Cops and Robbers
October 2nd, 3:30pm PST
San Francisco, California
Inspector Reno Lee Nevada paced the lab behind the Medical Examiner. His eyes cut over to the body on the table. The woman resembled Nichole Marie Parker, but a discrepancy came up, leaving him to wonder.
Wilfred Greg, a wiry-haired man in his forties, approached Reno and moved close to speak softly. “IAFIS doesn’t list her prints. I know her fingers were pretty marred up. But we had a little bit to work with on all the fingers. Did Miss Parker have a twin sister?”
“No,” Reno murmured in reply. “The M.E. is doing the autopsy now. I’m scratching my head, here. Nicky has a…” Nevada paused then guided the man out into the hallway and shut the lab door behind himself. “This stays between us.” He didn’t give the older man a chance to reply before continuing where he left off. “She has a mole on her breast, kinda like Penelope Cruz. Don’t ask – just go home and watch Vanilla Sky tonight. Anyway, it wasn’t there.”
“Did you talk to Captain Sanders?”
“Yeah. I called Frank right away. I told him that Nichole is my fiancée. I told him I have no right to this case. I expected him to be a douche about it, but instead, he was like, 'I’ll have someone else come in. Take a few days. I’ll have the new lead contact you. You can shadow if you keep your mouth shut,' then he apologized about her death. Really out of character for that guy. But… he knew Nichole. He let her come-and-go in the office without any drama.”
“Tell me about it,” said Reno with a weak smile. “I noticed right away that the woman on the floor had almost the same teeth but there was one thing that stood out.”
Wilfred tilted his head. “What’s that?”
Reno shrugged. “The other day, Nicky fell asleep with a whitening strip on her teeth. Slept the whole night that way. When she woke up, it was crooked on one side. So her left incisor should be less white than the rest of her teeth. The M.E. noted that this girl had the teeth of a smoker. He was surprised to hear that she didn't smoke. Ever. So he said he wanted me to look the body over before the autopsy, thats when I noticed no mole on her breast; he's gunna let me know if she has smoker's lungs. Maybe I just don’t want to admit she’s gone, but there were a few things that made me calm down and start to think.”
“She had her hair different than she usually wears it. The thing with the teeth, the beauty mark on her chest… but the thing that got me the most…”
“Not being in IAFIS?” Wilfred interjected. “She’s a federal agent. Her prints didn’t match anyone on the database.”
“No. I mean, yeah, that too, but… before you came down here and told me that… I looked at the markings on her fingertips. Seemed deliberate. And old. Scar tissue is about a day or two old. I just saw her, in person, eight hours before I found the body. She didn’t have any marks on her hands. I’d have noticed because we were in bed together. The dental is close, though. It’s not exact, but it’s close. She chipped a tooth when she was a freshman in college. No chipped teeth on this body.”
Wilfred rubbed his chin then said, “Do you know what telomeres are, Inspector?”
“The term sounds familiar. Something in blood or DNA or something?”
The scientist grinned. “Your answer is good enough for Government Work. You win a prize. Anyhow, don’t mind me not grieving with you – I’m an optimist. I’m going to check her telomeres. It will determine her age.”
Reno scratched his forehead then ran his fingers back through his dark hair and pulled at the strands above the nape of his neck. “Dude… what? You can see the body. You can see she’s the same age as my fiancée. Why would you want to verify age?”
“A different case came through my lab,” said Greg, adding, “The files were sealed on that case. So this goes into the same file as your information about Miss Parker’s breast mole. Alright?”
“Yeah. The, ‘we never talk about this again,’ file. How does your other case relate to mine?”
“A man was killed a few weeks ago. He was some really important guy and the FBI came and got him and took the body to a ‘specialist agency.’ Anyhow, this office already started an investigation before they showed up. Long story short, two guys were killed by the guys in black gear. Apparently our two John Does managed to kill one of the mercenaries. Then the bodies were burned. The merc was a cop from Oakland. The other two guys didn’t have fingerprints in any database. So we took a blood sample. You never know if someone gave a paternity test, you know? Different database to check. I’m a geek, so, while looking at the blood, I noticed something.”
Reno stared at Wilfred Greg for a moment then said, “Dude, Wilf, you said ‘long story short,’ then you started to ramble. Okay, you’re a geek, you’re curious… this has something to do with telomeres. In ten words or less, ready? Set? Go.”
“I was looking at the sample, and realized the guy is only three years old.” He counted on his fingers then said, “Okay, that was more than ten. Should I try again?”
Reno quirked his brows. “No, it’s fine… so wait, your John Doe was three years old?”
