducked under the crime scene tape cordoning off the area around the store and approached the mass of people held back by the hard-light barriers Mack had ordered to be put up.
A thousand different voices all clamored for his attention.
Mack searched the crowd for the voice that had called his name, his eyes eventually settling on Nicki Nale. His favorite reporter, if he had to pick one. He’d met her a few years ago, when she’d been an enthusiastic highschooler that wanted to interview a cop for her journalism class. He’d volunteered because she was so damn cute. Schoolgirl skirt, glasses, blond ponyta–
It was wrong as hell to think these kinds of things, but it was even worse to think them with the gi–woman standing right in front of him.
Nicki noticed that he’d focused in on her, and flashed a pleased smile as she pushed her way up to the barrier. She shoved a recording device towards him, not a mic, so she didn’t have a cameraman with her. There were cameras here, a few rows behind the gaggle of reporters in front of Mack, but evidently none of them were hers.
Not a big enough fish yet.
“Officer Macklin, can you give us any information about what happened here tonight?”
Mack took a deep breath. “Earlier this evening, shots were heard fired in the store behind me. It was an attack by the same individual that is responsible for the other recent deaths of gang members in the Dancetown District. He left five dead bodies and one man in critical condition, who is now receiving medical care. He was wearing a mask, a dark hooded sweater, and dark jeans, and we know from a previous sighting that he has grey hair and light skin and eyes. If anybody sees anybody matching this description, please get away and call the police.”
“How do you know it’s the same attacker?” Nicki pressed.
“Eyewitness accounts,” Mack answered diplomatically. He didn’t want to expl–
“A pair of huntresses-in-training from Beacon Academy were in the area and heard the gunshots from the gang members fighting back. They entered the fight and tried to subdue both parties. They managed to get Ja–the killer to run away, gave one of the gang members a chance to escape, and kept the man that’s currently in critical condition alive long enough for the paramedics to get here.” He waved his hand and cut off the next question he knew was coming. “In the interest of their privacy, I will not be disclosing the names of these girls–”
“Was one of them Weiss Schnee?” one of the other reporters, one whose face Mack recognized but couldn’t think of a name to go with it, blurted. “A girl matching her description was spotted leaving the scene, and she recently started at Beacon.”
Mack popped a knuckle. “Like I said, I will not be naming the huntresses that were here, and–”
“Why did they let not one, but two criminals escape?” another nameless voice asked.
What the hell?
“They weren’t entirely prepared for the situation and weren’t in a position to detain or pursue, nor is it their job. They’d been out on a date, they didn’t have their weapons with them, and they were good samaritans anyway. They chose to keep the dyi–”
“Who’s Weiss Schnee dating?!”
“I don’t–I misspoke. ‘Date’ was just a term that one of my fellow officers used and it stuck in my head. It wasn’t a date. I mean, mayb–my fellow officer just used that term because they were both dressed up nicely.” Very nicely. “I’m also not confirming with this statement that one of the girls was Weiss Schnee.”
“Are you denying it?”
“I’m not commenting one way or the other. Do any of you have any relevant questions?”
Nicki spoke up again. “This is the sixth time in eighteen days that this individual has managed to commit murder and evade police capture. Is this perhaps because the police aren’t devoting their full effort to arresting him because he’s getting rid of criminal elements you haven’t been able to?”
Mack did his absolute best to glare a hole through Nicki’s head, but she didn’t seem to care.
The truth was Mack very much wanted to catch this guy. He was making life difficult for Torchwick, which was bad. Usually Torchwick policed his own and kept the criminal underbelly of Vale City from being too disruptive, but if he got pissed… Well, the last time he’d been pissed was after the joint attack on his home. The good guys had failed to capture him, and twenty-three cops had paid for that failure with their lives in the following couple of weeks.
Mack had been able to convince Torchwick he hadn’t known about the attack, which had been a lie. He’d been hoping the huntsmen would be successful and get rid of Torchwick so Mack didn’t have to worry about the blackmail the crimelord had over him any longer. But alas, no dice.
“Absolutely not,” he declared indignantly. “This man is a murderer, regardless of the occupation of the people he’s killing. He is a criminal and VPD is doing everything it can to bring him to justice.”
“Then why is he still out there?” someone asked.
“Because he’s strong, fast, and the people he targets are people that are making a point of avoiding police. Our response times aren’t fast enough to catch him in the act.”
“But little girls out on a date are?”
“Coincidence is a hell of a thing,” Mack sneered back. “Alright, that’s it. No more questions.”
He headed back from the barrier as the zoo of degenerates shouted more questions at his back. He gave a wave to the driver in the ME’s van as they pulled away, then got in his own car.
Time to go home.
It was a decent drive back to his place on the north side of the city, the middle-class income apartment he had a somewhat recent upgrade he acquired with his promotion to captain of Precinct Three. Nothing special, but it was home, empty as it was nowadays. It was also a lot harder to pay for now that his wife was gone and her accountant’s salary with her, and Mack’s savings were slowly dwindling away to make the rent. But he couldn’t go back to showering under a whole in the wall and having to fight cockroaches to reach his breakfast cereal.
