It was late at night and he was running. His time was running out and he knew it, every lost second was a life and death threatening. He wasn’t a religious man, but now he was praying, simply and desperately.
People began crowding into the streets. Strangers passed by him as ghosts who drifted through the night like shadows, blocking his passage. The annoying glow of the neon streetlights illuminated the dark buildings around him, it was so goddamn cold. Wei Wuxian was half blind with fear and a stupid headache was starting to build behind his temple, while his heart began to thud against his ribs. Cold sweat was running down his neck and the pain in his chest was simply brutal, but he kept running despite of it.
He shouted something. He couldn't really understand what he was saying, blood was rushing in his eyes, a shrill noise in his ear, and his heart was beating too loud. The only thing in his mind was the little child in yellow clothes, being carried through a disorganized horde of people in front of him. He ran as fast as he could. Adrenaline was the only thing guiding him. Desperate steps, sharp breath, burning lungs, everything was a mess. This could be his last chance, so he kept going, falling, scrambling up and running again. Slamming into random people and shouting incomprehensible words at them, focusing only on the two bodies ahead him.
The man holding the child entered a nightclub in an attempt to mislead him. His gun was in his hand when he hit the door with his shoulder, badge hanging on his wrist. He quickly made his way through the mess and smoke. People fell around him, heaping in fear of the weapon in his hand, bottles were smashed on the floor, tables were turning, and suddenly, the ground turned into a sea of shattered glass and cheap liquor.
Blood spurted from his nose and he almost choked on his own blood, he could smell the metallic scent of it, dripping from the wound in his chest. The man in front of him, who fell into a dead-end, with nowhere to run and cornered between the tables and the club counter, raised a small hunting knife to the boy's throat, the same knife he used to stab him a few minutes earlier.
He heard the child shout his name and time seemed to stop. Too terrified to move, he stopped, his fingers brushing the warm metal of the gun. He could see the fear in the boy’s face, his small almond-shaped eyes glinting with tears. In a desperate move, he pointed the gun, pressing the trigger until he heard the...
He snapped his eyes open, there were no sleepy mists in them now. They were pure and hard serendibite. The bedroom was completely dark, an annoying noise was pounding inside his ears. He quickly sat on the bed, a thin bead of sweat dripped down his neck.
The scenes still seemed to be going on slow-motion inside his head. He was shuddering, clammy with wet hair stuck to his face and tears in his eyes. Nightmares surely were always more frightening in the dark.
He got up and went to the bathroom. When he switched on the lamp, light overshadowed his eyes causing the pain in his head to throb strongly. He looked at his own face in the mirror with disgust, dark circles evident around grey eyes, gaping mouth and white deep cheeks, he looked like a wild cat who just got run over by a taxi.
Well, he’d killed the man. But, what choice he had?
“There was nothing I could do!” He exploded, hitting his knuckles in the mirror, blood printed in the shattered glass before him. “Nothing I could do to stop any of it!”
The images flooded back into his brain. All the blood, the smell of putrid death mixed with the scent of liquor. The horror evident in the child's eyes. There would be pain, physical and emotional, such an innocent life, permanently traumatized.
He still had nightmares, flashbacks of that night, and he couldn't simply avoid them.
He turned to the sink, washing the blood on his knuckles and throwing cold ice water in his face, in attempt to erase those sick memories. Only after a lot of time, absorbed in his own dark thoughts, did he realize that his phone was ringing.
He stared at the screen, wide-eyed.
9 Missed Calls from Jiang Cheng.
“Fucking hell, I’m fucking fucked!”
He stripped speedily, letting his clothes lay wherever they dropped, rushing to find clean pieces he could put on. As soon as he located his black leather boots, he tugged them on and shoved them in. He picked up his phone and returned the call. When the call connected he choked on the tooth brush in the middle of his teeth.
“Where the fuck are you, you piece of shit!?”
“If I told you that I am stuck on traffic, will you believe me?”
“Hell no!” he shouted.
“I won't break any traffic laws just to get on time!” he pretended to be insulted.
“I've heard you gagging at the tooth brush, you shithead.”
“Okay, you've caught me, spare my life, I'm your little brother!”
“And I’m still your fucking boss! Bring your goddamn ass right here, right now!”
“I’m on my way, I’ll bring you coffee, love you!”
Laughing, he hung up on Jiang Cheng’s face while jumping down the stairs of his building.
