Chapter 1: Serial
It was a pleasantly warm summer morning in west Brooklyn. The sun shone down brightly, street musicians played on the sidewalk, and a great many pedestrians wearing light coats and large hats were journeying up and down the streets, some of them accompanied by children. A young paperboy hopped onto his bicycle in front of a small print shop and began to zip down the road with an invincible smirk.
Meanwhile, in a pierside neighborhood on the other side of the borough, there was another kind of busy chaos happening. A pair of police officers stood guard by a yellow barricade to prevent curious onlookers - or worse yet, curious members of the press - from entering the waterfront side street named Dulce.
Just far enough beyond the barrier that it was difficult to tell what was happening, a slew of law enforcement officials was flying about like bees. Many of them were rapidly jotting down information on clipboards or dictating words to assistants who in turn jotted them down on clipboards. Some were knocking door to door along the crooked row of townhouses opposite the water, interviewing the ethnically Italian residents. One particularly grim-faced officer was kneeling on the ground, hard at work with a roll of white tape and a pair of scissors.
"Excuse me," said David while he tried to jostle as few other people as possible as he wove through the small crowd blocked by the barricade, "Pardon me. Sorry, ma'am!"
Stumbling a little bit as he reached the officers at the barrier, he caught his balance as the two middle-aged men raised eyebrows at him. David reached into the inner pocket of his vest while combing his other hand through disheveled hair. A badge was presented, and the officers stepped aside to allow his passage. Gossipy whispers and the loud click of a camera shutter echoed behind him.
The bustle of the outside world fell away as David approached a ring of serious men wearing dark hats and hovering around a square of yellow crime scene markers. One of them - thin and bespectacled with a dark mustache - saw him nearing and broke away to meet him.
"Homicide?" asked the stranger.
"Yeah," he replied, "I'm David Greenwood - from Detective Marter's team."
"Lester," was the response he received, "From organized crime, as is everybody else here. We've had the scene secured for a while, but the word from up top has been to hold off on the body until you get first crack. Fair warning," Lester said placidly, "Some people ain't too happy about your case getting mixed up in ours."
David nodded in resigned comprehension.
When they arrived at the edge of Brooklyn's newest gruesome display, both men stopped for just a moment to gaze in sadness at the horror before them: the corpse of a boy of no more than nine short years lying prone and mangled on the street. Multiple stab wounds were crusted over with blood and otherwise pristine clothes were darkened with the same. The child's dull, unseeing eyes were still open.
This first sight of the body was a moment that seemed to mute all sounds and make all the rest of the planet unimportant in the face of such a tragedy - after all, who might the boy have been in years to come? A baker? A writer? An artist? - but it was merely a moment and nothing more. The bright flash of a police photographer's camera snapped David out of it as Lester lifted the yellow crime scene tape and gestured for him to duck underneath it.
Lester did not follow him into the square.
David knelt at the body's side. He swallowed a wave of revulsion when the coppery scent of coagulating blood reached his nose.
Quickly and methodically, he analyzed the body's appearance, comparing it to the modus operandi that he had long since memorized. Multiple lacerations around the wrists and ankles, messy and almost careless. A single, perfectly straight, surgically clean slice across the throat. Loose-fitting, neatly pressed, stark white clothes that could have been mistaken for the victim's church outfit should the viewer not know any better.
Although there was little doubt in his mind as to what he would find, David still had to check one last thing. With gloved fingers, he grasped the victim's chin and ran his thumb over the lower lip. Then, he pulled his hand back and pressed his fingertips together.
"Hey," a voice said from above.
David glanced up and blinked in surprise to find a brown-skinned woman standing over him with a bulky camera slung over her shoulder. She was dressed in the kind of frock coat and dark, knee-length skirt that seemed to be in style among New York City women at the moment, but her boots were well-scuffed and looked like those of any man on the police force. Most of her face was shadowed by the brim of a fedora hat sitting atop her head, but David could clearly make out dark bangs over her forehead and the downturned curve of her mouth.
The woman groused, "You're in my shot."
"Oh," replied David penitently, "My apologies, ma'am. I'm finished here anyhow, so I'll just get out of your hair."
He ducked back underneath the crime scene tape and turned left in the direction of Lester. He faltered slightly when he saw that the other officer was occupied by the attention of a stern, gray-haired man who exuded an aura of authority.
David hesitated to interrupt their conversation, but it was the sergeant supervisor who met his eyes and waved him over with two fingers.
"Homicide, right?" asked the man in a way that wasn't truly that of an inquiry, "What can I do to help get you out of here quickly?"
"Uh, I," David stuttered, "I need the vic's name. A-and anything you might have on his routines or his family?"
"Tall order, sonny," scoffed the sergeant, "Kid's surname was Dolph. His daddy's high up in the mob. We got a whole filing cabinet of what you're looking for back at the precinct - and neither you nor that squirrely boss of yours is authorized to see a word of it."
David balked, "But-"
The older man spoke over him, "But the chief wants good reviews on this Broadway show of Marter's, so we'll share information on a strictly need-to-know basis. You get no more than what we decide. Stop by our floor after lunch to talk to a liaison. Till then, scram. Got it?"
"Yes, sir," said David quickly.
There came no acknowledgment of his response. The sergeant simply turned and walked away, going on to bark orders at a pair of officers on the other side of the road.
Lester, whose presence had been forgotten up to this point, took the opportunity to say, "Don't let Aldrin get to you too much. He's like that with just about everybody. Comes from being ex-army, I think."
"Uh, okay," responded David, "Thanks? I guess I'll see you later."
"Possibly," Lester floated back at him idly as he became distracted by his superior's shouting, "Salutations, Greenwood."
On his way back toward the barricade, David was, to his surprise, approached by the photographer from earlier.
