Something you should know about me right off the bat is that I am the LAPD’s bitch.
It isn’t The Man keeping me down.
It isn’t a rogue cop with an agenda.
It’s my own fault.
This is important to keep in mind as I chronicle my latest adventures as the Hooligan…
I’ve got the satellite dish fired up, watching Scotland take on Moldova. It’s 2-0 for the Tartan Army, 87th minute, when the phone rings. Sure enough, it’s my guy at the LAPD, requesting another “job.” It seems that a rap superstar named Arthur Paindragon (Vanguard assures me his nickname is “Ice”) became a victim of spontaneous combustion while performing at a large concert. I’d seen a bit about it on the news, but I’m not much of a rap fan – if it’s not outlawed tunes on outlawed pipes, it’s shit.
Of course, it’s interesting to note that Mr. Paindragon was not the first person in the L.A. area to go up in smoke on their own recently. He was the eighth person in the past few months – which made me wonder why the LAPD was just now getting around to really looking into things, but hey - what do I know? Apparently this Paindragon fellow was popular with the kids, and so the media attention has been pretty negative.
You have to give the LAPD credit, though – they don’t ask me to collar the perp. They just ask me to clean up.
I like to clean up.
I don’t have a lot to go on other than the list of victims and a newspaper report that a gang called the Oguans had taken credit. My first impulse, no matter how misguided, was to seek out my favorite ambulance company owner, but he wasn’t in. My buddy Price was, however, and told me what he knew – which amounted to jack.
My next move was to head down to the Councilman’s office. Hope that the Flea would be there as well. Three heads working on the problem had to be better than my battered noggin.
The councilman was in with his ward…err, intern…and the three of us set to work – I delving into my knowledge of the L.A. underground, the councilman using his network of contacts, and the Flea scampering all over the Inter-Net to fill in the holes.
We managed to dig up the following about the eight victims…
Crysta Gayle – exotic dancer at an establishment called “The Creamery”
Jason Bakerfield – LAPD detective
Bob Wilkins – techie at Gablesoft and hacker whose online handle was “RadioFlyer”
Darla Chase – middle management at Yoshima Corp.
Jengis Kwan – leader of a local gang known as the “Mongol Horde”
Aleph Gradinger – pharmaceutical scientist at Fordham ChemTec
John Taggart – no info; killed outside a 7-11
Arthur Paindragon – rapper
Items we learned while delving into the list…
§ I went down to The Creamery (which was HARD work) and tried to find out anything I could about Crysta. I learned that she had been laid up with a respiratory illness, that when she came back she was dancing “better than ever,” and that another dancer named “Jessica” may have had it out for her.
§ Vanguard talked with Bakerfield’s former partner, Detective Gehl. They were investigating the Shadowfists, the gang which controls most of the L.A. drug trade. Bakerfield had apparently learned the location of a factory which was manufacturing Flame, a new designer drug. I learned that the Shadowfists were the ones who ended the New Guardians as a superhero group. Also found out that the poor bastard had colitis, and that he was “itchy” before he went up in flames.
§ The Flea found some interesting info on Bob Wilkins. Internet rumors had it that he: developed a crippling ‘net virus, was killed by a computer program which could remotely incinerate people, and was new to the internet. None of this information could be corroborated, so we left it alone.
§ Darla Chase was a woman with no family and no friends, apparently. Career driven, perhaps?
§ Vanguard set to work on the Mongol Horde and found out they were readying to take some turf from the Tiger Claw gang in Chinatown until their leader (Jengis Kwan) was stabbed in the kidney.
§ Vanguard had a chat with Gradinger’s widow, and found out he had been working on a secret project at ChemTec. He had been laid up recently with chemical burns and had received skin grafts as a result. The Flea couldn’t make anything of the files that Vanguard brought back, so I called a friend of mine in the Chemistry department at USC to try and decipher the mess.
§ The Flea learned that Taggart ran an illegal gambling parlor called the “Pair-a-Dice Club.” He was charged in connection with the club, but charges were dropped before he could come to trial.
§ Paindragon had recently checked into the Jim Morrison Center for Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation. Interesting.
There seemed to be a pattern with the medical problems, although they didn’t pop up for everyone on the list. We decided to put that possibility on the backburner and go get some firsthand info from the Mongols. (As a side note – why do I always have to drive? Why does no one ever chip in for gas? It’s bloody ridiculous. The AMC Pacer was NOT intended to hold more than, well, me. I could look past that if I got A FEW BUCKS here and there from my comrades.)
I lurked in the shadows across the street while Vanguard had a chat with some loitering Mongols. Why did I lurk? Because Vanguard wanted to get the info from them without any physical violence. Flea seemed to agree. I pouted.
