Different organizations had attempted over the years to revitalize the neighborhood. Some saw it as a complete waste of money. Massey didn’t subscribe to that thought process. The money that made its way to the neighborhood wasn’t a waste, but it was definitely allocated wrong. It wasn’t as simple as hanging up a fancy chandelier in the vestibule of a brownstone. He wasn’t the person to decide how when or where to spend the money, but the current way of doing things wasn’t working.
The problem wasn’t a lack of desire to improve the community. There was desire aplenty. Unlike other cities, the gangs didn’t have the same reach elsewhere. They were just as violent; just as much drugs, but where cities like Los Angeles and Chicago had relatively few players… This city has too many different gangs, Massey thought. They constantly warred, and no one had enough street cred to unify the gangs. The narcotics and gang divisions still had enough work.
Despite the residential improvement that came and went with the political climate, the warehouse district hadn’t changed in several decades. If there was a gang that had the potential to consolidate, it was the Kings. The gang’s leader, Lil’ Cee, was an unofficial informant. There was no paperwork and no formal relationship with the police department, but if you wanted info on a particular crime or gangster that Lil’ Cee felt had crossed some sort of line, the Kings were known to be… not helpful, Massey thought, but at least not combative. If the world were a different place, Massey imagined the Kings might be some sort of youth league.
Massey worked on the window. Despite the years on the force, he was still out of place in his precinct. The window was useless. No matter how many layers he pulled up, there were still more blocking his view of the interior of the warehouse. He hadn’t seen sentries and lookouts in the normal places. The Kings refused to allow anyone to join under the age on fourteen, so there wasn’t the cliché of kids playing outside and acting as lookouts.
Massey leaned into a door normally guarded and listened for the sounds of partying and other noises. The warehouse was never empty – The Kings made sure of that.
Massey considered calling for backup, but he wasn’t supposed to be here in the first place. It wasn’t a jurisdiction issue, but coming here wasn’t a move a lone detective with as many years on the street as he did should be doing. He took a few steps into the warehouse before thinking better of his actions.
He was going to leave and come back with backup when he swore he heard sniffling. It wasn’t a cold or a cokehead, but the sound of a child crying. Massey tried to resist the pull of someone in trouble, but one unsure step followed the next before he realized he was through the maze of repurposed admin offices and hallways. He stood before a double door. It was steel and had a lock bar spanning the opening.
The crying was loudest here and Massey reached out to touch the bar. There was a layer of corrosion that seemed out of place and it appeared the door had been barred from this side. Massey lifted the bar. It felt rough – the corrosion had been doing its thing for years.
The bar freed, Massey put his shoulder into the doors. They groaned and he froze. Surely whomever is crying heard that, he thought. He strained his ears and the crying didn’t stop. Resolved to uncover who was crying, Massey pushed the stubborn doors open with a loud clang.
The scene on the other side of the door was something Massey had never seen. As a veteran, he had seen the atrocities of combat, but his military service and almost three decades on the force couldn’t have prepared him for the piles of bodies. Some were facing the door, perhaps trying to escape. Some wielded guns and knives, as if trying to protect themselves from an attacker. Unlike the movies, there was no smell of cordite permeating. Black powder and the expansion gasses did have their own subtle smell, but several of the bodies had soiled themselves and any telltale odors were masked.
Massey surveyed the bodies and scanned for the source of the crying. Standing in what could be considered the ‘middle’ of the pile stood a crying figure.
“Are you all right?” Massey called out.
The shoulders of the figure rose and fell with sobs. The low light made identifying the figure difficult. There wasn’t any immediate threat that Massey could discern, so he slowly stepped over the bodies toward the… A man? He thought. The crying reminded Massey of a young child; maybe ten or twelve, but this modus operandi didn’t match the Kings.
As he got closer he was able to make out the figure. The man’s dark complexion made him harder to see. When Massey was only six or seven feet away, his hand immediately went to his service weapon.
“Joaquin!” He shouted.
Joaquin didn’t respond. Massey was close enough to see Joaquin shuddering. As he moved around to see Joaquin’s face, he kept his hand on his holster.
Joaquin’s eyes were vacant. He stared at the body of Lil’ Cee. A gash across Lil’ Cee’s throat had bled him dry. Joaquin held a knife loosely in his hand. Massey drew his weapon, trained it of Joaquin and reached for the knife. Joaquin offered no resistance and fell to his knees, his now empty hands covering his face.
“What happened here?” Massey tried to keep his voice steady. He had seen broken men. Men without hope. Men who would later take their own life if society was lucky; more if they weren’t. Massey tried to ignore a growing dread in the pit of his stomach. The normally cocky Joaquin turned to Massey.
Joaquin reached up and touched a bloodied cheek. “She killed them all,” he whispered.
Massey glanced around. “I don’t think so. She weighs what, a buck twenty-five?”
Joaquin stared, mouth agape. “She said it was an abject lesson.”
When Joaquin said ‘abject,’ Massey’s heart pounded in his chest. The word was not necessarily one found in the projects. Massey doubted it was part of Joaquin’s vocabulary.
“She died again and again,” Joaquin whispered. “She blew away two dudes with a hand cannon before we got the drop on her.”
“So who killed the rest?”
Joaquin turned, voice rising “Don’t you see, man, she killed them all!”
“But, you said you got the drop on her.”
“We did.” Joaquin looked down at his soiled jeans. “She got up off the floor and started icing fools like nothing.”
“I’m not buying your shit. Tell me who did this.”
You gotta protect me from her. Her dress hid the blood, but her face, man… her face.”
Massey held his breath waiting for Joaquin to regain his composure.
“The blood splattered on her face…” Joaquin took a deep breath. “She couldn’t hide it, man. She couldn’t…”
“The monster inside her. She laughed, man. The fuckin’ bitch got off on it.”