He’d need to figure something out soon.
He climbed up the three flights of stairs to his fourth floor room. The top floor, thankfully. There was a family with three kids living below him, and if they’d been positioned the other way around, he might have gone insane by now. The downside of carrying groceries up three flights of stairs was… well, it was fine. He’d lost his physique from his rookie days, gotten a bit of the ‘cop that eats donuts’ belly over the years even though he hadn’t touched a donut since college, but whatever.
He got to his door and bit back a groan. The lock was jimmied and left askew at a fifteen degree angle, a quirk that was Torchwick’s unintentional calling card every time he visited.
Mack wasn’t in the mindset to deal with this right now. Though he didn’t really have a choice. The crimelord was in his home.
He pushed open the door.
“You know, Torchwick, you could just call,” he said out loud into the darkness. He flipped the lights on then and his eyes settled on Torchwick with his stupid bowler hat and his cane-that-was-also-a-gun sitting in one of the chairs in the living room, the one by the nightstand with the reading lamp.
“Damn it, Macklin!” Torchwick whined. “I was gonna do the whole dramatic ‘click on the lamp and spook you’ thing!”
“How’d you know I was here?”
“You use too much shampoo,” Mack lied. It wouldn’t do to tip Roman off about his little habit.
“Do I?” Roman grabbed a few locks of his stupid-looking hair and gave them a sniff. “Shit.”
Usually Mack dropped his badge and service weapon on the counter by the door when he came in, but he kept them on him now. Not that they’d do much good here–he knew from personal experience that Roman had that aura bullcrap. Probably not enough for him to shrug off a grenade to the face, but it had been enough to stop Mack’s two shots to his chest the first time he broke in to “just talk”, and that would be enough time for him to make use of that Dust powered canon of a cane he had propped between his knees.
Make headed into the kitchen to get a beer from the fridge. “What do you want, Roman? I’ve had a long day.”
“So I’ve heard. How’s the wife?”
Crass. An unnecessary, manipulative attempt to put Mack on his heels, even though he already pretty much owned Mack. Mack was fairly certain Torchwick just enjoyed thinking of himself as a manipulative mastermind. Granted, he evidently was one from the fact that he was the crimelord of Vale, but it was wildly unnecessary here. Just ego stroking at this point.
“Still divorced.” His wife hadn’t been all too pleased when she’d found out about his… vice. Torchwick had informed Mack of the dirt he had, and being the proud, stubborn man he was, Mack had refused to capitulate. So Torchwick had given him a small taste of what could happen by somehow informing Anabelle of the contents of the blackmail. Mack had come home one day to an empty apartment, his wife’s clothes and personal belongings gone. He didn’t even know what happened or why until she finally answered his eight thousandth call three weeks later.
From then on Mack had no delusions that Torchwick was bluffing.
He wanted to hate Torchwick for taking his wife from him, but he knew it was just as much or more the fault of his depraved sickness.
Besides, there were plenty of other reasons to hate Torchwick anyway.
“Awww, what a shame,” Torchwick drawled. “I had such high hopes for you two! It could have made an adorable love story. Gruff cop that throws himself into his work all day turns out to be a pedophile, Wife leaves in disgust, cop works to change and in time Wife comes to fall in love with the man again despite his faults. It would be so–”
“What do you want, Torchwick?” Mack growled. To add a bit of panache, he popped the the cap of his beer off with his thumb on the word ‘want’.
Torchwick smirked obnoxiously. “Well that was pretty badass. How do you do that? I’ve been trying to get that trick down for years.”
“Damn. The one thing I lack.”
“Other than a moral center?”
Torchwick raised an eyebrow. “Careful there, Officer PedoBear. The kettle isn’t always nice enough to not tell the world how black the pot is.”
Mack’s grip tightened on his bottle, and he had to consciously remind himself to not break the glass. He’d done it before. Cut up his hand pretty good in the process. That had been hard to explain away at work.
“Anyway,” Torchwick said flippantly, “Junior got a call from one of his boys that managed to survive the attack. That’s new.”
“Yeah,” was all Mack could think to say.
“But the guy never made it back. Said he was running to Josey’s Lounge but never showed. Your boys in yellow pick him up?”
Mack shook his head. “Not last I heard.”
“Hmph. How’d he get out? According to Junior, the guy didn’t sound very coherent on the scroll, and Junior relating someone else’s incoherent information is, well… I left that conversation very confused.”
:Mack popped a knuckle. He hated being under Torchwick’s thumb like this. “A couple of huntress girls were nearby and heard the shots. Ran in and chased Jackstabby out. Let that one guy escape and kept another from bleeding out ‘til we could rush him to the ER.” He volunteered that last bit of information since Torchwick would find out from the news tomorrow anyway, and Mack didn’t need to get on his bad side by withholding information.
“Jackstabby?” Torchwick asked with a laugh. “I like it.”
