Chapter One - Chicago
Medea screamed when the blood splattered across her cheek.
Gore and blood turned her high-pitched wail into shrieks of terror and had her shaking where she stood. Her scrawny form, petite to begin with, shook like a leaf in the wind. With raccoon rings around her eyes from running mascara, she remained frozen to the spot. The remains of her pimp, Dwyer, were oozing down the now-slick leather of the ruined sofa.
The man who killed Dwyer didn't pay her any attention despite the noise she was making. In fact, he didn't appear to see her at all as she continued to shriek, trying to wipe pieces of Dwyer's brain off the sleeve of her blue vinyl jacket. Stepping away from Dwyer, he slapped another magazine into the LSAT machine gun he was carrying and surveyed the room, looking right through her as he regarded Pinto and Armstrong in more or less the same state as Dwyer, their blood seeping through the parquet floor.
“You should go,” he said simply as he turned to leave.
Medea fell silent immediately and nodded. Conditioned to obey when orders were given, her shriek came to an abrupt halt in her throat. The killer strode past her, all six feet one of him, blue eyes seeming almost black in this light, just like his brown hair. He wore a black military coat and his gloved hands clutched the machine gun he’d used to cut down Pinto and Armstrong when they had tried to come to Dwyer's aid. God only knew how many of Dwyer's crew was dead downstairs.
She'd heard the gunfire when he'd swept into the club, followed by the screaming of fleeing clubbers into the night. By the time the gunfire below fell silent, Pinto, Armstrong and Dwyer were poised and ready to take him on. But the shooting didn't come through the door to the upstairs apartment. Rather, it came through the floor. Even now, she could see the bullet holes that riddled the floor beneath them. Debris from cracked mortar and broken glass covered everything else.
Dwyer tried to make a run for it, but there was only one way into the apartment, and the man with the black coat was already there. He put a bullet into Dwyer's shoulder, forcing the MAC-10 from his hand, then spent a few good minutes clubbing Medea's former daddy about the head until he was good and bloody.
Then he asked his questions.
Medea crouched in a corner, hands over her head, trying to remain unnoticed. She was nobody in the scheme of things, just another bitch in Dwyer's stable of girls. Quaking in her stiletto heels, she tried not to listen as Dwyer spilled his guts to the stranger, giving him all the answers even though the revelation would mean death when Othello found out. In the end, it hadn't mattered anyway.
When the man had his answers, he shot Dwyer in the face without a moment's thought.
He didn't wait for her to answer after telling her to leave. He just walked out.
* * *
The EMTs raced into South Chicago.
Normally, they stayed clear of the area, but something was happening in Triple C territory tonight, something that lit up police switchboards from the South Shore all the way to Hammond like Christmas trees. Reports were coming of mass shootings, with bodies left on the street or in the wrecks of burnt-out cars, as well as an equal amount of fire-gutted buildings. The authorities put it down to an internal turf war. After all, Triple C was an amalgamation of several crews under one leader, Othello Price. It was best to let them fight it out and clean up the mess when it was done.
As the night progressed, it became increasingly clear that this wasn't one crew jockeying for position, but all of them running scared from a new player in town. Someone was moving through the neighborhoods with systematic precision. Originating in South Chicago, the violence spread out like a virulent plague, laying waste to everything in sight, leaving destruction behind like someone scorching the earth.
In the course of a single night, someone was dismantling the Triple C hierarchy from the low-level mules to the producers and dealers, distributors and finally to the first-rung soldiers. Anyone wearing Triple C colors was being exterminated, and while the cops knew they should be racing to the scene to determine who was responsible, Chicago PD remained strangely indifferent.
By 2030, Triple C had grown to become the largest gang in Chicago. It was born out of the Criminal Deportation Act of 2016, allowing authorities to repatriate second- and third-generation Americans to their country of origin if convicted of serious crimes. The act was passed due to a nation's increasing fear of the rise of homegrown Islamic terrorists, but was quickly exploited by law enforcement to target ethnic gangs such as the Latin Kings and the Pistoleros Latinos. With the deportations, the void left was quickly filled by Triple C.
