“I am ideally fucked at this moment,” the words echoed within Munk’s head as he hurtled off of the docks and

into the almost serene cold of the polluted bay. Between the load of buckshot burning its way into his back and the innumerable others peppering the air and water around the flailing monkey, there was lead enough to x-ray proof the entire reference section of the city library’s main branch. Munk finished chastising himself for shoddy impersonation of a mobster just in time to crash into the frigid surface of the bay. He dove deeper to hide from the tunneling bullets tearing through the water all around him. Frantically, he dragged himself back towards the dock. The searing pain of the shotgun wound was beginning to dull and all Munk could think about was killing that mother-fucker before he lost the last of his blood. He waited beneath the docks as the gunmen giddily sprayed the last of their ammo into the bay. “Guns fucked. No knife. What do you do now, Munk?” The monkey goaded himself beneath the feet of his assailants. An odd crunch hit his ears, followed quickly by a shotgun blast through the dock above Munk’s head, leaving him covered in splinters with his ear’s ringing. Munk slid around to the opposite side of the pillar as he tried to peer out of the freshly acquired hole. The group of toughs shouted various expletives at one another and everyone else’s mother as they burst into a flurry of motion in almost all directions at once. He could hear one of them still clumsily reloading above him. Munk lunged through the hole in the docks, internalizing what remained of his pain into a voracious grunt. The startled kangaroo turned on him, but had only managed to half insert a shell into his shotgun. He whipped the pump out, jamming the bolt with the misplaced round. Munk took the opportunity to fling himself, fist first, into the distracted marsupial's genitals. The kangaroo crumbled into a quivering mass of fur. Munk grabbed the jammed long gun and cleared the chamber, then quickly shoved four more shells into the magazine. He heard gunfire and screaming from the two cars parked facing the bay, headlights and engines still running. There was a final percussion, followed quickly by a sickening crunch and screams. With a mighty grunt, the limp body of a Doberman in a leather jacket flew into the bay. "Bout time you showed up," Munk called to the heavy breathing behemoth approaching him. "Once again, I have to be the one to save you. You'd better learn to shoot, Monkey, or I might not need your assistance any longer." "Just tell me the others didn't all end up in the bay, Grigori." The Boar dragged an unconscious ferret into the street light. "Good, now lets get to work,” Munk remarked as he peppered the kangaroo with his newly acquired shotgun. The ferret awoke with a splash, instinctively thrashing to keep his head out of the water. “Hello, ferret. I’m Munk and this is my associate, Mr. Grigori,” Munk chimed to the soaked and sputtering ferret dangling from the boar’s iron grip. “Mr. Grigori and I are going to play a little game with you. I’m sure you know how it goes…” “Fuck off, Monkey. And take your commie fr-“ The ferrets words were cut short by a sudden kick to his gut. “Easy, Grigori! He’s no good if he can’t talk!” “You want to baby the boy, Monkey? You want I should cuddle him gently and sing him nursery rhymes until he drifts off to slumberland? Don’t worry about me, Monkey. I’ll make him talk. You just ask the questions.” Munk gritted his teeth and shifted his stare back at the ferret clutching his stomach. “Alright, now let’s try this again.” “Fuck you,” the writhing ferret grunted. Grigori immediately delivered another thunderous kick to his abdomen and the ferret coughed blood. “God! Alright! I’ll talk! Just make him put me down!” “Make him? You think that monkey decides what I do?” Grigori kicked the ferret again.

“Yehosephetove, Grigori! You’re going to fucking kill him. Put him down already!” Grigori dropped the ferret upon the docks and swung his foot once more into the squealing weasel. He casually withdrew a three foot blade from underneath his coat and took a pensive step towards his prey. The ferrets eyes locked on the menacing blade gleaming in the street lights as Grigori ran his thumb along the edge. “I said I’ll talk, man!” Grigori raised the blade, poising methodically before bringing it down in a short arc upon the ferret’s leg. The weasel’s screaming echoed out across the bay. “Now, my friend. You know what we’re going to ask you, so why do you keep delaying?” Grigori dropped the dismembered foot into the water. “We’re not from the Triads!” Munk’s eyes shot over to the ferret. “Who sent you then? Better talk fast before he tries your neck instead.” “You know who it was, man. He knows everything about you and he’s not stopping until your dead!” Grigori raised the chopper once more. [Some Time Earlier] The darkness enshrouded Munk like a blanket around an angry baby with a blanket allergy. He couldn’t move, couldn’t see, couldn’t think. Munk wasn’t even sure whether he was still alive at this point. He was quickly reassured of his health by a stiff kick to his side. “I said wake up, Monkey.” The simian rolled over, punctuating the shock of light from what was apparently sunlight streaming through a window on a pleasant Sunday afternoon with a mouthful of vomit spewed across the needle strewn floor. “We need to talk. I’ll buy breakfast.” Munk thought about arguing for a moment, but the thought of eating for free quickly chased away any nay-saying left in his thoughts. “Who are you?” was all that Munk could ask. “Grigori Glinka. An old friend sent me for you. We have business together.” “Man, I’m retired.” Munk shifted himself off of the floor and away from the creeping ooze of vomit. “I don’t know what that asshole Bert told you, but I’m not tricking anymore.” Silence wafted through the room as the large boar standing over a very matted primate rubbed his brow. “Does that look like an old cat to you? It sure smells like one for whatever reason…” “I’ll wait for you out front,” the boar turned and stalked quickly out of the room. “What’s eating him?” Munk asked himself as he donned a pair of worn shoes and headed out of the open doorway. Out front, a black behemoth of a town car sat growling at the curb in the waking sunlight of the City. Munk glanced up and down the street, still unwary of following the boar, but didn’t have enough time to change his mind when the passenger door opened. “Haven’t got all day, Monkey.” Munk hopped in the seat non-chalantly and the duo drifted down the street. “I don’t know how well you’ve been keeping up with the news, but something’s happened.” “Look, I told you man, I aint doing that stuff anymore. Bert just needs to keep his big mouth shut.” “It is you, Monkey, who should learn when not to speak. Interrupt me again and you’ll ride the rest of the way in the trunk.” Munk shrugged at the peripheral gaze of death cast at him by the menacing boar. “But I told Bert-“ the car screeched to a halt and several car horns sounded an angry symphony of anger at the black sedan. “OK! OK! I aint talking no more!” “As I was saying, Big Bear’s dead. Now the bosses want you and-“ “Wait, what?! Big Bear? Mikhail Ivonovich? The Red Menace himself? Big Bear is dead?” “Yes. That’s what I said.” “But how? That man’s like a mutant cockroach! No one could kill him.” “If you’d just listen-“ “I’m trying to listen, but you’re not saying anyth-“ Munk wheezed, clutching at the hand firmly gripping his throat.

“As I was saying, as of 4am this morning, Big Bear is dead. He was killed at his mistress’s apartment, up town. You’ll have the details soon enough. Rostya, you know him?” “Eeeeep,” was all Munk could manage until the meaty manacle loosened its grip. “Yeah, I know him.” Munk muttered something under his breath. “Rostya wants you on this. He keeps telling all these war stories about you in the ‘old days’.” “Old days, huh? Weren’t you around then?” “No. I was in the motherland, killing separatists. As I said, Rostya wants you on this, some boyhood crush of his, I think. And the brothers don’t give a damn. They think this thing was done by the Triads already. But Valentin, he’s still smart. He calls me, says that I’m the one for this. So now I have to come babysit you and find the killer myself. Fucking brothers couldn’t even give me a sober gun to bring along. Instead I end up with a fucking junky monkey.” Several blocks followed in silence. “So where are we going now?” “To see the bosses.” “But aren’t they on the east side?” “You’re not seeing the bosses like that.” “Welcome, Munk,” the burly dark figure across the room called to him. “I see you are doing well.” “Well this is certainly one of my better days.” A few polite and nervous chuckles passed throughout the room. “So you’ve heard the news?” A hyena stepped to the front of the group. “What? Big Bear? Yeah, Grigori filled me in.” “I know he used to rely on you a lot, back in the day. I was hoping that I could do the same.” Munk looked slowly around the room. “Who the fuck are you?” The hyena smiled shakily, his eyes darting around the room looking for validation. “I said who the fuck are you? Yesterday, I wouldn’t have been able to bum five dollars off of you for food, so why am I standing here in this slick new suit, like some fucking dog show for the bosses? Why me, Rostya? We’ve never been friends.” “Well, I know that we’ve had our differences in the past, but my father’s death has taught me that there are many important things and people in our lives that we shouldn’t simply forget about.” “Bullshit. You never liked me and you never will. The truth is you’re just a stuck up, spoiled bitch and you’ll never be even half the man your father was, as fucking psychotic as he was.” “Yes, Munk, but you were always the best and that’s what I need. My father’s death is no trivial thing to me, despite what you may believe. And now we’re going to have to commit ourselves to ensuring that the Asians don’t see this as an opportunity. So, in the meantime, we need the best. Someone who’s no longer affiliated with us. Someone who’s whole life was spent either finding or hiding the truth. So perhaps we can get over our differences long enough to figure out who did this and set things right. We’ve never been friends, but you were as close to Big Bear as anyone.” Munk stared at the floor. “Or maybe I should remind you that you’re still in the whole 30 large to us.” “So that’s the deal then? I do this job for you and you mark out the debt?” “Yes, Mr. Monk.” “Then what happens to me? I go back home and fall right back into debt? Fuck that, I need some security for this.” “Thirty thousand dollars is quite a lot-“ “I need some fucking security. I’m most likely not going to come out of this in one piece and I want some guarantee that I’m not going to end up shunted back to the crack house when this is over.” Rostya wrung his hands slowly. “Alright, Mr. Monk. We’ll get you a job. Not with the police again, but I’m sure we can come up with some position that utilizes your talents.” “And none of that ‘Mr. Monk’ bullshit. You don’t like saying it anymore than I like hearing it.”

“So we have a deal.” “For now, but Grigori promised me breakfast.” Munk threw his arm around the husky boar’s shoulders and strolled from the room. “We’ll be in touch, gentlemen. And now, my good comrade Grigori, it’s time we settled a personal debt.” The sleek metal monster of a sedan rolled down the empty uptown street as the sun climbed up to its perch in the sky. A chunky policeman stepped in front of it with his hand out, offering an explicit commentary upon the driver’s mother and falling social morals of the day. As he rounded the front of the car and walked towards the driver, a conspicuously tinted window rolled down. A tusked face glowered at the policeman. “Oh, Mr. Glinka. I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were coming out here today,” the policeman stammered. “Is the detective on scene?” “No, he’s a block over, grabbing some coffee. You want I should radio him for you, sir?” “No, just see to it that he doesn’t interfere when he returns.” The sedan glided a third of the way down the street to an extremely out of place mass murder displayed in front of an otherwise posh condo. The duo stepped from the car and methodically strolled through the scene to the front door. Munk held his eyes to his surroundings. “How many dead?” “Ten total.” “I only see five of your guys out here though.” “He only killed six of our men, plus Big Bear. The rest were bystanders.” “Wrong place, wrong time.” Munk stooped down and picked up an expended shell. “12 gauge. Thorough, but rather loud. A lot of em too.” Grigori watched the monkey kneeling over the scattering plastic casings. Slowly, Munk righted himself with a groan and followed the half trail of ammunition to a pair of well ventilated parked cars in front of the building’s door. He glanced over the three bodies lying at various angles across the street and sidewalk. Old blood trickled over the curb and ran down the gutter. “He wasn’t taking any chances. Caught them by surprise too.” “And how do you know this, my friend?” “Because your boy never made it out of the car. This one, Munk pointed through a shattered passenger window on a closed door at the headless corpse still sitting in the back seat. “Looks like he was enjoying himself too.” Munk withdrew a small plastic bag filled with an off white powder from the window. He cracked the bag open and snorted a pinch of the dust. “Blue Angel,” escaped the monkey’s lips as he rubbed his nose and clenched his eyes. Grigori stared at him for a minute. “There’s more inside, Monkey.” The front door of the condominium swung open as Grigori strolled through the lobby. Munk followed him. “Fuckin-A, he shot the janitor and desk clerk?” “Witnesses.” “Of course…” The elevator chimed as the doors slid open and the pair entered. “Only one guard with him?” “These were peaceful times, Monkey. This is his own territory. He was supposed to be safe here.” “I see,” said Munk. His tail rose over his shoulder and scratched his head as he looked over what remained of the corpse. A few large holes peppered the front door of the penthouse. Grigori strode through the hall, to the back bedroom with Munk in tow. “Doesn’t look like Big Bear put up much of a fight.” Grigori stopped outside of the bedroom door.

“In here.” The monkey looked at him nervously then twisted the doorknob slowly and let it swing open. He stared for a minute, withdrew his handkerchief and proceeded to carefully step into the room. The first thing Munk noticed was that there was probably not one intact anything in the room, except for the door. The next thing that hit him was the sight of Big Bear’s remains upon the bed. The large body was splayed out across the mattress. Pieces of it were scattered around chaotically and a hatchet sat with its blade buried within the skull. Munk surveyed the room slowly, looking over the two bodies, the numerous holes in the walls, the shattered toilet seat resting on the night stand. His eyes played out across the scene of destruction. After a moment further, he stalked back out into the hall. “Where are the witnesses?” “Police have taken a few statements. Most didn’t have much to say. When the shooting starts, people around here have learned to keep their heads down. Why do you think there weren’t more bodies?” “Because this city is full of cowards who don’t know how to stick up for their neighbor. We need to talk to the cops.” “And who the fuck are you, I should just let you nose around my crime scene without asking no questions?” growled the barrel chested bulldog from within his baggy coat and floppy fedora. “My associate and I, Detective…” “Horace.” “Detective Horace, we represent a very particularly interested and well connected individual within this lovely City of ours.” “Or so’s you say.” “I can assure you, sir, that-“ Grigori plodded between the pair of detectives. “Grigori?” “Yes, Monkey?” “Can I help you?” The boar fell silent as he locked a steely gaze on the excited bulldog. Horace began to sweat. “Uhm, excuse my intrusion, Mr. Monk. I didn’t realize how influential you meant. Perhaps if my boys or I could be of any, er, assistance, perhaps you could let us know?” “Actually,” replied Munk, “I was hoping you could offer me some help here. Consulting, perhaps.” “Consulting?” “So what happened to the witnesses?” “Witnesses?” “Yes, witnesses. This was a pretty messy hit. Somebody must have seen or heard something.” “Yeah, witnesses. Most were rather unresponsive. Seems everyone was asleep here, or so they like to say. We got word from two of the other tenants though.” “And what’d they have to say?” “Some malarkey about there being one shooter and a fucked up ear. I couldn’t really make heads or tails of them. Prolly drunk.” Munk took a moment to see if that really was the scent of whiskey he detected hiding behind the coffee breath of Detective Horace. “Malarkey?” “Yeah. One shooter my ass.” “You know they’re right. Only one angle of attack, one trail of shells. All the shells were the same too. And there’s only one foot print in the doorway too.” The bulldog fell silent and shuffled some papers splayed out on the diner table. “Just give me the names and contact info and we’ll be in touch. Thanks for the help.” Horace began to protest but found himself addressing the back of the monkey’s head as the pair walked out of the diner with the witness contact sheet in hand. “Never in my life a monkey talk to me like that before,” was all Horace could grumble to his coagulating grits and watery eggs.