‘Well there’s no way I can use that now,” Mack thought to himself bitterly.
“This survivor, where was he taken?”
“Vale General, I assume. Not sure.” He tried to sound as unconfident in his answer as possible so that Torchwick wouldn’t treat it as actionable info, even though it was true. “He won’t do you much good right now, though. He’s probably in surgery for hours and then he’ll need to be monitored to make sure he’s stabilized.”
‘And then he’s going into police custody,.’
“Oh, he could help. I have some friends that can do some fun shit with memories.”
Mack suppressed a shiver. That would be the True. Those freaky Witches of Suburbia had all sorts of creepy, mind-fucky super powers.
“He’s in a public hospital right now,” Mack stressed. Torchwick wouldn’t attack a hospital, would he? He was supposed to make less waves than other crime bosses, not more.
Torchwick just shrugged. “Sounds like fun. And these huntresses, who were they?”
No. This was a line Mack couldn’t cross. Torchwick wanted their names so that he could grab them and do creepy semblance crap to them if he couldn’t get his hands on the guy in the hospital, and there was no way Burt Macklin would be responsible for that shit happening to a couple of innocent child heroines.
“Don’t remember their names. I only got ‘em once.”
Close enough to the truth that it should be believable.
“I’m gonna need more than that, Officer Pedo.”
There it was again. That snide reminder of what was at stake, of what Torchwick held over his head.
“I honestly don’t remember their names,” Mack lied, “but I’ll see about getting them tomorrow morning.”
“Mm…” Torchwick spun his cane between his hands. Once. Twice. “Alright. Shift gears with me.” He mimed gear shifting on a stick shift with his cane and made a noise like a kid would. “First, Marcus Black is getting back in town soon–”
“And I’d be very appreciative if he wasn’t met with any undo police attention.”
“I–y-you know I can’t promise that. The response to Black being active again goes way beyond any single captain.They gonna have every precinct on high alert–maybe even call in the military.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll do your best,” Torchwick sing-songed as he inspected his nails. “‘Cause if you do-ooon’t…” He looked pointedly at the picture of Mack and Annabelle on their honeymoon that say on the table beside him.
Mack gritted his teeth and popped another knuckle.
“Why the hell are you bringing the likes of Black into the city?”
Torchwick raised an eyebrow. “What makes you think I’m the one that hired him?”
“Then who? Junior? No. The Eastside Kings? The True?”
No answer was coming. Torchwick waved a dismissive hand at him. “On to other matters: the new Paladin mechs, know anything about ‘em?”
Roman rolled his eyes. “Honestly, how could you pigs be so uninformed. You’ll probably be getting briefed on them soon. Long story short, the Atlesian military developed a new mech. The weapons systems for the mechs were imported from Winchester Arms.”
“Okay…” Mack didn’t like where this is going.
“And Carson Winchester recently flew to Atlas and talked to Jacques Schnee.”
Mack’s mind immediately went to the gorgeous girl he’d met earlier that night. That pale skin, those piercing blue eyes, that petite build that made hi–
“Okay…” he said again.
“So I need two things!” Torchwick jumped up out of the chair as he said it, and the sudden movement made Mack’s hand instinctively jerk towards his gun. Torchwick noticed and just smirked. “I need A: to know what kind of deal our Councilman of Business made with Atlas’ Councilman of Business, because I just like to stay informed, ya know? And two: I need a list of employees for the Winchester factory on King’s Road.”
“What? How am I supposed to get th–”
Well, employment records would be easy to obtain with his position. But the other thing?
“You want me to help you break in to the business of the richest man in Vale? The guy that’s funded eighty percent of the departments new arms and armor in the past decade?”
Torchwick blinked. “Uh, yeah.”
“He’s got more cops in his pocket than you do!”
Another nonchalant shrug. “I’m not asking those cops. I’m asking you.”
‘One of the cops in my pocket,’ was left unsaid, yet deafeningly loud.
Mack popped another knuckle.
“Fine. I’ll see what I can do. But how am I supposed to get details on a deal between private companies?”
Torchwick shrugged. “You coppoes might be told what’s going on soon when they import prototypes. Maybe not. You’re not the only one I’ve got on that particular endeavor. But if you get me an answer, there’ll be something in it for you.” He rubbed his thumb against his index and middle fingers. Money.
What Mack really wanted was for Torchwick to fork over his evidence of Mack’s… thing. But that would never happen. Torchwick would never give up having a police captain in his back pocket.
Mack looked around at the apartment that he was struggling to afford. His kitchen, his couch that he had shared many steamy nights with Anabelle on, the bed they’d spent even more nights on together, steamy and not–and he couldn’t decide which memory was his favorite.
Memories that would have to be abandoned if he didn’t find away out of this financial hole.
Torchwick smiled widely.