He stopped at the coffee shop next to his apartment and ordered two coffees, one black and pure, and the other, a vanilla latte with caramel and cinnamon, both extra-large. The fastest way to an officer's heart, is strong and quality coffee.
Half an hour later he was standing in front of the Police Department, two cups of coffee in his hands and a grin in his mouth.
The minute he stepped off the elevator, there was a commotion. Too many people in the hallway and a hysterical Jiang Cheng shouting loud to a dozen of officers while three prisoners were pressed with their faces on the floor, struggling wildly.
“I assume we have a nice little mess on our hands.”
Suddenly, a finger pointed at his face and a pair of murderous eyes stared at him.
“You-are-fucking-late! One-fucking-hour!” Jiang Cheng growled and grabbed the two coffees from his hand. He walked to his office’s door and stood, slowly turning his face to glare at Wei Wuxian’s face. “Take fucking care of this!” and then, he slammed the door on everyone’s face.
"Hey! The black coffee is mine!" Wei Wuxian shouted.
"Shut up!" he heard the muffled voice replying through the closed door.
Still smiling, he turned slowly, deadly calm, his lips curved broadly, but there was no smile in his eyes, just cold and dreadful entertainment. The room that was noisy a minute ago, was now extremely silent. Scanning the hallway, his gaze dropped to the three prisoners on the floor. He disinterestedly crouched in front of them, all the glances in the room fixed and intent on him, when he finally spoke, his voice was low and raw.
“You guys know that we have security cameras in the lobby, right?” he smirked at them, their faces dropping pale. “So, I'll get the record of each one of you, and I'll include riot, attempted assault on officers on duty and since you already have passage for contact with black market sources on illegal drugs transfer, I'll make sure myself that neither of you will ever leave the jail.”
The three looked at each other and remained silent, like three docile cubs.
“You can take them now.” the officers who were holding them, lifted the three men and led them toward the cells.
The main floor was quiet now, and he was absently thinking about the report he would have to do, now that he was involved in the commotion. He hated paperwork. He preferred the problem, causing trouble for other cops was always more fun.
Grinning, he dreamily thought of his coffee, and how it would look good with a spicy sandwich stuffed in his stomach.
“You know you have no jurisdiction in the Illegal Drugs department, right?” a sweet gentle voice sounded behind him.
"Well, I know, but they don't." he laughed happily, turning to find his best friend standing behind him. “So, what are you doing here in the homicide division, Wen Ning?” he slid an arm around his shoulders.
“Just passing by.” he replied gently.
“And how are you? Adjusting well in the toxicology division?”
“Yes! A lot, actually, I loved the lab, it's huge and the staff is very kind and funny.”
“Glad to hear, not missing the morgue?”
“No way! I can’t stand looking at those corpses anymore” he sighed in relief. “But I miss working with my sister.”
“I’m pretty sure she misses you too.”
“Well, I have my doubts.” he left out a small chuckle. “I have to get going Sir.”
“Why are you calling me sir?”
“You're still my Senior Lieutenant, sir.”
“Well, theoretically yes, but you're still my best friend, so there's no need for so many formalities.”
“Okay then.” He smiled a little. “Dinner is up at our house this weekend?”
“I'll be there, you and Wen Qing better prepare something spicy or I'll get mad!"
“We will!” He said, walking back to the labs facilities.
Seeing Wen Ning walking down the hall, Wei Wuxian stared at the commander's closed door.
Breathing deeply, he slowly opened the door.
Jiang Cheng was on the phone, frowning, as usual. He waved his hand, shook his head, then signaled for him to come in and sit down.
Wei Wuxian, not paying attention to the conversation his brother was having on the phone, picked up his black coffee that was still untouched and sipped.
He groaned as he felt the bitter, strong taste of pure coffee trickling down his throat, burning through his mouth. It was fucking good.
Jiang Cheng turned a small cardboard box toward him and his eyes widened when he realized that several different donuts were in the box, some of them were Lava Donuts, filled with dark chocolate and tabañero hot sauce. He smiled and murmured silently “I fucking love you.” which Jiang Cheng answered by raising a middle finger towards him. He chuckled a little and nibbled half a donut in one bite.
Revived with coffee and the fiery pastry flaming his sweet tooth, he felt thrilled with the sugar running in his veins, Wei Wuxian turned back to his brother who had wiped off the grin and assumed a blank, professional expression.
Jiang Cheng hung up the phone and sighed heavily.
