Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Pokémon Detective; The Counterfeit Badge - part 4

[Note: "Pokémon", the Pokémon world, Pokémon creatures and some characters I've used are property of Nintendo and Gamefreak.]

Chapt. 9
       A drive of a few minutes brought them to a slightly run-down section of town with small apartment buildings. Monica stopped in front of a narrow two-story, red-brick building with a white front door. It stood out from the rest of the neighborhood; it was beautifully restored, the red brick was clean and the white trim freshly painted. They went up the front steps and Mike knocked on the door. There was no answer. Trying the door they found it was locked. He looked around, “The curtains are drawn. That’s a little odd for the middle of the day. Let’s check the back.”
       A narrow driveway led them to a garage and a small yard at the back of the building. As they walked towards the back door, Pearl nudged Mike and pointed to the top of the garage. They looked up to see that, in contrast to the well-kept appearance of the rest of the property, the shingles were torn up over a large portion of the roof. Monica said, “I don’t like the looks of that, it looks like it happened recently. Check the door.”
       Mike turned the door knob and the door opened. The stench of death hit him like a sucker-punch to the nose. He cursed fluently. Holding a handkerchief to his face he stepped into a small kitchen. Following his nose he walked through a hall towards the front of the house and into a sitting room and switched on the light. Sprawled on the floor was the body of a man. He was wearing blue silk pajamas and lay in a large pool of dried blood.
       Monica had followed him into the room and stood staring at the corpse. Mike said, “Well, I don’t think Mr. Bets will be able to give us any information.”
       “Was he shot?”
       “I’d say so. Happened a couple of days ago from the looks of it. You can see what I meant about the amount of blood. Let’s take a little look around before you call this in.” He noticed Pearl standing in the doorway – she looked rather ill. “Pearl, you can wait at the back door if you want.”
       The body was lying on its back. They easily found the three bullet wounds. One had torn a chunk out of the side of the man’s abdomen and there were two in the chest. As Monica and Mike started looking around, Pearl called out from the kitchen. They rushed in and found Pearl pointing beneath a small dining table. They looked and saw a small, dull, metallic-yellow cylinder. Mike picked it up and recognized it as an empty pistol cartridge. Looking around, they found two more empty cartridges and Pearl found one in the corner opposite from the door that still had the bullet in it. Finding a white towel, he laid it on the table and put the four cartridges on it.
       “Monica, let me borrow your cell phone. Open those curtains and turn on the light please.” He then took photos of each of the empty casings as well as the unexpended cartridge. He thought a moment then took a fifth photo showing the base of the full cartridge and the letters stamped into it. He then punched a number into the phone; it was picked up after the first ring. Mike switched to speaker-phone mode.
       “Rawlson speaking.”
       “Pete? Mike. We found something that may help us out. We’ve got another body, but this time we found the empty cartridges.”
       “Excellent! Hang on, I’m going to make a conference call. I’ve been in contact with the Curator of a military museum.” The phone clicked a few times, then Pete said; “Go ahead Mike, Curator Watanabe is on the line.” Introductions were made and the Curator greeted them.
       “Okay, we found another body, he’d been shot three times and we found three empty casings and one unfired casing.”
       The Curator asked; “Where were the cartridges in relation to the body?”
       “They were in a completely different room. The body was in a room at the front of the house, and the cartridges in the kitchen at the back.”
       “Ah, probably a ‘revolver’ type of pistol then. You have to remove the empty cartridges manually. Can you describe the cartridges to me?”
       “I can do better than that Professor, I took photos on the phone I’m using. We can send them. Do you have a cell phone or an e-mail address I can send them to?”
       The Curator gave an e-mail address and Mike handed the phone to Monica. She sent the five photos then handed the phone back.
       After a very few minutes the Curator came back on the line; “Yes, yes, I recognize those. They are from a very old model revolver called a ‘Webley’, we have a couple of them here. It held six cartridges, the bullets were ‘point four-five-five’, meaning they were almost half an inch in diameter. The bullets were made of soft lead.”
       Monica asked, “isn’t lead poisonous?”
       “Well, yes, it is, but that’s hardly a concern when you’re on the receiving end of the pistol. The close-up of the cartridge base, was it one of the fired ones or the unfired one?”
       “The unfired,” answered Mike.
       “I had hoped so. You’ll notice there is a round dent in the center part there, like you’ll see on the other three. That means whoever was firing the pistol had attempted to fire that cartridge, but it didn’t go off. Those cartridges would be almost as old as the gun and some of them may not work very well.”
       Mike thought that could be to their advantage. “Professor Watanabe, you said the pistol held six cartridges, right? How long would it take to reload after you’d fired those six?”
