In The Shadows of Skyscrapers
By Kyle Vavasour
Chapter 1, A Brave New World
Buildings reached towards the sky like giants of concrete and steel, the dull colours only contrasted by the bright pinks and reds of the neon shopfronts. 2074 was supposed to hold riches for all, but only the wealthiest who lived high up in the tops floors of the tallest skyscrapers reaped the benefits of this new world. ‘Up town’ was what the locals of Jianglai called the tops of these buildings. Up town was connected by sky trains and skywalks that spanned from building to building far above the crime infested streets down below. Most would call it a hell on earth, but to the locals of Jianglai the streets below were called ‘the Grime’. Blood and drugs flowed through the Grime. Cartells and crime bosses held the power on the streets while the police turned a blind eye to their activities. Bodies appeared and disappeared without a word from the news or the police. Most of the victims were poor nobodies who were unfortunate enough to meet the cartells of the Grime, but some were targeted attacks. Victim’s Bodies were dumped into forgotten allies, only to be found weeks later by the police. Deep below, in one of these dark and forgotten places, lay the week-old corpse of a well- dressed gentlemen in a suit and tie. His chest was crimson and there was a hole that went through his shirt, marking the wound of a .38 caliber bullet that had went through the heart. A tall figure emerged from an alley, concealing a pistol in his jacket. He wore a psychotic grin on his face and he pulled his hood up over his dark brown hair to conceal his face from passerbys. He disappeared into the crowded streets leaving only a bloody crime scene and the body of a man.
Chapter 2, Just Another Case
The flickering neon of “Lewis Mccullough Private Investigations” was illuminated the side of the residential building. The lights cut through the night like a knife and the distant sound of sirens could be heard from the building. Lewis’s office was on the 52nd floor of one of the many residential buildings in the middle of Jianglai. The dull sign was outshone by the bright and extravagant signs of the many businesses on the higher floors of the surrounding buildings. Even in the crime infested city of Jianglai, it was hard to earn a living as a detective, but Lewis took full advantage of what he had. His office was both his home and his workspace and he shared the small apartment with his newfound assistant named Marco Smith. Despite the extra help, the business had run into a stroke of bad luck with evidence being stolen from under his nose and crime scenes being destroyed without a trace. Lewis had met Marco recently when he was saved from an ambush in the grime. If nothing else, Lewis enjoyed the company. Inside the apartment, a tall man with chocolate brown eyes and dark brown hair on top of a skinny, yet muscular body sat staring intently at a phone with his brow furrowed and the hint of a sly smile on his face.
“Lewis!” yelled the man from another room inside the apartment, “I need help with something.” Frustrated, Lewis stood up pushing his chair aside as he started towards the room the man had called from. His dirty blonde hair bounced into his smokey grey eyes with each step. Before he could make it to the door the man stumbled into Lewis’s office only to be greeted by the despaired face’s of two clients, he looked at them with a mixture of confusion and concern on his face.
Lewis broke the silence, “Marco, Can’t you see I’m busy” he stated quietly,
Marco looked away for a second and then after a short pause he opened his mouth to speak, “I’m sorry, didn’t know you were having clients today.” Lewis turned back to the man and women sitting in the clients’s seat. The man wore an expensive-looking grey suit on while the women wore a black and blue dress; they looked to be in their 60’s but, it was difficult to tell under the dim light that shone throughout the room.
“You’re from up town, are you not?” asked Lewis attentively as he gestured for Marco to let him finish.
The two clients looked at each other for a brief moment before the woman nervously responded: “Y-yes”.
“You don’t strike me as the working type though, mid 60’s and living in uptown means you must have made your fortune earlier in life or you’re making your money from someone else… a child maybe.” Lewis stated distantly.
“Yes Mr. Mccullough, our son works for a pharmaceuticals company, Phase Pharmaceuticals to be exact, that is exactly why we are here.” the man said coldly.
“Please continue” urged Lewis with newfound intrigue.
“About a week ago, our son went missing, we got a call earlier today… and…” the woman paused, she looked away as a tear rolled down her face, “and it was from a police officer, they told us that…” The woman whimpered as if she was in pain.
“Our son Mr. Mccullough, they found his body in the Grime yesterday,” the man finished.