The stealth attack sedan rolled around the corner and silently cruised away from 101 Avenue. A pair of pensive PI’s sat quietly as bold and hearty folk songs wafted through the cab. “Solve the case, Monkey?” Grigori chided his simian companion while waiting for the light to change. “Just about, I’ll fill you in on the details later.” “So who did it?” “Big Bear.” The boar’s dark and peering eyes shot over to Munk. “What? You thought it was the Triads? Those guys know they don’t have the resources or support for an all out mob war. If anyone of them even thought about offing Big Bear, the rest would have to knock him off just as a liability.” “I don’t know if what you say is true, Monkey. But time will tell soon enough.” “Of course,” replied Munk. “It’ll make sense in a bit, just trust me on this for now.” Another block quietly slid past the car windows. “And where shall I take the great investigator next, so that he may demonstrate his superior intellect and insight.” “Hey, man. None of that shit now. Can’t you take a fucking joke?” The boar snuffed and another light clicked red. “You guys have your own button-men?” Munk chimed in over the wailing folk music. “We use the soldier’s, mostly.” “And what about for the rest of the time?” “When we actually have to pay for labour? We have a few people, but we never deal directly with them.” “I need to see the handlers then. What about you? Who’s your handler?” Grigori stared across the spacious cabin at the blank slate of a face Munk wore. Car horns resounded behind the stealth sedan, doing their best to be heard over the impressive insulation and thoroughly ambient speaker system. “I, Mr. Monk, am Grigori Glinka. Born in the motherland, I fought for her for ten years of my life and then I come here, to The City, to work for Big Bear. I work for Big Bear for 25 years now, 25 years, and you think I need a handler? Yeltzin is the only man who gives me orders and I will never have a handler! After 35 years of killing for my motherland, for Big Bear, I will never have a handler!” Munk paused as the behemoth’s hot breath filled the car. “Thirty five years? So how come you don’t answer to Big Bear directly?” “Big Bear is a good man and a good leader, I’ve done many things for him that I would regret if they were for another, but he’s not accountable for me. Yeltzin Valentin is.” “And why’s that?” “Because he is, Monkey. You want to talk to the handlers or not?” Munk grunted an affirmative and the black urban combat vehicle rolled away without a sound save the faintly wafting chorus of a revolutionary’s folk song about autumn on the river and the death of the ruling class.
st

A very confused beagle eyed the curious looking monkey from the length of his nose, “he doesn’t look right, Griggy. I don’t know about this.” “Grigori. Not Griggy,” the Boar rubbed his brow and took a breath. “And perhaps, if you do not think he is trustworthy, I should tell Yeltzin or the Brothers about who I caught you talking to last month?” Words caught in the beagle’s throat and he did his best to swallow them back down before delivering a response. “Y-yeah. Sure. He looks legit. Sorry bout the trouble, Griggy, just gotta be careful these days. Yah know?” “Grigori.” “Yeah, Griggy, right.” Munk’s eyes reflected an internal smirk as he injected himself into the exchange. “So you’re a handler?”

“Yeah, I find specialists for the brothers.” “Specialists?” Munk inquired. “Yeah, kidnappers. Collectors. Muscle. Any time the brothers need someone not on the books or without the attention grabbing mugs you see on most of the soldiers these days. I swear, I remember the day when a hatchetman knew how to keep his mouth shut, his voice down and his fingerprints out of the records.” “Which of the brothers?” “Which? All three, Fernando, Fausto and Frederico. But Fausto calls the most. Usually about taking someone alive or finding a hacker.” “Y’all use hackers?” Munk tried to hide his surprise. “Course, what the fuck do you think this is? The stone ages?” A glare and a mutter responded to the beagle. “So why’s Fausto always looking for outside help?” “Like I ask him that. Not my job to know, just to find know people.” Munk cursed to himself and looked to Grigori. “I only work with Yeltzin. We’ll have to set up a meeting with him latter, Monkey.” Munk shrugged and left the room. “So you think it was Fausto? I knew the brothers weren’t to be trusted. Never even seen the motherland and they’re supposed to be Big Bear’s best men.” “Sounding a little jealous there, Griggy.” “Jealous is not something I get, Monkey,” the extra-emphasis upon his name reminded Munk not to push his luck in the near future. “Valentin and Big Bear were the only ones of interest to me. And I much prefer my job to sitting in an office and bossing people around all day.” “Right.” “I have no desire to run things. I prefer working for Valentin.” “What makes him so special anyway?” Grigori thought for a moment. “When I was a boy, in the motherland, my older brother gets into much trouble with the gang in our town. He does not pay them tribute, so they make threats on him and his family. They make threats on me. My brother has none of this, but he doesn’t fight. So Valentin says that he will fix this thing for us. Valentin says that my brother will have to leave for The City though. But of course he must, my brother is not a fighter and he can’t have a bunch of scum threatening his family. My brother leaves, promises to see us all again soon, but he never returns. Yeltzin, what does he do? Kills them all. Steals a bomb, an airplane bomb, seven hundred and fifty kilos, this bomb. You could sell that for quite a bit of money then. Half a year’s earnings. He puts this bomb in a truck and runs the truck down a hill to where these scum, these predators, are having some meeting or party. Not one of them was found in a single piece. And Valentin follows my brother. After I get out of the Army, I get word from my brother that Valentin has jobs open. I remember that he is good man and go to the city. Now I work for Yeltzin for many years. He is a good man and a good boss. The brothers would never understand their men, their soldiers. But Yeltzin, he was a soldier in the old country. He knows what it means to be a soldier.” “I see,” was all that Munk could manage to say for several minutes. “So do we have an expense account for this or what? I’m going to need some lunch pretty soon.” “Money is not something you’ll need much of with me, Monkey. But it’s also something there is not a lack of for our people.” “Well how about lunch then and we see the bosses afterwards?” “If the bosses are free. Yeltzin will not mind hearing from us, but the brothers may not be so available.” Munk shrugged and the sedan rolled on into the afternoon.

The early evening sun dropped quickly behind the towering cityscape. The clouds grew fat with dew and slunk down into the alleys, mixing with the steam hissing from bellow the street. A murky cool settled over the city, creeping from the dank bay waters and across to the up-town heights. All across The City, streetlights shimmered on and people retired into their homes. The last decent folk slunk away for the night and the pimps and the hoes took to the streets. Gamblers, gangsters and dames poured downtown, collecting like a reservoir of vice and villainy within the clubs, pubs and speakeasies. The only part of the city not affected by the change of day was the lowland slums. The junkies and dealers operated on their own twenty-four hour clock and never seemed to sleep. Even the mob and the cops stayed out of the lowland slums. If you weren’t itching for a fix or supplying, you were likely to wind up dead, but not before they had they’re fun with you. Of course, even the junkies and dealers risked the same fate, but they had needs keeping them there. In the midst of the sun’s twilight slink, a silent monstrous machine rolled down a private drive to Green View Point. The sea’s waters grew choppy against the cliffs surrounding the peninsula. A single road wound back and forth up the ocean side hill. Sitting on top was perched a double ring of stately manors, surrounded on three sides by neighborhoods with its back to the ocean cliffs. Green View Point was the closest neighboring city, but it was rather small and surrounded by a twelve foot high wall topped with security cameras and patrolled by dog teams and somewhat shadier than normal private guards. Most private security teams had to make do with a flashlight and radio, or, if they were lucky, possibly a tazer. These wielded assault rifles and walked foaming at the mouth Tasmanian Devils trained to attack the genitals first. What appeared to be a small black tank was waved through the front gate by Entry Team Alpha. It swooped up the private drive to the inner ring of the five main houses, pulling up outside the southwest home. Grigori and Munk jumped down from their war chariot and strolled through the side kitchen door. The scent of strong beef stews and hearty red sauces wafted throughout the home, pouring through doorways and down halls. Munk’s stomach growled immediately, suddenly forgetting the triple price club sandwich he had picked over to not upset his stomach. It had been several days now, since he had really gotten into the candy and his system was still adjusting. Munk’s eye caught Grigori grinning at him as he rubbed his stomach. “You smelled the borsh,” he said with a knowing smile crossing his face. “Maybe there is hope for you yet, Monkey.” Munk shrugged and followed him upstairs to the third floor office. Thick spotless carpeting sunk beneath his feet all the way up the stairs and up to a heavy oak door trimmed with ornate carvings. “The story of the motherland,” Grigori said as his hand slid over the trim. He coughed and adjusted his tie, giving his tail a twitch before snorting and finally grasping the large brass doorknob. A resounding metallic clank sounded as he twisted the knob and the door fell open, revealing a small library filled with ornate and arcane curios. A large, dark and squarish man sat at a mahogany bunker covered in a leather working space. Scattered around the room sat a small group of animals of varying degrees of literacy and brutishness. A sweaty and twitchy mongoose was sitting in the most uncomfortable looking chair in front of the wooden battlements offering a quickly spoken explanation. “And Johnny says to me, he says, ‘Alex, I need this money. I swear to you that my wife and kids will starve otherwise and I can pay you back. I can pay you back next week. I’ve got this job already set up and everything.’ And starts rambling on about some guy he knew in prison and tries to tell me his plan.” Munk took a seat in one of the empty chairs amongst the middle of the room. Grigori nonchalantly strolled up behind the mongoose. “And I says to him, I says, ‘Johnny, I don’t want to know no fucking plan. Alright? I just need this money back, pronto, or Valentin is going to have my ass.” The quadrilateral sitting behind the desk raised his hand and Alex quit talking. “You told him my name?”

“Well, yeah, boss. I figured he woulda been more encouraged that way.” Valentin snapped his fingers. Grigoris hands were around the mongoose’s throat before he had time to register the snap. With one hand, he held the shoulders in place and, with the other, he wrenched the head up. Munk shivered as he watched the neck extend several inches and the mongoose go limp with a sudden gasp. Grigori walked the body to a nearby metal door in the wall, what appeared to be a laundry shoot, and dropped it down. Several seconds of metallic thumping followed, topped off by a resounding whump. Valentin looked to Munk and smiled. “So you are the investigator, Rostya has told us so much about. Would you like a drink?” Valentin held his palm out again and a stealthy lynx that Munk had entirely missed held out a glass of dark singlemalt scotch on the rocks. “Got any gin?” Munk inquired with some hesitation. “By all means,” Valentin answered. The lynx downed the glass of scotch and refilled it from the next bottle over. He began to extend the glass in offering once more. “Any limes?” responded Munk. Grigori snorted and looked to his both with an inquisitive stare. Valentin only nodded and the lynx added a lime. Munk had to admit, it was a damn good gin. “I have to admit,” said Munk, “this is a damn good gin.” Valentin smiled casually and proceeded to fold his hands together and shift his gaze to Grigori. “Thank you, Grigori.” “It was nothing, Valentin. I’ve been waiting to get the word on that shit-head for a month now.” “So what do you think of your comrade, the good Mr. Monk here?” “We’ll have to see. I’ve been letting him out to play. Maybe we’ll learn something in another day or so.” Valentin’s smiled drooped a little. “I know. We’ll see if he’s worth Rostya’s word, if even that much.” Munk coughed, choking on his gin. “Is there something wrong with your drink, Mr. Monk?” asked Valentin. “Nothing other than the terrible taste it leaves on my pride.” “Mr. Monk, you have no pride. You were scraped out of the gutter to fulfill some boyhood fantasy of Rostya’s.” The name slipped from his lips with a light glaze of disdain. “If you prove worth the trouble it took to find you, then we’ll let you live. Consider yourself on probation and try not to get in Grigori’s way.” Munk swallowed a large the rest of his gin loudly, setting the glass upon the desk with a distinct lack of concern for its well being. “Well, if you think I can’t do this job, why don’t you just get rid of me now and let old Griggy here handle the rest of it?” “Because Mikhail is dead, Mr. Monk. And Rostislav is his only son. We’ll give you your probation, but fail us and we’ll be taking your thirty thousand dollar debt out of that scruffy hide of yours. I think his ears and tail would look nice on a plaque above my chair. Don’t you think so, Grigori?” “Certainly, Valentin.” Munk sucked on his ice thoughtfully. “I took him to the condo. He looked around some, thought he would lose it in the bedroom, but this Monkey. He is stronger than he looks. Even likes the smell of our borsch.” “So did you find anything there?” “Just some witnesses from the police detective. These city investigators wouldn’t last a day in Grozny or Alingrad. Not worth the clothes they dress in. Too fat and stupid to find a common thief.” “The witnesses?” “Nothing. Cowards who hide when they hear a door slam. All we know is that it was one man and he used a hatchet.” “One man?” “Yes, Valentin. He must have been good.” “He must have been expensive.” “He must have been mean,” Munk interrupted. He felt surprisingly warm for some reason. “I think you’re forgetting something here.”