       Watanabe briefly explained how the pistol worked. He described how the pistol would “break-open” at the top with a hinge point just in front of the trigger, the shooter would then dump the empty cartridges out, and have to then manually load six fresh cartridges. “All told, I would expect that a person who had some practice with the gun could fully reload in twenty seconds or so. If they haven’t had much practice, probably more like thirty or forty seconds, maybe longer. There were devices which were perfected in the early to mid-Twentieth Century that allowed all six cartridges to be loaded at once. If your shooter has one or more of these so-called ‘speed loaders’ they can probably reload in less than ten seconds.
       “Now about the bullets fired by this gun, they’re subsonic – slower than the speed of sound. It won’t make much difference if the shooter is close to you, but if they’re a hundred or a hundred and fifty meters away, you might hear the gun being fired before the bullet gets to you. You may have one or two seconds to react.
       “One other thing Detective, if someone is pointing one of these Webleys at you, try to not let them shoot you. Those are pretty large bullets and they will do a lot of damage. Try to get behind a big rock, or brick wall or a tree. Okay?”
       “Thanks Professor Watanabe, we’ll do our best to stay safe.”
       After the Curator disconnected Rawlson told him; “Mike, this second murder ups the ante, you’ve got to find this guy and stop him.”
       “We’ll do our best …” and he rang off.
       “Okay, Mike. Just how are we going to find him?”
       “First, let’s finish checking around here. Even though Billy’s business wasn’t strictly legal, he still had to keep some records. See if we can find a computer or anything else that might help.”
       They found a small library across the hall from the sitting room. Billy’s desktop computer had been smashed. Monica turned the mangled computer over and, finding the hard drive said, “We can probably recover everything from this.”
       “Probably, but we don’t have time right now.” A retro-styled, push-button phone sat on the desk. A second wire coming from the back trailed through a small hole into the desk. He pulled open the drawer below the phone and found a small digital recorder plugged into the phone.
       They started with the last recording. It started with the beeps of the old-fashioned push-button phone being dialed, followed by the buzzing of the phone ringing at the other end. A man answered “Assistant Chief.”
       Billy sounded nervous and angry; “Jackson, that asshole Dalton is on his way here. You’ve got to send me some protection!”
       “Ah, Billy. Yeah, about that, I’m sorry, but nobody here’s going to help you. He’s already pretty much taken over and you’re out. I think you’d better take any offer he gives you and leave while you can. He’s not a very nice person.”
       Billy cursed fluently with several scathing remarks on the Assistant Chief’s antecedents as well as his sexual proclivities.
       “Billy, you’re wasting time. If Dalton is on his way, you’d better be getting out.” Jackson hung up.
       Monica was stunned. She knew that some officers had been taking bribes, but the revelation that the Assistant Chief was involved had left her dumbfounded.
       He started the previous recording; They heard Billy answer, then a harsh voice saying, “I’m on my way, you either sell out to me now, or you’re through.” There was a harsh laugh and he said, “I guess you’re through either way.”
       Mike paused the recording. He looked up at Monica, “That’s him. That’s the voice that called to me from the roof in Oreburgh.”
       He started the playback again. Billy was responding; “You can come over, but I’m not selling anything to you. I like it here and my business is going too good right now. You don’t scare me.” They heard the other man laugh and the line disconnected from the other end. They heard Billy say “Shit!” before he slammed down the phone.
       The next recording started mid-sentence; “… it’s Ricky again. For your own sake, I hope you’re ready to sell and get out. I’ll give you one million Pokéyen.”
       That statement was met by a string of profanities from Billy. “A lousy million?? I can make that in a week, or less. You go to hell!”
       “No Billy-boy – YOU go to hell! In fact, if you don’t sell out, hell is coming to you! Hahahahaha!” The line disconnected mid-laugh.
       He started the next recording. They heard Billy answer, then heard the now familiar voice; “Hi there ‘Billy-boy’, I thought I’d call and introduce myself. My name is Dalton, Ricky Dalton and I’m taking over your business in Sinnoh whether you like it or not. I can control the outcomes, so I can control the wagering! I’ll let people win for a while, they’ll come to me and drop you like a rotten Pecha berry.” They heard the harsh laugh again.
       “So, you’re the one cutting into my business. Fuck you Dalton. You ain’t takin’ over nothin’. You can’t let people win forever and I’m not inclined to sell. I’ve got friends around here and they’ll help me out.”
       “Hah! I’ve already bought your ‘friends’. I’ll buy you out, or I’ll take you out. Whichever way you want it, you’re out. I’ll call you back Billy. You’d best take my offer when I do.” Then they heard a click and dial tone.
       Mike picked up the small recorder and dropped it in a pocket. “Well, I think we’ve found the connection. Our psycho with the scar is apparently trying to, or rather has taken over bookmaking in Hearthome – probably going after the entire Sinnoh region. At least we have a name now. And something of a time-line, Billy was killed a couple of days ago, the first recording seems to have been just a few days before Jimmy was killed.”
