Authors: Tracy St. John
Krijero said, “I think you’ve got something big here, Investigator. Delir is potent stuff. The hallucinogens that were out there before this product were dangerous, but they didn’t make people crazy as they were coming off it. They just got sick. But Delir is so pure, so intense, that someone with real brainpower has to be behind it.”
Wynhod frowned, but he kept his tone as gentle as he was capable. “These are party drugs, Psych. You make it sound like a major medical breakthrough.”
“It is! Or at least, it’s on par with that. I’m telling you, this is bigger than a bunch of lowlifes selling crap they stirred together in their kitchens.”
Gelan looked at him with narrowed eyes. “How big?”
Krijero started bringing up more vids. Wynhod recognized some of the arms taken as evidence from the shootout that had killed Gelan’s last partner, along with the forensic write-ups on the case.
The Imdiko gestured at the percussion blasters. “Look, these guys are armed to the teeth, right? With high-end blasters, no less. Not just anyone can get their hands on that kind of armament.”
Wynhod said, “Probably all stolen.”
“I’m not so certain about that. Think about how this case has played out, Investigator. They’re organized like a corporation, with selling territories carved out. No one screws with them. Their product is the top of the line. You’ve got someone major at the top of all this. He’s running it like a big business with this gang as his staff.”
“You sound pretty sure.” Gelan darted a look at Wynhod. The Nobek restrained a sigh of relief. This was almost over.
Krijero didn’t know the conversation was wrapping up. “We are ground zero for Delir. This is the test market for it. It’s just starting to creep out of Southwest Mountain, but I guarantee you it will show up all over Kalquor within months. Maybe weeks.”
Wynhod shrugged, ready to finish. “Of course. You’ve got to count on the copycats getting hold of something similar.”
Krijero shook his head adamantly. “Delir’s recipe is a closely guarded secret, or you’d see that kind of action right here in this territory. No one is doing anything remotely similar to Delir. These guys are taking out the competition, and they won’t suffer anything but their own product to show up in the other territories either. I guarantee you, they’ll widen their reach very soon.”
Gelan offered a pained smile and took a step back. “It’s an interesting theory, I’ll grant you that.”
Krijero studied his face. All the enthusiasm that had lit his shy features suddenly fled. He tipped his head forward, his hair not falling into place quite fast enough to hide the disappointment. His tone deflated, the psych said, “Yeah, well, that’s what I think. You’re dealing with someone who’s got money, resources, and brains.”
Gelan shrugged dismissively. “Thanks.” He started to turn away, ready to leave.
“Sure. Or you can keep looking for Nobeks and Dramoks who are all muscle and no mind. Dumb garbage that managed to get lucky with their first-year chemistry sets. It’s worked really well for you so far, hasn’t it? Saved lives and all that?” Krijero’s tone had a vicious bite to it.
Gelan jerked around to stare hard at the Imdiko, his face reddening with fury. Wynhod had the sudden concern his beefy partner might take a swing at the other man. Gelan would smash the brain trust psych with next to no effort. Lanky, sweet-faced Krijero wouldn’t stand a chance.
The Nobek stepped forward, angling his body so that Gelan would have to push him out of the way to get at the Imdiko. Meanwhile, Krijero glared back through his mop of hair, clearly too pissed off to have the sense to apologize and back down. Wynhod noted that Jomik had risen from his seat and watched them all carefully.
Gelan’s voice shook with anger. “I watched my partner die, Psych. I stood with his Dramok and Imdiko when they fired his body. Do you think I’m taking this shit lightly?”
Krijero’s tone couldn’t have been colder. “No, but you’re taking my abilities lightly. Use my insight or don’t. It makes no difference to me. You can keep the condescension to yourself, however.”
The Imdiko turned away from them, shutting down some of the vids that made his workspace such a headache for Wynhod to look at. Despite the psych’s words, Wynhod thought having input in the Delir case did make a big difference to the man. His bearing had taken on a hunched quality, as if Gelan’s trivializing attitude had hurt him.