“According to his telomeres. There’s no way to fake that kind of thing. It’s the caps on your chromosomes that degrade as you age. Telomeres tell the truth… get it?”
“What the hell does that even mean?”
“Uhm… he was a clone? Geeze, I don’t know what it means, I just want to see if there’s a pattern. So I want to check Miss Parker’s blood.”
“Please let me know the results,” Reno said. “I gotta go talk to her brother.” He gave Wilfred a pat on the shoulder and turned around.
“Hey, wait. There’s one more thing.”
Wilfred fidgeted a bit. “The reason the FBI took the body and sealed the files. Uhm, I’ll try not to ramble but bear with me.”
“Go on, Wilf.”
“Yeah, the Hayflick phenomenon. That guy’s telomeres were long. And I did a culture demonstration. The cells didn’t divide in a normal way; their telomeres stayed the same length. I changed the experiment so they would divide rapidly in a short time. They didn’t enter a senescence phase. No apoptosis. The mitosis in my culture didn’t shorten the telomeres. So, maybe the guy wasn’t a clone. Maybe he simply didn’t age. A little sci-fi, I know… but the cells were mutated versions of human cells. They acted like cancer, but there was no signs of cancer in the body. In the culture, all the cells eventually became cancerous.”
Reno furrowed his brows again then said, “So this telomere thing on the ends of the chromosome… every time the body does a cell division thing, those caps get shorter until you start aging rapidly? Is that why some people look old at fifty and others look old at seventy?”
“Something like that. I’m glad you’re following me. Immortal cells have been observed as a cell mutation. But they lead to things like cancer. It’s as if the human body sometimes wants to try and make itself immortal. But it runs into other roadblocks. The cell goes out of control, a tumor is the result. The cancer cells continue to reproduce rapidly with no signs of aging. An immortal human cell is basically a cancer cell. But our bodies don’t know what to do with cancer. It feeds it, it treats a tumor like an organ. If this guy really was immortal, maybe his body knew better and handled the immortal cell reproduction differently. Anyway.”
“Other than cancer, are there other cases of immortal cells?” asked Reno. “Just humor me.”
“Some cells are considered immortal. Lobsters can live a long-damn-time in perfect conditions. No one really seems to know just how long. Cancer cells appear to have immortal cells because they can continue to go through cell division without losing their telomeres.”
“So what would happen if people with immortal cells bred with people that don’t have immortal cells?”
“People can’t live forever. But I’ll humor you, Inspector. Immortality doesn’t mean dominant genes. The offspring might not be immortal. And down the lines, descendants would have less chances of getting the coveted dormant immortal cells. Then it would depend on the sperm that won. Eventually, down the road a ways, an immortal cell might pop up, from a mutation of diluted junk code in the DNA. Now there’s a cell with some measure of fault to it. It would reproduce and the body wouldn’t know anything was wrong, so the cell wouldn’t stop. It would just keep going. Then, boom… a tumor. The body treats the cell like other cells… feeds it. The body would treat the tumor like an organ. Our immune system would ignore it. For some reason, the body thinks that cancer cells are friendly. For the sake of comic book science, and to my best understanding, mind you... If you could prove that immortal humans' genetic code popped up in mortal descendants, that would be the mutation that brings us closer to understanding cancer. But typically, cancer is caused by a mutation, which is typically caused by damaged genetics that produces mutated cells. Carcinogens, radiation – think UV exposure as an example, the carbon on burnt meat… there are all sorts of things that beat up our bodies every day.” All at once, the older man stopped talking.
Wilfred paused from his rant, licked his lips with a frown, then said, “I’m sorry. You must be going through a lot. My social skills are severely lacking at times. I’ll shut up.”
Reno eyed the scientist for a moment. “No, actually I appreciate it.”
“I just need to get my mind off that autopsy. I was a big sci-fi nut as a kid. Comics, movies; I was obsessed for a while, when I moved out of my parent’s house. So, theoretically, if immortal humans mated with mortal humans… the mutations of the joined cells, many generations down the road, might cause cancer due to genetic faults in the… DNA… coding… stuff? I mean… people did get cancer before the world became a dirty cesspool with a Swiss-cheese ozone layer. It had to come from somewhere.”
Wilfred grinned. “And people tell me that my imagination is a little too active. Anyway, there are no such things as immortal humans. We get plenty of genetic faults in our cells from natural pollution and natural radiation, and that stuff has been around before the industrial age, Inspector. Volcanos and sunburn aside, humans have smoked just about everything across the globe at least twice. Plus, breeding with people that have radically different genetic markers than their own… Your ancestor might have survived Pompeii after inhaling a ton of garbage. God only knows if that stuff leaves it mark on human genetics. Hell, the whole world is damaging. Oxygen is damaging. Oh, and there’s a lot of conjecture that cancer is parasitic in nature. There’s a lot of scientific support for that as well.”