Marco’s eyes widened at the new information and he turned away to leave the room until Lewis quickly broke the silence. “An uptown body in the grime is a rare case indeed,” he said.
Marco turned back around, “Doesn’t seem like much of a case to me, just another death in the grime.” Marco stated without hesitation.
“This one is different, a pharmaceuticals worker wouldn’t just take a trip to the grime for no reason, perhaps he was there to sell a drug” Lewis responded.
“No, I know my son, he would never do something like that” the man quickly interrupted.
“I will take your case Mr and Mrs…” Lewis looked at the clients for an answer.
“Mr and Mrs. Tyrell,” the man responded.
“Please, for the sake of my son, uncover the truth behind his death,” Mrs. Tyrell whimpered. The two clients stood up to exit the office.
The Mr. Tyrell dropped a small envelope on the table. “Payment,” he stated before he exited the room, holding his wife close to his chest.
Lewis sat in silence for a few moments before turning to Marco, asking him a question. “What is it that you needed help with?” Marco looked confused for a second before pulling out a dark metal phone. The screen lit up with bright colours and it displayed the time.
“I forgot my password,” sputtered Marco.
With a small sigh Lewis took the phone from him and examined it in his hand for a second. “This phone says it belongs to someone named John,” Lewis looked up at Marco confused.
“Oh.” There was a brief pause as Marco stumbled on his words, Marco looked up and fidgeted with the phone. “It belonged to my brother before he passed away.” Marco looked anxious at the thought of his brother. Lewis took the phone from him and with a few presses quickly handed it back to Marco. Marco took the phone in his hand examining the now unlocked home screen and then slugged out of the room with a nervous look on his face. Lewis looked out the window, surveying the neon shops and cold steel buildings. The neon signs shone brighter and brighter as the night matured. Lewis turned to the door and with little enthusiasm and he trudged towards his room where he would stay until the morning.
Chapter 3, Morning’s Insights
The morning sun struggled to shine through the heavy pollution that engulfed the city. Rays of dull crept in to Lewis’s office while both Lewis and Marco sat awake in front of the TV which jabbered away about stolen drugs and the current relations of Asiana with the surrounding countries. Lewis was still as he pondered the case which he was presented with the previous night; he sat thinking until he turned to Marco with a question concerning the case.
“What if Mr and Mrs Tyrells son was killed by the company. He was a high ranking executive in the company and if he had disagreed with the other members of the board then that gives them motive to kill, would you not agree?”
“I still don’t believe this case has that much significance, just another death.” responded Marco.
Lewis muttered in annoyance before he stood up from his seat, “How many times do I have to explain that coincidence is rarely the answer in cases such as this!” He walked towards the door and grabbed his jacket before turning back to look at Marco. “Well… are you coming, this crimes not going to solve itself”, Lewis grinned before exiting the building with Marco in tow.
Chapter 4, Bird’s Eye Views
The dull metal buildings and shopfronts whizzed by outside the window of the sky train. Both Lewis and Marco shuffled through the clusters of people aboard the train until they could find a spot amongst the tightly packed mass. The crowd dispersed as the train made its way along its route.
The train announced in a monotone mechanical voice the different stops along its route, “Residential Building 11A⠷, Phase Pharma Station, Fontaine Mall Station”. Lewis started to doze off as several stations passed them by. Each station led them closer and closer to their destination. “Police Station” announced the train. Lewis was jolted awake by Marco nudging him to get up. Lewis and Marco stepped out of the train and looked up at the looming police station, it seemed to part the sky itself as the building reached for the clouds. Despite all its grandeur the building itself looked run down and out of the way from the rest of society as if it had little effect on the day to day lives of the people living in the city.
Chapter 5, A Corpse’s Tale
Inside the station was a hustle of policemen and citizens moving around like a hive of bees. Everyone there had a purpose and Lewis was no exception. Without any sign of worry or doubt, Lewis pushed through the crowd of people as he made his way towards the front desk.
“We are here to see the body of Mr Tyrell” Lewis said as he drummed his fingers on the desk. Behind the desk was a dark haired police man that was typing something on the computer. The man behind the desk looked up from the screen and directed his attention towards them.
“John Tyrell? That appears to be the only Tyrell we have on file” The policeman sifted through a few folders until looking up at Lewis for an answer.