“And that would be?” Valentin solicited. “Why at the mistress’s? Why not somewhere else?” “Because he lets his guard down there.” “But his guards don’t.” Grigori backhanded the monkey in a single blur of motion. “A tounge like that will end your probation early, Monkey,” the words dripped from the boar’s snout, falling in a pool of loathing and rage upon the stunned simian rubbing his jaw on the floor. Munk climbed back up into the chair. “Another drink, Valentin?” He tried to rub the stars from his eyes and placed a smile back upon his face. Valentin laughed before Grigori had time to pull the trigger. “You are a funny guy, Monkey!” Valentin roared. “You’ve got some balls. I love these balls!” Munk chuckled to himself and smoothed his fur back down. “Give me your balls, Monkey. I will keep them on my desk.” Valentin smiled sincerely and pulled a wicked looking fillet knife from his mahogany fortress. The monkeys eyes grew wide as the knife passed to Grigori’s hand and approached his pubic region. “No? You don’t want to part with your balls?” “No,” Munk squeaked. “Then keep your mouth shut. Felix, pour our ballsy, monkey friend another drink.” Grigori returned the knife to the desk and continued briefing the quadrilateral dressed in black. “As I was saying, Valentin, one man with a hatchet and a shotgun.” “Shotgun? In the middle of Up-Town?” “Yes, Valentin. Our man is not afraid. This will be a good hunt indeed.” “Don’t get too excited, Grigori. I would not like a repeat of what happened last month. We can’t afford that kind of heat with Mikhail gone.” Grigori nodded and a few of the men scattered around the room crossed themselves. “And this hatchet?” “We don’t know yet, but I’ll get in touch when we have more information.” “Good. Good. Keep an eye on this monkey. He knows more than you think.” Grigori eyed the slightly quaking simian once more. “Now take him down stairs and feed him some borsch. He needs to eat more. A well-fed man is a man who knows, my aunt would tell me.” “I’ll find him,” Munk said as he popped to his feet. The men trickled out of the room and downstairs to the kitchen. Men, women and children filtered through the kitchen from all parts of the house and outside. Munk received a large bowl feeled with a strong smelling concoction and what appeared to be a loaf of bread. Grigori took the same and pocketed some drinks then walked to the basement with the monkey in tow. A regular, white door opened to reveal a heavy steel one directly behind it. Grigori sounded a series of raps upon it and the viewing port slid open. “Grigori! It’s you!” The port quickly slid shut again and the door slid open. A short lapdog was standing upon a stool at eye level to the hulking boar. “Haven’t seen you in a few weeks! I was beginning to wonder what happened to you!” “Yeltzin sent me to the motherland for a short vacation. I just got back a few days ago for Big Bear’s funeral.” “Oh. So you’re the one on the job? I should have guessed. And this… thing?” “Munk,” said Munk. “My assistant. Rostya’s orders.” “Wait, Munk? THE Munk?” “No,” said Grigori. “Yes,” said Munk with a smile. “I heard you were fucked to death in Up State County.” Munk frowned. “I was never fucke-.” Munk stopped himself and took a breath. “The rumors were largely exaggerated. I never went to prison.” He crossed his arms and let Grigori do the talking. “Rostya has some crush on our mooshka.” He pinched the monkeys jaw, squishing his mouth into an awkward O. “He says Munk was big time before he had an accident and fell into some Angel. He

wants to bring Munk back to relieve some glory days or because there is nothing good on TV. I do not know, I’m not crazy.” The lapdog hopped from his perch and let the pair pass. “Well go on down, Grigori, but make sure your careful who you say those things around.” The boar snorted, then nodded and patted the short dog as he passed down the stairs into the inky black of the basement. Munk glowered as he descended. The darkness rolled up the stairs and enveloped them. The only light provided came from a lone bulb suspended by its wiring above the dog’s door post. The lapdog resumed his perch upon the stool, reading by the dim light through an obscenely large pair of glasses. The pair walked three floors beneath the ground before coming to stop in front of the second to last door, all of which were constructed of the same heavy steel the basement door was. Grigori pressed a button next to the door and a pair of cameras posted on the ceiling above swiveled to look at the monkey and boar standing in the stairwell. Grigori glanced up at the camera and the door clicked then slid into the left wall. A short firing range resided within the room, complete with comprehensive armory and well stocked supply of ammunition. Munk watched as a Mule Deer cut loose with a flamethrower upon a group of cheap dummies. “Ok. Ok. Watch it. The vents aren’t so good down here. They can’t handle all the smoke,” a very gruff looking bear wearing an eye patch called out. The deer let off the trigger and flipped his goggles up, grinning broadly as he watched the dummies smolder. The bear pushed a button and a glass wall dropped between the range and it’s patrons. Fire extinguishers sprayed the gooey pile with an aggressive white blast and then several ceiling fans shrieked and whirred with all the furiousness of a banshee army. The smoke and fire-extinguishing gas were sucked from the room and then the wall retracted. “So it works, Isaak. Now quit playing around and put it back in the cage.” The mule deer sounded an affirmative and crossed back through the armory to the ‘Other’ section. “Hello, Igor,” said Grigori. “Grigori! I am so happy to see you again. How was the motherland?” “It was good. It’s gotten worse though.” “Da? That’s rough, but it should be expected. The government never was any good at its job. It was always our place to run things, but they don’t let us anymore.” “Someday, Igor. We’ll make things right. For now, though, we’ve got business to attend to.” “Yes.” The bear grunted and shifted in his seat. “For him? Why not one of your own?” “They are too big. He’d hurt himself trying to shoot it with his tail or something.” “Oh, he needs a starter piece. A kid’s piece.” “The fuck you talking about? I can handle a gun.” “And when was the last time you did so?” Grigori asked. “Just last… last… ok, so it’s been a few years.” Grigori smirked. “Just give me one of those.” Munk pointed to a line of revolvers. The bear swiveled in his chair and rolled over to the pistol rack. He reached towards where Munk was pointing. “That one in the middle, with the six-inch barrel.” The bear selected the piece and rolled back to his desk, withdrawing a few boxes of ammunition and several speed loaders from beneath his desk. “Not very inconspicuous for an investigator,” said Igor. “Everybody knows I carry. They knew before, they’ll know now.” “That was some time ago, Monkey. You’ll be lucky if they even know who you are.” Grigori wiped his snout and watched the monkey load the magnum. “Mind if I,” Munk asked, waving the weighty persuader towards the shooting range. Igor nodded and Munk strolled over next to where Isaak had been standing. He adjusted his grip on the grooved, oak handle, rolling his wrist around to get a feel for the gun. He slowly brought the barrel up, squinting an eye shut and squeezed the trigger. He could feel the tension building within the room, all eyes on him as the trigger slowly pulled back. Suddenly it snapped back and the gun exploded in his hand. The

recoiling barrel stopped just short of the monkey’s forehead. A single hole stared back at Munk from the middle of the silhouette’s chest. Munk smiled to himself. “Bravo, Monkey,” Grigori was clapping. “Now perhaps you’ll be able to pull the trigger before your prey shoots first if you use both hands next time.” “Perfect,” Munk said quietly. He thumbed the hammer back, dropped the magnum back in line with the target and snapped off the last five rounds in a few seconds. A ragged cluster of holes shown through the target’s center. “Congratulations, Monkey. You’ve passed Step 1. Now lets see how you do in practice instead of theory,” Grigori huffed as he turned and walked out the door. “Catch yah next time, Iggy,” Munk said to the bear as he bounded out of the door and back up the stairs after the heavy stepping boar. Munk paused at the head of the stairs, not seeing Grigori anywhere. “He’s talking to Yeltzin and the guys. Go wait for him at the car,” said the lapdog from behind his mammoth spectacles as thumbed another page in the book that appeared to be as large as he was. “Took you long enough,” Munk called to Grigori. The boar held his tounge and thumbed the car’s remote. The two stepped inside their Cadillac Tank and rolled back down the long drive to The City. The evening’s sun had long parted and a glowering moon creeped up the sky to take its place. The fog had rolled in, covering all of downtown with patches of ground clouds. The gangsters and gigolos strolled the streets and rolled by in various sports cars and muscle machines. Druggies, junkies and prostitutes offered parties in any number of different languages to anyone inebriated or sober enough to meet their gaze. More junkies robbed each other and anyone else brave or dumb enough to walk down the wrong alleys while the dealers hocked Blue Angel down the right ones. Above it all, the mobsters ruled. Women on their arms, money raining from their wallets and a world war full of shiny metal death sat tucked away in their waistlines. In The City, to be a mobster was to be a king. Anyone questioning you without a damn good reason, badge or hand cannon met a quick and merciless demise. Anyone trying to cause you harm met a slow and messy death. It had been estimated that The City’s sewers now contained more body parts than sewage, but Mayor Rick had already allotted campaign money to pay for the conversions the water treatment plant needed. Of course the campaign donation in question may have originated from the owners of the water treatment plant, one Mikhail Ivonovich, but that seemed a minor over-sight. The black death sedan silently rolled down a particularly empty alley into the menacing dark that flooded down from between the twin stone giants. A garage door at the end of the alley opened up and the car rolled on into the building. Almost immediately, the floor sloped down and the two rode into the top floor of a parking garage. Grigori parked in a spot marked VII, unusually close to the only door that opened into the garage. The door opened immediately, but Munk noticed an odd-click after it closed behind them. “Must be on remote,” he mentally noted. A short hallway took the boar and monkey to a single elevator. Grigori punched the top floor button. A small display over the floor listings asked for the Level 3 pass code, which Grigori immediately punched into a small numeric keypad. The elevator dinged and swooped up the building’s interior. “So who’re we seein’?” asked Munk. “A man. Just follow me.” The elevator dinged once more and the doors slid open. The elevator opened directly into a small lobby with a large doorman and his larger assistant sitting at their respective desks on either side of the room. Upon sight of Grigori, the larger assistant hid behind his desk while the smaller one ran to the door and opened it.

“Right this way, Mr. Glinka, sir. I see you’ve brought a guest. Can I get you something to drink? Some blow or Angel, maybe?” Grigori stalked past and into the room. Munk paused for a moment at the door. “A gram of Angel served on the ass of your finest whore and make it snappy, garcon.” The doorman looked confusedly at Grigori’s back. Grigori kept walking. Munk stared at the doorman. “Uh, yes sir. Right away, sir,” said the doorman as he jolted away to a side door. Munk walked into the office, closing the door behind him. A large leather chair sat behind a steel desk about the size of the starship Enterprise and shaped not too differently. The chair’s occupant, a well built and better groomed rat, spun around at the sound of the door closing. “Grigori! How nice to see you,” he said with a gulp. Grigori stalked up to the desk and leaned over it to reach across. He clamped his hand around the rat’s throat. “Shut the fuck up, Johnny. Bet you didn’t know I was back in town, did you? Guess who I saw today, Johnny.” The rat’s eyes bulged as it scratched as Grigori’s iron grip. Grigori jerked the rat across his desk, turning him over on his back at the same time. “I saw Alex, that’s who. We had a nice little talk, Johnny. You know what he says? He says you might know something about that half a million dollars that you shouldn’t, Johnny. He says you’ve been hearing things.” Johnny’s hand clutched Grigori’s wrist, feebly pulling at the dead-man’s grip locked around his windpipe. “Have you been hearing things, Johnny? Have you?” The grip eased and the rat spurted out a desperate no. “That’s not what I hear, Johnny. Now have you been hearing things?” The rat’s eyes bulged as he waved his arms, pounding on the broad back of his tormentor. No words escaped his mouth this time; just a weak squeal. “That’s what I thought, Johnny. Tell the devil I’m coming for him next.” The rat want limp upon his inter-planetary desk as Grigori gave his neck a savage twist. “Is this just some kind of bad habit or what?” Munk asked as Grigori dropped the Johnny’s corpse back behind the desk. A knock came at the door and Grigori grinned. “You’re turn, Monkey.” “Boss? Mr. Glinka? Are you guys ok?” The doorknob twisted and Grigori took a seat, withdrawing a cumbersome, shiny, metal automatic magnum and laying it on his lap. He watched Munk. The door slowly opened. “Boss?” Munk looked from the door to the smiling boar seated before him. The boar shrugged and kept staring at Munk. Munk looked to the door in time to see the Doberman step into the room. The Doberman looked at Munk, looked at the desk, looked at Glinka then the desk once more. In a desperate, last ditch effort to comprehend the situation, he, once again, looked at Munk, looked at the desk, looked at Grigori then looked back at the desk. Finally, he looked behind the desk. “OH SHI-“ smoke poured from Munk’s persuader and the Doberman’s chest. The Doberman looked at his chest then dropped to the floor. His larger Doberman assistant stood behind him, marveling at the smoke pouring from his chest. He dropped to the floor. The club’s finest working girl wearing two grams of the City’s finest Angel across her upper lip and holding a plastic baggy stared at the two Doberman bodies draped over one another. “Hold it,” Munk said. Her mouth opened. He thumbed the hammer back. Her mouth shut. “I have a feeling this conversation could be ended in a manner far more beneficial to the both of us.” “Really? How’s that?” Her words dripped sarcasm. “You walk out of here and forget this happened and don’t have to worry about anything happening to you.” “Hmmm.” She tapped her lip and stared down the barrel of Munk’s persuader. She took a deliberate step forward. Munk tensed, the hair standing on the back of his neck. Slowly, methodically,

agonizingly slowly, she strolled the body and blood strewn floor to the quivering monkey. A single finger pressed to the end of the gun barrel. “Bang,” she said and laughed. “Come on, Monkey. You’re not going to shoot me.” “Yeah? And why not?” She smiled and winked at him, sliding her hand down the length of the magnum and along his arm. Munk closed his eyes, felt a peck on his cheek and her arm slide over his shoulder. “Silly monkey,” she whispered into his ear and then walked on to Grigori. “Griggy, be a dear and get rid of these bodies. And I’d appreciate it if you could give me a couple of loaners for security until I can recruit my own.” She walked to the far side of the inter-stellar, stainless steel construct and dropped into the high-backed leather chair. Grigori snorted. “I’ll send Andrei and whoever he wants to bring over. When do you need them?” “Just have them call me.” “Sure, Kamilah. And what should I tell Valentin?” “Tell him the club is under new management and things should start improving immediately.” “You know Alex wanted this place.” “Word is Alex isn’t an issue anymore.” The dark, sultry woman sitting in the world’s most inviting leather chair winked at the boar. Grigori snorted once more. “Come on, Monkey. We’ve got work to do.” Munk stared at the end of his magnum, still aimed at the empty doorway. “Monkey?” the word floated gently from her lips to his ears and the magnum roared. Munk jolted, doing his best to keep the steel beast in his grip. “Shit! Sorry! I’m… I… didn’t… fuck.” Grigori sighed and stormed out of the office. Munk looked at the woman smiling back at him from behind a pair of brown, doe eyes. “I’m … uh. I’ll be seeing you.” “Definitely, Monkey.” She waved and mouthed ‘bye’. Munk spent the walk to the elevator counting floor tiles. He loosened his collar and tried to remember how to breathe. Grigori sat waiting inside his sport utility tank with the engine running and music blaring. Munk opened the passenger door and climbed into the three story high seat. “Soo… what about,” was all he could manage before Grigori cut him off. “Don’t even think about it, Monkey. Fausto has already made his interest clear. No one in the mob is to have anything to do with Kamilah, but him.” “And how’s she feel about that?” “She laughed at him and they haven’t talked since.” “When was that?” “A couple years ago, but don’t even think about it. He’s persistent.” “So… Fausto claims this woman” “Kamilah.” “Kamilah,” Munk paused. “Fausto claims her however many years ago, she doesn’t have it and we still can’t even think of touching her?” “Well, I refrain from as much because she’s not my type.” Munk’s eyes grew wide as they tried to visually grasp the incomprehensible jibber-jabber coming from the boar’s snout. “But you will refrain if you value your dick.” “Says who? I don’t work for Fausto. I’m with you.” The boar roared with laughter. “Ah, yes Monkey,” he wiped a tear. “Someday, Monkey. Someday.” Grigori smiled as they glided down the block. Several minutes of folk songs praising beets and Kalashinkovs later, Munk spoke up. “Well, who do I work for?” “No one.” Munk smiled. “Then Fausto aint a problem.” “Stupid fucking monkey,” Grigori muttered. “Pardon?”