“Okay, okay I get it. There are no such things as immortal human beings. So.”
Reno grinned and walked to a door leading back towards the parking garage. “Good luck figuring out your crispy John Doe case with the toddler genes.”
Wilfred hurried to the door as Reno left the building and called after him, “That case was sealed! Not my problem anymore! For all we know, someone was injecting him with embryonic stem cells since birth! And for all we know, cancer might just be an un-evolved ‘thing’ the body hasn’t yet perfected! Maybe, twenty-five thousand years from now, cancer cells will allow us to heal injuries, live forever, generate new organs when old ones fail… but at this stage in its evolution it’s just dangerous, mutated junk code in our genetics! Anything is possible, however improbable.”
Reno opened the driver side of his car and said, “See? I’m not the only one with an active imagination. Now get a blood sample and go find me some answers!” He sank into the leather seat, gunned the engine and pulled off the parking deck.
October 2nd, 5pm PST
Pacific Heights, San Francisco, CA
“Beautiful house you have here, Mister Parker,” Reno said. “Doesn’t your son live here with you?”
Jonathan Conner Parker Junior stuffed his hands into his pants pockets with a sigh. “Yeah. And call me Jon. We’re nearly brothers by marriage, especially if your hunch about her proves to be true. I, uh…” He frowned as they walked. “I haven’t seen Fox in weeks. It’s not like him to just disappear. With his trust fund, he could live anywhere. He chooses to live here.” Parker led Nevada into the kitchen and retrieved two glass cups. He approached a tap built into the front of his fridge and filled both glasses with beer. Parker turned to Reno and gave him one. “You look tired.”
“Yeah. Nichole and I spent the day together, took a short nap in the middle of the day, then I worked from midnight until… when I called you this morning. Haven't slept yet; probably couldn't even if I wanted to.”
“And you still don’t think it’s her?” asked Parker.
Reno held his beer up and clinked the rim against his fiancée’s brother’s glass. “Here’s to new evidence that continues to work against confirming Nichole’s death. Have you ever heard of IAFIS?”
“Of course. It’s a federal database of finger prints.”
Reno nodded. “She’s in the database. But the prints of the body we found… they’re unknown prints. Plus the fingers of the body appear to have been marred a few days ago, as if attempting to make it harder to match prints. Nichole’s hands were fine when I was with her last night. Plus the body we found… perfect teeth.”
“My sister chipped her tooth in college.”
“My point exactly,” Reno said and drank from the glass of beer. “Damn. Microbrewed? This is better than Guinness.”
“Yeah, I’m a retired thief. What can I say? I ‘borrowed’ a recipe for beer that I liked.”
“Nothing you won’t steal huh?”
Jon Parker offered a wan smile. “You should see Fox’s pirated music collection. Alright, so… the pictures you texted me this morning. That’s my younger sister. How can someone look like her? Is there any other indicators that you know of?”
“Uhm… yeah. No disrespect intended, because you’re her older brother… but she has a mole on her breast. I just came from the autopsy. The body I found… no beauty mark on her bust.”
Jon took a drink of his beer then tilted his head. “You mean like that chick from that Tom Cruise movie? You know she was in a Spanish version of the same movie that came out before the TC version.”
“Yeah. Penelope Cruz. You remembered that too, huh? We’re more alike than I thought.”
“Yeah,” Jon laughed. “For being a cop and a robber.” He took a deep breath then sighed. “That’s probably the first time I’ve laughed or smiled in days. Thanks. I think I needed that. I know you’re not allowed to take point on this homicide investigation… but if you hear anything about Fox… call me. I’m worried.”
“I have an idea. Tell me his cellphone number and give me his social. I’ll check and see if there’s any activity on his phone or credit cards.”
“Can you do that legally?”
Reno brought the glass back to his lips and finished the beer with a sigh. “Damn that’s good.” He put the glass down on an island counter at the center of the kitchen. “Right now, despite what I think about the body back at the precinct, Nichole Parker is assumed to be on an autopsy table. You’re telling me her nephew is missing. You're considered a retired celebrity athlete. All these factors might be relevant to the case. So tracking his credit cards and phone will determine if he’s missing or just out of town. It’s an angle in an investigation, so I can assure you that I can legitimately look.”