“I suppose so, take me to him” Lewis’s patience had run thin. The officer gestured for both Lewis and Marco to follow and he stood to direct the two towards the back of the station. The police officer walked with the two in toe through a concrete maze of rooms until they stopped at a room labeled ‘Morgue A’. The officer opened the door and gestured for them to go inside. The door slammed shut behind Marco and Lewis and they were left in silence with nothing but the company of corpses. The room was encased in shiny steel with one cold steel slab in the centre. On it was the body of John Tyrell. Lewis circled the corpse, “Unusual for a wound to be so clean, looks like the bullet was fired without precision, as if the target didn’t even turn to run.” Lewis paused to examine the wound, “This is work you wouldn’t see with any amateur, this was a professional, perhaps hired by the company to kill him and dispose of his body.” Marco looked anxious as he stared at both Lewis and the body. Lewis opened the file the officer had given him and examined the details on the murder, “He was killed with a .38 caliber bullet, that’s an expensive weapon, definitely not your everyday killer, this attack was planned and executed with precision”. Lewis set the file back onto the table and turned back to Marco who was looking increasingly disturbed. “Now the real investigation begins, we need to go to the scene of the crime”.
Marco quickly responded, “You go ahead, I have to meet up with my friend in uptown”. With vague annoyance Lewis left the morgue without Marco and pushed through the crowds of people that inhabited the lobby. Outside, Lewis quickly headed towards a sky train, this ride however, was far less busy. Few people from up town went to visit the grime and the train was quiet the whole ride there.
Chapter 6, Heart of Crime
The grime was it’s usual self, the crowded market street was packed to the brim with people in ragged clothing and loud noises. Smoke rose up from the many shops lining the street, in front of each were a huge lines of people bartering for a lower price and looking at the inventory of the shops. Lewis pulled up his jacket to mask the smell of rotting meat and smoke. Lewis turned off into small alleyway. The alley stopped at the end with a small sign before it turned a corner where it continued for a few yards, the sign read private property with a small symbol below it. Lewis turned the corner and proceeded down the alley till he saw splotches of blood lining the streets. “This is where the police said they found him,” Lewis muttered to himself. He pulled out a camera to take a few pictures of the scene, it was mostly cleaned up but there were a few telltale signs of the crime that had taken place there. Lewis observed the crime scene before spotting a small window just above his head. Below the window were small streaks of blood as if someone had been thrown out of it. Lewis went to grab the frame of the window and with a small struggle, pulled himself through. He fell into a dimly lit warehouse, the ground was covered in dried blood and the walls were lined with stacks of boxes labeled with the Phase Pharmaceuticals logo. Lewis bent down to look at the crime scene.
A voice ripped through the silence, “Didn’t you read the sign Mr. Mccullough, This is private property”. Lewis reached for a gun in his jacket pocket but, before he could do anything a loud noises echoed throughout the room. Pain seared through Lewis’s arm, he looked down to see crimson blood spurting from the wound. The same voice cut through air like a second bullet, “Mr. Giovanni sends his regards”. Lewis’s vision went hazy and his eyes started to roll back. He clutched his arm as blood seeped through his clothing and he fell to the ground. With one last breath the lights faded into nothing.
Chapter 7, New Revelations
Lewis jolted back into consciousness. All he could see were glaring lights shining into his eyes.
There was a small pattern of footsteps before a familiar voice finally spoke, “Don’t worry you’re ok, you’re back at the police station”. Lewis laid his head back and tried his best to relax. The voice continued to speak, “There was a fire in a warehouse that belonged to one of the cartels in the grime, we found you inside with a bullet in the arm”. Lewis opened his mouth but no words came out.
“I … I need anything you have on a Mr. Giovanni,” He finally croaked out.
“We can arrange that, but for now you should rest,” The voice responded.
“I can rest when there isn’t a case to be solved,” Lewis stated in defiance. He slowly rose off from the bed and -teeth clenched- disregarding the searing pain in his right arm. He looked around the room; it resembled that of a hospital. The walls were white and there was a small surgery table next to him with a single bullet on it. The officer returned into the room carrying a small file under his arm.
He handed it to Lewis with anticipation, “Here is everything we have on Mr. Giovanni”. Lewis took it from the officer and opened it up.
