DETECTIVE MOXLEY, Part 26: “Aloysius Tann”
Moxley smelled blood. The door was open and that was bad. Lobby kept his place locked down at all times.
Drawing his gun, Mox crept inside. The lights were on full bright, something else that Lobby never did. Mox picked his steps carefully. The entire living area was coated in blood.
Shebeiskowski’s corpse stared at him from the couch.
Sheb’s eyes were open. So was his mouth. He had died screaming. His ribs were broken outward from his chest, jutting up into the air. A gaping crater had been dug into his chest and abdomen. There were thumb and finger dents in his torn flesh. Moxley was reminded of the way the female synthoid had torn into his arm with her grip. One of the creatures had dug its way into Shebeiskowski, hollowing him out while he was alive to feel it. Moxley felt his stomach churn.
How long? He did the math in his head. It might be half an hour to an hour. If Sheb had hurried to Lobby’s, figuring in the delay while Moxley dealt with the gunmen and then stopped for ammunition for his gun… But it didn’t matter. Whoever had done this was long gone. He searched the apartment, gun ready, but the air was too still. Nothing was moving here. There was no sign of the synthoid corpse Mox had wanted examined, no sign of the evidence he had been counting on to break open this case.
In the back bedroom, he found Lobby.
The smaller man was lying crumpled on the floor between his mattress and the wall. From the bizarre angles of his limbs, Moxley could tell Lobby’s bones had been broken. It wasn’t a beating. The damage was too thorough. It was methodical, systematic. Lobby had been interrogated by whomever — or whatever — had killed him. Moxley dropped awkwardly to one knee and put a pair of fingers against Lobby’s neck.
Lobby’s right eye fluttered open. His left was swollen shut. The right was nearly as bad and full of blood. He managed a smile. Some of his teeth were missing.
“Mox,” he whispered. “Sorry.”
“Lobby,” said Moxley, supporting the man’s head and neck as gently as he could. He lifted Lobby up a bit, hoping to make it easier for him to breathe. “Who did this? What happened?”
“You’ve… got to…” He closed his eye again.
“Got to what, Lobby? Got to what? Lobby!”
“Six,” whispered Lobby. “Six. Eight.”
Lobby did not answer. Moxley eased the smaller man’s head to the floor. Putting his back to the wall, Mox sat next to the body, his arm and the useless gun he held resting on one knee.
There was no death rattle. There was no final shift of Lobby’s body, nothing to draw a line between his life and the end of it. Lobby was just dead.
Moxley put his gun on the floor, put his head in his hands, and wept.
* * *
“Made a mess of this, didn’t you?”
Moxley, from his hospital bed, stared at the investigator. The man standing at the foot of the bed was tall and thin, with hatchet features. He wore a cheap suit, cheaper even than the ones Web favored, possibly even disposable.
Web. Moxley fought the urge to scream.
“You don’t strike me as the kind of guy can afford to lose friends this way,” said the investigator. “Maybe you should think about that the next time you pull a gun in a crowd. If there is a next time. Maybe they’ll just pull your license. I have to think maybe it’s decision-making like this that put you where you are today. Oh, I checked the public records on you, Harold Moxley. Plenty of interesting fodder in there. Such as your wife—”
“Say another word,” said Moxley, “and I will get out of this hospital bed and beat you to death with this.” He indicated the metal pole holding up his IV bag.
The investigator stared at him for a moment. Finally, he said, “The woman who was caught in the crossfire is named Rena Terry. I’m afraid her attorneys don’t see it quite as simply as you and the late Mr. Weber must have.”
“We were conducting a duly authorized inquiry into a fraud case,” said Moxley. “The subject of the inquiry, Aloysius Tann, is a known con-man.”
“So of course you confronted him in the Jervois Street public market in the midst of hundreds of innocent bystanders.”
“We’ve been tracking him for weeks,” said Moxley. “We had to take him when we found him. He’s been evading custody for months.”
“You don’t consider it reckless to provoke a violent criminal in a public place?”
“He had no record of violence. We had no way of knowing he would shoot his way out. He’s been arrested dozens of times and never once offered any resistance.”
“A good detective does his homework,” said the investigator.
“And that’s what we did. That’s what Web did.”
“Mister Weber, unfortunately, cannot speak for himself.”
Moxley felt his teeth grind together. “No,” he said. “He can’t. Tann shot him three times.”
“You may be interested to know,” said the investigator, “that Tann was recently convicted of several counts of conspiring to traffic narcotics on the mainland. It seems that Northam authorities have been monitoring his travels for quite some time as part of a larger investigation into drug movements from Hongkongtown to the continent.”
Moxley felt the blood drain from his face. “They sealed the records,” he said. “They sealed them to protect their investigation. That’s why we didn’t know.”
“That’s right,” said the investigator. “Aloysius Tann had too many priors. If he were caught again, he was facing a life sentence in the Promontory. Cornered rats are dangerous, Mister Moxley.”
Moxley closed his eyes. Web was dead. Mox was wounded, a bullet through the leg that had developed a nasty infection. An innocent woman had been shot during the gunfight. Everything was falling apart.
“I gave you my statement,” he said at last. Opening his eyes, he stared down the man in the cheap suit. “You’ve got what you want. I was within my rights. Now get out.”
“Very well,” said the investigator. “I don’t envy you what comes next, Mister Moxley.”
“Rena Terry, of course,” said the man. “She’s quite wealthy. I suspect this will be an albatross around your neck for some time. Even if she doesn’t have a case, I imagine she can hound you for years.”
“That’s wash,” said Moxley. “I did what I was supposed to do. I wasn’t negligent. I’m good at my job.”
“What you’re good at, Mister Moxley,” said the man in the cheap suit, “is making enemies.”