In the early days, the gang mostly made its coin from auto theft, extortion and dealing. Eventually it began moving product for the Mexicans before expanding into the lucrative sex trafficking industry by bringing in girls from Eastern Europe and Asia. Very soon, Triple C was dominating the criminal landscape and, as most of its members were disenfranchised African-Americans, many of whom lived below the poverty line, they were immune to the Deportation Act.
Furthermore, with the end of the war in the Middle East, a new conflict arose, this one involving the country of Azerbaijan, nestled between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It drew in all the major super powers, ensuring the country's attention was focused on international politics while ignoring the growing problem at home—the rise of the gangs.
By 2030, Triple C was as large a threat to Chicago as the Latin Kings were before them. Its current leader, Othello Price, ruled absolutely over South Chicago and its neighboring communities. By paying off or intimidating city officials, he kept the law out of Triple C business. When that didn't work, Triple C wasn't above killing cops, and if a clear message needed to be sent, he got to their families. So savage was his reputation that attempts to prosecute were simply abandoned. Prosecutors were just as expendable.
The law was happy to oblige on this particular night.
Some cops even switched off their radios and ended their shifts in bars, toasting the carnage and laughing that they could just hose the place down in the morning to get rid of the garbage. The powerless had long memories and karma was a bitch getting paid tonight.
* * *
“Have Casey and Lopez checked in yet?” Othello Price demanded.
Omar Phelps lowered the cell phone from his ear, his expression grim as he shook his head, jaw ticking as he formulated his answer and the best way to deliver it. In the end, he realized there was no best way, just the only way.
“No,” he said grimly, “and they're not going to. Jacey, working the strip around the corner from Lockweed, says they got hit hard. The whole building is up in flames. She doesn't think they made it out.”
“FUCK!” Othello lashed out, swiping all the contents of his desk to the floor in a burst of uncharacteristic rage. An assortment of objects clattered against the Persian rug—books, pens, papers and a tablet, which cracked on impact. He kicked the chair to its back before turning around to face Omar again.
“How many is that now?” he asked after a moment, breathing hard, fighting to compose himself. His fists were clenched as he stared into the green felt on the oak desktop, trying to comprehend what was happening, trying to wrap his mind around how this could be happening at all.
“Twenty-two dead so far,” Omar hid his own fear at the storm coming their way. “We can't be sure how many were at Lockweeds. We know a couple of guys haven't checked in yet.”
Twenty-two men, all dead. They were shot, burned, stabbed or killed in some equally gruesome fashion. Everyone he'd sent out to deal with the situation had not come back. When Dwyer bought it at the Sin Kitty Club, the night was young, but that was hours ago. As the hours ticked by, more and more of his crew were getting hit. Some in their homes, others at the various businesses owned by the Triple C and some while their dicks were still in their girlfriends' snatches. It began to dawn on Othello that he had crossed a line, and he had crossed it with the wrong cop.
The fucking war hero was coming.
“How many guys we got around here?”
“Thirteen,” Omar said, still recovering from the realization that Othello, the baddest motherfucker he knew, was scared. “Four on the roof, three at the gates and the rest patrolling the house. There ain't no way that psycho cop is getting in here. We got eyes on the ground. He'll never get past the gate. Lamonte is watching the cameras.”
“Good.” Othello nodded, grateful that his young cousin was not out on the front line, so to speak. An hour ago, he had done something he never imagined he would do. He had sent Mona and the kids out of the city to her folks in Indiana. He didn't know whether or not the cop would hurt them, but he wasn't risking it. The cop hadn't just killed members of his crew. He had killed anyone who worked for Triple C—pimps, mules, dealers, cooks and soldiers. He didn't seem to care if they were male or female. If they were Triple C—they died.
“Don't worry, Theo,” Omar assured him, using the old nickname from back in the days when they used to run together as kids. “We'll get him.”