Irony of this? Vanguard managed to start a fight with them. It was nice to crack my knuckles a bit – it had been a while – but these poor guys weren’t much of a challenge for three of us. Hence the reason I wanted to do it by myself.
The Mongols did reveal that:
A) The Oguans had killed Jengis
B) When Jengis had been stabbed before that a “Dr. Black” had treated him
C) A pair of paramedics named Gasser and Mack knew where to find Dr. Black
We didn’t get a chance to follow up immediately on these leads, however, as a return trip to the Hoolimobile revealed a pair of misfits reclining on my hood. Before I could give them a proper Scottish greeting, we learned they were Oguans and had been sent by Ignatius, the leader of the gang. Apparently, he was under the impression that we were looking to join the bunch? Lord Almighty.
Their compound – and I use that term generously – was an old house surrounded by a high fence. A high fence and a bunch of drugged out freaks, to be specific. We had a chat with the locals, namely Ignatius, who soon learned the error of his ways and decided to do us in. For the record, Vanguard once again goaded them into a brawl – and I’m the one who can’t be trusted in group settings?
There were some nasty villains involved. Guillotine? Ugh. Pain. Lots of flying blades. Lots of diced Scotsman. As usual, yours truly took one for the team and got beat to hell while the rest of them got to show off. (Did I mention the Merc with the auto cannon? Ack.)
(Did I mention we won’t be seeing Guillotine again? Heh heh.)
We apprehended a woman trying to leave. Lara. She was a hacker of some sort. I let the Flea and the Councilman deal with her. What she gave us was enough for us to realize that Ignatius and the Oguans had NOTHING to do with these spontaneous combustions. Ahh well. Back to square one.
Vanguard came up with the bright idea of raiding this Flame factory that Det. Bakerfield had been investigating. I have no objection to getting this garbage off the streets, so I went along amiably. What I will have an objection to from now on is dropping into the middle of a large combat through the skylight. We dealt with some run of the mill thugs for a bit until I started sparring with one who seemed way too strong to be in the mook business. Sure enough, a few head butts started to flake some skin off, and a few kicks to the groin were met with a loud TING!-ing sound. Cyborg. Great. The good news is that the ‘borg thought it would be funny to lift me off the ground by the throat. So there I am – dangling from a robotic hand, everything starting to go black, Vanguard cheering me on (NOT HELPING, MIND YOU. THE BLOODY GIT WAS STANDING THERE WITH HIS ARMS CROSSED SAYING CLEVER THINGS LIKE, “Uhh, go Hooligan. That guy’s a chode. Huh huh. Huh huh. I said chode.”) when who should appear in the doorway buy Justin Grishom.
My first villain. From way back in the day. Trying to scare convenience store owners into selling. I told him what I thought of his dastardly plan and resorted to fisticuffs.
He beat me pretty bad.
Justin sees me dangling there and says (and I’m still seething about this one) “Don’t I know you?”
I managed to choke out a weak, “I believe we’ve met.”
His reply – and I’m really still seething about this one – “Didn’t…didn’t I kill you?”
My clever reply – “Aaaaaaaach…”
Justin thought things were well in hand, so he walked away. Just walked away. Someday he’s going to pay for a lot of things. I have to tell myself that. He’s got one coming. Well, really, he’s got several coming.
Somehow, we managed to emerge victorious even with my lack of breathing and Vanguard’s later lack of consciousness. That Flea, man – what a powerhouse. I corralled a few techies by making my “England 5 Scotland 0?!?” face and snarling. They cowered like little Welsh girls.
Flea got a look at the ingredients of Flame and quickly decided that no, this wasn’t causing anyone to blow’d up. Dead end again. At least we got the place shut down and got a little bit of it off the streets. Of course, as we take a minute to celebrate, some weird lookin’ git – all black, with stars and such swirling around his “body” – drops in through the skylight, smiles at us, and tosses a bomb into the factory, which lead us to, ahh, “skedaddle”.
We finally decide to check and see if the others on the list had ailments of some sort, and sure enough, they had. Everyone on the list had been a transplant recipient recently. We split up – Flea decided to tail Mack and Gasser, while Vanguard and I shoved off for the hospital to find out about the transplants – they’d all been performed by some sort of “independent contractor”, and we wondered what was up.
Turns out every one of them had acquired their organs illegally. They’d been way down on their respective organ lists and jumped right to the top. The doctor we spoke with (whose name I’ll withhold for his protection) explained that he was ill at ease with these procedures, and that they had all been performed by Dr. Black. He thought maybe the Chinese Tongs were supplying the organs.
Shortly after this conversation, we get a radio shout from the Flea, saying, “I followed Gasser and Mack. Guess what they were doing!”
Vanguard and I replied in unison, “Harvesting illegal organs?”