       “Yeah, what about Jimmy?”
       “We know he’d seen someone tampering with the special food Fantina uses and went after him. He probably just got in the way. Maybe he was more involved; we know he was a gambler …”
       There was a sudden rush of noise outside, followed by a crash and tearing noise from the roof of the building. They felt the entire building shake as something ripped into the second floor. As they ran towards the back door Pearl threw it open and the three of them rushed into the back yard. A harsh bugling scream, which sounded like a mixture of tearing metal, a rumbling avalanche and the hiss of escaping steam, clawed at their ears. It echoed through the neighborhood, followed by a roar of fire filling the upper floor. Mike shouted, “Call it in! Get the fire department here fast!” Monica was already talking into her phone, giving the location and reporting the fire.
       Looking up they saw that fire was rapidly spreading through the upper story of the old building and already running down to the first floor. A large orange bulk was perched on top of the building, one fore-claw holding back a garage-door sized section of roof. The monster reared back, withdrawing its long neck from the gaping hole in the roof. A large rectangular head on the end of a long neck snaked around to look down at them as large, leathery wings stretched out and the Charizard screamed again. A now-familiar voice shouted; “Fry them!” Charizard shot an intense jet of yellow-orange flame down at them as they ducked around the corner of the building.
       Monica was wide-eyed, “What the fuck was that???”
       “That … was a Charizard.”
       “Well no shit? Biggest one I’ve ever seen!”
       Charizard screamed again and Mike shouted; “Pearl! Hydropump!”
       Pearl shot a powerful stream of water straight up at the roof and the Charizard pulled back. The counterattack caused Charizard’s flamethrower attack to go wide setting the roof of the garage on fire.
       The high-low wail of sirens was drawing closer, coming from the east and the south. There was a loud string of curses from above, followed by a rush of wind blowing smoke and embers down at them. They saw the enormous Charizard leap from the roof with Dalton sitting just in front of its wings. As it flew off towards the southwest the loose section of roof crashed into the driveway, missing them by inches. Monica shouted, “C’mon!” and ran to her bike with Mike right behind and Pearl chasing after them.
       The big Yamaha growled to life. She kicked it into gear as Mike jumped on behind her. He shouted for her to wait as Pearl ran up and jumped towards them. Mike caught her and jammed her between him and Monica. With the rear tire smoking, they tore off after the killer. Mike kept a close watch on the Charizard and a tight hold on the muscular waist in front of him, keeping Pearl pressed between them as Monica blazed up the street. He shouted “left!” as they came to the first intersection, Monica leaned far into the turn, the foot rest throwing up sparks as it scraped on the pavement. She jammed the throttle open trying to keep pace with the enormous beast flying away from them. A traffic light changed to red as they approached and she swerved onto the sidewalk and hit the rear brake hard to skid around the corner to the right, she twisted the throttle and the front wheel lifted. She made another hard left, and then an abrupt swerve around a taxi that had stopped for a fare, then back to the right to avoid an oncoming truck. Monica and Mike both saw the Charizard tuck in its wings, veer to the right and drop out of sight.
       Monica slammed on the brake again, skidding to a sideways stop as they came to the next corner. “Shit! Shit! Shit! Where did it go?” The chase had led them into a warehouse and industrial district.
       Mike looked around, “Where are we?”
       She glanced at the street signs. “The Gym is just a few blocks down that way. This is the direction that Jimmy went when he followed our suspect.”
       “Is there anyone on the Hearthome PD that you can trust?”
       She thought a moment, “Only a couple really. Why?”
       “Send them a text and get them coming this way. Come to think of it, send a text to Dodson over in Jubilife too. Let’s get some back-up headed down here.”
       She nodded. Her fingers flew over the keyboard on her phone typing out a message to the few people they could trust.
       As she finished, Mike shrugged. “If nothing else, they might be able to find our bodies. That’s a little comfort.”
       “Damned little ...” Monica eased the bike around the corner and up the street as all three of them kept watch for signs of the Charizard or Dalton. They rumbled along at a walking pace, nerves taught, eyes and ears straining for the merest hint of trouble. Monica was leaning forward to keep her weight over the front, tense, ready to accelerate hard if needed. As they approached an alley that opened across the street, a figure stepped out from behind a dumpster and raised its arm. Mike ducked down, shouting “GO!!!” The sound of a small explosion hit them a moment before an angry insect buzzed over their heads and smashed into the wall beside them, showering them with chips of brick and mortar. Monica had jammed the throttle open, skidded around the next corner and again slid to a stop. They scrambled off the bike and took cover against the wall.
       The street was quiet. Mike briefly peeked around the corner then drew back. He turned to Monica; “I think this is when the suspenseful music should be starting.”
       She gave him a dirty look. “That building appears to be abandoned; windows broken, door padlocked. Think he’s in there?”
