Kirovsky’s Bar & Grill was neither bar, nor grill. It was a dive where the citizens of Khazan, mostly the piss-poor Russian migrant workers, would go to waste what little money they had and drunk their sorrows away with cheap vodka and cheaper food. I had never heard of Hot Dog Soup before coming here, and I’ve heard of some extremely disgusting cuisine, the ironed kidney steak with roasted spleen and gall stones being my all-time favorite for most disgusting sounding. Didn’t taste terrible though. The Hot Dog Soup tasted terrible. It tasted like roasted vomit mixed with the smell of motor oil, nothing like the glamorous, over-fried fare I’m accustomed to. In fact, the only reason I was at Kirovsky’s is that I was banned from the Salty Dog for two months courtesy of a large brawl that I was involved in. I didn’t start it, but I ended it pretty damn quickly. I just so happened to end it using liquor bottles that were full and furniture that used to be serviceable. Not to mention some of my own explosives that blew several huge holes in the front of the building. Daniel was pissed the hell off. He banned me for life, Jessica talked him down to two months, convinced him that I’m usually beneficial to business, not detrimental. Never would have figured that girl for sticking her neck out for me, but you learn new things every day, at least this thing left all my limbs and extremities intact.
I would have argued more with Daniel, but that bar is his heart and soul, at least the parts Jessica doesn’t have under lock and key. And he’ll be lucky if the damage was under 200 grand. I felt bad, not bad enough to donate money, but bad. Anyway, Kirovsky’s was good for a couple things. Cheap booze and the unspoken rule that talking to anyone you didn’t know was grounds for a fight. Everyone here just wanted to be miserable and lonely and drunk in peace. I’m no exception, save for miserable. I’m not miserable, I’m generally twistedly content, with a mild dose of sarcastic and pissed off thrown in. The only reason I drink in public is that I like to study people, learn their mannerisms, motives, and habits. It’s in my nature to know such things. That’s why I preferred the Salty Dog. Well, the “we can fry anything you want in hot oil” menu helped. The Salty Dog catered to the dregs of society. A person without a criminal record there is like a virgin in a singles bar. They stick out like a sore thumb and there’s an instant target on their head, or in the virgin’s case, their ass. Kirovsky’s, while not the next best thing, was good for observing people with little backlash and like I said, the cheap booze. It was also good for another thing. No one here knew who I was, or at least they had the good sense to fake it.
That’s the real reason the fight at Daniel’s joint started. I’m famous, or infamous depending on how you look at it. My name is Arick Huebris, I’m a detective. I’d like it if people called me a detective, but they generally call me The Mortician, and I suppose I can’t blame them. I can find anything or anyone as long as I have a body to work with. I can even find most things without a body to work with, but it’ll cost you extra. Hell, most decent people can’t afford me. My clients are usually desperate, fallen souls who have lost some part of their soul and mortgaged the other part to pay me. I don’t really care, I just do my job with the info they give me. They are the desperate souls who the police have given up on because there are no clues, or else they can’t go to the police. Those would be the other part of my clientele. Warlords, mob bosses, and drug kingpins all come to me. They hate my guts, but my track record virtually guarantees that they’ll get what they want. I charge them more than the others, mostly because I know they have the money. Anyhow, I have a reputation, a very unsavory one, or savory depending on your world view. Each new case I take invariable pisses someone off, so much so that they put a bounty on my head. And since the last hundred or so bounty hunters who came after me at my office ended up dead in bodybags, gift-wrapped and sent back to the bounty-setter, going after me in public was the way to go. This time, the bounty got too high and Daniel’s bar paid the price. Like I said, I felt bad, but damned if I’m going to pay money for doing my job well.
It's a Hard Knock Life
Environmental Awareness: standard (rank 1)
I suppose we should start at the beginning, the story will make a lot more sense that way. I was born at a clinic in Lowtown. No hospital exists in this part of the city, simply because there is not enough money to be had there. Most doctors start out all altruistic, wanting to do the world a favor. Then after eight or more long years of medical school, internships, and and student loans, most of them end up believing the world owes them a favor. The only doctors that end up working in Lowtown are the ones that failed everywhere else, the ones that thought they were worthy of mainstream society, but society spat them out. that doesn’t guarantee they are second-rate physicians, but it’s a fairly good indicator. Luckily for me and my mother, my delivery was textbook. Any doctor who graduated medical school at least read the textbook. Unluckily for us, my mom didn’t know who my dad was aside from him being a one-night stand and her never seeing him again. Doubly unlucky, she could barely afford to feed herself, let alone me. Not a bad women per se, just a women that life had trampled under foot, like a bug that wasn’t even noticed until it was dead.
