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|Stick the Landing|
Saikhan looked up at the stately woman who was suddenly behind him. "I don't know who you think you are, but..."
"Save it. I'm your new partner," Lin cut him off.
-"You're Lin Beifong?"
Lin nodded. "Pleased to meet you. Now, where are we?"
He raised an eyebrow much to her chagrin, but she chose to ignore it for now. "Two stiffs, each with more lead than blood in them, gunned down roughly an hour ago," he casually said. "We haven't had the time yet to ID them, we really want to get out of here. The longer we're down here in the Dragon Flats, the worse our odds get. Catch my drift?"
Lin took a look around, seeing all kinds of people eyeing them up. From her days Uptown, that was not really a surprise, as people are drawn to the obscene, but this was something else. The way these people looked at them and the forensics... She knew that her partner was right, the looks they were getting spelt bad news. "Alright. Any eye-witnesses?"
-"Try the entire damn borough, but no one is gonna talk. They know that if they open their mouths, they're next."
This took her by surprise. She knew that her promotion meant more danger, since she would be relocated from Uptown to... well, here, but not that things were this bad. "So are we even going to try, or should we just give up?"
Saikhan sighed. "I got two uniforms out asking a few questions, but so far, they have zero results." The words had barely left his mouth, or the radio of his car, parked next to the crime scene, started crackling. "Saikhan, we got something for you. Narook's across the street, we got someone talking." He raised an eyebrow at Lin. "All yours," he smirking said.
She rolled her eyes, and walked over to the restaurant. The two uniformed officers were on different sides of the restaurant, so Lin just walked up to the closest one. "Officer, you called me over?"
He looked up. "Are you Saikhan's new partner?"
Lin just nodded in response, and the officer continued. "Ah, well, this here is Kai Fong, he saw the whole thing." He gestured to a boy, about 18, Lin would estimate him. He was wearing a worn-out green sweater over (what probably once was) a white shirt.
She took a seat opposite of him, and gestured the officer to leave. "Kai, I'm Lin," she opened, trying to be less callous than usual. "Are you okay with me asking you a few questions?"
-"Sure, fire away."
That was easy. "Alright, first off, what did you see?"
-"Not much. I was sitting here, when a black truck comes charging down the street, slams on the brakes in front of them, and then I heard a whole bunch of shots. Couldn't see them, the shooters were on the far side and the windows were blacked out. After that, the truck took off again, and took a right on 94th. Other than that, I don't know anything."
Lin smiled. "Kai, you know more than you think. What direction did the truck come from?"
-"Over there," Kai said, pointing away from the scene.
"Alright, so they were shooting from the passenger side. How many guns do you think you heard?"
-"I think two. I couldn't see them, but it sounded like two different guns. Good stuff, they were firing automatics. Look Detective, I don't mean to tell you how to do your job, but it was a gang hit. That truck is burning in an alley somewhere, and the shooters are gone. You're never going to catch them."
"We'll see about that, kid." Lin continued on like this for a while, asking him about what he saw. Ultimately, she knew she had everything, so she handed him her card, telling him to call if he remembered anything else. Kai nodded, and walked out, lighting up a cigarette the moment he stepped out the door. Shining example of spending scarce resources wisely. The detective looked up when she saw Saikhan standing in the door, winking her over.
-"What'd ya get?"
"Quite a lot. Black truck, two shooters, separate driver."
Saikhan scoffed. "Could be anyone. We're about to wrap up down here, moving it to the station. This place is giving me the creeps. Come on, let's roll." He went out of the restaurant again, and Lin followed him to his car. The last thing she saw before getting back into the car made her sigh: less than an hour and a half in, and the crime scene was already being cleaned up with a garden hose. Perhaps that boy was right.
Jinora walked back into Iroh's den, and much to her surprise, it was a full house. Korra, Iroh, and a guy she didn't know were there. "Hello..." she hesitatingly opened, not sure what she should think of this. "Am I interrupting something?"
-"No Jinora, you're right on time, actually," Iroh said, standing up from his desk, and walking around so that he stood between Korra and the other guy. "Jinora, this is Tahno, Tahno, Jinora," he introduced them. She quickly eyed him up, and really wasn't sure what to think. He had a ridiculously elaborate haircut, and a smug smile on his face that she couldn't quite place in terms of what was so funny. His pale skin was a stark contrast to Korra's, and it looked out of place, or perhaps just weird. "Pleasure," she evenly replied.
-"We three have just been on a small errand, and we need you as insurance policy."
This caught her off-guard. "What do you mean by that? And come to think of it, what kind of 'errand' do you mean?"
