Pure Justice (MF)
An Ina Stone and Sam Fujimoto Mystery
Human trafficking. A kidnapped partner. Ina's case just got a whole lot darker.
In an uncertain future where the Impures—genetic defectives—are banished to a ghetto territory, Detective Ina Stone and her rookie partner, Sam Fujimoto, constantly fight for survival. But when a murdered Impure is discovered in the projects with only a business card in his pocket, the clues lead them into the shadowy underworld of black market trade and human trafficking. After Sam is kidnapped by the Yakuza crime syndicate, Ina must hide her own defect to go undercover as a human trafficking victim. Accompanied by a Tebori master and a new detective with her own secrets, Ina must find a way to free Sam without exposing his role in the investigation, or getting herself killed in the process.
CHAPTER ONEHe lay face down on the pavement, his shoes missing, blood staining the concrete and forming an unlikely halo around his head. It was a fresh kill, and I was surprised it had been called in so quickly. A death like this could go unnoticed for hours, if not days, especially down here in the Rainbow Alley projects.I felt a movement at my elbow. Melker had arrived with a new tech, Roselli, and they scurried to place screens to protect the integrity of the scene. I looked down at my feet. I hadn’t even put on protective footwear. I stepped back gingerly.“Couldn’t wait for me, eh?” Melker tugged me gently out of the way. “Get your suit on before you contaminate my crime scene.”He was right, of course. I should have waited until his arrival. I stepped over to the open tailgate of the Death Examiner wagon and dug into a supply box, pulling out a paper suit, shoe protectors, and a face mask. It was the middle of the night and I was dead tired. I perched on the wagon’s tailgate and put on the protective gear. My stomach churned while I waited for Melker’s permission to return to the body.I felt the bile in my throat rise and I bolted around the side of the van, where I heaved my dinner into the gravel and dirt. I then pressed my cheek against the cool glass window and took several deep breaths. Damn, that was close. I swiped my mouth with my sleeve.The two patrol guys who had answered the call were standing at the tailgate, waiting for me. They gave me a funny look as I emerged from behind the wagon.“You OK, Ina?” Officer Jim Lee asked, his notebook in hand.I nodded but I didn’t feel fine. My hormones were raging. I was only a couple of months in, but this pregnancy was knocking my socks off. I tucked my withered hand into a pocket. “What’ve you got?”Lee looked down at his notes. His expression was passive, as if he saw this kind of thing all the time. “Called in at one o’clock, about an hour ago. I was here within four minutes of the call. Chuy was right behind me. The guy wasn’t dead yet.”“He wasn’t?” I was surprised. I had been called out as a detective to an Unattended Death. “No paramedics?”“By the time they got here, he was gone.” Lee fingered the pages of his notepad, then closed it with a snap of his wrist.“So they left? I must have just missed them. I was here…”“Within ten minutes,” Lee said, “I know. They got a radio call and took off. Sorry.”I glanced over at Melker. Hadn’t he finished with the screens yet? The aged streetlight only partially illuminated the scene, coloring everything with an amber hue. I saw the new tech setting up a spotlight. It would be a few more minutes before I’d be allowed back over to examine the body.“How alive was he when you got here? Was he able to speak? Or was he taking his last breaths?”Chuy looked directly at Lee. “He said something.”“What? What did he say?” I asked.“Not sure.” Lee’s eyes slid sideways and down.“Officer, what did he say? Even if it didn’t make sense?” I propped my notepad on the crook of my arm, the damaged hand still hidden from view, and turned my attention to Chuy. “What about you? You know what he said?”He crossed his arms and pulled away from Lee. “He said something in Japanese. Lee knows what it means.” He turned to him. “Go ahead, tell her.”Lee rocked back on his heels, his hand resting on his gun belt. He looked at his feet, not meeting my eyes. “I’m not sure. I think he said something in Japanese, but it doesn’t make sense.”I tossed my notepad on the tailgate, the sound startling in the deadness of the night. “For God’s sake, what did the man say?”Lee pursed his lips, then spat it out. “Dangan. He said dangan.”“What does that mean?” I wondered how Lee knew Japanese.“It means bullet.”“Bullet? Any idea what he meant?” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Melker waving me over. He had finally finished setting up. The man’s partially obscured face gleamed in the white-hot lights. He looked like a wax figure, not like a man who just had the life pumped out of him.Lee shrugged. “Shot with a bullet, I guess. That’s the only thing I can think of.”