       There was a deafening, spine-shaking scream of pain from inside the building.
       Mike nodded, “I’d say he is.”
       “Is that the Charizard? What the hell is he doing to that poor Pokémon?”
       For the first time since Monica met him, she saw a look of true anger on Mike’s face. “Damned good question, let’s go find out. I’ll go first, you two wait till I get across.” He ducked down and ran across the street, flattening himself against the brick wall to the left of the door.
       Another heart-wrenching scream of pain came from inside as Monica and Pearl darted across. She stopped in a crouch on the other side of the door. Through a broken window they could hear Dalton’s angry voice echoing through the building; “I told you to ‘fry them’ and you MISSED! Now they’re here! Hold out your paw again!” There was a metallic clang followed by another scream from the Charizard.
       Monica’s mouth contracted in anger, her eyes narrowed to slits. Her whisper was harsh, almost a hiss, “We’ve got to get in there – now!” She rose and turned toward the door.
       Mike grabbed her arm, “Yeah, but just remember. That Charizard is going to try even harder to kill us now.” He pointed to a window behind and above Monica. Part of one pane was broken out, “Take a look.”
       She hesitated, then nodded and carefully rose up till she could just see over the edge and peered into the gloomy interior. She saw a large warehouse. There was a big forklift parked against some cabinets about ten yards in to the left of the door, a second one right behind it. A little further in on the right she could see a short wall and some desks. She eased back to a crouch and described the cover areas. “And I can see Charizard about 50 yards further in. It’s curled up and licking its left forepaw. The roof has been torn open, probably how they’ve been coming and going. I don’t see Dalton.”
        “I don’t like not knowing where he is. Can’t be helped I guess.” He looked at Pearl who still appeared upset. “We have got to keep calm and keep our wits about us. Pearl, your wing-tips are hard, can you pry that lock off … quietly?”
       She shook herself a little and her face became less pained and more determined. She wedged a stiffened wing-tip beneath the steel hasp and pried upwards. The wood was old and the screws, fortunately, were short and pulled away with only a slight crunch. Sounds of movement could be heard inside, as well as a pathetic moaning … a whimpering made even more heart-wrenching as they thought of the size and power of the suffering beast.
       “Be ready with your Pokémon. When we go in, Pearl and I will go right, you go left and get your Golem and Machoke out fast. If we can hit Charizard with both rock and water attacks, we may be able to knock it out.” He saw her mouth turn down and she started to speak. He held up his hand; “I know. It is in pain and has undoubtedly been horribly mistreated. But we have to live long enough to be able to help it … the only way we’re going to do that is to defeat it. Okay?” He looked into her eyes and she nodded.
       “Watch for Dalton, the moment you see him holler out. I think the Charizard is probably the bigger danger right now, but that gun can kill us just as dead. Don’t forget, Dalton is our main target.”
       He reached a hand towards the door, “Get ready – the hinges are probably rusty and they’re going to know we’re coming in. I’ve got a little further to go, so I’ll move first, you follow. Get behind one of those forklifts as soon as you’re inside. Ready?”
       She nodded and he pushed hard on the door. Hinges that hadn’t been used in years screamed in protest, echoing through the building along with a splintering sound as rotted wood ripped from the hinge plates. As Mike rushed through the door he saw the Charizard’s head whip around towards the door. He hit the floor in a baseball slide and crashed into a desk behind the waist-high wall with Pearl tumbling over him. He looked over to find that Monica was in position as the enormous fire-colored beast rose to its haunches and let loose an angry, deep throated, brassy howl. Mike heard the electronic rushing sound of two Pokémon being released from their Pokéballs and Monica’s partners appeared and took cover. Then suddenly everything fell silent, a slight breeze drifted down through the gaping hole in the roof stirring scraps of paper and dead leaves. As he listened he heard Charizard take a deep, snuffling breath and make a loud snort.
       There was an opening in the wall a little further to his right with another industrial steel desk just past it. He pointed out the other desk to Pearl and she carefully moved towards it, then rushed across the opening and dove behind the desk. Just as she crossed the opening a tremendous jet of flame shot through it, splashing over the top of the wall. A head-splitting scream tore through the building, followed by what seemed like a minor earthquake caused by it taking a step towards them.
       Dalton’s voice called out; “Charizard, stop! Detective Kohler! Are you okay back there?” They heard him chuckle. “I do hope so, because I want you to see what prying into my affairs will cost.”
       Monica looked over at Mike and nodded towards Dalton. Mike held a finger to his lips & shook his head. He carefully moved towards the gap in the short wall. He stopped when he heard a shuffling of feet and the muffled voice of a woman who sounded to be struggling against a gag in her mouth.
       Dalton said, “Come now Detective! No need to be afraid, I want you to see this and I give my word that nothing will happen till we have a chance to talk.”