“I said shut up. We’re not done yet.” “Done?” “Work.” “Ah.” “It’s going to be a busy night.” “You mean I should reload this thing?” “Why not wait and see?” An evil grin spread across the boar’s snout as he risked the road to look Munk in the eye. Back at the club the incorrigible duo were quickly leaving, a phone rang. Again, it rang. And once more, for good measure, the phone chattered away in the office. Finally, a smooth, dark hand deftly raised the receiver and pressed it to a perfect ear, framed by the deep mauve of dreadlocks. “Yes?” said Kamilah. “Hello?” came the voice from the other end. “Yes, may I help you?” “Who is this?” “Kamilah. May I help you?” “Kamilah? What the hell are you doing answering the phone? Where’s Alex? Where’s Danny and Donny?” “They’re indisposed at the moment,” sounded the soft voice spilling from her dark, supple lips. “Well when will they be back?” “Indefinitely. Is there something I can do for you?” “Uhm… well… I …” “Well?” “Uh, no. Sorry. I’ll have to find someone else.” “A shame, but if you’re certain.” “I’ll just call back tomorrow.” “Who said they’d be in tomorrow?” “Well can I leave a message?” “I don’t think that would help.” “If that mother-fucker skipped town on me-“ “Excuse me, but may I ask who’s calling?” she interrupted. “Uh…” A dial tone rang dead air over the line. “Boys,” she said to the office air. A car rolled into the Lowland Slums carrying a boar gripping the wheel with ever increasing pressure and a Munk snoring with ever increasing volume. Another light turned red and Grigori finally slammed on the breaks instead of flying through the intersection. Munk’s head bounced off the dashboard. “Son of a fucking bitch!” “We’re here,” said Grigori. Munk rubbed the growing knot on his forehead and began to step out of the car. His foot touched pavement and crushed a needle. “Oh fuck…” Grigori smiled. “And what is wrong now, Monkey? Did the mooshka hit his head too hard?” “What the fuck are we doing here, Grigori?” “Work. Get out of the car, we have business to attend to.” “Well how are we leaving? They’ll skeletonize it by the time we turn around.” “Not this car, they won’t. They know this car.” “What are we doing here? Why are we here?”

“I told you, Work. Now get moving.” “This isn’t fucking funny, Grigori.” “Do you hear me laughing, Monkey? Now get OUT of the car.” Grigori’s voice was cold steel pressed to the back of Munk’s head. With a knot in his stomach and a face growing whiter at every step, the shivering simian staggered down from the plush, leather interior of the war chariot. Wind howled through the twisted alleys and crumbling buildings. Even the moonlight stayed on the north side of the train tracks. Munk slammed the door and walked around to Grigori’s side of the death sedan. “Aren’t you coming?” Munk asked. “Nyet. This business is yours to attend to, Monkey.” Grigori reached into the center console, just behind the switch that activated the 60mm mortar, and withdrew a large bag, vacuum-sealed and full of off-white powder with a light blue tinge. Munk’s eyes grew wide as Grigori thrust the bag against his chest. “Don’t snort it, Monkey. Just take it in there,” he pointed across the intersection to a particularly ominous building with a black ring of clouds swirling around it, “and look for a ferret with no eyes being led by a spider with three.” “A three eyed spider?” “The almost blind leading the blind.” Grigori laughed to himself. “Hardy harr,” Munk said dryly. “And then what?” “Sell it to him.” “For how much?” “I imagine you already know…” Munk weighed the bag in his hands. “What is this? A quarter pound?” “You’re good, Monkey.” Munk squinted at the bag. “Not the greatest though. It’s been cut sloppy. You might wanna get on your man about that.” Grigori rolled the window up and waited. Munk wondered which expletives the boar was directing at him from within his silent Armored Family Carrier he would actually be able to understand. Crossing the intersection had been uneventful enough for the monkey, but that changed quickly upon reaching the front door. Munk swung it open to reveal a large and imposing brick wall. He cursed to himself, to the wall and to the sack of Angel sitting inside his jacket pocket. Finally, he cursed at the wall and went around the building. The alley seemed empty enough, but, for some reason, the hair on the back of his neck kept standing up and yelling at him. Munk pushed the hair back down and reassured it with a gentle stroking. “You’re going to be fine, Munk. You’ve been through worse. Hell, you probably used to live about a block away just a few months ago…” The words did little to reassure his hair. “But I guess one block does make a hell of a difference.” Munk rounded the final corner to the back of the building, a makeshift elevator constructed out of a barrel and ropes suspended over a pulley sat waiting for him. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” he said to no one in particular. “How the hell does Grigori get up there???” Munk scuttled up the drainpipe instead. The only intact fire-escape landing was waiting for him on the fifth floor. He climbed through an empty window frame and into a rather ascetically decorated officelivingroom-kitchen-bathroom with a mattress in the corner and a ferret talking to himself behind a cardboard box. Munk’s eyes drifted around the room, but he still didn’t notice a spider. “I said ‘Welcome’!” the ferret shouted at Munk. “Sorry! I got… distracted.” “Who are you and what are you here for?” “I’m Munk. I’ve got a delivery for you.” “From Grigori? He’s late.” “We had some trouble earlier…” “A month late.”

“Oh. How did you kn-“ “You smell like boar shit.” Munk blinked. “Well don’t just stand there, bring it over here!” Munk crossed the room and dropped the bag of Angel through the cardboard desk. “Careful, you stupid Monkey!” “But how did you kn-“ “You stink of monkey shit too.” Munk sniffed himself. The ferret reached under the box and retrieved the fallen bag. He pierced it with a single, sleek claw and rubbed his finger against his gums, pausing for a moment before nodding. “Same as before?” “What do you think?” “Smart ass,” the ferret chided and dropped a wad of bills on the desk. “This is pretty generous…” Munk said as he flipped through the bills. “It’s the regular price.” Munk left half of the bills on the desk. “Not this time. You get the one-shot Munk special discount.” “Munk discount?” Munk smiled and nodded. “Hello?” “Oh, sorry. Forgot. Grigori said it was up to me, so here it is.” The ferret leafed through the bills slowly. “Half price?” “Yep.” The ferret paused. “Grigori never told you what happened to the last delivery man, did he?” “Last… delivery man?” Munk swallowed. The ferret smiled and nodded his head to the side wall, where a polished Rottweiler skull was sitting on a window seal. “Thought he was a smart fucker. Thought he could pull one on an old-blind Ferret. Brings me in this bag of sugar and expects me to pay full price for it. I did, of course, but so did he. Tiki here caught him in the alley on the way back. Good little spider brought me my money back. Grigori took a long while before he decided to try and sell to me again.” “Tiki?” The ferret pointed his finger to the ceiling. A large, three-eyed black widow sat staring at Munk with one of her better eyes. Munk shrieked. Ferret laughed. “Ha ha ha! She’s a quiet one, isn’t she?” “Fucking gargantuan! The hell does that thing eat?!” “Cheats and thiefs.” Munk laughed nervously to himself and began backing out of the room. “Don’t worry, she hasn’t got a taste for monkey. I take it our business is concluded.” “Yeah… uh… I guess so.” Munk bolted from the room and down the exterior of the building. He sighed heavily and began to traverse the alley back to Grigori’s car. Rather, he began traversing the alley back to where Grigori’s car should have been. Munk spied the empty intersection as he stepped out of the alley. “Son. Of. A. Bitch!” Munk cursed to the lonely street light. “Something wrong, young blood?” Munk spun around to spot a tall, but scrawny black bear approaching him from the alley. “You look lost.” A hyena and badger followed him out of the shadows. Munk began edging away, looking up and down the street in time to spot two more roughs approaching from either side. “No. No problem,” was what came out of the Monkey’s mouth, but all he could think was “fuck”. Munk turned back around and quickened his pace across the intersection. He felt the reassuring weight of his magnum under his jacket. Then he remembered that there were only five shells left. “Gotta do this right. Fast and accurate, Munk. Fast and accurate.” He looked up from watching his feet cross the road in time to spy a rhinoceros covered in scars and missing an eye step round the corner in front of him. In it’s burly arms it cradled an old and worn lever-action rifle. “Hold it,” came a familiar voice from the alley Munk had only just left. He spun around, drawing his magnum in a single, smooth motion and angling it at the sound. A blind ferret riding an almost blind

black widow smiled at his general direction. “This one’s fine, boys. Let him be.” The crowd grumbled and walked off down the street, passing a silent, lurking metal alloy construct of comfort, efficiency and death that had been carting Munk around all night. “You need to learn to say a proper good bye next time, Munk.” “Yeah, sorry. Guess I got a little spooked.” Munk returned his friend to its cozy and concealed holster. “Tiki does that. Most City folk don’t see many spiders. Just in the zoo.” The ferret patted his oddly cooing mount. “You take care, Munk. Perhaps we’ll see each other again.” “Sure, but without the spider and six war criminals, shall we say?” “These are just men and Tiki wouldn’t harm a fly. Would you, Tiki? Well… I guess you would.” The ferret rode his eight-legged companion back up the side of the building, speaking to it of flies and victims and delicious innards sucked from wriggling victims. Grigori rolled up to Munk in his obsidian death wagon. “And how did you manage that, Monkey?” came the boar’s voice from a retracting, tinted window. “Sold it to him half-price,” Munk said with a smirk as he jumped into the V-8 mobile bunker. Grigori stared at him, his jaw slowly opening. “Half price?” “Yep. Half price.” “Of all the fucking stupid things-“ “If you had wanted more you shouldn’t have left it up to me!” Grigori quit shouting. “I was going to enjoy watching them kill you very slowly and then quickly and then slowly again, Monkey. But don’t think this is over yet.” “So what next?” “Bowling.” The duo rolled along the interstate into the heart of downtown. A black behemoth of metal and silent death swooped like an owl in the night along the downtown sixlane and into a large parking garage. The door guard took one look at the Cyrillic license plate and ducked inside his booth, raising the gate from behind his flimsy barricade. The metal monster a shade or two darker than a moonless night in the bottom of Sleepy Time Caverns rolled into a parking spot and the incorrigible duo strode to the elevator door. After a pensive wait, the doors dinged open and the boar and monkey entered the steel box. Grigori jabbed the emergency stop and call buttons at the same time thrice rapidly and the elevator shot away to the rooftop. A rope ladder waited for the pair in the hands of a naked mole rat who was trying very hard to be imposing. “I’m sorry, Mr. Glinka, but you’re not allowed here no more.” Grigori smiled to the mole rat. “And why is that, comrade?” “You know why, Mr. Glinka. Your friend’s not welcome here either.” The smile drained from Grigori’s face almost as fast as the color drained form the mole’s. Grigori slapped the mole and climbed the ladder to the hovering blimp anyway. Munk shrugged apologetically to the wounded rodent and followed his companion. Four men waited in the coat room at the other end of the ladder. “Our associate said your not welcome here,” the first said whilst pumping a shotgun. “Yeah, and go away too!” his ram compatriot wielding a diminutive automatic pistol added. Grigori kept approaching without a change of pace, silent death upon his face and steel raining from his eyes. The four didn’t move as he shouldered his way through them, knocking the more verbose pair to the floor. Munk didn’t bother shrugging this time. “What the fuck are we doing?” Munk hissed into the boar’s ear as he stalked up the hallway. “Business. Shut up and follow, Monkey.” Munk took a moment to drop a fresh shell in place of the expended cartridge still residing in the chamber. A stately woman dressed in elegant evening wear adjusted her glasses to get a closer look at the mysterious simian in the hallway and decided her time

was better spent back in the bathroom. Munk tucked his negotiator back under his jacket and sprinted down the hallway to catch up with Grigori as he kicked down the door at the opposing end. “JULIAN!” Grigori bellowed. “JULIAN!!! WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!” “What the hell is going on?!” Munk shouted at his boisterous companion. “JULIAN! GET THE FUCK DOWN HERE!” Grigori stomped up the stairwell to the pilot’s cabin. Another guard cowered beside the door at the top of the stairwell. Then the door cowered on the floor beneath Grigori’s feet. “JULIAN!” Julian responded with the entire magazine of a compact pistol. Grigori buckled backwards and slumped to his knees. Munk dove over the cumbersome boar, his persuader delivering a well phrased retort to the shrieking, well groomed stork’s right shoulder. Munk turned back to his companion. Grigori lumbered up and dug a bullet out of his jacket. “That wasn’t very smart, Julian. Even your men have more brains than this. You know what I’m here for.” “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Just take it, oh god I’m so sorry! Sorry, so sorry I’m sorry, fuckin sorry, I’m sorry, please don’t kill me,” Julian bawled on the floor. Munk walked up and retrieved the empty compact, tucking it into his jacket pocket. Grigori walked over to a cabinet on the wall and ripped the door open. “Don’t make me come myself, next time, or you will die, Julian.” Grigori said as he withdrew a small, black duffel from the cabinet. Munk stared in silence at the weeping stork. “We’re leaving.” Munk nodded and followed him out the door. Many eyes followed him back down the stairs and out of the blimp with far fewer complaints or obstructions. The two entered their imposing steel chariot and drove away into the night. Several blocks passed in silence. “What was that all about?” “He’s been holding something for me, but he forgets who he is.” “And who was that?” “Julian.” “Well you’re just a bundle of conversation, what the fuck is going on, Grigori?” “I’ve been out of town a while. People seem to have forgotten about me.” “So what are we doing tonight? Why all this running around? WHAT IS GOING ON?!” Munk slammed his fist on the dash and a string of flares erupted from the back of the Caddy Stealth Tank. “It’s a test, Monkey.” “Test?” “To make sure you’re actually worth the effort. I may have been gone for a few weeks, but you were in the gutter for a long time, Monkey. We’ve got to… test your steel before we let you take on this investigation.” “And what if I’m not?” “You die and I get to finally take care of things myself.” Munk stared ahead, absently stroking his tail with one hand. “Relax, Monkey. You’re doing well, but I’m sure you’ll get yourself killed soon enough.” “Yeah, just no helping me along there. Okay, Griggy?” Munk quipped and gave his tail a slight tug before finally reloading his magnum. Taillights buzzed uptown along the freeway, finally returning to Green View Point. Munk sat in a hallway, spinning the cylinder on his magnum and contemplating the meaning of his life. He briefly thought of shooting himself right here just so his brains and blood would ruin the carpet, but that would still be giving in to these self-righteous fucks. He thought about shooting all of them, but he knew Grigori had been dying for an excuse to share his enthusiasm with Munk all night already. Then

he thought really hard about just punting a kitten down an alley somewhere. An extra cute kitten with a pretty bow around its neck and a little bell and everything. Munk heard the muffled voices from behind the heavy, wood and iron doors. He ran his hand down the intricate detail of the door and fished in his pocket for something. He produced a small butterknife with a very rough edge ground into one side and the handle wrapped in electrical tape. Nelly was etched along the blade. Grigori paced the office on the other side of the door. Valentin’s eyes were following the boar back and forth as he strolled the room with his arms waving somewhat more frequently than normal. “He’s still here, Valentin. I’ve tried twice now, but the monkey is still here. He’s got some beginners luck, but it won’t hold for much longer. “Sit down, Grigori.” Valentin ordered. Grigori sat. “I’ll get rid of him tomorrow. I’m sure a trip through the Lower East Village will do it.” “Grigori! Calm down. He’s just a monkey and if you don’t get rid of him, you can just use him to fetch you coffee.” “But what if he’s reporting to Rostya, Valentin? What if he’s telling him everyone we’ve seen tonight? What if he tells him that long, beaked fuck, Julian, shot me?! What if Rostya find-“ Valentin lunged across his desk and slapped the jabbering boar. “SILENCE!” He struck him again. “You are Grigori Glinka! Bombadier sergeant of the motherland’s People’s Revolution!” and again. “My right hand man and the most feared myth in all of the City! You will not be undone by a monkey!” Valentin settled back in his chair, fixing his tie, collar and hair as he did so. He righted a few items on his desk, took a breath and continued. “This Munk is not some superhero. He is a washed up, junky former detective who could barely solve a case at the peak of his career, Grigori. If he does anything to hamper the investigation or that could potentially harm our family, just kill him and be done with it. You have my express permission and Rostya will answer to me.” Grigori rubbed his jaw and sat up straighter in his chair, his eyes downcast upon the desk’s surface. “Yes, boss. I’m sorry. I got… carried away.” “It’s alright, Grigori. I just don’t want a repeat of last month. You shouldn’t even be back in the city this early, so we’ve already got a lot to risk. We can’t afford any mistakes or distractions and especially not about some silly little monkey.” “Yes, boss. Where should he stay tonight?” “Let him sleep in the guest house.” Munk pulled his ear from the door before coughing. He tried to make out the last of the conversation before heavy foot steps crossing the floor forced him back into his seat. The door opened. “I need paper, a notebook and pen.” Grigori blinked at him. “You need paper and a notebook?” “No, I need a notebook and a pen. I need to be able to take notes.” Grigori eyed him for a minute. “You expect me to just remember everything about this case or what?” Grigori looked back to his boss who had already pulled out a five by seven, leather bound notebook and a black, steel pen that appeared quite capable of prying tank tracks apart without scratching its paint off. Grigori stood aside and Munk collected the items from Valentin’s desk. “Thanks,” he said. Valentin’s lips smiled but his eyes did not. “Grigori will see you to your room in the guest house. Have a good night, Monkey.” “Yeah, you too,” Munk replied and left the room. Grigori looked to his boss and felt his trigger finger twitch. Valentin shook his head slightly. “Not yet.” Grigori opened the back door of the guest house and passed the key to Munk. “Don’t lose this key. You do and you sleep with the dogs.” “Devils.”