The next morning Mack came in with coffee for himself and the other four officers in the precinct on a Sunday morning. It was something he liked to do himself instead of having the rookies do it, as was tradition. It made him the cool boss, but also, more importantly, gave him an excuse to be a little late. If he came in fifteen minutes late and said the line at the coffee shop drive through took fifteen minutes to get through when it really only took five, that meant he could sleep in for an extra ten minutes.
“Mornin’, Cap,” the officer standing up at the crimewatch board greeted Mack as he handed the man his latte.
“Mornin’, Diaz. News?”
Diaz nodded grimly. “The bad kind, Mack. Marcus Black was spotted arriving in the southern transit hub four hours ago.”
There was a picture on the board of the man himself exiting a train, a hat over his grey hair and casting a shadow over his salt-and-pepper stubbled face. He looked like an abnormally fit suburban dad, but he was one of the most dangerous men in Remnant. The last two captains of this precinct died at his hands, coincidentally.
‘That was fast.’
“Damn. That’s, uh. Yeah, that’s the bad kind of news.”
Diaz snorted a light laugh.
“Security didn’t engage, right?”
“No. They followed the procedures that the Councilman of War and Peace issued for dealing with Black. Back off, don’t let him know you ID’ed him, follow him.”
“Damn. Do we know where he came from?”
Rio and Dukes walked up behind them then, and Mack handed them their coffees.
“Councilman Barnes is reaching out to the villages on the southern transit line, trying to figure out when he got on. His last known activity was fourteen months ago in Vacuo.”
Vacuo. It was a wildland over there, Mack knew. Not as seedy and criminal as Mistral, which was worse than Vale by a mile, but more dangerous in some ways. Feral animals, Grimm, independent villages and tribes with a penchant fighting each other. It was different than Mistral and Vale because you didn’t really need to worry about getting stabbed in the back. People in Vacuo were pretty honest when they wanted to stab you in the front.
‘Wonder what kind of work an assassin found there.’
“Can I get the reports of what he did over there on my desk?”
Dukes nodded. “Barnes said he was expecting to get it within the hour and that he’d be sending copies to the captains.”
Mack nodded slowly. He had no intention of helping Torchwick keep Black hidden. This was a monster that needed to be put down, regardless of the cost for Mack. The problem there being actually being able to put Black down…
“Did Barnes say anything about reaching out to the Councilman of the Hunt?” he asked.
“Ozpin? He didn’t mention it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. I know Rustheart and Branwen both want to take a crack at the guy.”
Rustheart and Branwen. The hero-professor and the guy Ozpin called whenever an unsolvable problem needed solving. Once upon a time Branwen had been a person of interest that the police kept tabs on for his relationship with one of the bandit lords of Mistral, but a combination of a lack of any evidence that they were in cahoots, plus Ozpin vouching heavily for the man, plus the fact that he’d helped out the department in dealing with some aura warriors they couldn;t handle like Torchwick’s wife and the Courthouse Killer, plus the fact that he was so damn hard to keep track of meant that they no longer were investigating him.
“Yeah. I’ll double check with him on that. We’re gonna need the help.”
The other officers nodded in silent, grim agreement.
“Rio, you call those two huntress girls from last night?”
She shook her head. “Not yet. Wanted to have my coffee first.”
Mack gave her the finger. “Send me their scroll IDs. I’ll call ‘em myself.” He had the incredibly lucky opportunity to ask the heiress of the SDC herself about the deal between her company and Winchester Arms. Torchwick was bound to find his answers anyway, but if Mack delivered then at least he’d get a decent payday out of it.
“Oh, alright.” Rio pulled out her scroll and sent a message, and a second later Mack felt and heard his own scroll ping in his pocket.
“Hey, Cap!” Bison called from behind them, standing in the doorway to the precinct’s garage.
Mack turned and lifted up the last cup of coffee in the carrier tray up as a gesture to the man.
“Oh sweet, thanks,” Bison said, walking over to grab the drink. “The new earpieces from BSI are here. Should we get started syncing them to our scroll network?”
Blank Slate Industries. The biggest donors to the police department save Carson Winchester, though their donations were technology instead of weapons–new computers, laptops, communication gear. The officers arguably got more use out of the BSI donations than they did the Winchester firearms and body armor, too.
“Yeah, but don’t desync the ones we’re using now until you’re sure everything’s set up right. You know how tech can be.”
“Yeah. I’m on it.”
“Rio, Diaz, start scrubbing through traffic cam and other public security cam footage around the southern transit hub, see if you can figure out where Black went.”
“Rio, Bison, and news on the survivor from last night’s attack?”
Rio spoke up. “Yeah, he’s out of surgery and on emergency watch for the next seventy-two hours. Doctors think he might need to go back under the knife at least once before he’s fully stabilized.”
Mack nodded “He awake?”
“Sedated for the next twelve hours, at least.”
“Hm. Alright. Dukes, get a list of all of Black’s previous residences and safehouses in the city, then reach out to any private businesses around the transit hub, ask them if we can get their security cam footage from the past four hours. Let ‘em know we’ll be getting a warrant for it soon. Make a note of any of the ones that refuse.”
“Thinking they might be hiding him?”