Miracle of all miracles, I survived infancy. I’m told I cried a lot, was more obnoxious than any three toddler combined, and almost put my mother into an early grave. She did find an early grave, though it was no fault of mine, and that story will be told in the proper time. I did attend school from Kindergarten through twelfth grade, and even got a high school diploma. Not a huge accomplishment mind you, I think anyone who was upright, breathing and speaking could have passed through the school system in the slums. This wasn’t the suburban, yuppie, charter schools where every child has their own laptop computer, new textbook, custom-made omelets and pasta for lunch, and a new car upon getting their driver’s license. In some ways it was the polar opposite. The food was nasty, and I’d say there was an 80% chance it was disease free. If you did eat the tainted food, the school nurse had a good supply of ipecac on hand. She wasn’t a real nurse, she just knew ipecac would make you vomit and give back the poison. There were two computers in the whole school, one for the principal and one for his secretary. I never saw them used much though. All the fourth hand textbooks were a joke, one didn’t even have Hawaii as a US state. The teachers were zombies. They gave us lessons and collected their government paycheck. They didn’t care, several of them even kept alcohol in their desks. I suspect they would have been fired for the offense, but the powers that be knew that there was no guarantee of finding a replacement. A known flaw is better than an unknown flaw.
Time passed by nanoseconds, it seemed to draw out like a knife at times, slicing away parts of your soul with every passing moment. My mom and I lived together in a dingy apartment, if it could be called that. Two burners, a fridge, and a bathtub don’t qualify as an apartment in my humble opinion. But I can’t complain too much. My mom didn’t earn much as a waitress, but whatever she did went toward me and our life. I felt bad for her, because inside I could see she was a good person. She deserved better than the world had dealt her, and I say that as a person, not her son. I promised myself I would make her life better. I didn’t bother to tell her though. The thought of failing to keep a promise to her made me angry, and I’m pretty sure it would break her heart as well. A silent promise was mine alone to bear, mine alone to carry out, with no collateral damage to her if I failed. As time passed from 7th grade on, the vow wore on me. Not terribly, because I knew I could not do much. Just seeing her go through life as a shell of the person she should have been was hard to stomach. I would rectify things one day, that’s the only thought that kept me going.
You Live, You Learn
Detective: standard (rank 1)
Socio-economics is a self-perpetuating bull shit system. Yeah, I said it, I even know what it means. For those of you that don’t, here it is. I grew up poor, so no matter how smart I was or brilliant, I was 95% guaranteed to go through life poor. I had no money for college, no connections outside of the slums to get me a job, nothing available to change my life because the world comes down to two things, money and connections. I had neither. Do you honestly think that rich kids are smarter than poor kids. They might have higher test scores because they have better teachers, but that only counts for so much. True intelligence is something that high society children lack in a major way. Sure they can tell the difference between a 2007 and 2008 Lexus convertible, use all the aps on their new cellular phone, and discuss classical literature and wine with equal ease. Ask them to cook their own food and put in an honest day’s labor doing yardwork or cleaning dishes, and you may as well ask them to sprout wings and fly. It’s nigh impossible and very laughable. If the long explanation didn’t for you, here’s the nutshell version. The rich stay rich and the poor stay poor.
So after high school, I had nothing to do, nor any idea of how to make a life for myself. Sure, I was valedictorian of Durington Withers High School. Whoop dee fuckin do. I’d have felt more honor winning the bronze in female synchronized diving at the paralympics. That’s how useless the title was, no one cared. It didn’t even matter when I applied for a job.
Marty York was a private eye, a detective for hire. He had been kicked off the Khazan police force for excessive violence towards suspects and prisoners. Apparently being angry and punishing law-breakers on his own was unacceptable. Anyhow, he had a one-man operation on the borders of Lowtown and the industrial sector, this close to being a respectable business. He just couldn’t afford the rent outside of lowtown, you know, where property actually had value. He had a dingy storefront location, a reputation as a violent drunk, and a reputation for getting the job done. It made most people afraid of him and avoid him if at all possible. He put out an advertisement asking for an office manager. Just someone to file papers and pick up supplies for him because he had become too busy working cases. I guess murders and kidnappings had spiked since the police force got cut. Go figure. I was the only person who applied for the job. I knew his rep, but money is money and food is food. After my urine sample came back clean, he hired me.
The job was easy enough. File and organize some case files, go buy lunch for Marty, and keep the place clean. The wages were decent, decent as far as I knew at least. Compared to the money I make nowadays, the wages were crap and I’d beat the shit out of Marty if he were still alive. Marty’s temper didn’t bother me, I’d dealt with enough yelling and cursing in my life to be able to handle it. In time, I even think we became sort of friends. We went out once in awhile for drinks when his caseload lightened up, he even let me start working on cases with him. Nothing fancy, just usually going to a place in Lowtown that I knew and getting one innocuous piece of information. Or else it was keeping the car running in case he needed to leave in a hurry. Turns out that 90% of the time that was the case. I still kept in touch with my mom, and even ate dinner with her a couple times a week, but I got my own place. I told her that I was self-sufficient and could care for myself, and I think that made her sad. Like she now had no purpose in life. I could see she was happy though, as if I was the one thing she had gotten right.