“What?” “They’re Tasmanian Devils. Not dogs. Dogs don’t normally foam at the mouth and breath acid on babies.” Grigori stared at him for a moment before closing the door and leaving. “Fucking Monkey,” Munk heard, muttered through the door. He made his way to the bedroom and settled down for the night with his freshly acquired wares. “Big Bear murdered,” he wrote at the top of the first page. Then quickly jotted his name down on the inside cover. “Mistress murdered. Six bodyguards killed. Two civilians. Attacker one man? Shotgun and hatchet.” He scribbled a few more notes upon the page before doodling a man being stabbed with a carrot in the corner and shut off the lights for the night. Munk stood at the edge of the crime scene, watching the police forensics team photograph every relevant atom. “There’s no heart in it anymore, you know,” Munk said. “What?” Grigori asked around a cup of vodka and coffee. “I said there’s no heart in it anymore. These guys, it’s all science to them, like some kind of game. They think they can just earn enough points and it will all fall into place. You see that? They just fucked up right there?” Grigori stared across to where Munk was pointing. An investigator was collecting expended shotgun shells and bullet casings. “You see?” Munk asked his compatriot. “What are you talking about?” “He thinks those were fired by the mobsters. Three of those were our man’s rounds.” Grigori watched the unfolding scene in silence. “He’ll catch it in time, though. They’ll notice in the ballistics lab, and as long as they’ve got the location marked well enough now, it won’t make much of a difference.” “Then what’s the problem?” “It’s going to take them a week and a half to figure it out. If they’d payed more attention the first time, they would have seen it immediately.” “And how does a little monkey know who fired those shots?” “The end of those shells is burred the same as the ones up the street. He fired those rounds into the bodies before going inside to make sure they were dead. Or for fun or something.” Grigori looked at the monkey sipping his coffee and chewing on a ham and cheese sandwich on rye. “And where’s my pickle?” Munk asked. “I wanted a pickle with this.” The boar crushed his cup and dropped it on the ground, turning back to his monolithic motor vehicle. A rather large and surprisingly quiet elephant wearing a fedora apparently two sizes too small for his grey and leathery head was standing behind them with a notebook in hand. “Grigori Glinka, right?” the elephant asked. “John Mathison, Daily Press News. Can I have a minute of your time?” The monkey’s ears pricked up and he cast a quick glance behind him with the unfortunate result in timing of making eye contact. “Excuse me, Mr. McMonk,” the elephant called to him, “but could I have a word with you? Daily Press News.” Grigori shouldered his way past the elephant and walked back to his silently rumbling urban assault vehicle complete with seat warmers and rear view camera. “Oh brother,” Munk mouthed to himself before finishing off the sandwich and coffee and turning around. “Pardon me, but who did you say you were?” Munk asked the reporter squeezed into an almost masochistically tight suit. “John Mathison, Daily Press News. I’m the lead reporter and I’m looking into this murder. May I ask who the victims were?” “And what did you call me?” “Mr. McMonk. That’s who you are, right? Munk Monkey McMonk?”

“No. And you have no business being here. Go downtown to the precinct and see the desk sergeant for any press releases, but keep your nose out of the crime scene.” Munk walked past the elephant back to the waiting death wagon. “Well if you’re not Detective McMonk, then why should I be listening to you?” The elephant began to stoop under the police tape. “Hey! Get the fuck out of there, willya?” Munk shouted. “But if you’re not the cops, I need to find a real detective to talk to.” “Just shut up and get the fuck out of there.” Munk’s voice grew louder and more vehement. The elephant trudged down the sidewalk, approaching a near by uniformed police pitbull smoking a cigarette and watching the forensic experts dust the blood for fingerprints. “I said get the FUCK out of here!” Munk shouted. The elephant turned to see his persuader had finally gotten out of bed for the morning. Mathison froze in his tracks. “That’s right, now just come on back over to this side of the line,” Munk motioned with the gun barrel. The pitbull cast a glance at the magnum wielding monkey and his pachyderm hostage before going back to his doughnut and cigarettes. Grigori dropped his forhead upon the steering wheel and turned his radio up almost loud enough to hear outside of the car. “Take it easy now, lil fellah,” John cooed to the startled simian. “We wouldn’t want anything bad to happen, would we?” “Just shut up and get your big, grey wrinkled ass out of here, already. If you want info, see the desk sergeant downtown, but keep your stinking trunk out of the crime scene.” “Alright. Alright. I understand. My mistake.” “Damn straight it is and you’ll be remembering that when I let some daylight into that thick skull of yours. Now don’t let me catch you around here again.” Munk kept his persuader trained upon the investigative gossiper as he trudged back up the street. He finally holstered his heavy friend and climbed back into his seat. He noticed it was already beginning to conform to his butt and his tail no longer seemed stuck in the way. “These seats have that conforming cushy shit in them?” Munk asked as he shifted his hind quarters some. “Da and they’re heated.” “Very nice.” “And fully capable of either ejecting three hundred meters in the air or delivering a ten thousand watt electric charge to their occupant.” “Uhh… groovy,” Munk said with an uneasy shift and glance at his seat. “You should see what the seat belts can do.” Grigori smiled. “You know you just fucked up, yes Monkey?” “Huh?” Munk looked to his partner inquisitively. “John Mathison, of the Daily Press News. Our nosey little friend back there. I use the term little with a grain of salt.” Munk thought about chuckeling but kept staring at Grigori with a furrowed brow instead. “He’s on to you. Knows who you are and you just proved we’re keeping things quiet. He’s probably already been to the precinct and collected the press report.” “Fuck,” Munk muttered. “Exactly. We’ll probably be seeing him again. Next time either finish him off or don’t give him anything to go off of.” “Yeah… next time.” Grigori shifted his bunker busting mini-bus into gear and pulled a u-turn in the road before driving away. “Where are we going now?” “To the precinct to see what they have to say about this big-eared prick. Maybe, if today is a lucky day, Valentin will let me kill him.” “You don’t play around, do you?”

“Some of us use our guns when we draw them, Monkey.” Munk slumped in his seat and doodled another picture of a large boar being run over by his own car and exclaiming this in detail with many capital letters and excessive punctuation. “Hello and Welcome to Precinct 187, I’ll be with you in a moment,” a very old a droopy basset hound idly remarked to the ominous pair standing before him. “We’re here about a Mr. John Mathison of the Daily Press News,” Munk said. The basset hound looked up. “I said I’ll be with you in a- oh hello, Mr. Glinka. Sorry I didn’t see you there.” Grigori smiled and nodded. “Is nothing, Duke. We’re just here to see if this John Mathison has stopped in asking about the new case.” “John Mathison?” The hound dog leafed through a log book sitting on the desk. “No John Mathison in the log, Glinka. Sorry.” “What about any reporters?” “Well there was that one nosey fuck, had some kind of press badge. I gave him the usual spiel about public privacy and showed him the dailies.” “Good. How’s your sister doing, Duke?” “She’s good. Asked me about you a couple days ago.” “Did she? Tell her I’ll be calling soon. I’ve got a lot of work since I got back in town.” “Absolutely. She’s been dying to hear from you since you took off, when was that?” “Dying to hear from you?” Munk interjected with a smile. Grigori stabbed him with his pupils, thinking murderous thoughts of a biblical proportion. “Tell her I’ll be in touch. And send my love.” “Awww!” Munk cooed. Grigori’s face grew red and his trigger finger twitched almost violently for a half a second. “Thank you, Duke. Take care.” “Certainly, Glinka. Tell Valentin I said ‘Hi.’” “And where now, Monkey?” Glinka asked his partner with a little more than no agitation in his voice. “We’ve got to check up on these witnesses, but most of them said they’d be out of town during follow up investigations.” “So who is there?” “The security man, he’ll be at work now.” “Not going back to the condo yet.” “And the janitor who wasn’t shot. Jeremy Irons of 474 East Whichitaw Street.” “Da, I know the neighborhood.” The sleek, black bullet silently roared down the highway towards Lower Central. Munk rapped his knuckles upon the door louder this time. “Mr. Irons? Jeremy Irons?” “I’m coming! You dadgum Jehova’s Witnesses, just can’t let a man enjoy his Saturday, can you?” The door opened. “Yes, what is it?” “We’re not hear about the Lord, Mr. Irons. We just have a few questions about the murders Uptown two nights ago. We understand you were working that night?” “Yes, I was working, but I already gave my statement to the detective. Detective… detective…” “Detective Fellows.” “Yeah, that fat bulldog fellow, with the jowels.” Mr. Irons waved his hands next to his cheeks to illustrate.

“Yes, we understand that, Mr. Irons. I’m Detective …er Johnson and this is my partner Detective Jonson. No ‘h.’ We’re private investigators hired by the family of the deceased to assist in the investigation.” “Y’all don’t look like no brothers I’ve ever seen.” Mr. Irons’ acute eyes shifted from the burly boar to the miffed monkey. “No relation. It’s just a coincidence. Anyway, we have some questions we’d like to ask you.” “But I already gave my statement to the police.” “I understand that, sir, but there are some follow up questions we’d like to ask.” “Can I see your badges?” “We’re not the police, sir. We were hired by the families of the deceased.” “Some ID?” Munk huffed and shuffled through his pockets for his wallet. Grigori held out a card with his picture on it and printed in Cyrillic. “What’s this?” “My partner doesn’t speak English. He’s on an agency agent exchange program to complete his training. Sort of like an internship for professional detectives.” “…alright, Mr…” “Johnson.” “Mr. Johnson. You can come in. Would you like some coffee?” “No thank you, but I’m sure my partner would appreciate it.” Mr. Irons let the duo pass and closed the door behind them, making sure to check up and down the hallway first. “You can have a seat wherever. Sorry it isn’t too clean, but I wasn’t expecting no one.” “That’s certainly fine, Mr. Irons. We won’t be long.” The off duty janitor waddled into his kitchen and came out bearing two cups of coffee. He passed one to Grigori and sipped from the other. “I hope your friend doesn’t mind it black. I don’t have no cream or sugar.” “I’m sure it’s alright, sir. Now if you don’t mind answering some questions.” Grigori sipped from his steaming mug and nodded approvingly to Mr. Irons. “I told the cops everything. I was working graveyard and I hear some kinda noise. Something loud and a lot of it.” “Right, the gun shots.” “And all this yelling too. So I peak around the corner, tryin to see what was what and alls I see is the deskman getting his head blowed all over the floor I’d just mopped.” “That’s most unfortunate. Can you describe the assailant for us?” “Us? I thought you said he couldn’t speak no English?” “He understands it quite well. Now the assailant?” “Yeah… yeah. He was this one guy.” “There was only one attacker, Mr. Irons?” “Yeah, just one guy with a shotgun, an old Bonnsworth pump or something. My daddy had one looked just like it back when I was a kid.” “Any distinguishing characteristics that you can recall, Mr. Irons?” “Well, he only had a half an ear.” “He was missing a whole ear and a half?” “No, he had his one ear, but the other one was all tore up.” “Anything else? Height? Weight? Age?” “Well, older n you and this fella, I think.” He jabbed his thumb at the boar daintily sipping coffee. “But smaller’n him. Had these two long ears, like rabbits ears?” “So he was a Jack Rabbit? Cotton Tail?” “Naw, he was a man, he just had these long rabbit ears. Was kinda weird. And he had something stuck in the back of his belt. I saw it when he walked by.”