Gelan swung around and stalked towards the office exit. Wynhod looked at Krijero a moment more, noting through the curtain of thick hair how the Imdiko’s jaw clenched. Yeah, the guy was hurting all right. Wynhod thanked the ancestors he wasn’t one of that sensitive breed. Feeling slights so intensely had to suck.
Sighing, Wynhod turned his back on Krijero. He followed Gelan out of the Criminal Psychology Department.
* * * *
Dramok Jomik looked at Krijero sympathetically as the Imdiko felt his insides shrink in humiliation. He moved his chair a little closer to Krijero’s desk to speak in a low voice.
“That went well.” Jomik shook his head and rolled his eyes towards the door where the investigator and enforcer had exited the room. “Forget about it, Krijero. Investigators and enforcers never take us seriously anyway. They’d rather have their jaws fused shut than admit a psych might actually offer them something of use.”
“Sure. Whatever.” Krijero appreciated Jomik’s kindness. The Dramok had been like a big brother since Krijero had joined the department seven years ago. He often took up for the Imdiko when Krijero’s awkwardness got him into trouble.
Having someone around who understood didn’t erase the sting of Investigator Gelan and Enforcer Wynhod’s disinterest in Krijero’s theories. He’d been so excited to finally get on the Delir case, the case that had stymied so many. Krijero had followed it from the moment the first psych assigned to it had been taken off. He’d wanted a crack at it. Now it looked like its lead investigator would freeze him out right off the bat.
Krijero scowled and restrained the childish urge to throw his handheld to the ground again. “Maybe it’s time to replace the investigator in charge of the case. He’s only what, the second one they’ve put on lead since Delir became such an issue? They blame our department for not getting anywhere, but I don’t see what’s so great about him.”
Jomik patted his shoulder. “Dramok Gelan’s got a good rep. They say he’s dedicated to a fault. I think he’s probably still reeling from that shootout. Everyone says he took his enforcer’s death badly.”
Krijero considered that. He couldn’t imagine watching someone die so violently, especially someone he knew. Yeah, that probably had put Gelan in a nasty mood, and Krijero’s excitement over the case had no doubt been unwelcome so soon after.
The Imdiko sighed. Once again, his lack of social graces had tripped him up. He should have been more sensitive to the investigator’s loss. Not that it would have made much of a difference, however. Gelan probably would have still been a jerk. Like Jomik said, the investigators and enforcers were not exactly open to the insights of the psych department. They hated to admit the objective opinion of someone not completely immersed in the case might be helpful once in awhile. They didn’t like to share the glory of solving the crimes either.
Damn it, Krijero couldn’t lose his chance at doing something about Delir. Maybe in a few days Dramok Gelan would be more approachable. If Krijero could get the guts up to ask for another meeting, perhaps he could try to get in the investigator’s good graces. He really wanted to be on Delir. It was the kind of case that could challenge his abilities to their limits.
“I’ll give it another go after a little bit of time has passed. Maybe a week,” he told Jomik.
“There you go.” The Dramok moved back to his desk. “Gelan’s new partner is hot, huh? Don’t tell my Nobek I said that.”
Krijero shrugged and pretended to study the notes he’d been making on the Delir case when Gelan and Wynhod had shown up. “I didn’t notice.”
Actually, he had. Both men were handsome. Big and uber masculine, they possessed almost identical auras of power. Gelan and Wynhod were exactly the kind of men he gravitated to. Not that the Imdiko would be trying to interest them in him, oh hell no. Krijero preferred anonymous encounters, the ones that had no chance of ending up with strings attached. And he absolutely did not get involved with Dramoks.
He’d learned his lesson well with Pertak. He would not set himself to be hurt again by anyone. He’d especially not open himself to such pain with a couple of smug jerks like Dramok Gelan and Nobek Wynhod.
Wynhod followed Gelan to their shared area in the Investigations Department. Like Krijero over in Criminal Psychology, their space sat in the far corner of the wide open room. A hum of conversation lapsed for half a second as they entered and people noted it. In that time, Wynhod noted Gelan’s tread fell as silent as his own.