-"It's just to be prepared," Iroh casually replied. Our business is not repeatable in polite company, so I shall not burden you with that. However, if people come asking questions about us, you will tell them that we were hanging out at Korra's place for the past two hours. Simple as that."
Jinora scoffed. "Yeah right, who the hell is gonna believe that I spend my free time with a man more twice my age?"
Korra intervened. "Mutual friend, is what you're gonna say. You were simply there to see me."
The Airbender eyed them all up suspiciously. "Alright, this all sounds like creating a fake alibi. Now I don't want to know who and what, but I'm no your tool, I don't like this at all. Why are you even bothering with this? The police here are a joke, you told me that yourself, Korra."
Iroh sighed. "There's a new cop in town, Lin Beifong. She just got transferred, and I did some digging. Apparently, she's one of those saintly officers that can't be bribed. Always a pain in the ass, for as long as they last."
-"From what I've heard, she's a hard bitch," Tahno remarked. "Nearly impossible to kill, the Red Monsoon's tried to take her out Uptown, didn't work, and she landed half the triad in jail because of it. We can't do it that way either, if we get the Feds on our tail, we're all positively fucked." Boy, he's a real charmer. Three minutes together in the room with him, and you already don't like him. That's gotta be some kind of a record.
Jinora nodded. "So, I just... lie my ass off to a tough-as-nails detective who can probably spot me lying from a mile away?"
Iroh hesitatingly nodded. "Pretty much." He snapped his fingers, and sat down at his desk again. "Now for the good news: remember how you met with the Innkeeper, but he already had a supplier?" She nodded, and The General continued. "Well, that supplier is now out of the picture. I want you to go over there after you finish your round at the motel, and make him an offer. You know the limits I've set you, but I might be able to expand a little bit in the future, if he is good for it."
'Out of the picture'?! Motherfucker, they clipped him! He was what the gunfire on Taku Avenue two hours ago was for! Of course, Jinora didn't say any of this. "Will do," she quietly murmured, and took the bag of Glide he slid towards her, stuffing it in her backpack. "I'll be back with your money later," she said as she walked out the door. Korra soon went after her.
-"Hey," The Avatar said, catching up with her unofficial little sister. "What's going on?"
"What do you think?! I'm supposed to just be okay with the fact that..." Jinora paused, and took a deep breath to calm herself down, because she was about to make a big accusation, and they were out on the street. "That you killed a guy?" she continued on a whisper.
Korra sighed. "No, I don't expect you to be. But I warned you about the ugly side of this work when you got in, and this is the risk they took. Now they were costing Iroh a lot of money, and not just because you couldn't get the deal with the Innkeeper. The deal you can get at that place is an added bonus, but one that can get you exactly what you need: a steady flow of money to help your mom."
"They?" Jinora was shocked. "There was more than one?"
-"Two." Korra sighed again. "I know it sucks, but you just have to accept that this is the way this business works."
"Accept? Accept that some day, it's going to be you or me in the cross-hairs?"
-"I warned you about that already, just keep your mouth shut and your eyes open and you'll be fine. Just don't do anything crazy, and you won't get on Iroh's bad side, you know that."
Jinora wasn't the least bit convinced, not to mention that she just got confirmation that her life-long friend was actually a cold-blooded killer. For the first time since she was actually out on the street, she felt a pang of real fear go through her. Iroh was not the man he presented himself to be, that much was for sure though. Korra had already been dragged down to his level, and she had this ominous feeling that it wouldn't be long before she would be forced to do that as well.
"Alright, I'll keep my head down." She nodded in the direction of Korra's place. "You run along now, I got this. It's my deal." She put up her hood to emphasize her words, and Korra bought it.
-"Just... be careful."
"I always am," Jinora said, knocking on her gun through her pocket. Korra smiled and walked off, while Jinora went the other way.
The motel went down smoothly. She made some good money, and for once, was nearly dead-on with the amount she had taken with her. It was always a risk to come back with too much, but hey, when there aren't enough customers, it's not like she can buy it for herself. As long as she kept Iroh in the loop, she had nothing to fear. Besides, it was worse for her, since she had to walk around all night with a bag full of drugs.
Jinora sighed as she dragged herself to the crackhouse on 95th and Gaoling. There was something pressing against her. If she didn't land this deal, it would mean that Korra killing those two guys would have been for nothing. It would also mean that she would miss a golden opportunity to actually provide for her family.