       Mike spoke up, “And why should I trust you? You’ve already tried to kill me.”
       “Well, yes, I must admit that our first couple of meetings didn’t go very well. But I promise that you’ll be safe for the moment. Here, maybe this will help to change your mind.”
       There was an abrupt, quiet ripping sound accompanied by a yelp of pain. A familiar voice shouted out; “Mike! Get out, he’s going to kill you!”
       This brought him up short. He paused before answering, knowing he didn’t want to give any more leverage to Dalton than necessary. He had to be careful to not let it seem that she was any more important to him than anyone else. “Professor Salvia, is that you?”
       A short exclamation was followed by her voice becoming muffled again. Dalton spoke again; “Okay now Detective, stand up and let’s talk about this, shall we?”
       He motioned to Monica and Pearl to stay out of sight and then stood up. “Okay Dalton, what’s on your mind?”
       “Oh, very good! I guess you are a real Detective if you’ve found out my name, I’m very pleased at that. It makes my victory that much more sweet!”
       Dalton was standing in the middle of the ragged pool of sunlight under the gaping hole in the roof. Here was the plain-looking man they’d seen in the surveillance videos. The scar on the left side of his face gave his mouth an evil twist. He was gripping the Professor’s arm with one hand and pressing the barrel of the pistol into her side with the other. Her white coat was torn and dirty, her hair disheveled and her face smudged and tear-stained. There was a large strip of duct-tape across her mouth. Her hands appeared to be tied behind her back. The expression in her eyes was a mix of fear and anger. She started to struggle again, but Dalton jabbed her hard in the ribs with the muzzle of the gun and tears sprang to her eyes as she subsided.
       The Charizard was a few yards to Dalton’s right, glaring at Mike but still sniffing the air. Mike could see green fluid oozing from a cut across its left forepaw.
       “Okay Dalton, the game is up for you. I’ve got a dozen or more cops coming and they’re taking you down. You give up now and it’ll go a lot easier for you.”
       “Detective, please! I had hoped you were above such a weak bluff. I own the Police Department in Hearthome, and a good number of Officers scattered around Sinnoh. With the threat of the gun and Charizard’s fire, it was nothing for me to build a new organization here. There’s nobody coming. Although I know that bitch cop is here with you – she has been annoyingly ethical.
       “However, let me get to the point. Being the only person with a gun gives me all the power. I have your pretty friend here and, as you probably know, I’m not above killing her. Well and you too, for that matter. But, I suspect that if I kill you, they’ll just send someone else. So, here’s my proposition; you leave – leave Hearthome and leave Sinnoh. You make whatever excuses will keep your boss from sending anyone else and I let the good Professor go free. If you refuse, she dies and so do you. It’s as simple as that.”
       There was a slight rustle to Mike’s left, Monica or one of her Pokémon had moved a little bit. The Charizard turned slightly towards her and drew in its breath, readying an attack. The man standing next to it said, “Wait!” and it stopped.
       “Well now Detective. It seems I have the advantage here. I’m ready to put a bullet in the Professor and Charizard is ready to roast your cop friend.”
       Mike saw Pearl out of the corner of his eye. She was shifting a little and it looked like she was going to be able to easily target the Charizard. They had one small advantage; they were in the shadows of the warehouse while Dalton was standing in the splash of sunlight. Still he had to be careful; he couldn’t afford to be over confident. He turned his head slightly as though looking at the massive Pokémon in front of him, but turned his eyes to see what Monica was doing. He could see she was whispering orders to her Golem, but she was looking up through the torn open roof.
       Monica shouted “Now!” The Golem fired an enormous rock directly at the Charizard, striking it full in the chest. At the same moment a gray form streaked through the gaping hole above and crashed into Professor Salvia, knocking her backwards, then grabbing her with its talons and carrying her out of the pool of light, just as a tremendous bang reverberated through the building.
       Dalton’s harsh voice sounded out; “What the fuck?? Kill them all Charizard! Kill them all!”
       Pearl stepped into the gap in the wall behind which they were hiding. She fired her water pump, hitting Charizard and causing it to stumble backwards.
       Mike saw Dalton raise his arm as though pointing at Pearl. He leaped towards her, pushing her out of the way just as the pistol fired. There was a horrific tearing, burning pain in his thigh as the bullet ripped through it. He couldn’t help screaming in pain. He scrambled the rest of the way across the opening as the pistol fired again, the bullet tearing a large chip from the concrete floor and impacting the wall behind them.
