All of them share a few similarities–one of those being her beauty. Cultural definitions of beauty vary widely among all the regions of the world, and her description could fit the upper echelons of all of them. Pale skin, dark skin, soft features, muscular definition, hair flowing to the small of her back or no hair at all.
Despite the discrepancy in appearances, the tale remains the same. It starts off with the Lady in the prime of her youth, a beautiful woman of noble birth, searching for a man to marry. She had many eligible suitors, but the smallest flaws in each made her despise all of them. In her mind, the only thing she had her eyes on was perfection.
She searched, for many years, for what she was looking for. Contests of might and strength were held, in some variations the victor faced and defeated fifty other challengers only to be mauled and eaten by a lion. Just as men lost their lives in pursuit of her beauty, she would learn there was a catch in searching for perfection.
- Excerpt from Of The Lady, And Other Fantasies.
Alwin and Collins sat at a café early in the morning, steam rising from their frothy cups as the brisk air chilled their hands. They felt a long day ahead of them, as they had pulled together the efforts of their colleagues in what would potentially be the largest gang crackdown in the city’s history. The old gunsmith easily remembered as Thor made a deal with them, to take out his suppliers of a rare and extremely valuable metal.
The old man discussed with Collins the week before on the history of the dilemma he was caught in. Meteorite steel is the defining characteristic of Thor’s workmanship, and is only easily accessible on the black market. He made his connections through illegal firearms trading, leading to bigger and more complicated jobs. The police did not overlook his expansion, and even commissioned his work, despite knowing the legal gray areas that Thor worked around.
“What does he look like again?” Collins asked quietly.
“We’re looking for a man in his thirties, dirty blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. He’ll be here to make the trade off, and we’ll follow him from here.”
“It doesn’t make sense to me, to make these deals in the most open of places.”
“I would not expect it myself, but that’s the brilliance of it. Just remember, we cannot make the arrest until we catch them in the trade. Smuggling is a serious offence, but what good is it making a bust here without anything to back it up?”
“I know, I know. It just bugs me sometimes, knowing one hundred percent that the man sitting several chairs over is guilty and not being able to do a thing.”
Micah combed his hand through his hair, scoping out the scene and carefully picked a table towards the edge of the outdoor café. A waitress took his order, and he sat back in his chair, uneasy about his surroundings. Alwin nodded towards him to Collins, and they both understood who it was. Smoke from his cigarette moved slowly through the air, earning the negative glances and snickering from the other patrons.
A black luxury sedan pulled up to the nearby sidewalk, and two men stepped out from the back passenger door before driving off. The first man wore a ruffled blue cotton long-sleeve button shirt with black corduroy pants, and judging from the wrinkles in his face was perhaps in his mid-forties. The second man held more esteem, wearing a black suit with a red shirt underneath, hair slicked back and wearing aviators. These were the true targets.
Alwin whispered to Collins.
“Call for back up and keep them on stand-by.” They clicked on their sound amplifiers in their ears, and made themselves as inconspicuous as possible.
“Mikael, it has been a long time my friend. Micah, I mean, you must excuse me.” The first man shook hands with him and sat next to him.
“So, what is the word on the shipment? The last time we spoke, you discussed a tiny little problem you had with your crew, and our employer here would like an update on the situation.”
Micah looked to his side, and back down at the latte that was brought to him. He was shaken by the man’s words, and because nervous.
“My best guys were taken out by someone man, shit. It wasn’t some freak accident, it was a bomb in a restaurant and I’m ninety-eight percent sure it was this cunt that used to run with us a while back. She thought she could get more money for her work, but I wasn’t gonna dish out for some freelancer. Anyways, I have a new guy from out west and he’s got his shit together and we’re looking at next week when the barge comes through for the shipment. I’m sorry Frank, for all of this. It’s not my style to come up short, but you can be damned sure I fix a problem when I see it.”
The second man had not changed his expression. Frank sat back in his chair, scratching his chin in thought.
“Let’s just call it even Micah; as long as I receive the weapons that I request on time, there is no harm done. There’s a war coming, and we are not going to be taken by surprise.”
This piqued Alwin’s attention. War? The military has its own suppliers, with much more advanced equipment and technology than anything on the black market.
“Collins, they’re planning a gang war. This is big, way bigger than a couple of murders in suburbia. “
“Shit I know, I can hear them all the same. Let’s just keep quiet.”
The cast iron chairs and table sent chills through their skin as the temperature dropped. Today would feature cloud cover, with a twenty percent chance of rain, and everyone present perhaps thought they should have dressed heavier than they did. The second man was dressed very comfortably, and seemed almost relaxed at the table. He spoke to Frank quietly and quickly, and it garnished a smile on Frank’s face.
“Let’s have a little fun, Micah. Care to show us your warehouse?”
“Is that really a good idea? I’ve been trying to stay as low as possible since my guys got iced. We could be watched right now.”
The two men looked around them, piercing everybody present with a cold, hard glare. They gave no thought to the couple that was actually listening on them and planned to follow them.
“I think only an idiot would dare follow us.”
Collins memorized the address that the man named Frank gave to Micah. This was going to be more complicated than they had originally planned, as this was no mere black market dealing but a preparation for a massacre. Alwin and Collins agreed on investigating the warehouse at a more appropriate date, but they would still need to act fast. The man in the suit was a bad sign, how often does the kingpin meet with mere lackeys?
Alwin had returned home by mid-afternoon, working on a cork bulletin board that he set-up in his basement, fashioned with pictures and mock-ups of everyone in the case and lines crudely connecting each of them in different colored yarns.
The victims were placed in a box on the left, with a yellow line connecting to the killer and his female accomplice. Together, a red line was drawn from them to the gun dealer Thor placed in the middle – now that the case had branched out into a completely separate deal, the right hand side would be dedicated to their gang crackdown case, with a blue line drawn to the three men they had located so far.
Elizabeth knocked on the side of the wall as she walked down to see the person she loved. She was fashioned in a black evening dress.
“Hey honey, I haven’t seen you around so much as of late.”
“I know, it’s just the case with the girls that I was working on got a whole of a mess more complicated. We’re now talking about organized thugs and gangsters; the largest sect in the city is planning something terrible.”
“I’m sorry that you’re going through so much, but maybe we can get out and do something to relax and get away. Just for the night, what do you say?”
Alwin leaned back against the board and sighed.
“It’s not really the best time for me. I don’t want this looming over my head like an axe while we would be doing something special.”
“It doesn’t have to be special, just a movie?”
“Let me promise to take you to Hawaii when this is all through with. I have two weeks of vacation that I still didn’t take, and this should be over with before the week is out. We’ll shut down their operation, get the name and location of the murderer, and we’ll wrap it up.”
“Whatever works for you, dear,” Elizabeth said with the faintest trace of sarcasm. Alwin didn’t pick up on it, and returned to writing more notes on details from the crime scenes. She gazed over at his work, analyzing for a minute the layout, and walked back upstairs.