She took once last deep breath before stepping inside, determined to try and hold the stench out of her nose for as long as she could. Of course, this was a losing battle, but then she saw The Innkeeper again. He got a slanted smirk on his face when he spotted her - by now - fairly well-known orange hoodie. "Let me guess: you're here to make me an offer?"
Jinora smiled. "Very perceptive. But there is a famous saying: 'When there's blood on the streets, buy property.' Guess I'm taking that to heart here." She paused for a moment. "What happened to your regular supplier was tragic, but I have bills of my own to pay. Can't let good morals get in the way of meaningful progress."
-"Well, clearly you didn't know them that well."
This slightly puzzled her. "What do you mean?"
The Innkeeper laughed. "He was a fuckin' asshole, and the world is better off without him, not to mention that he had it coming. The only good thing I can say about him was that he was punctual." He snapped his fingers, and leaned down on the table. "Now, let's get down to business. You're here to take his place, and let's say for the moment that I can be swayed. Why should I go for you specifically?"
Jinora shrugged it off. "You know why. I sell a high-quality product, and you'd have to go a long way to find the next seller who sells it as pure as I do. You know they like it."
He thought for a while, and slowly started nodding. "Alright. Make me an offer."
A faint smile tugged at the corners of Jinora's mouth. "How much do you need?"
-"A pound every month, delivered right on time."
Fuck. That's more than Iroh can deliver. "I can't do that. Not in one go, at least. I might be able to make a quarter pound every week, how does that sound? At a quarter of the price, of course."
He seemed to weigh his options. "What would that cost me?"
"Well, a pound goes for about 10.000 yuans, so it would be 2500 every week. Seems like a reasonable price to me." Jinora knew she was shooting high, but she needed room to maneuver. He would drive a bargain, that much was for certain. Iroh had set bottom price, and he would take a fixed percentage of what she raked in, so the higher the price, the more she would make. Of course, she couldn't shoot too high, otherwise he'd be turned off straight away.
-"Ha!" The Innkeeper laughed. "That's almost double what I pay now. 1500 a week, that's what I can do."
Bullshit. The street price of normal smack is at least 1600, and you get chopped-up shit for that. "2250, still a very reasonable offer."
"Let's meet in the middle, make it a nice and even 2000 a week. Seems fair enough to me."
He slowly started nodding again. "2000. I can do that." He raised a warning finger. "Do note, Airbender, if you try to fuck me over, and it's less than a quarter pound, I'm gonna beat your ass into six feet of dirt." He held out a hand, and Jinora reluctantly shook it. "When can you deliver the first shipment?"
"It's gonna take some time to make the necessary arrangements, but I should be able to make the first delivery next Friday. I can sell you a few emergency supplies now, if it's necessary."
"I think that would be good," he said. "I always took my shipment on Tuesdays, so I might need some extra. How much have you got?"
Damn. The one fucking night you come up nice and clean, and now you can sell it all. "It's not much, but it might last them a few days," she said, nodding to the junkies. She quickly rounded up the sale of what she had left, and made her way back to Iroh's den, actually feeling pretty content with herself.
"Well, I landed the crackhouse on Gaoling," she said, dropping the money on his desk. "He bought the rest of the Glide I had left, and we made a deal: quarter of a pound there every Friday, 2000 yuans. Can you deliver?"
Iroh thought for a moment. "I'll have to call in a few favors to make it work on a short notice, but on the long run, it could be good." A slight smile played over his face. "I'm impressed Jinora, I really am."
Surprisingly, it made her feel very appreciated, which was rare. In spite of Korra's warning, Iroh didn't appear to be that bad a man after all. "Thanks Iroh, I appreciate that."
-"Don't sweat it." He handed here the money she had earned, and it wasn't half bad tonight. After saying her quick goodbye, it was time to go home again.
Unfortunately, in the short time she had been in the den, it had started raining. And not just a little bit, heck no, the heavens had opened, and it was fucking pouring. Jinora had to make the decision: either stay at the den even longer, which she really didn't want to, or go home and get soaked?
She decided on the former, and took the risk of getting sick. The one thing she hadn't calculated in was that it was already bordering on winter, so the rain didn't only soak her to the bone, it was also freezing. By the time she got home, the girl really regretted her decision, so all she really wanted to do now, was take a warm shower, and get in her bed.
By the sound of things, her mother was home and in the shower, while Ikki was still up watching TV. She looked up from her show when Jinora entered. "Hey sis. Where were you so late?"
Jinora rolled her eyes. "Oh what's it to you, mom?" she mockingly asked, putting extra emphasis on the title. "Anyway, I was out. Good enough?"