“Yeah. Fronts for Torchwick or Junior or the Kings or whoever called him here.”
“‘Kay-kay’? You join a new generation when I wasn’t looking?” Mack joked, prompting a couple laughs from the other officers.
Duke would have blushed if his dark skin was capable of it. “Look man, my daughter says it all the time, a-ight? It was gonna slip into my speech eventually.”
“You catch that, Mack?” Diaz grinned. “He said ‘a-ight’.”
“What a clown,” Mack muttered teasingly as he headed to his office. “Doesn’t Black have a wife and son, too?”
“Son,” Diaz confirmed. “Wife’s dead, and he abandoned his kid to foster care when she bit it to pursue his work.”
“Saffron Hills, I think? I’d have to double check.”
“Hm. Before you comb through the traffic cams, confirm where the son is and get in touch with Precinct Five–or whatever precinct whose district he’s in–and see about setting up a surveillance team. Maybe Black might reach out, try to make amends for being a shitty-ass father.”
“Ya think? Doesn’t seem like the type to care.”
Mack shrugged. “He’s right around the age for a midlife crisis. Who knows.”
Diaz accepted that with a nod.
“A-ight everyone, you have your assignments. If you need more hands let me know–Black is more than enough reason to call people in on the weekend. And Camisol owes us a shift for leaving for the game last week anyway.”
“He got front row tickets to the windball semis, Mack,” Bison said sarcastically. “It was very important.”
“Get to work, cowman.”
Bison laughed and gave Mack the finger before heading back into the garage.
Mack entered his office and got settled at his desk. Badge and gun in the top drawer, coffee on the coaster, computer on, scroll next to his keyboard, laces loosened. There was a small stack of three or four papers on the side of the desk that would be reports of any arrests made overnight. The top page was always the most pressing or important case and a quick glance showed that it was a petty theft, so he didn’t bother going through each one. There were other things to deal with.
Should he call Barnes or the Schnee girl first? There was no guarantee that a teenage girl was awake at eight in the morning on a Sunday, so it might be best not to start there.
He dialed up his boss, Stephen Barnes, Councilman of War and Peace. He was a broad, powerful, balding man, imposing and self confident. He was nowhere near as intimidating as the Councilman of War and Peace in Atlas, though (or Lord or War and Peace, as the stuffed up Atlesians liked to refer to their Councilmen). Mack had only met James Ironwood once at a global security conference, and he’d given the strongest handshake Mack had ever experienced. Hadn’t been promoted to general yet. And from what Mack had heard, the guy was now apparently the Lord of War and Peace and the Lord of the Hunt, which he hadn’t even thought was legal.
Atlas was a weird place.
He shook himself from his musing and focused. The scroll rang twice.
“Morning, sir. Had some questions.”
“Morning Macklin. Shoot.”
“Are you planning to reach out to Councilman Ozpin to get some huntsman support for Marcus Black?”
“Mm. Already did. His professors have all been notified and have been told to be prepared to move at a moment’s notice. I dispatched a couple Chariots to wait on their landing pad and deploy them into the city as fast as possible.”
Damn. A hit squad of professors. That was a weird thought.
“Out of the kingdom, unfortunately.”
“Mm. It should be fine. Ozpin, Goodwitch, and Rustheart should all be more than enough to handle Black.”
The noise of some papers shuffling around came over the line. “Yeah. Senior professor at Beacon.”
“Blonde lady that was there to interrupt Torchwick’s Dust heist a few weeks back?”
“Is she scary?”
“Is she Marcus Black scary?”
“Guess we’ll find out.”
Mack grunted at that. If only Branwen was here. They knew that that guy was Marcus Black levels of scary, and it would be nice to have the assurance out in the field right about now. Rustheart was up there too, so at least there was that.
“Guess so,” he said. “Speaking of that Torchwick Dust spree…”
“You remember how there was a girl there that night that helped stop him?”
“I saw it in the report, yeah. Rose, right?”
“Yeah, you know her?” Mack asked, surprised the Councilman had remembered the girl’s name.
“No, but I knew her mother.”
“Oh. Alright, well anyway, she was in another altercation last night.”
“Was she one of the two huntresses in the pawn shop incident I just saw on the news?”
“Mm. What about her?”
“Not her specifically, but one of my officers expressed some concerns about children throwing themselves into firefights and criminals that might be willing to kill them. She thinks we need to maybe talk to Ozpin about telling his students to… you know, not do that.”
“Mm. I could try. But I told you they’re all a bunch of psychos with hero complexes. That includes Ozpin, and the whole hero thing is something he wants them to have. Not sure he’d even say anything to ‘em.”
He wouldn’t try to stop his own students from getting themselves killed?
“That’s… fucked up.”
“Mm. It is what it is. This is also the kind of thing we need them doing after they graduate. If you want to have Marcus Black scary level backup out there, then this is the kind of experience they need.”
“It’s just… cadets are at least twenty-two before they have to deal with… the shit we deal with. That girl is, like, sixteen.”