“I’ll get a copy of a credit bill or two from his desk upstairs. I’ll text you everything, including his cell. So, if the body on your autopsy table is not my sister… who is she?”
“That’s what I need to find out. So... twins run in your family besides Fox and Topaz?”
Parker shook his head. “They’re the only ones. But after seeing the body… it sure makes one wonder.”
“Yeah. No kidding. And, of course, that begs the most important question… if that isn’t Nichole, then where is she?”
Jon finished his glass, then took both back to the sink and paused. “Wait… what if she’s with Fox?”
“You said he’s been missing for weeks, Jon. How would she know where he is?”
Parker clenched his hands into fists. “What if they were both kidnapped? Him first, and now her.”
“Have you received any ransom demands?”
Jon shook his head and turned from the sink. “Years ago I used to work with this guy named Aris Falcon. Not his real last name; he was Russian or something. Anyhow, he’s obsessed with genetics. And Fox recently uncovered some information that suggests Falcon has been harassing people, including my family and myself. Nichole was working on building a case against him. If he took Fox because of what Fox learned… then he took Nichole because of her investigation…”
Reno stared at the floor in silence, pondering.
“Something on your mind, Inspector?”
“You’re going to think I’m crazy. Hell, I think I’m crazy for entertaining the thought.”
“Just spit it out, Reno.”
Nevada bit his lip, then, trying to offer tension-breaking humor, he laughed. “A guy at the department joked that the body in the M.E.’s lab could have been a clone. You said Falcon was a geneticist.” Reno felt a vibration in his pocket. He pulled a phone out and read the text message. “Okay, that was fast.” His eyes lifted, meeting Parker’s gaze. “Well, Jon… do you know what a telomere is? My guy back at the job thinks our Jane Doe is only ten years old.”
“How long does it take to grow a clone? And then how would one go about making them age rapidly up to a select age, so that she appears to look like Nichole? Seems… scientifically impossible.”
“Maybe. After all I’ve learned today, maybe she’s only three or four years old, and the telomere things are 'off' because of the rapid aging…? GOD. Listen to us! We’re seriously entertaining the thought of human clones being used as bodies to throw off a homicide investigation… This is crazier than the conversation I had this morning about cancer being immortal.”
Reno’s eyes widened. He brought his hand to his mouth. “Oh, man, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to bring that up. I wasn’t thinking. Nichole told me about her sister-in-law. I’m… I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought that up. I’m a total asshole.”
Parker shook his head and waved his hand in a dismissing fashion. “No, no. I can’t go around being sensitive to that word. It took away my wife – the mother of my children. I’m not going to let it take away my sensibilities, too. You meant no harm, it’s fine.”
“Look, I’ve seen a lot of weird crap in the past month. I’m damn near ready to believe just about anything. This ginger caused these gunmen to practically catch on fire, and then there was a plane crash, and this old man’s dead body electrocuted me. It might have been what caused me to have a brief memory lapse. Everything from that day was a little fuzzy. …And… I’m rambling. Sorry. I’m just…”
“…Exhausted,” Parker concluded. “Reno, you’re tired. And you’ve had a pretty busy day after working all night.”
“I heard you once worked a job, flew in for a football game, played and won, then flew back out and finished the gig.”
Jon brought his hand up and rubbed at the nape of his neck, with an awkward expression. “Nichole tells you a lot, huh?”
“I’m homicide. And she said that your job was for the Vatican. Not my business, and not my jurisdiction. Anyway, that had to take a lot of caffeine pills, man. I’m not ready to sleep just yet. What’s the last place anyone saw your son? I need to feel productive, while I’m waiting for information on the woman that looks like Nichole.”
“Fair enough. I’ll text you that stuff about Fox. Topaz said she last heard from him when he went to the ‘soft opening’ of that new gothic nightclub. The venue isn’t finished yet. They’re training the staff at an old bar directly across the street, and have been luring in patrons with really good drinking specials. Topaz was there with her significant other. She said Fox was still there when she left, talking to the tendress. Blue-haired woman. Maybe that’s a good place to start.”
October 2nd, 5:10pm PST
Route 35, Skyline Blvd.
San Francisco, California
Jules Guillot narrowed his gaze, a bead of sweat ran down the side of his face, opposite of the helmet-mounted Heads Up Display over his right eye. He peered over the top of the man in the gunner seat in front of him in the cockpit of the heavily modified Apache helicopter.
