Hungry with a Full Stomach
Hungry with a Full Stomach
Detective Billy Seward was twenty-six with a ten year old daughter and a ex-husband who wasn’t her girl’s father.
She’d had a white dad and a black mama. The combination gave her skin like a beach-bum, and, for some reason, dark freckles and kinky auburn hair. She was black enough for her Lt. to think of her as a minority hire, but, the way she saw it, she’d been bumped up from uniform on merit, being the only cop, beat or otherwise, to put The Masked Killer in cuffs.
His girlfriend had busted him out an hour later, but that hadn’t been on her.
She’d been happy when they’d transferred her into the OCCB, even if she’d known it would be a hard climb up the ladder, but she’d thought she’d be hunting mobsters. Instead, her lieutenant had given her what he called folk hero duty.
Abernathy Greene, The Glass Virgin, was a menace, but she was also popular with the civies. Weird Catholics, the Asian working class, oddly, and the blacks all loved her, which was why Billy Seward had been tasked with the hunt; they seemed to think it would play less civil-rightsy if another black girl was the one to drag her in.
Abernathy’s record was measured in filing boxes rather than files, and a task force had worked the case for a year, more or less giving up before it had been handed to Billy.
They’d mostly focused on finding where Abernathy slept, attempting to track down her friends, only to find she didn’t have many and those she had wouldn’t say a word. Billy had read the files, trying to crawl inside Abi’s head, but all she found there was fury.
Abernathy wasn’t a vampire, so Billy decided catching her while she slept wasn’t a high priority, and that she’d try and get ahead of her.
She waited for weeks behind the wheel of her candy-apple Charger, waiting for info to buzz on her radio, the kind of info Abernathy waited for. Over those weeks she interrupted two armed robberies, one at the First National, tracked down three bail-jumpers, and caught an escaped con. Her record was starting to shine like the stars were already on her collar, and they were whispering about promotion, but they wanted her for Vice, and she wasn’t finished yet.
Her Charger rumbled, idling, parked at the end of an alley. She dipped the end of a goi cuon in ketchup and downed it with the last gulp from a Fanta.
The radio buzzed, as it had all day with meaningless chatter, but this was interesting, and she pulled out.
The building manager of a shit apartment on Silverlake had phoned in a tip. A guy who’d killed his wife, and put his kid on life-support with a bullet in the chest, was hiding out with a friend in said shit apartment building. It was exactly the kind of thing Abernathy went in for.
Billy slid to a stop and hopped out, checking the badge was pinned to her blouse and her pistol was unsnapped in its shoulder holster. She grabbed a crowbar from the trunk and headed in.
The Twin Oaks building was four stories of brick, the lobby floored in at least three layers of linoleum, visible through various worn patches.
Billy flashed her badge to the yellow-eyed man behind the counter, the man she assumed was the building manager.
He looked up at her, distracted from staring at her crowbar, and pointed up at the ceiling. “T-Three Oh Four,” he said, and she started up the stairs.
The lights were out above the first floor, but she continued, feeling her way along the wall. A clear incandescent bulb hung from a cord overhead as she reached the third floor. Passing the first, second and third door, she stopped, drawing her pistol. The forth door was open an inch, and Billy heard whimpering.
She put her back to the wall, and opened the door as quietly as she could, nudging it with her crowbar.
There was a man on the floor, snot running from his nose as he rocked in place, gripping his knee. He might have been the perp, but Billy thought he was probably the friend, because Abi’d only taken one of his knee caps.
She let her snub-nose thirty-eight lead her into the room. “Hold it,” she said, and Abernathy stopped mid-swing, a lead pipe in her hand hovering over an unconscious man’s clavicle.
Abi turned to her, standing up straight, her face painted in colorful Gothic camouflage. “You police?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Billy said. That should have been what she’d started with.
“Please…. Help,” the first man said, still on the floor gripping his knee.
“You’re that girl from the First National, killed three, put one in the hospital…. Joey, or Sam?”
“Billy,” she said. “The fourth went septic and kicked.”
“You plannin’ on killing me?” Abi asked.
“‘Cause I won’t go down easy.”
“That’s why I brought this,” Billy said, raising her crowbar.
When she’d first started on the case, she’d assumed Abernathy would be like most folk heroes, and rock stars, only made something special by their public’s willful blindness, but having read the case files, and listened to tapes of firsthand accounts, she’d come to a different conclusion. Abernathy only hurt assholes, and, besides jacking cars off gang members and buying lunch with their pocket money, she seemed kind of like a saint, just born in the wrong century.
“You gonna do something, ’cause I’m busy,” Abi said.
“…I’ve been after you for weeks.”
“Olena said she smelled somebody. I thought she was being paranoid-”
The unconscious man woke up, squiggling with what must have been broken arms and legs, and screaming like a frightened sheep.
Abi swung down with her pipe before Billy could move, clipping his jaw, and putting him out again.
“…You’re a Catholic, right?” Billy asked.
“Yeah, but I got excommunicated- It’s not like I killed anybody.”
“I was wondering…. I killed somebody,” Billy said, “not at the First National, a long time ago.”
“My ex-husband died last week…” Abi said. “I didn’t kill him exactly, but I snapped his spine, and he died of pneumonia…. He probably wouldn’t have, if I hadn’t crippled him.”
“I cut his throat with a razor,” Billy said.
“That sounds pretty bad, but Our Lady will forgive you-”
“I’m pretty much an atheist-”
“Mary doesn’t care,” Abernathy said.
Billy really couldn’t wrap her head around God or accept the idea of forgiveness from some magic lady, and being promised that forgiveness by a psychopath painted up like a stained glass Mary felt strange, but she realized she’d started it.
“Don’t hurt her!” Abernathy yelled, and Billy noticed too late the arm reaching around her and the small hook-knife at her throat.
“Drop your pistol,” a voice whispered in her ear, “or I will spill your blood.”
“Cut it out Olena. We’re just talking,” Abi said.
“I was gonna arrest you,” Billy said. “I’ll forget about the attempted murder of a police officer if you drop your knife.”
“Let’s talk about this in a minute,” Abi said, turning back to the unconscious man, and raising her pipe. She made one clean strike to his right clavicle, which must have been left unfinished when Billy had interrupted, and two to the right. “Now then….”
“And who is this?” Billy asked.
“Olena…. She’s KGB, or something, retired.”
“I was never KGB, Miss,” Olena said in Billy’s ear. “My squad had no name, but I was under Spetsnaz command.”
Abernathy walked toward them slowly, and Billy lowered her pistol as it touched Abi’s jacket.
“I know this’s gotta end sometime, but it doesn’t seem like that’s today. That guy…” Abi said, pointing down at the guy still whimpering and clutching his knee. “He has some pretty gross porno and a bag of coke in his sock drawer, you might wanna arrest them both.”
Abi edged past her through the doorway, and the knife shaved Billy’s neck as she tried to turn. She heard Abi’s footsteps receding down the hall.
Abi started to whistle, what sounded like The Twist, but then the noise faded, except for the coke addicted porno fiend’s whimpering. Billy noticed the knife was no longer at her throat. She turned back and looked down an empty hall.
She’d tracked down Abernathy once. It would take waiting for another opportunity, but she would get a jump on her next time.
Billy’s daughter lived next door to her, with her ex-stepfather. In the last few weeks Billy had only seen her in passing, the hunt having occupied all of her waking hours.
She had a couple of arrests to make, and a stack of paperwork to fill out, but she planned to call home from the station and invite herself to a fractured family dinner.