       Pearl slid up hard against the desk. Her eyes went wide as she watched the person she had already come to respect as her partner grasping a gaping wound through his leg. He was asking if she was alright, his eyes full of concern only for her after he had almost been killed saving her from a murderer’s bullet. A strange sensation came over her, a sudden feeling of strength she had only felt one time before. She closed her eyes as she gave in to the rush of an almost painful ecstasy, a cold heat spreading from her heart, surrounding her in glowing ribbons of life-energy, feeling her body grow outwards as the surrounding energy field snapped inwards slapping against her skin. She could feel herself growing taller, stronger, faster, her wings becoming harder than steel and razor sharp. With a sudden surge of power and elation coursing through her very core, she stood up and shouted; “Empoleon!!!” Her voice was deep, confident and challenging.
       Mike, his eyes watering from more than just the pain in his leg, his heart swelling with pride, grinned and said, “Alright Pearl!”
       Monica shouted out; “Yahoo Pearl!” This had the unfortunate consequence of attracting the attention of both the gunman and his fierce Pokémon. Dalton raised his pistol and pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. The Charizard’s mouth gaped open and a huge flood of flame shot towards the big forklift where she was hiding, engulfing it in fire. Monica scrambled towards the second forklift, praying that the big propane cylinders mounted on the machines were empty. Unfortunately they were not, the first one exploded into several large, jagged pieces of metal which flew with deadly intent all over the warehouse. One skipped off the floor next to her with a clang then cut through a steel locker behind her. One leg of her slacks was burning, as she swatted at it, her Machoke tore the burning portion off.
       Mike could see both Dalton and Charizard readying their next attacks. The seven-foot tall Pokémon was drawing a deep breath and Dalton raised his pistol, aiming again at Monica. Pearl used Brine to soak Monica and the area she was in. The Staraptor who had knocked Professor Salvia away streaked towards the Charizard just as it let loose another fire blast attack. Between Staraptor’s interference and Pearl’s soaking the fire was weakened, but Monica was in view of Dalton. Just as he was pulling the trigger Golem leaped into the line of fire, the bullet breaking a chip off the Pokémon’s rocky armor.
       Mike was frantically looking for the Professor and saw her white coat suddenly floating into view, a large, blue bundle of muscle carrying her at a very fast run across the warehouse directly towards him. Mike pointed at the Charizard; “Hydropump!” Pearl shot her powerful jet of water at their fiery foe, striking it square in the face just as another huge rock from Golem pounded into its chest. The Charizard screamed in rage as it tumbled backwards, crashing into a dozen 15-foot tall steel shelves. It fell, becoming entangled in twisted metal.
       As the Machoke carrying Div continued its sprint towards Mike and Pearl, Dalton once again raised the deadly piece of steel in his hand. Amid bellows of rage and the screech of tearing metal rising from the Charizard, Mike plainly heard the pistol’s sharp report and saw Dalton’s hand jump upwards with the recoil, just as the Machoke sprang over the half wall. The blue fighting Pokémon grunted in pain as the bullet smashed into its back below the right shoulder. It turned as it fell, landing full on its back with a loud groan, protecting Div from impact with the floor. She rolled a few feet further, then scrambled back to check the fallen Machoke.
       Mike had been counting shots. He knew that Dalton had pulled the trigger on six rounds and now needed to reload. “Pearl! Finish off that Charizard! Knock it out!” He looked across and saw Monica getting to her feet, she had been counting too. “Monica get Dalton NOW!”
       Pearl charged across the floor towards the tangle of Charizard and steel shelves. The creature was getting to its feet, though one wing looked like it had been wrenched out of joint. There was a deep rumbling as Monica’s Golem rolled like a giant bowling ball, converging with Pearl on the orange bulk of their foe. Golem crashed into Charizard’s stomach as Pearl’s hydropump again struck its face, the dual attack pushing it once again into the pile of twisted metal.
       Monica sprinted across the floor, crossing just behind Pearl. She could see Dalton dumping the cartridges from the gun. As she closed the distance he dropped two unfired cartridges into the old Webley and snapped it closed. She ran harder, hoping she could close the last few yards before he could aim. There was a screech from her left and the big Staraptor streaked out of the shadows at the man in front of her. Suddenly distracted, he looked towards the bird just as Monica slammed into him and, at the same time, the Staraptor’s talons grabbed the gun and tore it from his grasp. They fell to the floor, Monica on top of him as the Staraptor soared up through the torn-open roof. As Monica grabbed one arm to turn him over, Dalton twisted away and kicked at her, connecting a glancing blow to her head. He scrambled to his feet.
       Charizard screamed in pain and rage as it threw a section of steel shelving straight at Pearl. She ducked and rolled as it flew just above her. The sheet of steel screeched across the floor and smashed into the still smoldering forklift. As Charizard scrambled to regain its footing, Golem fired another boulder at it. Charizard answered with flamethrower, striking the rock-type Pokémon with enough force to push it back several feet, leaving its rock armor dully glowing red at the edges. The big horned head swiveled towards Pearl, still spewing an intense jet of flame. She raised two sharp, hardened wings to cover her face, planting her feet but still sliding back from the force of the attack, her talons gouging furrows in the concrete floor, her smooth feathers smoking. They launched another simultaneous attack against Charizard, striking it with another huge rock to the chest and a hydropump blast to the face. Charizard’s scream trailed off into a low groan as it went unconscious and toppled back, crashing to the floor.