The man in the gunner seat in front of him lifted up a cellular phone, pointing its camera back at Jules. The pilot relaxed his body, gazing into the monitor over his eye. Through the weapon camera, Arrowhead, mounted to the front of the chopper, he watched a convertible on Route 35, below. “Making our descent in three, two, one…”
Jules eased into the controls. His left eye lowered to the instrument panel briefly then back up. He manipulated his thumb over the control stick then used his other hand to toggle a switch. “Down we go,” he said calmly, despite the bead of sweat moving down his cheek to his jawline.
The heavily modified Apache moved parallel to the topless sports car. “One hundred eighty knots. Alright, chain gun,” he said. The person holding the cellphone up turned the device forward, filming everything. Meanwhile, Jules looked left with the Arrowhead HUD, pointing the front mounted chain gun just a little ways in front of the convertible down on the road. “Firing in three, two, one…” He eased in on the trigger beneath his thumb.
The gun roared to life, creating muzzle flash in front of the helicopter. Down on the road, the asphalt erupted with debris. The sports car slowed down dramatically, weaving slightly.
“Descending in three, two, one.” Jules eased his hand on the stick then applied pressure to the foot pedals. The Apache swung around, flying sideways, facing the sports car. They moved, side by side, in parallel. The chain gun continued to fire in front of the car to keep it from speeding up. "Airspeed approximately fifty miles and hour."
“Rocket launcher!” said the co-pilot in the front seat.
Down in the sports car, the passenger pulled an FIM-92 Stinger up onto his shoulder. Jules shifted his thumb and pulled back on the control stick. The Apache began a rapid climb. A lock alarm blared from somewhere in the cockpit. Jules mashed his thumb down, and simply said, “Flares.” The alarm continued to scream in protest. The chopper continued to lift.
“Breaking off.” Jules began to roll the helicopter over then came down in a half-loop. The negative G force created a floating sensation. He exhaled trying to ignore the brief reddening to his sight. The missile passed them then began to arc around.
Jules mashed down on the right pedal. The Apache responded fluidly, coming about, facing the sports car, down below, again. He pulled up into a loop. At the crest of the loop-de-loop, he rolled over, and said, “Immelmann.” Again, the missile sailed by the chopper and exploded a half mile off to port.
Jules rolled over again, came into the bottom half of a loop then brought the helicopter into a hover, twelve feet above the street, facing the sports car, which slammed on its brakes.
The sports car came to a halt with the windshield six feet from the front of the chain gun barrel, which pointed at the vehicle occupants. The Jules eased his head left slightly. The gun barrel moved, bringing the passenger into its sights. The man in the passenger seat threw the Stinger from his shoulder and puts hands up.
All at once, two loud air horn blasts sounded. Jules eased into the flight stick then lowered the Apache to the ground adjacent to the sports car. He took a moment to go through proper landing procedures. He cut power to the helicopter and pulled the helmet off then wiped his face with the back of his sleeve.
A group of men rushed towards the helicopter. “Here they come,” said Jules with a chuckle. He opened the starboard panel of the cockpit and unfastened his harness. “You didn’t toss your cookies up there, did you, m’ami?”
“I’m good,” said the man in the front seat, winded. “How do you even do that? Fly like that? You just …shove that control stick around, and bring a fifteen thousand pound helicopter into a half roll, a half loop, and swoop down, and suddenly you’re a few feet off the ground. God I thought we were going to hit the car for a minute there.”
“Non. We could climb almost thirteen meters per second. And they’d slowed down to fifty mile’n hour. Did you see how close that M230 got to their windshield? That was awesome, mon ami.” He grinned then added, “And it’s called a ‘cyclic.’ Not a stick. If yer’ character’s gunna be jumpin’ in a chopper and stopping the bad guys… don’t ever call it a stick or a yoke, comprendre?”
“Cyclic. I’ll remember that. Thanks for taking me up during the shoot. I figure if my character is supposed to have pulled this off, it makes sense to experience it.”
“No worries. You did well, mon ami.”
The group of men approached the two, standing adjacent to the helicopter. Jules held his hands out. “How was the shoot?”
“Are you kidding?!” the director exclaimed with an excited tone. “What was that first loop-roll thing? A sloppy split-S?”
“Non. That was a Half Reverse Cuban Eight; they're similar. Just wanted to get some height before pulling the stunt.” Guillot grinned somewhat and added, “I stalled a prop two-seater doing that once. Just so y’know, though, those maneuvers in the script are for ditching an engagement, not avoiding heat seekers.”
The director chuckled. “If you say so. But we got some great footage. Just as you came out of that roll and went into the loop, the prop missile just barely missed you. I jumped out of my seat. What did you think about the sequence?”
“I think I’m glad you decided to use a remote controlled prop instead of doing CGI. Makes it feel more real. How’d th’ last shot look, mon ami?”