-"No, not really," Ikki replied, getting up to stand right in front of her. "You are constantly out late nowadays, and you don't tell us anything. Now you're fucking soaking and you still say it's nothing!"
Pema must have heard it, because she called out from the shower. "Ikki! Watch your language, that is no way to talk to your sister!"
Ikki groaned and rolled her eyes, and Jinora smiled. Her little sister did have a point, though. She need to get out of this thing, and preferably quickly. Admittedly with some effort, she clamped her backpack between her legs, making sure Ikki wouldn't get hold of its contents, and managed to squeeze herself out of the soaking hoodie. "Alright, if you want to help me, be an angel and hang this in the bathroom when mom is done," she said, thrusting the wet clothing in her sister's arms.
She reluctantly took it, and Jinora hoisted her backpack on her shoulders again and started walking over to their room, when it suddenly hit her. She had just made a terrible mistake, she just hoped she wouldn't be too late to fix it. But by the time she turned around, Ikki was already feeling the front pocket, and pulled out the nickel-plated gun.
Her eyes grew wide, and she opened her mouth to take a deep breath and yell for their mother, but Jinora was quicker. She slammed her hand over Ikki's mouth, and used her full body weight to push her inside their room, and in one smooth motion, she kicked the door shut behind them and landed them both on one of the beds, Jinora on top of her little sister.
Both their hearts were pounding in their chest, while their faces were mere inches apart. Jinora could feel a surge of adrenaline from pure terror race through her, and it was now starting to act out. Her breathing became shallow, and she started panting. It took her a moment to regain her calm demeanor, and when she did, spoke in a low voice. "I'm gonna take my hand off your mouth in a moment. When I do, you are not going to yell. I will explain everything to you, and then we'll see what we're going to do next, okay?"
Ikki nodded, and Jinora slowly pulled her hand back a bit, while Ikki did exactly what Jinora told her: she kept quiet, and the older girl decided it was now safe to pull back completely. "What. The. Fuck. Jinora?! Is that thing real?!" she asked, keeping her voice down as promised.
Jinora sighed, and took it from her sister. "Yes it is, and be careful, it's loaded."
-"What are you doing with a gun, for fuck's sake?!"
Well, promised her, can't go back on yourself now. It would only end badly for you. She sighed again. Fuck. "Well, it's where I always go at night: out on the street. I'm working with Korra. I take it with me for protection."
This nearly made Ikki's eyes roll of out her head with surprise. "You're a drug dealer?!"
"Yeah, I guess I am. I want to make a difference for us, make some money, help us get along. No, I don't like it, but it's something I have to do, Ikki."
She wasn't the least bit convinced. "Have you shot people?"
"No, I haven't. And truth be told, if I can avoid it, I won't. Unfortunately, that's not always going to be in my control, which is why I have to walk around with this thing."
-"So what was your big plan? Sell drugs to earn money and then give it to mom, hoping she won't question how you got it?"
Damn, she's actually right on that. "I haven't really figured that part out just yet. But even if I did, it's not enough yet to make a real difference. I made a good deal today, that's going to help me with that, hopefully this'll all be worth it."
Ikki fell silent, and tried to take it all in. To say that Jinora was now sweating bullets (ironically enough) would be an understatement. Now that she had landed the house on Gaoling, it would mean a nice and steady influx of money, meaning she could try and give them to her mother somehow, but if she would know that is was Jinora earning it on the street selling drugs, no way she would accept it. Ikki would have to keep this quiet, and that was the uncertainty factor.
Her sister was a blabbermouth, and it was typically her mind that had to catch up with her tongue instead of the other way around. "Look, Ikki," Jinora opened carefully. "I know that this must be a big shock to you..."
Her sister interrupted her. "That's an understatement."
Jinora sighed. "I suppose. But I can't stop this now, I'm in too deep for that. So I need you to keep this quiet, as in, you can't tell anyone about this. Ever."
She stayed silent for a while. "Well," she ultimately said, a small smirk appearing on her face. "I suppose I could be persuaded..."
"Are you blackmailing me?!"
-"Call it whatever you want to, but the fact is, you lied to all of us. This is the price you have to pay."
Jinora took a deep breath. "Fine. What's it's going to cost me?"
-"A new phone for me."
"Deal. But if you tell anyone, I'll take it away again."
Ikki nodded. "Fair enough." She walked towards the door again, and playfully poked Jinora in the side. "Come on sis, cheer up. We're going shopping tomorrow!"
She walked out, and Jinora let herself fall back onto her bed, where she buried her face in her hands. Fuck.
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