“And she’s probably been killing Grimm since she was twelve. I think they can handle street thugs.”
“She couldn’t handle the blood, though.”
“She killed someone?”
“No! Not even. The killer did.”
“Ah. Jackstabby, right?”
Mack smiled to himself that the Councilman remembered, then wiped it away when he remembered that Torchwick had liked it too.
“Mm. I’ll talk to Oz, whatever good it’ll do.”
“Anything else, Captain?”
Mack straightened his back. ‘Torchwick also wants the girl to do mind-fucky torture crap to.’
“Alright. Then let’s get back to work and find this bastard Black.”
Mack inhaled deeply and slumped in his chair. Talking to the Councilman was always a bit nerve wracking, though Barnes was nice enough. Serious about his job and the responsibilities, but as long as you performed he respected you. And Mack performed. Unless Torchwick forced him not to.
He clicked his mouse to wake his computer up and opened up a search browser to do some research on the Schnee girl. He wanted to make sure she actually was the heiress to the company. If she wasn’t, he didn’t want to ask her pointless questions she wouldn’t know the answers to.
She might not know anyway.
‘Did you mean Weiss Schnee?’
Oh, so that’s how it’s spelled. He clicked on the correction and looked at the articles that pulled up.
The first was from three years ago, a Remnant Business Monthly article titled ‘Second Schnee Named Heiress’.
So that answered that question. But second Schnee named heir? That was interesting.
The second article was about the Red Carpet Gala from a few years ago, and the excerpt mentioned “a performance by Weiss Schnee”. A musician of some kind. Neat, though not very helpful. Rio watched stuff like the Gala, maybe she’d seen the girl perform.
The third article was an Atlas Skywriters post from a couple months ago about her getting admitted to Beacon. The blurb excerpt under the article read:
“… is unknown why she has chosen to attend the huntsman academy in Vale rather than our own, highly prestigious academy. Theories range from teen wanderlust to a feud with Winter, her…”
How does one have a feud with a season? Although Atlas was already cold as hell, he could imagine Atlesian winters being something one could have a personal beef with.
Out of completely innocent curiosity, he went to the top of the page to tab over to the image results.
Apparently she’d done a photoshoot or two within the last couple years. There were some absolutely stunning pictures of her in a mansion that, from the white and blue and grey color scheme, Mack guessed was probably just the Schnees’ home. There was a photo of the whole Schnee family, with the stern looking father that looked so out of place with his greying brown hair and dark eyes next to the gorgeous mother and daughters and the young son, all with the white hair and startlingly blue eyes. The eldest daughter was also quite attractive, though she had the strong jaw of her father and the expression she wore while looking at the camera made Mack feel like he was somehow doing something idiotic.
He clicked on the image to see the descriptions. ‘Jacques Schnee, his wife Willow Schnee, and their children, Winter, Weiss, and Whitley.’
Oh. So that’s what ‘feud with Winter’ meant. Bunch of W names, this family. Mack’s own family had a father named Barrick and two sons, Burt and Barry, so he appreciated the name theming the Schnees had done.
One of the image results was of the magazine cover for the Remnant Business Monthly issue in which Weiss was featured. She was wearing tight fitting white dress with a blue blazer over it, and Mack found it incredibly attrac–
There was a knock on the door, and Mac instinctively clicked back over to the web results, even though the monitors were facing away from the door.
The door opened and Bison popped his head in.
“Hey, Cap. I need the admin password to get these earpieces hooked up.”
“Oh. Precinct, uppercase P and the E is a three.”
“That’s dumb. You should make it Threecinct.”
“You’re dumb. And I didn’t make the password.”
“Whatever. This coffee’s cold, by the way.” The door clicked shut.
Mack quickly scrolled through the rest of the first page web results. Most seemed to be entries that made Weiss seem like a mild teen celebrity rather than the heiress of the biggest business empire in the world. None of the headlines showed that she had anything to do with SDC business operations, so calling her for answers was looking more and more like a long shot.
Nothing for him to do but cross his fingers.
He checked the message Rio had sent him. Weiss_Schnee and R3DR3AP3R9000. At least it wasn’t hard to guess which scroll ID went to which girl.
He dialed the heiress.
The dialing noise ended in the middle of the fifth ring.
“This is Weiss Schnee,” a musical voice answered.
“Hello, Miss Schnee. This is Captain Macklin from the pawn shop last night. Do you have a moment?”
“Oh! Hello, officer. Yes, I do. I’m just eating breakfast now.”
“Yangcakes!” a tiny voice that Mack was fairly certain was the Ruby girl sounded out.
“Pancakes,” Weiss said in a tone of resignation. “They’re called pancakes.”
“But Yang made ‘em!”
“So if you made them they’d be Rubycakes?”
“No, they’d just be Yangcakes made by Ruby!”
“That doesn’t make any–ugh! I’m sorry officer. How can I help?”