He read the contents aloud, “Description: Tall, Dark Brown hair, Dark Brown eyes, last seen on a train headed towards uptown residence centre”. Lewis paused and examined the document further, “Father is Alec Giovanni and mother is Maria …”, Lewis stopped reading eyes wide open. Without a second thought he brushed past the confused officer and headed towards the lobby of the station. He stopped at the reception desk in the station and quickly pulled out a small piece of paper.
“Call Marco at this number here, I think I solved the case, tell him to come quickly!”. Lewis walked towards the waiting area and plopped himself in a seat, he could hardly contain his anticipation and his patience was running thin. He looked in his jacket pocket to see if he still had his gun, reassured he sat back in the seat to wait.
Chapter 8, Mr. Giovanni
Marco stepped into the police station and like clockwork Lewis drew his gun and pointed it directly at his head. Time seemed to stop as Lewis’s finger twitched on the trigger. Marco’s hands were in the air and his face was a mixture of terror, confusion, and something else. “Arrest this man for the trafficking of drugs and the murder of John Tyrell,” Lewis blattered out. There was a long pause as people’s bearings returned to them. Marco’s eyes gleamed as he turned to make a dash to the door. With a loud crack Marco was on the floor with a large bruise on the back of his head. Officers quickly encircled him and in a few moments he was in restraints. Lewis cleared his throat to speak, “This man is not who he says he is, in reality he is Marco Giovanni, son to Alec Giovanni and Maria Smith” He stopped to look down at Marco, his face was expressionless and he made no sign of resistance. Lewis continued to speak, “Marco is in fact the son of a leader of a cartel in the grime responsible for the thievery of an extremely rare drug manufactured by Phase Pharmaceuticals; this drug is now being sold by them on the streets of the grime, but they couldn’t have stolen it without help so they had to get credentials from a high ranking member of this company. They killed John Tyrell and stole his credentials to get access to the drug and make a quick profit off the suffering of the Tyrell family and those affected by there sick actions”.
Marco grinned coldly with an expression that Lewis had never seen before and made a loud chuckle, “So you have it all solved then, but ask yourself Lewis, how did we get access to his credentials?”.
“It doesn’t matter” responded Lewis.
Marco’s manic grin grew wider and he began to speak, “Oh but it does, remember that phone you unlocked for me? It belonged to someone named John, recognize the name now?”. Lewis waived the gun angrily at Marco. “How does it feel to have been able to stop a crime if you had just been a bit more perceptive?” taunted Marco.
Lewis stared at him angrily, “You’re a monster, I trusted you, you were my friend and … and… ”. Lewis turned to the police, “Lock him up, and don’t ever let him see the light of day again!”. Marco cold smile grew and he chuckled at this threat. With one last disdainful look Lewis stormed out of the police station leaving Marco with the police. The officers pulled him up and lead him to the back were he would wait for an interrogation and then a trial for trafficking of drugs and the murder of an innocent civilian.
Chapter 9, Not Just Any Case
Inside of his office Lewis sat in silence, the realization of what had happened at the police station had fully sunk in. He was alone in his office without anything but the TV to keep him company; the envelope containing the 1,000 Credits payment sat on a table next to him ripped to shreds. He had a glass of bourbon in his hand hoping to wash away the details of the case with the bitter taste of the drink. His mind was spinning with the feeling of betrayal and guilt, he stayed in this limbo state until the alcohol finally took ahold of him and he slipped from consciousness. The TV spewed on about the news, “Today there was another body discovered of a barista that was temporarily acting as part of the jury to the trial of Mr. Giovanni, unfortunately for the 11 other members of the jury and the 40 other members the courtroom was burned down by unknown causes, police have yet to release a death count, suspected deaths include Mr and Mrs. Tyrell and officers also have yet to match any of the bodies discovered to that of Mr. Giovanni”. The dull beams of light bled into Lewis’s office through the lowered blinds and the neon of the shopfronts outside flickered. Lewis lay dozing in the couch unaware of the world around him. He had escaped from the crime and corruption of the world, if not only for a few moments. The sound of a ticking reverberated in the hall beyond his doorway. The only reminders of the real world where the droning television, the ticking of the wall clock, and the faint clicks of .38 caliber revolver being loaded with care.