Bio Vampire: superior (rank 2)
Life went on for me. It wasn’t particularly dignified or fun, but it was a step up from what I was used to. Marty was a good boss in truth, but good luck to me if he was pissed off and had no one else to talk to. My mom was doing alright, she had taken up karaoke singing. She was actually pretty good, I went to hang out with her once a week and listen to her sing. On one of those nights, Marty came with me. Not for pleasure you understand, he had a business meeting at the restaurant and figured he may as well have a witness or two.
We finished dinner and I felt like shit. Marty started talking to his client about some sort of kidnapping and theft of valuables. Initially I listened, but soon it became clear that I was going to hurl and rather soon. I excused myself and went to the restroom. Once my stomach was empty, I felt better. Tired and sore, but better, at peace. I sat there for a couple minutes to regain my composure and equilibrium. As I was standing up, I heard gunfire coming from the main part of the restaurant. I panicked. I know the sensible thing to do was to stay in the bathroom, pick a stall, and stand on a toilet. But I had to make sure my mom and Marty were ok. You only get one mom, and Marty was the closest thing to a father I ever had. So I cautiously stepped toward the dining room. I could here screaming, crying, and the faint sound of police sirens. As I stepped into the dining room, I saw the thing that would shatter me, heart, mind and soul. My mom, Marty, and his client were all on the floor, riddled with bullets and staring up with lifeless, glazed eyes. Marty’s hand held a gun, but that’s all. Strangely there was no sign of the assailants, from the looks of the place, those three were the only casualties. I don’t really remember much about the next sequence of events. I just remember sinking to my knees and whimpering like a child.
A few days later, after the initial shock had worn off, I was at a funeral home, which was somehow more depressing. Very few people came to visit my mom. A bunch of the police in town came by to see Marty’s body. Turns out I was his emergency contact and executor of his estate. I guess he didn’t have many friends. The chief of police came by to pay his respects, and then asked if I would like a job. I asked him why, since Marty had been fired from the force. He said that Marty’s firing was out of his hands. The governor insisted on it, but all the cops on the force would have gladly had Marty back in a heart beat. He did all the dirty work that no one else would do. Since Marty had named me executor, he obviously had faith in me. That’s why I got the job offer. It was nothing glamorous, it was in the morgue doing autopsies. I figured it was perfect. Being alone with my thoughts, no people to piss me off or bother me, decent salary. I accepted and the chief said he would see me in two weeks.
The rest of the day passed uneventfully. When the funeral home’s manager told me he was leaving, I politely asked if I could let myself out later. He agreed, apparently this happened a lot. I guess one adjusts certain business practices when dealing with death as much as he did. After he left, I got up from my chair and went to look at my mom. She looked so peaceful, and for once in his life Marty did too. Their bodies had been cleaned up and fortunately nothing had damaged their faces, so they were very presentable, as presentable as corpse go. And that’s where I was mad. The police, despite their good intentions, had no leads on the killers. I know they wanted to solve this for Marty’s sake, but I wanted for my mom as well. No leads, the killers had masks and machine guns. I was mad, I felt so helpless and hopeless. I stared at my mom, the only woman who ever gave a damn about me. Bit by bit, I found myself making a new vow, one to avenge her. I spoke it out loud, I figured I couldn’t let her down this time, failure was not an option. As I clasped her hand to say it one final time, my vision exploded in searing pain and vivid imagery.
Tactician: standard (rank 1)
For those of you who have never had an out-of-body experience, I don’t recommend it. It’s shocking, convulsive, and enough to knock you to your knees in half a breath. I was my mom, moments before she was killed. The details of the restaurant, Marty, and his client were even more vivid than when I had been there in person. I myself had just left for the bathroom. My mother was watching me go with a fondness reserved for parents and children. Then she turned her attention to Marty and the work I was doing. I could feel her emotions during this experience, crystal clear. She was genuinely interested in the work I was doing, and she also had a crush on Marty of all things. It puzzled me, but I didn’t have time to dwell on it as events rapidly unfolded. There was a snippet from the client. He was a processor for the Schmelz crime family. That’s code for smuggler in the criminal underworld. He was a shipping clerk for one of the manufacturies in town, one of the largest ones. Apparently he had a side business running guns and explosives for the Schmelzes. What a family to work for. They had a sizable reputation in certain circles for being very professional and ruthless. Anyhow, this client had told them he was getting out of the business and the family did not take it too well. They kidnapped his wife and daughter, told him to keep doing his job or else they would die. He could pick which one would die first. Obviously going to the police was not an option, so this guy discreetly contacted Marty. That’s about all that my mom got before bullets took the unidentified man in the head. My mom turned her head and Marty pulled his concealed pistol from a shoulder holster, but they were no match, not even close. The shooters didn’t speak, they simply opened fire and killed my family and friend. They left without a word.