“Yeah,” Othello grunted, walking to the liquor cabinet and retrieving a bottle of scotch from inside of it. He didn't pour himself a glass, instead taking a healthy swig of it because he wanted the liquor to burn its way down his throat.
“All this over his bitch sister,” Omar commented, going to the leather sofa in front of his desk and lowering himself into it.
Othello tensed. He didn't want to think about the girl.
Mention of her immediately dredged up the memories of the brunette college girl they dragged off her campus three days ago. Her brother was one of those who wouldn't be intimidated, who wouldn't take a bribe. Fucking Captain America who came from the war thinking it meant shit in the real world. Othello wanted to show him how touchable he was, like Charles Martin Smith was in that old movie with Kevin Costner.
They had her for almost a day in one of his warehouses, him and four of his boys. Omar included. She was a real looker too, long legs, brown hair and a killer body. Taking turns at her was sweet and they all had a piece. She'd screamed and wailed as they tore into her body, smacking her good and bloody when she made too much noise.
Yet through it all, she didn't break. The bitch didn't fucking break. Even after they'd left her bleeding and naked, covered in their jizz, he remembered the look in her eyes, the defiance as she stared at him. Smiling, with broken teeth and covered in blood, she said to him without fear, “He's going to kill you all for this.”
It was the last thing she said before he put a bullet in her head.
It pissed him off that she hadn't begged, not once. Not when they were violating her. She cried and she screamed when they hurt her, but she didn't beg. That defiance infuriated him, made him think she'd deserved more pain, more desecration. So he told his boys to send her back to her brother, special delivery.
They sent her back in pieces.
Othello thought the cop was finished. No one came back from a thing like that to be of trouble ever again. The leader of Triple C was confident the cop would rage and curse, but it was all he could do because, unlike Charles Martin Smith, he and his crew were untouchable. In this world where the law was breaking down, he and his guys were the new reality. The cop had no proof they were responsible and even if he did, there wasn't anyone in Chicago brave enough to come after him. He was invulnerable.
Or so he thought.
Something caught his eyes through the window of the study. He winced as the light overloaded his retinas. Blinking the spots out of his eyes, he saw twin strobes glaring through the front gates. Striding to the desk, he opened the top drawer and retrieved his gun—a Glock—and went to investigate.
“What's going on?” he heard Omar ask, but ignored him. Just before he reached the glass, he heard gunfire and immediately dropped to his knees. Omar dove for the floor behind him. Othello heard the rat-tat-tat of an assault rifle just before bullets riddled the window above his head. Glass shattered and he was driven backwards to the cover of the desk.
Only when he was behind the sturdy safety of oak did he dare look up again. This time, he saw that the sentries at the gate were firing blankly at the strobes, which just so happened to be headlights rushing at them. Not from a car, though, he thought. The headlights were too far apart and too high off the ground.
The cement truck tore through the steel gates like paper, crumpling one and tearing the other off its hinges to roll off the hood as if it had been swiped aside by its wipers. Two of his men, Naf and Elroy, were mowed down as the vehicle accelerated. The third leaped out of the way only to be cut down by a barrage of gunfire from the driver's side.
Othello heard footsteps pounding over his head. The guys on the roof were running into position, and he imagined the racket was bringing the others patrolling the grounds. The truck rolled down the paved driveway before stopping short of the house, idling.
Suddenly, the door swung open and the faint shape of a body seemed to be taking cover, just as the guys on the roof opened fire. The driver didn't immediately respond. Lost in the sound of MAC-10s was a single burst of sound, like a champagne cork popping. With that single sound, the driver retreated into the safety of the cabin even as bullets pinged loudly against the steel.
The explosion that followed rocked the house to its foundations. Othello heard screams as one of his men went over the side, landing on the grass near his window. His back was a mess of burnt flesh and fabric. It was difficult to tell which was which. He landed with a sickly thud, body flaming but still alive.
“What the fuck was that?” Omar demanded, staring at the ceiling. Pieces of mortar broke off in chunks and concrete dust came through freshly made cracks.