Low talk in the room resumed. A few investigators and enforcers nodded to Gelan as he passed their desks, their expressions respectful for the loss of his last partner. The gazes Wynhod received were evaluating as they sized the new guy up. The men that had already seen him around the last few days, waiting for his partner to come back to work, jerked their heads in acknowledgment.
Gelan and Wynhod’s desks faced each other, butting up to make a shared surface. Gelan paused next to Wynhod’s workspace, so recently Nobek Amik’s. The dead enforcer’s personal belongings had been cleared away and sent to his mourning clan. Wynhod had not placed any of his own items on the desk yet out of respect for the fallen officer and Gelan. He was sure it must be jarring to constantly come across reminders that someone who had been present for years would never sit in this space again.
Gelan moved on to his own desk and stood next to it. He seemed at a loss momentarily, visibly concentrating on his own tidy space. Wynhod decided he would begin placing personal items on his desk right away. It was apparent the emptiness preyed on his partner.
The Nobek thought distraction might be appreciated. Sitting down at the desk, he told Gelan, “Criminal psychologists are a different bunch.”
Gelan blinked. He looked at Wynhod sitting there and drew in a breath before sinking into his own chair, facing the enforcer.
His voice sounded admirably steady as he replied, “The doctor’s theory was interesting. He at least had enthusiasm and none of that elitist attitude they usually get with us.” Gelan grimaced as he considered the exchange with Imdiko Krijero. “Shit. I didn’t handle that interview well at all, did I?”
Wynhod didn’t comment on Gelan’s belated regret. Instead he said, “I’m trying to wrap my head around the idea of drug manufacture and distribution handled as one would a legitimate business.”
He mused over the psych’s idea. Wynhod could certainly fathom the idea that someone was out there with both business acumen and the chemical ability to conjure up Delir. But to have that same someone be able to keep the loyalty of a rough gang of vicious Nobeks and Dramoks?
Sure, Wynhod had met business leaders who were ruthless to some degree. Some had even been criminals he’d helped take down. However, they’d mostly been criminals of the white-collar variety. A couple had committed violent crimes, but they had definitely been the exception to the rule. Certainly none of them had been brutal enough to keep an entire gang of self-absorbed, vicious men in check, men who lived for hurting others to achieve their own gains.
No, the Imdiko had been wrong, but at least the guy had imagination. Wynhod would have never expected it of the brainiac type.
He said, “The brain trust is smart, but they don’t have the practical experience in most cases. That Krijero has probably never been face to face with any of the subjects he’s analyzed. He doesn’t have a clue what it’s really like to deal with the criminal element.”
Despite his words, the Nobek couldn’t speak with his usual anti-brainiac sneer when it came to the psych they’d talked to. Seeing that sweet, open face crumple in disappointment gave Wynhod a stab of sympathy for the poor deluded soul. He added, “He sure was sincere though.”
Gelan winced. “Yeah. I’ll apologize to him next time I’m crazy enough to go near that department.”
The priority com on Gelan’s desk buzzed. Both men jerked to attention. That particular com only went off when something in immediate need of action went down.
Gelan barked, “Investigator Gelan responding.”
A dispatcher’s cool, efficient voice answered. “Investigator, we have a hostage situation with suspected Delir influence. Location and details have been transmitted to your handheld.”
Gelan and Wynhod were both on their feet in an instant. Wynhod checked his weapons as Gelan said, “On our way. Backup of standard enforcement squad requested, sniper squad, and emergency resuscitation team.”
“Requested squads and emergency crew respond to the affirmative and on their way, will meet you at location.”
Wynhod couldn’t help but grin as the heady rush of adrenaline spiked through his body. This was what he lived for; the danger of confrontation, the chance for serious action that would put all his abilities to the test. Not to mention the opportunity to make a difference in the thus-far impenetrable web of Delir intrigue that was bringing the Southwest Mountain Territory to its knees.