The director gave Jules a firm slap on his shoulder. “The barrel of the gun was lined up so perfectly with the hood-mounted camera on the car, that we could see into it! I think we got what we needed and I’m ready to call it a day. We got a few angles from yesterday and a few good angles from earlier today. But this last take… I’m thinking it might be worth trying to do a one-angle, single take shot we got from the ground. No one ever does stunts like that in one take!”
“Félicitations, mon ami!” He gave the director a slap on the bicep then approached the stunt driver by the sports car. Jules and the driver shook hands. “Very good driving! But between us professionals, you were going way faster that time. I hit two hundred miles’n hour, which isn’t exactly safe.” He hooked a thumb back at the chopper. “Those things shouldn’t go over one-eighty.”
The driver laughed. “How fast were you going sideways?”
“You didn't hear my cues on the radio? Probably a bit over fifty. I was afraid you were going too fast. You know how much the crew hates resetting the fake highway for the chain gun scene.”
“Yeah. To be honest, bud, I don’t care. I like having an excuse to drive two hundred miles an hour up Route 35. That’s a curvy road in some parts. It’s hard to really get up to that speed. I can’t believe we got all that to happen in one run. Wish we had that luck yesterday.”
“Maybe we should have shot the scene at two hundred mile’n hour yesterday. Seems to have worked today, oui? I gotta get back to San Fran. Hotel to change clothes, then I need a drink.”
“I heard there’s really good drink specials at this one bar.” The driver pulled a book of matches out of his pocket and handed it to Jules. “That’s the address. Pages Lost. They’re still building it, but they’re doing a soft opening so the staff can get their feet wet. It’s really close to the hotels.”
Jules grinned. “Think they’d let me take the chopper there?” certainly one way to avoid rush hour. He shook the driver’s hand and said, “Thanks again for stopping so quick, heh.” Jules pulled a pair of Ray-Bans and pushed the aviator shades up over his eyes. “I’m being told that we’re done with the Apache.” He glanced back over his shoulder, watching as the crew moved the helicopter up onto a flatbed truck. “So tha’s it for me. I think I'm finished with California for a while.”
“Yeah? Aren’t you going to stick around for the paycheck?”
The Cajun laughed. “I donated the full amount to a children’s charity. I din’ do this for the pay. I’m a millionaire off of gambling, and a lotto ticket, mon ami. And the kicker is… I don’t even remember it. Long story. San Fran has been a weird ride for me. I’m happy to be moving on.”
“Where you going, Guillot?”
“Japan. I need to figure some things out. Au revoir.”
“You’re going to Japan just to figure things out? And you’re seriously rich??”
“Oui. That I am.” Jules grinned.
“What’re you doing in Japan? Another movie or something?”
“Naw. I’ll probably watch a marathon of Gaki no Tsukai. Comedy show I used to watch when I was stationed in Yokosuka, a few years ago. Reckon it’s a good way to brush up on speakin’ Japanese.” Jules looked down at the matchbook and said, “Thanks. I appreciate this.” He moved the matchbook between his knuckles the way mobsters and magicians did with coins, then he stuffed it into his pocket. “Now for th’ traffic.”
October 2nd, 9:50pm PST
Pages Lost NightClub
Soft Opener week
Reno Nevada shifted his phone to his other ear. “Yeah, Jon. I don’t have a warrant, and I don’t have enough evidence linking the club across the street yet. Plus I’m only supposed to be shadowing this case. The new lead plays everything by the books, though. There’s no way I’m getting in there to see if Fox or Nichole is being held in the basement of that place.” He leaned back against the front wall of the small bar across the street from the club under construction. “Now what?”
Over the line, Jon Parker said, “I’ll take care of it. I’m taking my wife, Fara, to the hospital; she just went into labor. So far as Pages Lost, I know someone I can call who will help. Do you know Lance Patterson?”
“Afraid I don’t.”
“I gave him Nichole's number and he put her in contact with someone working for him. The man has quite a few people working with him right now... Anyhow, he told Nicky that he could help her crack her case involving Falcon. He gave her a number to call and she wrote it n her hand. We need to find out who was her contact and if they know where my sister might be... Or how to find her.”
Reno glanced at his phone screen then put it back to his ear. “I’m getting a call. I don’t recognize the number. I’ve gotta take it.”
“Alright. We’ll be in touch, Reno. I’ll let you know when I know what’s in that warehouse.”
“Thanks, Jon. And congratulations on becoming a father again.” Reno thumbed the screen and walked back into the bar, towards the drink he left at the far end of the counter. He put his free index finger into his other ear and said, “Nevada.”