Mack smiled at the antics. That interaction alone made him agree with Rio–any girls that were arguing about the name of their pancakes with a police officer on the scroll probably didn’t have the maturity to be out on the streets dealing with serial killers.
“Well, first I just wanted to check in, see if you two were doing alright. How’s Miss Rose handling everything? She okay?”
There was a brief pause before Weiss answered, “I think so. She’s holding up, aren’t you?”
A happy hum came across, slightly muffled.
“Whoa!” a third voice exclaimed before Mack could speak again. “Is that the real Weiss Schnee giving my sister a hug?”
“It’s a one-armed hug,” Weiss qualified to this new person that was apparently Ruby’s sister.
“That’s… still a hug.”
“Quiet, you. Thank you for asking, officer. I think we’re doing o–”
“Officer?” the third voice piped up again. “Hey! Have you guys found the punk that attacked my sister?! I’ll knock his teeth in!”
“Stop–let go of my scroll! You’re going to break–ow!”
“Hey,” the third voice said with a forced sweetness, now much louder, and Mack got the impression that Weiss’ scroll had been stolen. “I’m Yang.”
“I’m Captain Macklin.”
“Hi, Cap. Do y–”
“Give me back my scroll!”
“Stop it! No, no glyphs! Stop, I’m trying to have a conversation here, Weiss. Behave yourself!”
“So, Cap. Do you guys have a name for that masked butthole?”
“Unfortunately, not yet.”
“Are you sure? I just need a face to punch.”
That made Macklin laugh. “I’m sure. I’m sorry. We’re working hard to get a name, though.”
“Let us know when you do?” She loaded her voice with more innocent sweetness that Mack wasn’t buying at all.
“I’m not sure that would be appropriate,” he replied. He wanted these child heroines off the streets, not chasing down personal vendettas against known murderers.
“Oh, it would be so appropriate,” Yang said incredibly unconvincingly. “On a scale of one to ten, it would be, like, super appropriate.”
“That doesn’t make any sense, Yang,” Weiss griped in the background.
“You’re face doesn’t m–”
“I will slap you!”
“Yikes. Calm down, W–”
“Give me my scroll!”
There was a sound of scuffling for a bit, then a loud huff.
“I’m sorry, officer,” Weiss said, now back in control of the scroll. “My teammate is an overgrown child.”
Mack didn’t feel like it was appropriate to point out that Weiss sounded just as childish from his end of the call. But yeah, there was no way these kids should be anywhere near the criminal elements of Vale.
“It’s okay,” he said with a light chuckle. “So you two are alright?”
“Good. That’s good. I also wanted to ask if either of you have remembered anything more from last night. People can sometimes forget details immediately after a trauma, but maybe after a good night’s sleep…?”
“Umm… I personally haven’t remembered anything else. Ruby?”
“Do you remember anything from last night that we didn’t already tell the police?”
“Finish chewing, dolt.”
There was a long pause that Mack spent shaking his head in disbelief. ‘How on Remnant are these girls Grimm slayers?’
“I’m, like, ninety-two point eight seven fix six four–”
“–percent sure that the guy’s eyes were grey, now. But that’s just from replays in my dreams, so I don’t know how reliable it is.”
“You were dreaming about it?” a fourth female voice asked.
There was a pause that Macklin assumed consisted of Ruby nodding.
“I did, too,” Weiss said quietly.
“Captain, find me somebody to punch!” Yang yelled.
“We’re doing our best,” Mack reassured her, though he wasn’t sure if he was on speakerscroll for her to hear.
“I’m not sure if you heard, officer,” Weiss said, “but Ruby’s fairly certain he has grey eyes, which would match what I saw too.”
“Thank you. I’ll add it to the description.” It was something they already knew from a previous civilian witness, but Mack figured it would be good to let the girls think they’re helping.
“Like Ruby’s eyes?” the fourth voice asked.
“Ruby’s eyes are silver, excuse you,” Yang responded.
“What’s the… difference?”
“Ruby’s eyes are way prettier,” Weiss answered. Mack wasn’t sure how that was a qualification between grey and silver, but he had to agree that Ruby’s eyes were quite pretty.
“Awww, you think my eyes are pretty?” Ruby asked.
“I-sure. Yes, they are objectively pretty eyes.”
“What about me?” Yang asked.
“Fishing for compliments much?” the fourth voice asked.
“Anyway, Weiss,” Mack interrupted. Now it was time to fib a little. “I also wanted to specifically ask you something.”
“Oh? How can I help?”
“We have reason to believe that this killer is specifically targeting criminals that have stolen weapons from Winchester Arms.” A fib. While the guns that Junior’s men had were indeed mostly manufactured by and stolen–or purchased–from Winchester Arms, there was no reason for them to suspect it was a motivation for the killer. He’d made no attempts to take back the weapons and return them. Indeed, he usually destroyed them when given enough time. The force’s running theory for this killer was that he was someone that had suffered at the hands of organized crime, maybe Junior’s hands specifically, and was taking out a personal vendetta.
“Okay…” Weiss said, sounding confused.