       Dalton turned towards the sound of the big creature’s collapse and stared wide-eyed, shouting “Charizard No!”
       As he stood there, Monica tackled him to the floor again, punching him square in the jaw as they went down. His head bounced hard off the concrete and he lay still. She roughly rolled him onto his face, yanked his arms behind him and slapped handcuffs on him. “That’s what you get for calling me ‘bitch’ you asshole!”
       Mike looked over at Div, “How’s Machoke?”
       “I think he’ll be okay. We need to get him to the Pokémon Center, where’s his Pokéball?”
       Monica called over, “Here it is.” She tossed the ball and Div caught it. Popping open the ball, she pulled the Pokémon inside.
       Div kneeled down next to Mike. He looked questioningly at her hands, marks from the ropes plainly visible on her wrists. “Staraptor bit them off.” Pulling a large bandana cloth out of her pocket she said; “This is going to hurt,” and pressed the cloth into the wound.
       Mike passed out.
Chapt. 10
       Mike regained consciousness for a few moments in an ambulance. He saw an IV running into his arm. The ambulance sped across a railroad crossing, jostling him and he blacked out again.
       He woke up in a hospital bed; IV’s and monitor wires coming from under the blanket covering him. He sat up and looked at his leg and saw a large bandage over the wound. He looked towards the window and saw Pearl asleep in a chair. He marveled at her new, evolved form. She was large and powerful looking, even in her sleep. She was almost radiant with health and strength. She was a much darker blue color, almost black. Her wings harder, with long, sharp edges, were jointed at the shoulder and what would be the elbow in a human. He’d never been prouder of any Pokémon partner than he was of her.
       He looked around at the rest of the room. It was pretty common-looking but at least it was a private room. A monitor next to the IV stand was quietly beeping, tracking his heart-beat and other vital signs. He found a remote for the TV mounted on the wall and switched it on. The sudden sound woke Pearl from her slumber.
       She jumped up with a shout of “Empoleon!” and rushed to him putting a wing across him and laying her head on his chest.
       “Pearl, you’re looking great! I’m so proud of how brave you were back there. And you evolved just in time to really help us out, thank you.” And he hugged her hard, his eyes brimming over with the emotions washing over him. Emotions he hadn’t felt so strongly for a long time.
       From the doorway he heard, “Ah! You’re finally awake!”
       He snapped his head around with a huge grin on his face; “Div! Great to see you! Are you okay?”
       She had tears streaming down her face as well. She came over and hugged him, kissing him and said, “Thanks for saving me.”
       “Well, it was a team effort.” Monica stood at the door holding two cups. “Here’s your coffee Div. It’s good to see sleeping beauty is awake.”
       He looked sadly at the cup in Div’s hand, she laughed and handed it to him. He sipped and sighed, “ahh, thanks, I needed that. Have you all just been hanging out waiting for me to wake up? How long was I out?”
       Div wiped her eyes and sat in a chair next to the bed. “You’ve been out about a day, thanks in large part to the pain meds. Monica and I have been pretty busy, but Pearl stayed here the whole time, even wanted to go into the operating room but they wouldn’t let her, of course. Nurse Joy came over and healed her and cleaned her up while they patched up your leg.”
       “What happened to Charizard?”
       Div had called an assistant at the lab, he took their fastest flyer and brought a special Pokéball that allows them to capture any Pokémon. A highly specialized ball, they are only available to Pokémon Labs, kept in the most secure storage and used only under extreme circumstances. The Charizard was caught in this “Master Ball” and taken to the Sandgem Lab and was being kept in stasis for the time-being. It appeared to have suffered a lot of physical abuse. Dalton had broken its forepaw, and old scars and healed bones showed a long history of abuse.
       “I can’t even imagine what it took for that man to turn that Pokémon into a killer. But we’ll do our best for him, though I don’t think he’ll ever be able to battle normally.” Professor Salvia’s mouth was set in an angry line and tears ran down her cheeks again.
       “You want to give him a taste of his own medicine, don’t you?”
       She nodded then took the coffee cup back from him and took a gulp, dashing away the tears with the other hand. “I was thinking a steel bar across the hand would be a good start.
       “Oh, and we started checking Pokémon food supplies all around Sinnoh. Several Centers and most of the Gyms had at least some traces of contamination by Stun Spore. The general feeling is one of shock, most of us just can’t believe someone would do that. I gather Dalton was trying to affect the outcome of battles and control the betting?”