“Hey, bro!” The voice belonged to his younger brother, Vincent.
“Oh. Hey, Vince.”
"Gee, don't sound too excited to hear from me, or anything," said the boy on the other end. "You okay?"
"Yeah, not really. Nicky is missing. I was on a weird case involving her but I had to step down because I’m personally involved."
"Oh. Shit, that sucks. I'm sorry."
"No need to cuss, Vince. You know mom hated that sort of thing."
The line fell silent for a moment then Vincent said, "No offense, but she's gone. It's not like she's going to get upset about it anymore."
Reno frowned thoughtfully. "First of all, she might be dead but that doesn't mean you can't act in a way that would disappoint her. I’m supposed to be your big brother, so… just try and do things that would make her proud of you, okay? So what's up? How's your rent situation and how is school going?"
"Way to be in the loop, Reno. I don't start classes until January. I'm just frustrated. I asked that girl out…"
"I… I'm sorry, man. My head isn't right, right now. Nichole's missing. You know? I mean, she’s about to miss her sister-in-law giving birth; her boss hasn't heard from her.”
“I’m… I’m sorry, Reno. Look, we haven’t had a lot of chances to talk lately. You never did tell me why you got suspended for several weeks. What’s up with that?”
“God, Vincent, that was a weird one for sure. So, I was on this crazy-ass case recently with this redheaded Japanese lady and these mercenaries who opened fire on me. Then they spontaneously combusted and I got flip with Sanders. I got suspended for going into a firefight without following protocol. Then, bossman was glaring at me because the way I worded it in my report. They demanded I talk to a councilor. Then this morning, I found a body that looks like Nicky, but it wasn’t her. So now Sanders wants me to talk to a stupid shrink again before I can get my gun back. All because he’s still mad about the way I handled a firefight a few weeks ago.” Reno paused, took a deep breath then sighed. “Anyway, don't mind me… You mentioned that girl… The one in the sales department? You don't sound too happy; how'd it go?"
"Maybe if she wasn't so mean about it. I hate rejection; anyone does, but she could have just said 'no' instead of being rude in front of the rest of the sales floor." Vincent paused. Reno envisioned his brother running his fingers back through his own hair, a tick they both picked up from their late father. "Anyway, I'm sorry all that stuff is happening to you. My crappy complaining doesn't really compare. I, uh, hope you find Nichole. I really like her. Hell, maybe I'll follow you two into law enforcement. I'm just… I need to do something better with my life."
"Yeah, you do need something better. So, how's your rent situation?"
Again, Vincent grew silent on the other end of the line. "I hate borrowing money from you."
Reno offered a thin smile. "It's the one thing that I feel like I can control in my life that has a positive outcome. I'll PayPal you two hundred bucks when I get home tonight. But it might be late. Just keep an eye out for the email."
"I really appreciate it. You're more of a father to me than dad ever was. Good luck finding that Japanese lady and, hey…"
"Thanks for taking my calls. I was just… really pissed off about that girl being nasty and, uh, you know… I feel better now that I got it off my chest. I'd better jet, though. I've been given keys to the bay – new responsibility, I've gotta lock up tonight and my lunch is almost over."
"No worries. And don't let the money thing bother you, Vincent. You're my brother, man. I've got your back. Just save your paychecks up and get that car fixed. Aren't you supposed to be a mechanic?"
"Reno, I change tires, I change oil. I throw dirt on the bay floor then clean it up. My car is fine; it just stalls when you first start it. Maybe the throttle body needs to be cleaned out, I don't know. Is it raining where you are?"
"Not yet. I heard there’s rain on the way, though. Look, Vincent, just work on your confidence pal. Instead of telling girls all that stuff, don't ramble – just say you're a junior mechanic. If you believe in yourself, others will believe in you, too. I love you; congrats on the key-holder thing."
Vincent chuckled. "Heh, yeah, thanks. I, uh, I'll work on the confidence thing. Maybe college will help. Maybe if I became a cop, like you, the training and the badge and the gun would give me some sort of confidence. Anyway, I love ya' too. Catch you later. And thanks again. I feel better."
"Any time." They disconnected the line from one another.
A voice to the right caught Reno's attention. "So sorry to have listened to yer' phone call, mon ami, but I couldn't help but overhear… you mentioned a redheaded Japanese lady. Did you happen to catch her name?"
Reno turned to a man several feet down the bar counter. He had several pieces of paper open in front of himself, a pen in one hand and a highlighter in the other. The inspector sized him up then said, "I think she said it was …Something… Crevan… Sih-no-pah, that was it. Sinopa Crevan; why, do you know her?"