“We have a problem.” He narrowed his eyes, straining to hold his own snapping temper in check.
"New case?" Wei Wuxian shoved the coffee aside.
Jiang Cheng picked up from one of his drawers a file, and this was a file of which he was well aware of.
“Double murder, kidnapping attempted and a missing child. The crime scene has just been discovered, I just got the call.”
Wei Wuxian swallowed, his throat was tight and his stomach uneasy.
“Who's the officer in charge of the scene?”
“Well, I was going to tell you right now, before I got the call so unexpectedly.” Jiang Cheng rolled his eyes. “You’ll have an intern starting today, he is under your supervision, and he was the first to attend the signal.”
“What the fuck?! You know very well that I work alone!”
“Not anymore! The kid is an exact fucking copy of you, I really had no one to train him better than you, so shut the fuck up and accept it.”
“Okay, okay, I'll try for the greater good, but I don’t ensure that I won’t traumatize the brat and he will come back crying asking for transfer.”
“Well, if it gets to that point, I'll put him with another officer, some senior detective, poor kid.”
“Now, tell me about that case.”
“Well, by the case descriptions, maybe, just maybe, it can be related to Jin Ling's kidnapping two months ago. Apparently, the couple was found in the same way Jin Ling's nanny was when they found the body and the modus operandi is quite the same, so I'm designating you for this case.”
Absently, Wei Wuxian pressed his fingers to the glass in the table, felling the chill in his skin.
"You and I have a personal tie to this case, so I'm warning you to keep your sanity and your professionalism, save your personal ethics. This is reality. If you can't handle the burden, I'll have to put you away from the case." His eyes remained level, cool. "Am I clear?"
“Don’t worry about it, I can do it.”
“Wei Wuxian, you can’t forget that you have a target nailed to your back, and things will get worse, and more personal.”
“Just leave it to me Jiang Cheng, I can take care of myself.”
“I know, and that is why I'm choosing you, again.” Jiang Cheng gave him a mild smile. “Wei Wuxian, look at me. I really shouldn’t put you in this case, as I shouldn’t have put you in the previous one either. I have all the ethical reasons to take you miles away from this. You are too emotionally involved and it can affect your judgment, it can affect you in a lot of ways, but, as your boss and professional co-worker, not as your brother and not as Jin Ling’s uncle, in the same hand, you are the only person I trust to handle this. I know you are the only one able to close this case, actually, you’re the only one who is capable enough to do this.” He frowned and met his open stare equally.
“But, if it gets through you, if affects you, if you mess this up, you’ll have to step back, even more because of the sudden case and the evidences the team had picked up from the crime scene. I asked you because there’s no one I trust more. Here is the address, your trainee detective is already waiting for you at the crime scene, I think is better for you to see for yourself…”
When he looked at the paper in his hand, he felt like he was going to throw up. The fear, the panic, they were all the way back again, he felt so cold he feared his bones would shatter. His eyes were dry, but huge, his fear was growing while he read the words on the small paper.
“Oh, Christ.” His voice skipped and shivered.
“Wei Ying, I’m here.” Jiang Cheng leaned forward and touched his hand. “If you think it's too much and you can't handle it...”
“I can! And I will.” he reached for a cigarette to keep himself sane.
It was worse, beyond any doubt, when the address of a new case was a known address, a place he knew and people he loved.
“If you don’t feel well, you can always talk to A-Li.”
“I’m okay, I got this.”
“Don't force yourself too much.”
He got up and walked to the door.
“Will you talk to them about what happened?”
“I'm going down to the lab area soon after you leave, I'll talk to them about it.” The weakness was present in Jiang Cheng's eyes. “I'm going to give them a few days off, but I imagine they won’t accept it.”
“I know. Wen Qing will want to take the case, it's personal, and there's no one better than her to take care of it, anyway.” his breath was a harsh burn in his throat.
“Thank you for trusting me with this Jiang Cheng, I won't disappoint you.”
“I only expect the best from you, but please, take care of yourself, you got the whole mafia in your ass for killing Wen Xu that night and I definitely don't want your stupid body dropping on my morgue, so please, be careful.”
He made it to the door before the trembling start again, closing it behind him.
The past could come back to haunt, he knew. Most often it remained in some ghostly corner waiting to strike.
Though his mouth sadly curved, the bitter smile didn't touch his eyes.
Death came for him again, and he had a duty, to the innocent and to the dead.
And he would avenge them.