       Monica answered, “That’s what it’s sounding like. If he wanted a Gym Leader to lose to an underdog trainer, he’d sneak in and drop some stun spore in the food, the Gym Leader’s Pokémon would be a little weaker and slower, and the trainer would win. Of course he would have suggested that some folks bet on the underdog, they’d win and keep coming back to him. He also would’ve made good money back because most people would’ve bet on the Gym Leader. If he wanted the Gym Leader to win, he’d contaminate the supplies at the local Center.”
       “What else happened after I … uhmm?”
       Monica laughed. “Passed out? Don’t worry about that, you lost more blood than you think. That bullet left a pretty nasty wound.” She held up her hand as he reached for the bandage, “The Doctor says you’re going to be okay. It’ll take some time to heal and you’ll have a scar … and a good story.
       “Anyway, a couple of minutes after you blacked out, my girlfriend showed up with her patrol partner. We got Dalton trussed up before he came-to. He hollered a lot when he did wake up … surprised the hell out of me, he was asking about Charizard. I really don’t get how you could abuse a creature like that, but still be worried about it. Twisted bastard.
       “Anyway, shortly after that Dodson and a handful of his colleagues flew in on several Pokémon. He took Dalton back to the jail in Jubilife, my girlfriend went along as a representative for us. Frankly, I didn’t know how far I could trust the other cops here. He’s being held without bail. He’s been spilling his guts about the gambling scheme and the whole Stun Spore scheme. He’s right proud of himself. Isn’t saying much about Jimmy or Billy though. The trial is going to be in Jubilife City, we’ll all have to be there of course. The Sinnoh Regional Prosecutor’s office is handling the case.”
        “And the gun?”
       “Staraptor had dropped it on the roof. Dodson recovered it for us. Fortunately that museum guy had shown us how it worked, so I was able to unload it. I think even if I hadn’t known what it can do, I’d be afraid of it … it simply looks deadly.
       “Oh, and we found a puddle of dried blood inside the side door that Dalton had used after he’d shot at us. We’re still waiting on the DNA testing, but I’m guessing that’s where Jimmy was killed. Dalton won’t cop to it yet, but I’d say your reasoning that Jimmy followed him was about right.”
       “What about that counterfeit badge that Jimmy had?”
       “As near as we can tell, it sounds like Dalton put it there. He actually had several of them with the rest of his belongings at the warehouse. Maybe it was intended as some kind of warning to the Sinnoh League to stay out of his way. He had mentioned that some folks from the League had been asking around about the gambling.”
       “What about here in Hearthome? How much of a problem do you have now?”
       Monica hesitated, looking at her feet, so Div spoke up; “She hasn’t had time to really get used to things yet, but you’re looking at the acting Chief of Police for Hearthome City.”
       “Yeah … definitely not used to being in charge.” She looked up at Mike with a wry grin, “But I’m going to do my damnedest to clean up the mess that YOU uncovered. Your boss has been a big help. So has Dodson for that matter.  Deputy Rawlson has sent over several folks from the P. W. L. to help with keeping our Department running. Dodson has rounded up cops from all over Sinnoh to help out too.” Her face fell and her shoulders slumped a little bit as she shook her head; “It’s been rough. We’ve had to suspend almost half the department and several of the higher ups have already resigned. A couple of Lieutenants in Jubilife also resigned.” She shook her head, “We’ll probably end up with some of our own folks in jail over this. It really breaks my heart how far this went in such a short time. And I can’t even imagine how long it will take to rebuild our reputation.”
       He leaned back against the pillows and gave her a very serious look; “So, you have a girlfriend, huh?”
       She looked up, startled, “Out of everything I just told you, THAT is what you focus on?” Then she laughed, “If you didn’t have that hole in your leg, I’d hurt you!”
       “Well, it’s a shame I’m stuck here for the time being. I’d buy you both a drink, your girlfriend too.”
       “After that crack, I shouldn’t give this to you.” She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a pint bottle and handed it to him. “Rawlson told me you like whiskey.” She stood and got three cups from the sink.
       He poured a good measure of the amber liquid into each of the cups and handed one to Div and one to Monica. Raising his cup he said, “Here’s to that son-of-a-bitch spending the rest of his life in prison!”
       He took his drink in one long gulp. Monica and Div each took a small sip. Smacking his lips he said, “Now that was damned good! Thanks!
       “I’ve got one more thing I have to take care of.” He sat up, wincing a little bit against the tight pain in his leg. He turned towards Pearl, “When you and I first met, you agreed to work with me on this case and I said you would decide how well we worked together, whether you wanted to stay with me or not. So, it is your choice, do you want to work with me?”
       Pearl was watching him closely, once again seeming to peer inside him rather than simply at him. She had never known another human like this man. He had shown her respect and encouragement throughout a difficult ordeal and he had risked his own life when hers was in danger. She really didn’t have to think about this, she reached out her wing and he proudly took it in his hand.

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