“Something in his belt,” Munk repeated as he scribbled in his notepad. “How big was it?” “Only bout a foot long. All I saw was the bottom of a handle sticking out the bottom of his jacket. Looked like a hammer or something.” “Thank you, is there anything else about this man you think would help us out? Anything at all?” “No, aint nuthin else I saw about him. He was dressed nice enough, but don’t know if you’ll ever be seeing those clothes again, what with all the blood on them. He did mutter to himself an awful lot though. Was talking to no one but the crowd in his head the entire time I saw him. Just going on and on at about a hunred words a second. Strange company, he’s been keeping, I tell you what.” “tell… you… what,” Munk repeated again. “Alright, if that’s everything we’ll be leaving you to your day off then, Mr. Irons. Thank you very much. We’ll be in touch with you.” Munk shook the man’s hand vehemently and motioned to Grigori who was still polishing off his coffee. The pair departed, leaving Mr. Irons to his Saturday. “One man,” Munk said across the bellowing folk music. Grigori nodded. “One man… with rabbit ears? That sound like anyone local to you?” “Nyet, definitely not any I know of. Those sneaky Asians may have a few they are hiding though. We should go ask them about this.” “Hah hah hah,” Munk said without much effort or use of his diaphragm. “Maybe we should just shoot each other right now and save them the trouble.” “Relax, Monkey. You know people now.” Grigori took the downtown exit to Little Phai Long. The black, silent, death tank cruised up a side street on the west side of Little Phai Long, the neighborhood with well over two-thirds of the City’s Asiatic population. To call it a neighborhood was somewhat of an understatement, however, since it comprised a good third of the city’s overall population and size, not including the monorails. The monorail had been built before the second depression of the city, before the Asian Triads had emigrated from elsewhere. It had been a great source of revenue for the city, but the city couldn’t monitor or enforce payment with the police force went on strike during the Fall of Friday, the financial district bombing that instigated the second depression. When the Asian Triads had stepped in, bringing immigrants, jobs and money with them, they had taken the train over. Initially through despotism but eventually by legally purchasing the company that ran the lines. Since then, the monorail had been exclusively Triad and they used it to exert their power over any point of the City at a moment’s notice. The screaming, banshee train bearing silent, invisible death from above had been a thing of nightmares since then. Even the Mob had had more than its share of trouble due to it. Munk and Grigori remained on the outskirts of Little Phai Long, keeping to an alley between streets. The black, death sedan slowed to a stop behind a loft building and Grigori leapt out, making quick time through the alley door and into the back of the noodle shop. Munk bounced out of the car and hurried to catch up. “Wong? It’s Grigori,” the boar called to the shop as he made his way through the store room and into the kitchen. “Grigori?” came the excited response from the front of the resteraunt. “I thought you were gone. What are you doing back here?” A short and rotund mouse wearing a chef’s jacket stepped through the door and into the kitchen. “Wong!” exclaimed Grigori and hugged the mouse. “I’m back in town on business. You’ve probably heard.” “Big Bear? Yes, I’ve been hearing rumors about that.” “Have you? And what of them?” “Well, some people are saying it was a secret hit by our people, but no one really believes that. The whole rest of the City is anybody’s guess. Some say it was The Professor, others think it was a rogue

cop. Someone not on the Mob or Triad payrolls. And, even crazier, I hear that it could have even been a Mafia thing.” “Hmm, did you hear anything about the man himself?” “No, not much. Just people think he’s out of town. They say he doesn’t look like anyone from here. He’s some sort of crossbreed or something funny. And he’s not right in the head either.” “Yeah, we’ve heard that one too. Thanks, Wong.” “Certainly, certainly, Grigori. You come back here anytime. Want some noodles to take with you? For your monkey friend here, maybe?” “No, I’ll have to come back for those. We’ve got much work to do now, sorry.” “It’s alright, just come back soon and we’ll settle it then.” “Thanks, Wong. I’ll be back.” Grigori embraced the elder mouse once again before exiting out the rear of the restaurant and climbing back inside his armored conveyance. “Well that was creepy,” Munk said. “What?” “You hugged him.” “Yes, that is Wong. I’ve known him for some time now.” “Used to watch you growing up?” “No, I just really like his noodles.” “Oh, ok then.” Munk left it alone and continued watching the City drift by. A train shot fast overhead. “Fuck!” shouted Grigori and floored the gas, chasing the screaming, iron, mag-lev banshee down the alley and across the city. He wove desperately through traffic, shutting off the bellowing folk music for the first time that Munk had ever heard. The roaring road tank screamed several blocks away from Little Phai Long and into the heart of downtown. Grigori cracked the windows as he spotted the monorail train resting above a group of tenement buildings another couple of blocks down the road. Sounds of gunfire echoed down the streets and drifted into the soaring behemoth of a car. Grigori held the gas down and waited for the screaming engine to redline before jamming a button in the center of his steering wheel. The engine roared loud enough to rattle the armored windows and drown out the gunfire. Munk braced himself against the dash and the pair smashed through a line of cars being used as fortifications by a rather angry looking group of men dressed from head to toe in grey, urban camouflage. Once past the perimeter of guards, there were far fewer blotchy grey men running around shooting and screaming. A group carrying black sub-machine guns, apparently from some black ops unit’s armory, was guarding the street level door of the tenement building. The armored front end of Grigori’s tactical assault cruiser cleared the sidewalk and left a swath of mangled, broken bodies across the street. He jumped out of the car and ran to the back, thumbing a button on the remote to open the rear door before he got there. Munk bounded out after him. By the time he had reached the read of the Sport Utility Tank, Grigori was busy loading a compact assault rifle. A compartment beneath the floor of the vehicle was open, revealing a wide assortment of metal death dealers. “Grab one if you want, but hurry.” Grigori drew the bolt back and let it fly forward, locking a round inside the chamber. Munk glanced over the contents and picked out a clip fed, auto-shotgun. He grabbed the three magazine arranged beneath the longarm. Grigori slammed the compartment door shut and rolled the floor mat back over it before closing the rear door and pushing the alarm arm button three times rapidly. The menacing, black construct let out an extra evil chirp and Munk thought he heard several powerful capacitors charging up. The boar drew the rifle’s sling over his shoulder and head then tightened it in place and kicked in the front door. Gunfire continued from the floors above them, but was growing rapidly less chaotic. Munk followed him up the stairs and finished loading his shotgun. They ran up five stories of blood and bullet

casings before finding anything that remotely resembled a survivor. The barely groaning body lay in a quickly growing scarlet puddle as he weezed his last words out. “What… was… that…” Grigori crossed to the far end of the hall, staying huddled and low despite his size. Munk continued up his side of the hallway, trying to keep a careful and weary eye behind them as well as up front. There wasn’t a lick of movement anywhere, just smoky remnants and bullet holes. Munk took a moment to peer through a three foot long horizontal gash in the wall. It was a single smooth line, nothing at all what bullet holes looked like. The stairwell loomed at them from the end of the hall, as they slowly approached the death trap that lay ahead. Grigori halted just ahead of the door and looked to Munk, nodding for him to go first. “What? Fuck you!” Munk shouted to the boar. “Shhh!” Grigori hissed at the monkey. “You want to kill us both, monkey? Go. First.” He jerked the gun up to emphasize his words. Munk glowered at the boar and darted across the hall and through the door in one quick movement. He whipped his shotgun up once through the door and jumped up the stairs, gripping the railing with his tail. Munk released his left hand from the pump of the gun and jerked himself up over the railing. Grigori stared up at him from the bottom of the stairwell. “Fucking monkey,” he muttered to himself as he trudged up the stairs. Munk motioned for him to be quiet from the hallway door. He held up three fingers and pointed back up the hallway. Grigori peeked out of the doorway, spotting the guards talking to one another halfway up the hall. He took a step back then charged into the hall. A hailstorm of little metal death ripped the end of the hall apart, scattering the guards along their path. Munk stepped out behind him and tried not to breath through his nose too much. Bits of foreign conversation floated down through the stairwell above. It grew excited, urgent and loud until someone hissed and it silenced. “Fuck,” said Munk. “They heard us.” “Well no, you think so?” Grigori snorted at the monkey. “Just shut up and get ready, cover the far side.” Munk nodded and crossed to the far side of the stairwell, remaining on the opposite wall of the hallway. Grigori braced up close against the near wall and together they waited. Eternities ticked by until they finally heard it, a shuffling footstep almost at the bottom of the stairwell. A few bullet casings rattled against one another and rolled off the edge of a stair. It might as well have been an anvil falling on the foot of a howler monkey for as quiet as the floor was. Munk took careful aim with his longarm. The wall next to his head exploded. The monkey dropped low to the floor, spinning on his squatted haunches and turning down the far end of the hallway. A grayish blob emerged from the stairwell doorway and into a cloud of double ought buckshot that left little intact. A second figure fired a couple rounds into the wall and floor around Munk, but the little simian had already shuffled a few steps back. His next shell shredded the doorframe and the other gunman with it. Munk stood up and sprinted to the stairwell. A long burst of machinegun fire erupted behind him as he rounded the doorway into the stairwell. “Got him!” Grigori shouted from his end of the hall. “Goin up,” Munk called back and bounded up to the next floor. He dove into the hallway, directly in front of another grayish blob. The figure swung a rather formidable looking sword, but the monkey had already hit the floor and rolled out of the way. Munk grabbed the attacker’s leg with his tail and jerked as hard as the prehensile appendage could. He sprung to his feet as the figure toppled from his and unloaded his next round directly into the back of its head. Grigori stormed out of the other stairwell screaming obscenities that no one else could understand. The two remaining blobs unlucky enough to be caught in the confusion of this floor disintegrated in a hail of bullets. Munk hit the floor. “Hey watchit! You almost got me!”

“What? I missed?” The boar bellowed laughter and walked up to the corpses, prodding them with his foot. “Well we know who they are, but why are they here?” “They’re not raiding this place?” “No, this is one of theirs.” “Your guys get any attack orders lately?” “Nothing Valentin has told me of. Fucking brothers must have overstepped themselves.” Grigori pulled out a cell phone and Munk looked over the bodies. “Valentin? Yes, we’re downtown. Few miles away from Little Phai. You heard? Want us to stay until the cavalry arrives? Alright.” Grigori tucked the phone back inside his jacket. “Time to leave, Monkey.” “What? But we’re not done yet. There’s still another floor.” “Not our business. There’ll be others here soon enough.” The duo retreated back through the stairwells and out of the building. “So what was all that about?” “Not our business, Monkey. If we’re meant to know, we will soon enough.” Grigori’s looming tankocalypse chirped as he mashed a button on the remote. They unloaded and returned the weapons to their storage space and drove away. “We should be expecting these things now,” Grigori finally said after several minutes of silence. “The brothers have been looking for an excuse to expand and the death of Mikhail is more than excuse enough.” “So who’s place was that?” “Triads. The guys inside didn’t even look like our regulars. I didn’t recognize any of them.” “Outsiders? Some new group grabbing for territory?” “Possibly. More likely someone is trying to be clever and cover their tracks.” “But who?” “Who wants gains without fearing repercussions? Everyone.” “Good point…” Munk mulled this over in silence. “When was the last turf war?” “Three years.” “Really? Damn…” “There was a treaty, signed by Mikhail and Trung.” “Trung?” “Fo… Thuo… Tho..” “Tho Truong Dong?” “Yeah.” “How’d he get important enough to make a pact with Big Bear?” “Ask him. I do wetwork. Intelligence isn’t normally my problem.” “That goes without saying,” Munk muttered to himself. “So where now?” “To see Valentin. We’ve got to update him.” They flew away north through the city and onto the highway. Green View Point quickly loomed on the horizon. “Pretty mysterious guy, this hitman,” Munk said as he dropped into one of the many chairs scattered around the office. Grigori closed and locked the doors behind them. “My preliminary contact with the Triads doesn’t know anything about him. All he has are rumors saying he’s an outsider or maybe he was even hired by someone in our group.” “We’ve always known that, Glinka,” replied Valentin. “Tell me something new.” “He likes hatchets, doesn’t have much regard for covert tactics. Takes care of his witnesses, for the most part. He’s loud and messy. Not very good at this thing, other than being quite good with a weapon.” “Hmm,” Valentin pondered the information being told to him. “And he’s a crossbreed or something. All we heard from the witnesses were comments about his ears.”

“Ears?” “Yes, Valentin. Rabbit ears or something of the like.” Grigori took the seat next to Munk and poured a scotch on the rocks. “Apparently they’re pretty fucked up too.” He tossed the scotch back. “And they say he’s crazy.” “How would they know?” “He talked to himself, quite a bit.” “But so do you, Grigori.” “I only sing to myself, Valentin.” “What do you think, Monkey?” “About Grigori? Hell, he’s as batty as they come.” “Monkey…” Valentin’s voice held far less patience in it this time. “Out of towner.” “How are you so sure?” asked Grigori. “Who else would single-handedly decimate half an uptown condo without cleaning up after himself. Fuck, he even left the cameras.” “Cameras?” Valentin asked. Grigori’s face lost its color for a moment. “Yes boss. I forgot. We’ll get right on them. We got caught up with the Triads.” “Nobody told you to do anything about the Triads.” “But I thought-“ “Next time wait until I tell you to think. Then you can do so without disrupting this investigation further.” Valentin’s eyes locked on Grigori’s. “This investigation is the only reason we’ve brought you back here. Quit getting distracted and find out who did this thing already. Do I make myself clear?” “Yes, Valentin.” “Now, Monkey, perhaps you should take Grigori here and see about those cameras.” Munk nodded and they departed from the house. Munk looked over at the boar gripping his steering wheel with a whiteknuckled fist. “So what did you do?” Munk asked. “What?” “What did you do? Why were you gone for a month?” “Something. Not your business.” Grigori turned the radio up a few decibels. “You kill a cop or what?” Grigori didn’t say anything. “Come on, Griggs. If I’m going to be working with you, I need to know what you’re capable of. What happened?” “I killed someone.” “Who? Must have been someone pretty important considering I’ve seen you off plenty others already and you haven’t run for the hills yet.” “A Triad.” “Soldier? Lieutenant? What?” “Counselor.” “WHAT?” “Dac Kien.” “Uhh... I’ve been out of the loop a little while.” “Dac Kien. He’d been a counselor for two generations.” “Fuckin a, Grigori. What’d you go and do a thing like that for?” “He was… He would have taken over the rest of the city. The Triads weren’t stopping. They just kept growing and taking more and more. They had to be stopped.” “But how the fuck did you even pull it off?” “It was a pretty public event.” “And you’re still alive?” “I used a rifle.”

“Fuck, man.” Munk slumped in his chair. “And they still brought you back? Valentin must really trust you.” “He says I am the best.” “Are you?” “What do you think, Monkey? I’ve killed one of the biggest men in this city and have yet to be caught. Much less even considered as a suspect.” “How’d you manage that?” “I ‘left’ a few days before the hit. My paperwork all reflects this.” “And what about this John we’re chasing? Still haven’t caught him.” “Yet, Monkey. Yet. That will change soon enough.” Grigori gassed his guzzling gear grinder and sped away to the uptown condo. “And you’re here to see Mr. Rogerstein?” The lanky baboon shifted his stance as he looked from the boar to the monkey and back to the boar again. “The security director, yes,” Munk replied. “He’s already talked to the police though.” “Yes, we’re private investigators, hired by families of the deceased to provide assistance in the investigation.” “Don’t the cops have his report or witness testimony or whatever?” “Yes, but we have some follow up questions we’d like to ask.” “Such as?” “That’s for Mr. Rogerstein to know. You can ask him when we’re done.” “Well he’s not in at the moment. He’s out to lunch. Can I take a message?” “No, we’ll just check back-“ “Wait, there he is,” the baboon turned his attention away from the inquisitive pair and called out to someone behind them. “Mr Rogerstein! Some gentlemen …er, private investigators here to see you.” “I don’t recall having any appointments,” the heavy set wolf stalked behind the counter. “Hello, gentlemen. How may I help you today?” “Hello Mr. Rogerstein. I’m Detective Johnson, this is Detective Jonson. We’re here to ask some follow up questions about the murders that took place here a couple days ago.” “Johnson and Jonson?” “No relation. Do you think we could enter your office, please?” “But I’ve already spoken to the police about this.” “Yes, Mr. Rogerstein. We understand that. We’re here for follow up questioning, sir.” “You see, we were wondering about the attacker, anything further you might be able to tell us,” chimed in Grigori. “Well, as I told the cops, it was one guy. He had these really weird ears.” “Yes, sir. We’ve reviewed your police statement already. We were wondering about the security cameras.” “Oh, you want to try to get a look at him.” “Yes sir.” “I’m afraid our cameras didn’t catch too much. Just a lot of violence and one man running through it all.” “Anything would be a help to us. Do you think you could print out a freeze frame of the assailant?” “Yeah, I think I did that yesterday, but the cops never stopped by to pick it up.” “Well if you’ll share it with us, we can take a copy to the police for you.” “Really? Well that’d be a big help.” “Yes sir. We don’t mind waiting here while you retrieve the picture.” “Certainly, detectives. I’ll be right back.” The wolf turned and hustled back into his office.