I let go of my mom’s hands and fell to ky knees, knocking my head on the coffin in the process. Not knowing what to think, I struggled to even breathe, even to exist. Some time later, when the shock of the moment had worn off, I stood up and looked at my mom. Somehow, I knew the vision I received was real, and it was the world’s offer for me to get retribution, some measure of satisfaction. On second thought, it was just retribution. I would never truly be satisfied in a world that took the only people I cared about. So this was it, my chance for revenge, I just had to do it right.
Most children will tell you that homework sucks and doesn’t make a difference in the work they do or the classes they take. Most people who have been adults for a few months or longer will tell you the exact opposite. I had to side with them. After all, I was a junior detective, a gumshoe. Marty had never given me a huge task, he did most of the heavy lifting. But the things I did do were important and necessary. Little things like a phone number, the time of day a certain person is in a given place, the security rotation of a building, any little detail that could help you was essential. With that in mind, I started to plan.
A good cover for a criminal organization is a legitimate business front. Any mafia or mob in a major city will have one. Usually it’s a bar or a casino, a place where you can expect to have a lot of people armed in the open. They’ll claim it’s just security, and in truth it is, they’re just not protecting the things visible to the common passer-by. In this instance, the business was a law firm: Schmelz and Sons. A good cover I must admit, I even think a good portion of the people on the payroll had no idea of the illegal activities going on. And why should they suspect anything? A law firm is there to uphold the law. They specialized in civil suits, mostly in the personal injury area. They were ambulance chasers in a manner of speaking.
The law firm also made my access to them easier. A legitimate business tends to have legitimate clients. I wasn’t one, but if you wave enough money in front of a lawyer, they’ll take your case and look like they’re trying. It was a simple plan. I decided that I didn’t need to look into their eyes before I killed them. In my experience, savoring the moment makes you more twisted and there’s a far greater chance for something to go wrong. I couldn’t afford that. My modus operandi and mindset in place, I began to work in earnest.
Burn It to the Ground
Concussive Weapon: superior (rank 2)
Since I was the executor of Marty’s estate, I inherited some money. Not a fortune, but enough to pay for the funerals, burials, and equipment I needed. I contacted one of Marty’s associates in the slums who was an expert on explosives. I told him my needs and paid cash, he hooked me up and didn’t ask questions. Knowledge is power, but it also makes you more likely to get subpoenaed. In my world, any contact with the law is generally avoided. Anyhow, I also got my hand on some carbon monoxide tanks. It was all I needed.
The office building was 4 stories. The first parking, the second and third were offices, and the fourth was where all the unpleasantries took place. There was a concealed elevator that ran from the parking garage to the top floor. I got myself hit by a car so I could pose as a legitimate client, and that’s when I started making trips to the building. My first trip was a scouting mission and I managed to place remote explosives in the utility box on the second floor and in the parking garage. My second visit was more formal, and I managed to get one into the utility box on the third floor, and well as in several locations throughout the building, especially near some support beams. My third trip was my last, mostly because I knew the whole family would be there that day. It was some big meeting or shipment. I really didn’t care. The point is, I got explosive charges on all the support beams in the parking garage and the carbon monoxide tanks hooked up to the ventilation system. If Mike, my explosive salesman was correct, I had enough stuff to completely incinerate the building and possibly spread fire to the surrounding buildings. I’m not naturally destructive, but I hadn’t taken three months of planning and prep to stop now.
I waited until 7:00 PM and then walked to my vantage point a block away. I said a silent prayer for my mother, then hit the Carbon release trigger. Two minutes later, I blew all the charges. The structure went up in a searing ball of coruscating flames and started to collapse simultaneously. I watched as it burned, waiting to see if anyone came out. No one did. The fire department got there too late. The morning obituaries the next day showed the whole family was gone. I was satisfied. Some secrets are meant to be carried forever, and I knew right then that it would not be a burden, it would be a joy. My joyous pride in knowing what I had done to right the wrongs. It wasn’t enough, but it was the best I could get. I went back to my job at the morgue the next day. The bodies had to be identified with dental records.
So there you have it. That’s the start of my journey to becoming the infamous Mortician. It’s not the whole story, but it’s one of my favorite. I’ve done far worse things to far worse people, but that was for money. This was for love, or the closest thing to love I’ve ever felt. I had done what I needed to do without any physical, tangible reward. It’s honestly the best I’ve ever felt. Sad I know, but when life deals you shit, what more can you expect?