"So," said the woman blandly as she walked toward him, "What? Is one minute all it takes to ID your perp?"
"To confirm what Detective Marter wanted me to, yes, miss, it's enough time," answered David.
She raised a questioning eyebrow at him, "I'm 'miss' and not 'ma'am' now?"
David stumbled, "Well, er, from eye-level, you look a lot closer to my age. But that's not to say you looked old from the ground, I mean..."
She seemed amused.
"You're a fresh one, aren't you? New to police work?"
"Not exactly," he replied while tugging self-consciously at the tie around his neck, "I've been on the force nearly three years now."
Recognition lit in her eyes.
"That makes you David Greenwood then, doesn't it? Marter's junior snoop prodigy."
Frowning in slight discomfort, David said, "Well, yes. That'd be me."
"My condolences," she dryly offered, briefly tipping her hat to him, "For the spectacular trainwreck your career is heading toward. Say hi to Chapel Jack for me if Marter ever catches him."
With that, she clapped him hard on the shoulder and left, her boots heavy on the pavement.
Max slammed on the brakes of his bike, rubber tires screeching against the pavement. He pulled up to the ornate gate of the well-kept brick townhouse at the end of the road and hopped off, leaving the bike leaning against the wrought-iron fencing. Dusting off his hands on his dark pants and straightening the collar of his shirt as he always did whenever he was in this nice neighborhood with new electric lights and neat window boxes, he took in a deep breath.
Then, squinting up at an open window on the building's third floor, he gave a sharp wolf-whistle whose shrill echoes traveled all the way back down the block. Once finished, he crossed his arms and waited.
A fierce-eyed young girl whose curly hair was tied back in pigtails poked her head out of the window. The puffy sleeves of her summer-blue dress and the brim of her matching sun hat waved gently in the breeze. She looked down at Max, gave him a wild grin, and then immediately ducked back inside.
A few minutes later, the richly azure front door of the house slammed open, and a child dressed in a baggy, white shirt and dark overalls came sauntering out. Unkempt bangs stuck out from underneath a grey newsboy cap that matched Max's own. The band-aid over the left cheek made it clear that this child was the same girl from the window rather than a brother.
She stopped to grab another bicycle that had been leaning by the steps of her home before rushing out the gate.
"Where to today, Max?" she asked mischievously as she swung a leg around her bike, the sun glinting off the spokes of her tires and the teeth of her smile.
He answered with an equally impish grin as he rolled up his sleeves, "Neil says there's a farmer's market by the south beach. I got two hours before Campbell takes roll, so whaddya say we meet him there and have some fun, Nikki?"
They biked the twenty minutes that it took to get to Brighton Beach and met Neil at their usual spot: underneath the awning of the New Brighton Theater.
The first thing that Max blurted out after getting off his bike was, "Where the fuck did you get that?"
Neil was clutching in his hand a crisp one-dollar bill.
Hapless and bewildered, the pale boy shrugged, replying, "A lady walking by thought I was homeless or something."
With a bark of laughter, Nikki pointed out, "Well, you can't blame her!"
For indeed, the boy's scruffy hair, grease-smudged face, and dirty, disheveled clothing made him out to be something of a pauper. This general appearance of poverty was exacerbated by his thin, gangly frame and wide eyes, which together made him look perpetually young and hungry.
"Come on," Neil complained, "I work in my dad's print shop. You know it's hard to keep everything clean in there," he paused for a moment, "And I don't really know what to do with a dollar today. Why don't you take it, Max?"
Max defiantly refused, "Hell, no. Your broke, Jewish ass earned it fair and square. Now c'mon, let's go steal some shit."
And so for an hour, the three children together hustled and harassed and wrought blissful havoc on the south side of Brooklyn.
The blinds of the large windows behind him were shut such that only thin lines of light snuck through the cracks between slats. With only a lamp in the corner and another on his desk, closed blinds made the office significantly dimmer, but for privacy's sake, it was well worth it.
"I don't particularly appreciate you bringing this business here, Miss D'arcangeles," said the terse voice of Cameron Campbell.
The dark-skinned woman sitting across from him with the demure, light-colored eyes and the unsettling smile played idly with the knot of her white scarf. She shook a lock of honey-colored hair out of her face before matching his gaze.
She responded, "Well, I'm terribly sorry to be an inconvenience, but there are a lot of things in the world that we don't appreciate. Murder, for instance."
She laughed, her voice high and bell-like and cold, "Oh, please, that's not a threat. You see, there's been a high-profile incident very close to my family home. The police are crawling around in sensitive territory. We'd like to move some of our operations elsewhere for the time being, that's all; it just so happens that you owe us."
Agitatedly, Campbell protested, "This is an orphanage!"
"As if that ever stopped you," replied the woman amusedly as she got up to leave, "Have everything ready by tomorrow afternoon. And if you're really worried about your children, don't be. The little ones here won't ever have to know what happens in the dark, if you're careful. As far as they're concerned, it's a laundry service and nothing more."
She picked up her leather purse from the floor and pulled out a compact mirror, making a slow and deliberate show of checking her makeup while Campbell engaged in deep breathing exercises.
Through clenched teeth, the man at last answered, "Fine. With the understanding that this is temporary, fine. One summer only - you tell your father that. Capiche, D'arcangeles?"
"Of course," she said as she got up and walked toward the exit. Then, with her daintily manicured hand on the doorknob, she smiled at him pleasantly and added, "And please, Cameron, call me Jen."
And with the click of heeled slippers on hardwood planks and the swish of a violet dress, she was gone.
Author's Note: I'm also publishing this fic on Archive Of Our Own under the same title.
This story has been based on the Camp Camp fan art and AU concept of the absolutely amazing artist Konoira. Check out his work on DeviantArt or on Tumblr even if you don't read the rest of this fic!