"Dunno, yet. I just very well might, mon ami. I, uh, can't remember much about the last two years of my life. I woke up in San Francisco two weeks ago and I had a huge blank spot. Never heard of selective amnesia before. I've got my credit card history here, my cellphone bills… I'm trying to determine where I've been to remember what I've forgotten. But when you mentioned the redheaded Japanese lady, I pictured her face; when you say her name, it feels familiar. I just… I need answers, you know?"
Reno frowned and brought his hand to his chin. "Damn, man. Sounds like you've got as much drama as I do, right now." He offered his right hand towards the man. "Inspector Reno Nevada."
"Jules Guillot," he said, taking the inspector's hand. "With a silent 't' on the end."
"Gill-loh, huh? You'd be surprised to know this but most amnesia cases only affect select memories. Total amnesia is actually quite rare. I learned that in sensitivity training; it's mandatory for police. Don’t take this wrong but… I feel like we’ve met before. You seem familiar.”
“Wish I could say the same, Inspector.”
“What’ve you been doing for money? Did work call you?”
“I was unemployed, mon ami. I took a gig working as a stunt driver for an action flick being shot here in the Bay Area. We wrapped up this afternoon. Now I have a little time to figure out my crap.”
“So, you're using your bills to piece together the last two years of your life? You'd make a good detective, man."
"Merci, mon ami. I flew in from Japan on the second, and I use my credit card heavily on the fifth, uptown and downtown. I'm thinkin' I might head back to Japan to see if that helps kick start my memory."
Reno nodded firmly. "That sounds like a good idea. A little expensive, but definitely a good idea… wait, did you say the fifth? As in September?"
"Oui, I reckon so. And no worries about money. One of the things I forgot, but was quite pleased to rediscover is that I'm apparently quite wealthy. I gambled on sporting scores a while back, apparently won a ton of money, and then I invested it. Then I won a bit more on a lotto ticket. I don't even remember doin' it. Needless to say, a flight to Japan won't hurt me."
"Well damn. Anyway, September fifth is the day I met that Japanese lady."
"That's a helluva coincidence, mon ami. Hell of a coincidence indeed."
"Yeah, no kidding." Reno reached for his glass and finished the dark colored liquid with the foamy top. "Must be nice to have money, though."
"Oui, I can't complain, Inspector. Oh, and hey, I'm sorry for yer loss – parents and all… and I'm sorry your girl's missin'. I wish I could remember if I had a girl or not, so I could call her… wouldn't want her worried, after all."
"Just gotta' stay positive until I know something for sure. Can't jump to conclusions. And my parents have been gone for a pretty long time. My brother struggles with it more than I do. He recently turned eighteen and is working to make ends meet; he put away his inheritance and won't touch it… smart kid, but he struggles more than he should. Said he's gunna wait until the housing market is better before he pulls it out and buys something."
"Oui, smart boy." Jules circled a line on his statement then said, “Okay, here I’ve checked into a place in Muir Beach on the sixteenth of September. I don’t remember checking in. But I do remember waking up there, confused, alone, and I had a silk kimono on the floor next to my jeans ‘n shirt.
Reno blinked. “Seriously? Muir Beach? Get out, man. That is weird.”
“You been there recently?”
“I was there on vacation with Nicky Marie. On the sixteenth, we ended our vacation two weeks early, after some plane crashed over in Sausalito. You checked in the day I checked out. I have a fuzzy spot around that day. I remember finding the body of an old man. I touched him to see if he was alive and I was electrocuted. Everything gets fuzzy at that point. Still, I feel like I recognize your face. Maybe I saw you in passing in Muir Beach.”
“Oui, perhaps so. At this point, there’s only one thing left to do.” Jules drew out his smartphone and thumbed the screen for a moment. "Just a sec, no?" He continued to thumb the glass screen then he stuffed the phone back into his pocket. "I jus' booked a flight back to Japan. Leaves tonight. Cin I buy you a beer before I jet?"
Reno smiled inwardly at the term used by Jules, and said, "My brother says 'jet' all the time. Sure, why not. You flying out tonight, huh? When's your plane leave?"
"Three hours, mon ami." He waved down the bar tender and said, "Get this gent another Guinness; I'll have one, too!"
"You need a ride to the airport? I have to drop off a request form at the precinct in Millbrae; I'm going right by there."
"Oui, that would be very much appreciated, Inspector!" The tender brought them both another beer. The two men clinked their glasses together; Jules said, "To finding the redheaded Japanese girl, then!"
Reno grinned. "To finding your memories, pal."