Story art by Sharon McCutcheon.
From the author: A detective struggling to make ends meet. A girl they call the Golden Goose.
Start from the beginning: Chapter 1
Moving at an elderly snail's pace along the congested streets, I eventually heard back from Sergeant Douglass. He verified all that I'd already surmised to be the case—and the news wasn't good. I tapped James on the shoulder as I hung up on the honest cop.
"Turn us around." I felt like I'd been punched in the gut, but I kept my face from showing it. Time to make my move.
"Mr. Madison?" The driver glanced over his shoulder at me in confusion. We were only minutes away from the Little Tokyo border.
"Take me to The Coliseum instead."
The man did as he was told—even though he obviously had his reservations about it. We headed back the way we'd come through traffic oozing faster in the opposite direction.
I should have known better than to think I'd walk right in the front door of the massive casino, modeled after an ancient Roman edifice where Christians and other undesirables were torn apart for the enjoyment of the masses. The two thugs out front looked like actual gladiators stuffed into their monkey suits, and by all appearances, they could have been Mikhel's twin brothers.
"We ain't open, mister," one of them said.
"Tell Ivan that Charlie Madison is here, and he's found the girl."
The goons frowned at each other and muttered something into each other's ear, taking turns like teenagers at a party. Then the one who'd already spoken scoffed, "Yeah? And who the hell is Charlie Madison?"
Maybe they weren't related to Mikhel after all, because their reflexes were nothing at all like his. I'd already drawn my revolver, shot the mouthy one in the leg and aimed at the quieter one before they even seemed to realize what was going down.
"Give Ivan my message," I said. James the chauffeur had frozen with both hands over his mouth in shock, but I didn't buy it. A fellow doesn't drive for Ivan the Terrible without seeing more than his share of crazy mayhem on a regular basis. "Go!" When the quiet goon had disappeared inside, leaving the thick set of doors to swing shut behind him, I trained my gun on the mouthy one. "Don't try anything cute, pal."
He had his meaty hands on his thigh, applying pressure as blood spurted up through his fingers. "I'm gonna bleed to death here!"
"What's my name?"
He blinked at me. "Charlie…Madison?"
"Don't you forget it." I winked at his bewildered expression, and I'm sure I didn't look the greatest with the facial swelling I had going on.
"I'm bleeding out!"
James stepped forward to lend a hand and a handkerchief, but I held him back. "It was a clean shot, straight through."
"You hit bone, jackass!" the goon groaned.
"Oh. My bad." I released James to do whatever he could to help. There was a time when my aim had been a whole lot better.
An intercom speaker above the doors clicked on, and the deep voice of the Russian I'd met last night via his mandroid came through loud and clear:
"Mr. Madison, why are you shooting my men? Trying to play the cowboy again?" A thick chuckle.
James turned to face me just as the double doors swung open, and I was greeted by a half dozen thugs wielding shiny new assault weapons—AK-12s and SIG MPXs by the looks of them. Even James the Chauffeur was armed now, pointing a dainty pistol at my gut.
"Drop your gun please, Mr. Madison," he said coolly.
What choice did I have? My revolver clattered to the pavement.
Another chuckle came from the speaker as if Ivan, wherever he was, could see everything going on outside his establishment.
"You want to know something, Mr. Madison?" He didn't wait for an answer. "I could have my men gun you down right where you stand, and the police would do nothing to touch me. Do you know why?"
"You think you're above the law."
"No. I am the law in this city. It is time you learned this." The intercom switched off.
The goon squad took aim. So, this was it. I was going out with only two C's to my name.
"Hey, didn't you give him my message?" I shot the quiet goon a dirty look.
"Of course he did," said James. "We are going to see Mr. Ivan now." He led the way inside but half-turned to repeat my own words: "Don't try anything cute, pal."
Read Chapter 7
This story originally appeared in The Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble (a CriminalElement.com original collection).
For Charlie Madison, private investigator, the Suprahuman Secret emerges when a little girl goes missing and no ransom demand is made. He takes the case, but time isn't on his side. After 48 hours in this town, it's unlikely an abducted child will be found in one piece. As the mystery unfolds, Madison uncovers a bizarre truth about the girl that seems impossible. But it could explain why she was kidnapped — and why she might still be alive.
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