After a slight pause, the Flea regained his composure and said, “How did you…well, I followed them all the way…”
Vanguard cut in. “…to Dr. Black’s office?” Now, was it anyone else I know, they would have been loathe to speak any more. Not the Flea. He’s unflappable. He makes your average help-an-old-lady-across-the-street Boy Scout look like your average help-a-young-altar-boy-across-his-lap priest. A real straight shooter.
The Flea seemed to think that whatever drug Dr. Black was using in his patients to fight rejection may have been the cause of the combustion. A quick trip to his office allowed me to flex my lock picking skills – well, to be fair, my ramming-my-head-through-a-door skills – and we were in. Then I found the alarm. Got to get better about that. Do it ahead of time from now on.
We didn’t find much in the office proper, but I managed to find a secret door in one of the examination rooms and got it open without much trouble. The hallway it revealed led to a lab, but as we stepped in, a computer voice asked for the password. Before either the Flea or I could do anything, Vanguard says, “Uhh, Klatu Verata Neck (cough cough cough).” Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when the doors slammed shut and the pleasant hiss of gas escaping into the room could be heard.
For a while, things get hazy. I think the gas got to me a little worse than it did Vanguard or the Flea. I’m told that Flea and I managed to break us out of the room through another door, only to wade into a mess of Tongs with machine guns. They gave us very little trouble. (I find this hard to believe. .50 caliber slugs hurt.) Vanguard flung one of them down an elevator shaft, and then talked me into patching the bastard up. (It had to be the gas. Or his constant sniveling about protecting every human life – even the bad ones.) The next floor up was a surgery, well stocked, but nothing out of the ordinary. Another floor up gave us more Tongs, and a slew of super baddies. My particular fight was with some arsehole named Speedfreak, who moved like the bloody wind. He did me in pretty good. Also, Dr. Black thought it might be fun to take a scalpel and cut me up a little while I was out. (Needless to say, there will be payback for that one. Lots of payback.) Vanguard and the Flea overcame some nasty nasty baddies – Vanguard still babbles about one called Decay (to be fair, Decay f***ed Vanguard up pretty good – I patched him up as best I could) – but Dr. Black got away.
Vanguard managed to find a few papers Dr. Black hadn’t destroyed, and pieced together the awful truth of the situation – unbeknownst to the bad doctor, he had been using a supply of organs harvested from vampires. (Editor’s note – this can only go well.) The recipients would burst into flames as soon as they went out into the sunlight. We destroyed the rest of the organs and called in my good friends with the LAPD to clean up what I hadn’t cleaned up.
At this point, my job with the police was over, but we clearly couldn’t allow this sort of thing to continue. Flea and I decided to assume our normal identities and head to the Tech Noir, a place where members of this Vampire gang were rumored to hang out. Let me tell you – a pipe-smoking man in a tweed jacket doesn’t look as Goth as you might think; yet we were able to get in touch with a girl who said she could lead us to the people we needed. She gave us the address (TRAP!) of (TRAP!) a (TRAP!) moderately (TRAP!) old (TRAP!) moderately (TRAP!) rundown (TRAP!) warehouse (TRAP!) on (TRAP!) the (TRAP!) docks (TRAP! TRAP! TRAP!). Vanguard reasoned that they wouldn’t realize we were paranormal, and I listened (TRAP!). We knew it was probably a trap, but we thought we could handle ourselves – and Vanguard planned to come along and help if things got rough.
We got to meet the head chick. She asked if we were the people who’d raided Dr. Black’s operation. I was a little taken aback, but we decided honesty was the best policy (TRAP!). We said yes. She asked what we’d done with the organs. Flea told her we’d destroyed them. She asked if we’d told anyone the awful truth. We assured her we had not, that we were men of our word. She said, “Good, good…you may kill them now,” and that’s when the vampires jumped out of the shadows.
Oddness begins at this point. As Flea and I went back to back…or is that ankle to back?...the cavalry arrived. By cavalry, I mean Vanguard…Trauma…Triple Forte…and that strange writer guy. Mason? I think it’s Mason. The fight was on. The vampires…and it gets even more odd here…beat up on some of the other members of the team, but not this guy. I was still on my feet at the end. Unscratched. Unscathed. (Side note – is it bad if members of the team had their blood sucked by vampires?)
We learned that the local mob, which was all but destroyed by the Shadowfists, had decided to go immortal and become vampires. That’s PERFECTLY natural. We also learned that Flea unwittingly told the woman who I presume was the head vampire everything he knew about us…you know – addresses, phone numbers, secret identities.
Un-freaking-believeable. So that’s on the agenda next, I suppose – getting to her before she gets to … well, whatever it is she plans on doing with this info.