“How long’s he been working here?” Munk asked the desk attendant. “Mr. Rogerstein? Umm, about six months, I guess.” “That new?” “Yeah, he’s a transfer.” “Transfer?” “Sure, guys transfer in and out of here all the time. Place is owned by a national firm or something. I came here from West Grayditch not much earlier than him.” “Oh, ok. I understand now.” Munk jotted a few notes down. “Here you go, detectives. Anything else that I can help you with?” “No sir, but we’ll be in touch. Thank you very much.” “Thank you,” Rogerstein gave Munk’s extended hand a firm shake. “Hope you catch the guy. He’s a real maniac, public menace.” The car’s engine roared to life and Grigori shifted his mechanical monstrosity into gear as Munk donned his seatbelt. “You think he was an insider, Monkey?” “Not sure. Even a lifer coulda been bought off.” The car pulled away from the Condo and back north out of town. “Sorry about Valentin.” “What?” “Sorry about Valentin. I didn’t mean to get you in trouble.” “Valentin was right. I shouldn’t have gotten distracted from the investigation. I was a fool.” “So no hard feelings?” Grigori stared silently at the looming highway and turned up the radio. “This is the best we have, Valentin.” Grigori dropped the computer printout on the oak monstrosity separating him from his boss. “Much better. So that’s all of the witnesses then?” Valentin flipped the picture around and retrieved a magnifying glass from the top drawer of his desk. He looked closely, inspecting what seemed to be every pixel possible before sliding the picture back across the desk. “Yes, Valentin. The rest claimed to be asleep.” “Perhaps we should ask them harder.” “Most of them are our people. If anything, it seems that they simply did not hear the exchange. The units in that building are rather well insulated and their TV’s tend to be rather loud.” Valentin nodded slowly. “So where do you think he’s from?” “We don’t have any information on that yet.” “And how do you propose to find out?” “We could try asking around the other major cities.” “One at a time? You want to wait until next year to find this guy?” “Wait a second, Valentin,” interrupted Munk. “I think he’s got a point.” Valentin looked at the monkey. “Why do you say that, Mr. McMonk?” “Well lets say this guy aint local. But he sure does seem like a regular from the looks of it.” “How do you know that?” “The hatchet is prolly a calling card and this guy certainly isn’t afraid of the wrong end of an Uzi.” “Good point.” “And this thing seemed pretty last minute, otherwise the guards would have been better taken care of.” “Yes?” Valentin smirked slightly.

“So that means he can’t have come from too far. The correspondence would have left more tracks. Somebody would have heard something either on your side or the Triad’s side. And nobody seems to know anything about this guy.” “That’s true.” “I mean, it seems like somebody took a day trip or a weekend and found the hitter himself.” “Well how do you know where to start?” “Well, Grayditch. That’s the closest,” Munk looked to Grigori. “Da, Valentin. If we find nothing in Grayditch, I’ll check back with my people here.” Valentin stroked his chin for a moment. “Yes, that is fine, Grigori. And I will let you know if have any news here. When are you leaving?” “I have a bag in the car, Valentin. We can buy Monkey some luggage when we get there.” “Not too much time shopping there and keep my name out of this.” “Of course, Valentin.” “Good luck.” Valentin looked Munk directly in his eyes. “Don’t fuck this up.” Taillights sped off into the setting sun. Grayditch loomed ahead on the horizon, industrial smog funneling up into the atmosphere at an astronomical rate. Sunlight choked through the grainy, grey cloud cover and settled across the dry and desolate countryside. The area had been abandoned to farming for some time now and for tourism even longer. All that remained were industrial sized factories, industrial sized waste and a post-apocalyptic visage to its residence. On the days when the smoggy cloud cover reflected enough of the city light to pass for a sun, that is. Grigori flipped the windshield wipers on as soot rained from the grey sky. The duo rode deep into the heart of Grayditch, passing through the outer residential districts and on through the factory storage yards. They pulled into the inner-city, a corporate skyscraper forest of concrete colossi barely poking through the smog to distant sunlight far above. The richest of the rich lived up there, scattered amongst the few dozen king size condos perched atop the office towers. The real irony of the situation was that the poorest of the poor lived right beneath, in a subterranean slum where mushroom farming and waste collection were all that served as industry. Grigori left his car in a guarded parking bunker and checked into a pair of rooms for the night. Munk collected what few possessions he still had with him and settled into his room. “I’ve called the concierge, you’re closet will be stocked in the morning.” “How do they know my sizes?” “The concierge eyeballed you in the lobby.” Munk stared at the boar. “We should probably be careful about using names in this place.” “Da, now get your stuff. We’re leaving.” The hotel elevator rang ground floor and the bellhop unlocked the door and disengaged the autocannons. “Ground floor. Shall we call an escort team from the hotel’s private security, sir?” “No, that won’t be necessary.” Munk waved the bellhop away with a crisp bill. Grigori noticed the cash flash and checked his pockets. “Fucking Monkey,” he muttered to himself. He jogged up to where Munk was lighting a cigarette on the corner. “You shouldn’t smoke those here.” “Why not?” “The scavengers know the scent of real tobacco from over a block away.” Munk ground the cigarette under a heel. “And we’re going this way.” Grigori pivoted to the left and took up a more than eager pace. Munk struggled to keep up. “Jesus, Griggs. I’m gonna have to take to the street lights, you keep this up,” Munk bitched.

“Shut it,” Grigori hissed back. “We just need to get beneath the streets, then we can slow down. Now come on!” Munk bounded ahead on all four as he fought to keep up. “It’s these fucking loafers. Don’t know why people ever bother with this shit.” The monkey sprung to a light post, suspending himself by his tail while he shed the footwear. “Monkey!” Grigori screamed. Munk dropped the last sock and hung upside down, staring at the hustling boar. “Yehosephetova, Grigori. I’ll be there in a second!” The monkey swung to the next streetlight as what was once his perch rang of screeching metal. Munk looked back to see a sloth in a torn and grungy straight jacket. It raked the streetlight with six inch long claws. The metal was screaming like a banshee as the nails dragged over it. “Fuck!” Munk screamed and bolted for the stairwell door where the boar was busy drawing his auto-magnum. “Get down there and shut up!” Grigori commanded the rapidly retreating monkey. He swung the door shut behind them as the impact of the deranged sloth shuddered through his body. A piece of old plumbing served as a deadbolt through the door’s handle and the two were safely underground. “Let’s go,” said Grigori. “He might know another way in here.” They scurried through the dimly lit subway tunnels and corroding sewer pipes. All the layers of pedestrian transit and waste sludge coalesced into a single, multi-palate undercity. The reached the main sewer line and an albino rat sat waiting at a small landing in a gondola. “Ah, clients!” The rat exclaimed. “I was hoping someone would come by soon. Allow me to introduce myself, I am Nathaniel East. Son of Father Baker East, grandson to Alexander Wellington East.” The boar and monkey climbed into the gondola and shifted around in the pillows to make themselves comfortable. “A river-rat all my life. The East Clan is the best river rat clan in the whole history of Suburbia.” The rat pushed the boat off of the landing; deftly maneuvering with long, smooth strokes of the questionable pole. “If there’s a place someone wants to be anywhere down here, we know the three fastest routes and six most scenic. ‘Life’s more about how you get there and not so much about where you’re going,’ old Daddy Alex used to tell us. His father told him and his father him and its been in our family since we first came down here. Back when these were still caves and not sewer lines.” The gondola slid through the murky waters and along the subterranean river. “Why I recall the days I used to spend doing nothing but drifting through the waters of the above land, basking in the sun and watching butterflies and sparrows throughout the air. Of course I was always more partial to canoes back then, but these gondolas are much better suited for the climate you find down here. I’ve sailed scooners, scooters, frigates, freighters, a destroyer once, sailboats, kayaks, paddleboats, cruise liners. I’ve seen every inch of this world. Every inch that’s on the water, I mean to say. Land is somewhat more difficult to sail on.” “Excuse me,” Munk interrupted. “But where are you taking us?” “Your first time here, sir? I’m taking you to Central Station, of course. That’s the city plaza. You can get anywhere you want from there.” “Where the hell are we?” Munk whispered to his boarish companion. “No need for that, sirs. You’re in Suburbia. Land beneath the feet.” The gondolier broke up laughing. “Oh, excuse me. I do love telling that one. Yes, sir. This here is the second largest metropolis in the whole country. Only place bigger is the City, of course. Even those fat cat Grayditch financiers can’t comprehend the amount of industrial engineering and planning goes into the development of this little metropolis, be it fuelled by garbage or not. People have made a respectable life for themselves. And if those” “Thank you,” said Grigori. “Why, yes sir. I’m sorry that I go on, like I do. But I was just trying to explain to y’all’s the way things are around here.” “I’ll tip you double if you quit talking, boatman.”

“You’re friends not much for manners, is he?” the gondolier asked Munk. Munk shook his head. A somewhat miffed serviceman collected twice his normal pay as the pair stepped out of the gondola and onto the platform. They strolled across the docks, walking directly into the heart of the Suburbia. Quant and curious housing had evolved out of shanties and makeshift homes into a multi-tiered monstrosity of a megalopolis. The market was full of farmers carts and various forms of lichen and fungus available. Insects and smaller rodents sizzled over open fires and the scents of a dozen different delicacies the world over wafted through the air. “Now what?” Munk asked Grigori. “Now we find a place to run into the sort of people we don’t want to meet.” “You mean respectable businessmen?” Munk trailed the boar down a few allies and past various bars and restaurants. They walked another level down and then another, the lights growing dimmer and infrastructure more and more sparse. What had been an eclectic mixing pot of culture and improvisation gave way to utilitarian frugality and seedy, dark corners. Shadows moved faster than the eye could follow and people disappeared just as quickly amongst them. Munk clenched his fist tightly and stayed close to Grigori. “I’m not so sure about this place, man,” Munk’s voice wavered and he coughed. “That’s the idea.” Grigori glared at him and kept walking. “No one’s going to get you, little Monkey. We’re trying to find where the biggest shadows hide.” They continued on through the third underlayer, finally reaching the red light district. The road opened up to them, revealing bars and brothels aplenty. Every lecherous and sinful desire was catered to in spades. Grigori sped off through the most hidden alleys and darkest shadows. Finally coming to a stop in front of what appeared to be a small abandoned warehouse. A sign hanging from one end read “Yesterday” and several unconscious persons lay scattered about the exterior. One window was boarded over while another remained completely empty. Grigori strolled into the bar with more than mere purpose in his step. The patrons stared at the new comers with an incredible variety of different eyes. All but the most opportunistic looked away when the full size of the boar became apparent. The rest waited to see how drunk he was going to get. The encroaching behemoth waved to the bartender. He leaned across the no man’s land of empty tumblers and overturned shot glasses for a short, private exchange with the grisly mule deer. The deer shook his antlers with a great swing of his head and indicated the back of the bar to Grigori. Grigori thanked him with a folded bill and stalked off through the crowd to where the extra unsavory shadows liked to hang out. “I am looking for a butcher,” Grigori said to the ominous man festering in a pool of his own malice in the dankest corner of the restaurant. “What sort of… what sort of meat, are we talking about?” asked the steeping tea of malice. “Red. About… about eighty, eighty two kilos.” “Kilos?” “Or one hundred and seventy pounds.” Grigori snorted. “I would like… he shouldn’t be nice. This butcher.” “Why don’t you just do the work yourself?” “The people in my city, they would know. That is why I come to here for help.” “And what sort of cow are you looking for? Are there any occupational hazards involved, for instance?” “Well, he is an influential steer. Leads the herd. One herd in particular. Not a very nice herd. They have a reputation for vengeful actions.” “Wha…? What the fuck are we talking about again? Look you want someone dead or not?” “Yes and I’d like it to be messy.” “Public? Alright, that’ll cost, but we got guys who do public. Bodyguards? Security?” “Yes, he is very secure. He is a rather well established member of the mob.” “Which mob? What city we talking bout here?”

“The City.” “The City? Wait… no.” “Yes.” “And which mob… sir?” The malicious steaming beverage began to sweat. “The Mob.” “Umm… I’m sorry. I think you’s looking for the wrong guy, here. I.. uh I-“ “I would like a contract on Mikhail Ivonovich of the Five Families, Green View Point.” The table exploded up into the air. The steaming cup screamed and fired a round into the ceiling. “I aint going down for this! I had nothing to do with it!” Grigori tackled the emotionally unstable beverage and ripped the hand cannon from its grasp. He stood back and checked the firearm over. “Next time,” Grigori dropped the weapon on the squirming concoction, “don’t use your only bullet on a warning shot.” He grabbed the cup by its kicking lower appendage and dragged it out the back of the bar. The music continued and a busboy righted the table. The back alley was a squalid puddle of stagnant sewage. The tea’s malice was soon replaced by fermented sewage as he languished on the alley floor. “Burble grrgle blbb lub glub!” said the tea. “I am sorry, comrade, but you will have to speak louder.” Grigori ground his foot upon the back of the tea as it thrashed in the few inches of chunky wastewater. “Uhhrrggg! BLLGGG! STOP!” he coughed the words through gasping breathes of air. Grigori lifted his foot and the sputtering beverage hacked the sewage out of his lungs. “Well…” Grigori prodded the cup with his foot. The cup took a deep breath and looked up at the towering boar. “I don’t even know this guy, you know?” The words flowed freer than the bilge water seeping into Munk’s shoes. “He comes to me one day. Says he’s looking for a man. A man to get rid of people, you know? I tells this guy, I says, what sort of man are you looking to get rid of? And he says, he says ‘an influential man.’ And I knew it. I knew it, I knew I should have left. I knew this wasn’t a man I wanted to deal with, but then he drops this fat stack of bills on the table and I grab it. I have to or the waitress will see. And I count it beneath the table and it’s just too much. You know?” Grigori snorted. “Nyet, I do not know. If it was too much, why go through with it?” “I… I … He wasn’t in my town. How could it come back to me? They caught the fucking rat that did it, didn’t they? The rat squeaked, didn’t he? Oh I’m gonna kill that sonuva-“ The cup’s handle shattered under Grigori’s boot. The cup screamed. “Who was it?” “I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know I don’t kn-“ “Unless you want it to be your head next, you will remember something.” Grigori drew his imposing automatic and cocked the hammer back. “Guy was… he was… He looked funny. He was missing an eye, you know? And had this terrible scar just all over the right half of his face.” “Why do I not believe you?” “No! No! I mean it! He was missing an ear too. I mighta seen him before, but not here. On the other end of the city. I aint been there in years though. It’s not pretty over there.” Grigori’s pistol roared and the shattered porcelain fragments scattered across the alley. “Fuck, Grigori! Would you quit goddamn shooting everyone!” Grigori stared at Munk as he clicked the safety on and tucked the pistol away in the small of his back. “We’ll find this man, Monkey. And when we do, nothing. N-O-T-H-I-N-G will keep him safe.” The boar stalked out of the alley, hunching his shoulders beneath his heavy coat. Munk caught up to him. “You can’t just fucking shoot everyone and expect to find this guy, man! People fucking lie and then you’re left with nothing.” “He wasn’t lying.”