“We’ve received word that Winchester Arms and the Schnee Dust Company recently made some sort of business deal. I was wondering if you might be able to provide any information about it, as that might help as figure out where he’ll strike next.”
And that was utter bullshit. The logic didn’t even really track, but Weiss seemed to be the kind of person that respected police authority, so hopefully she’d answer even if she saw the lack of rationale.
“I’m not s–I’m sorry, sir. I don’t know anything about that. Since I came to Beacon, my father hasn’t kept me informed of any of the dealings of the company.”
“Did he before?”
“Yes, though I didn’t have any decision-making power. He mostly just wanted me to learn the ropes.”
“You didn’t hear anything about any developing deals with Winchester Arms?”
“No sir. Most of our deals are with the Atlesian military. But… do you want my father’s ID? You could call him directly and ask. I’m sure he’d be ha–well… he might help.”
Mack had no delusions that the infamously cutthroat and ruthless Jacques Schnee wouldn’t call him on his bullshit, but he also knew if he said no to this offer it would seem suspicious.
“I’d appreciate that.”
“I’ll send it over,” she said earnestly. “Also, um, Cardin Winchester is a student here. I don’t have his ID, but maybe he might know more? Or–have you tried asking Winchester Arms directly?”
Mack felt even worse for lying to the girl that was so eager to try to help. “Not yet. We just got this info and I asked you first ‘cause I wanted to call you first and see how you and Miss Rose were doing anyway.”
“Oh. Right. Thank you for that. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help.”
“It’s quite alright, Miss Schnee. I’m glad you two are doing alright. The offer for counseling still stands, should you need it. If either of you two remember anything else you feel might be able to help the investigation, please feel free to give me a call directly.”
“Thank you, Captain Macklin. We will.”
“Thank you. Have a good day.”
“You too, sir.”
“Bye, Mister Popo!”
The line disconnected then, which was probably a good thing because Mack busted out in an incredibly non-authoritative laugh.
Mister Popo. That was cute as hell.
There was a knock on the door again, and this time it was Rio that stepped in.
“Watching cat videos again?”
Mack narrowed his eyes. “I never did to begin with and I resent the accusation.”
“Uh-huh,” Rio responded skeptically.
Another laugh slipped out of Mack. “No, I just spoke to the huntress girls from last night. When they’re not dealing with bloody trauma, they’re… they’re characters.”
“Heroes of tomorrow type characters?”
Mack shrugged. “The fuck is that even supposed to look like?”
Now Rio shrugged. “Maybe it’s a ‘you know it when you see it’ kinda thing?”
“Well, I don’t know anything about anything, so no dice.”
Rio laughed and walked up to sit in one of the two chairs on the other side of Mack’s desk. “Ain’t that the truth.”
“You got a reason for being in my office, rookie?”
“Givin’ you an update.”
“Diaz found out that Black’s kid was in the Saffron Hills foster home, but he turned eighteen and left seven months ago. He’s in the wind.”
“Yeah. Precinct Five said they’d look, but they’re not optimistic about their chances of finding him. No credit card under his name, no known scroll ID to track.”
“I also found traffic cam footage of Black jacking a car near the train station. Got on K-10 heading east. We put out a bolo for the vehicle.”
Rio shook her head slightly. “Maybe, but it would have been faster for him to take the King’s Road north and then get on thirty-five.”
“Mm.” Damn it, he was pulling a Barnes. “So probably heading to his next job or employer.”
“Yeah. Probably Eastside Kings, since pretty much everything from Cedar Run out is their territory.”
Mack nodded. “Good work, Rio. We’ll make a cop out of you yet.”
“I’m already a cop,” she grumbled with a fake frown.
“Are you, though?” Mack joked, squinting his eyes and tilting his head.
Rio laughed and stood. “Screw you too, Cap. I’ll get back to work. Enjoy your cat videos.”
“I’m a dog person!” Mack shouted after her as the door closed.
His scroll beeped then and he checked his messages. New message from an unknown ID.
bowlerhatsRbesthats: Names of those huntresses?
Torchwick. One of his throwaways.
There was no way Mack was going to betray those girls. They trusted him, or at least they trusted his badge. They’d called him “Mister Popo”, which was still putting a goofy smile on his face.
He put his scroll down without responding. He knew he’d pay for this, but he had to draw a line here, protecting this heroines-to-be. Hopefully he’d be able to bring down Marcus Black before Torchwick tore him down, so he’d have something to be proud of when he went to prison.
Granted, he probably wouldn’t last long in the slammer, regardless of if he went to Vale Penitentiary or the dreaded Rykeman’s Island, the prison reserved for the aura warriors that couldn’t be controlled–or the truly evil fucks that deserved the worst. Whichever one he went to, his status of ‘former cop and captain that put a lot of you in here’ would see him dead within the first week.
That would suck, but then again, his life had ended with his marriage. He’d just been going through the motions for a while now.
He just had to hope Torchwick wouldn’t find out who the girls were some other way, because then this would all be for nothing.