“How do you know that? How do you fucking know that?” Grigori turned sharply and shoved Munk against the wall. “Because it’s my job, Monkey. Now stay the fuck,” he paused and pressed the automatic’s barrel against Munk’s temple, “out of my way.” Munk hadn’t even seen the piece leave its holster a second time. Sweat threatened to bead on his forehead at any moment. “Shoot me,” Munk commanded. “Come on, shoot me. Just you fucking watch what Rostya says. Fuck, just wait and see how far you make it without me.” “I don’t need you, Monkey.” “Yes, you do. You’re a fucking thug, Grigori. You’ve got to start reading people instead of just killing them.” Grigori opened his mouth to talk. “If you’re so fucking sure of yourself, just shoot me now. If not, get that goddamn gun out of my face.” Munk stared into the boar’s eyes. The boar blinked. “Nyet. Not now, Monkey. There will be a time for it, but not now.” He lowered the piece and returned it to his holster. Munk took particular notice of the safety clicking back into place. “You pull that fucking gun on me one more time and it will be the last.” Grigori laughed. “So sure of yourself, Monkey?” “No, I don’t care if it’s you or me or both of us who gets it, but it will be the last time you pull a gun on me.” Grigori shifted his stance and left the alley, muttering something under his breath. “Fuckin Monkey,” Munk mouthed to the back of his partner’s head. He followed the boar, trying not to think too hard about the next time Grigori might feel inclined to point something slightly more than menacing at his head again. They left the neighborhood, crossing back through the labyrinth of Sub-Level 3’s winding alleys and tunnels. They crossed the district square, doing their best to keep to the outskirts of the crowded throngs bustling through the cramped passages. Reptiles, mammals, amphibians, rodents, invertebrates and every conceivable number of appendages were garbed in every conceivable fashion of clothing. It seemed the entire world had sent delegates of the underclass and people with gaudy taste in attire to the UnderCity. The streets grew narrower and less crowded as the lights dimmed out. Fewer and fewer streetlights were posted and fewer and fewer species populated the winding corridors. Almost all of the nonaquatic dwelling creatures had disappeared by now, and even the more normal looking fish thinned out. Eventually, the lights stopped sitting posted over head, but, instead, floated through the corridors in an eerie ballet of motion. Anglers and Hookfish with teeth as tall as long as their faces methodically drifted amongst the homes, paths lit up by the dangling bulbs in front of their eyes. A stealthy army of glowing dots and streaks swam all about the two mammals as they stalked further into the depths of the city. Grigori rounded a corner, trailing a strange glowing worm to an extremely uneasy looking building. A single light shone from a sign above the door reading, “Drink up, ya mooks”. Munk stood motionless in the cramped alley. “You fuckin serious?” he called to Grigori. The boar kept walking. Munk adjusted his clothes, tried to stand as tall as possible and strolled into the bar after the boar. The three bar patrons nearest the door turned their attention to him. Everyone else kept staring at the boar as he talked in hushed tones to the bartender. “Whas, who? Yah didnae say you was lookin fer Fitz.” The room held its breath. Some of the more timid carnivores quietly eased past Munk. Munk took their seat and remaining drinks. The bartender ended the conversation with a nod to the back of the room and shouted, “Jus’ make shure yah talks to ‘im outside, ay Fitz?” Eyes floated to the back of the room in unison. A burly shadow stepped from it’s table and stalked to the bar. “Nun’a that now, Mickey. This ‘ere’s a roight good sir, innit’e? E’ll boi us a drink, wont we?” The shadow draped an arm over Grigori’s shoulder and delivered a somewhat rougher than friendly tousle. “Da, a drink, Mickey.” The boar slid a crisp bill across the bar. The bartender stared at the currency.

“Yous want ay bottle er to buy teh ‘ole damn bar?” Mickey and Fitz laughed to one another. “Oi, a say’s, Mickey. T’is one’s ‘ere dun ‘ave many worries now, do tey?” Grigori smiled coldly and draped his own arm around the shadow. “Not many worries, nyet,” the boar laughed with his companions. He stopped laughing and drove the shadow’s head into the bar top. Munk had his gun on the room before the boar smashed a half empty bottle on the bar tender’s face. Grigori grabbed the shadow’s leg and drug him out the back door as Munk followed him, waiting for the smallest twitch to start blasting. The room saw death in the Monkey’s eyes and decided to stay out of it. “Now, comrade. Perhaps you would like to discuss some current events with my associate and I, da?” “Teh fuk yous goin oan aboot?” Grigori drew his negotiator once again and struck his prey across the face with it. “Mikhail Ivonovich. I have it from a very dead person across town that you came to him looking for a killer. A killer who happened to be after Mikhail.” The shadow quivered. “I dinnae what yous talkin’ aboot!” The silent hunk of metal in Grigori’s grip crashed into the obstruction of light’s head once more. “Mikhail Ivonovich, of the City’s Five Families.” “I dun giv’ ay fook about the City, yous daft wank-“ again he was struck. “Yous can’nae kill meh, yuh know. Ah goat friends all o’a tese pahts.” “I was not planning on spending much time in this shit hole anyway.” Grigori cocked the hammer back. “Like yous wahd shoot meh.” The negotiator retorted loudly and the shadow’s right foot disappeared. He screamed. “Last chance.” |||“Teh fookin bah-tendah, yous sick fook!” “Rather convenient name you’re giving me.” “I’s teh truth! ‘E brings meh oall mah work!” “Thank you.” Grigori raised his negotiator to the shadow’s head but was stopped by Munk’s hand. “The hell are you gonna kill him for?” “He had an equal part in this, Monkey. Let go.” Munk slid his hand off the pistol looking away from the crumpled figure lying in the alley. “This is your own thing, Grigori. I’m only here to help find who did this. Not for taking out the trash.” Munk walked back to the bar’s door. The negotiator spoke again and Grigori followed. The monkey strolled through the still silent room and behind the bar. Murmurs slowly grew amongst the crowd as Grigori followed him into the room, pistol still in hand. “Hey Mick, wake up.” Munk slapped the bartender a few times. “Gyah, teh fuck yoo tinks yoo doin? Get’teh fuck outta moa bah!” Grigori loomed over the simian’s shoulder. “I-I-I said get’teh fuck out…” he stammered. The boar’s eyes locked on the monkey, waiting for his move. “We’ll be out of here fast enough. Just looking for a man.” “I showed yous teh man yous was lookin fer!” “No, not him. We’re looking for a rabbit-man. Likes hatchets. Prefers to keep company with the voices in his head instead of people.” The bartender’s eyes widened. “I dinnae whos yah talkin’ aboot!” “Come on, tell us and we’ll be out of here.” “Ah’d be dun fer if I even thought o’ sayin’ ‘is name!” Grigori stooped low over the monkey’s shoulder. “He’s not the only one you should be worrying about.” The words fell from his snout, riding a gust of hot breath as he snorted. “I… Ah dinnae how to get ‘old a ‘im. But tey say ‘e works outta Bradbury’s on Level 2.”

“Level 2?” “Aye, noat all teh scum settles doon ‘ere.” “Alright, alright. If I find you’ve fucked us, we’ll be back here to discuss this again.” The barkeep nodded and Munk rose from the floor over him. He smiled at the patrons and strolled out the front door. A loud report echoed from inside the bar, quickly followed by a few screams. A table crashed and gunfire erupted. Munk light a cigarette and waited outside. After several more minutes of the apocalypse incarnate, Grigori emerged from the door. A bullet riddled corpse dropped from his grasp into the doorway. “Time to leave, Monkey.” Munk chased after the boar. “This would be much easier if you would quit fuckin shooting everything!” Grigori pretended not to hear the screaming simian and barreled up an empty stairwell to Sub-Level 2. The duo emerged from the crumbling tunnel into the surprising flood of light. Munk hunched over and clenched his eyes shut. Several swears and seconds later, he finally eased his eyes back open and turned to Grigori. “What the fuck was that?” “False daylight cycle. The floods are on timers.” “I meant back at the bar.” “I told you it was a sentencing, Monkey.” “When you fuck up and kill the wrong guy, it is NOT coming out of my pay.” Grigori brushed himself off and began walking. “These are my orders, Monkey. Valentin wishes to see blood over this.” “Valentin wanted the trigger man and the contractor, he didn’t say shit about middle men.” “Maybe I do this for Valentin… as a gift. For protection.” “You think Valentin needs your protection?” “I’ve always been his protection. I take care of the problems before they happen.” “Without his knowledge?” “He would approve of what I do, Monkey.” “But he still doesn’t know.” Munk flicked his cigarette. “You had better not chatter the entire time we’re down here, Monkey. It grows irritating.” Grigori spoke the last words with contempt. “All I’m saying is you take an awful lot of liberty in your job description and I don’t know if Valentin would approve.” “I have never upset Valentin.” “First time for everything.” The boar stopped in his tracks. He raised a hand but let it drop back to his side and continued walking instead. “Stay or go, Monkey, but I will execute my duties as I see fit.” “Just let me question them first and leave me out of the rest of it is all I’m asking.” “Didn’t I just do that?” Grigori’s voice grew louder. “Just let me talk to them first.” “Then you’d better keep up.” The boar grew quiet as he marched through the back alleys of Sub-Level 2. Dilapidated dwellings and a Diaspora of storefronts traced their path back to the more secluded regions. After questioning several winos in various states of intoxication and paying the bribe up front, Munk finally stood outside Bradbury’s Tavern and Entertainment Hall of Various Sorts for Various Sorts, Please Wear Shorts, Thank You and scratched his head. Grigori threatened to pass him so he quickly dodged through the door. “Help you?” a centipede adorned in a top hot and scruffy tuxedo jacket asked. “Yeah, I’m looking for a service connection.” “Upstairs,” the centipede twitched an antennae to indicate the stairwell next to him. “Girls left, boys right. See Roger for group deals.”

“No, not that!” The centipede raised an eyebrow. “I need a button pushed.” “Cop?” “No, search me if you want.” Munk drew his jacket open, revealing the magnum strapped under his armpit. “End of the hall on the right.” The centipede shook his head and went back to reading his heavily crumpled porno rag. Munk stalked up the stairs, Grigori’s heavy foot steps a constant reminder to the imminent death he was bringing. They breached the second floor and Munk stopped. “Look, I can’t do this with you on my ass like that. Give me five minutes, I’ll talk to him and let you know what I know.” “And give him time to escape…” “No, just talk to him and tell you what I find out. If he’s part of it, you can do your thing. If not, let him go.” “We’ll see, Monkey.” Grigori leaned against the wall. “Just chill, I won’t take long.” “Neither will I.” An insidious smile crawled across the boar’s snout, tusks glistening from under the crumpled lips. Munk ignored the brooding malice of his partner and continued to the end of the hall. It was strangely quiet for all the advertising passed by the doorman. A lone door stood before him. He clenched his fist and took a breath then walked inside. “The fuck are you?” A very startled and very angry lizard was flashing fleshy ornamental warnings at the imposing simian. “Doorman sent me up, looking for a button man.” “Oh, well why didn’t you say so?” Munk exhaled. “Fucking Johnny, never does let me know when anyone is coming up. You guys are supposed to call ahead, you know?” So what sort of buttons are we talking here.” “Well, not local.” “No? Where at then? My guys only go so far.” “Guys? You have more than one?” The lizard stopped rifling through his paper work and narrowed his eyes at the fuzzy interrogator. “You some kind of cop, man?” “Do I look like a cop?” “Yes.” The lizard’s hand creeped under the desk slowly. “Don’t,” the hand halted for a moment, “do that. I aint a cop. I aint competition. I’m just looking for a button man.” “Have a seat,” he nodded to a chair in front of the desk, “and keep your hands where I can see ‘em.” Munk nodded and sat down. “It’s in The City.” “Lot going on in the city these days.” “You know anyone who’s comfortable working there?” “Sure, all my guys love it. Get away for a weekend, no wife and kids to nag them.” Munk furrowed his brow. “You’d be surprised man, lots of guys are really family men.” “Anyone who’s done some recent work there? Maybe he’s already there?” “This thing have a deadline?” “Just ASAP.” “Hmm,” a pink tounge caressed a reptilian eyeball. “I may have a few guys. Just so’s we’re clear, this aint a shopping around business.” “I understand.” “If we keep talking, you’re buying.” “That’s fine.” “Well let me see the cash.” “Look man, I’ll be buying, but I aint letting you rob me neither.”

“Fair enough…” The lizard folded his hands together on the desk. “So anyone used to heavy security?” “A couple, but the price goes up. Well, except for one guy?” “Really? Why’s that?” “Well this dude is really just in it for the fun.” “He any good?” “Well, he’ll push the buttons you want pushed, but prolly push a lot of other ones too. Course he’s not the only one.” “And you still do business with these people?” “They’re the best man. And in this line of work, there is no begging. Either take it or leave it.” “Alright, alright. So who are these security guys?” “Well, there’s only a few, plus the party animal I told you about.” “Right. Well I’m talking heavy security. So he shouldn’t have much of a sense of self preservation.” “Yeah, there’s a couple who specialize in that.” “Including the party animal?” “Well he’s wild, but he aint gonna get himself killed. Work like that usually involves explosives.” “No, no good. Gotta be a bare hands man.” “Fine, I know a guy for the job. It’ll cost yah though.” “How much?” “Ten up front and fifteen after.” “Twenty five? He better be good.” “He’s a demon. Un-fucking-stopable.” “Well I don’t handle the money, my associate does. Mind if I bring him in?” “Yeah… just no sudden movements.” The lizard’s eyes narrowed. Munk excused himself from the room and approached the mulling boar. “I’ve got a guy. He’s asking for ten up front though.” “A guy? What did you do, Monkey? Arrange a hit?” “Uh… yeah.” “Fucking stupid simian little shit,” Grigori muttered as he stalked down the hall. “Look man, we gotta figure out how we’re gonna find this guy. What better way than set him up on a hit back in The City?” “This is my fucking job, Monkey. I’m not letting someone else take care of him.” “Well, jesus. We’ll figure something out, just work with me on this.” Grigori glared at his partner; trying to remind himself that killing him wouldn’t be half as enjoyable as it seemed at the moment. The boar nodded and the pair entered the room. “This is my associate, the moneyman.” “Nice to meet you, moneyman. I believe we have business to discuss.” “I do the talking.” Munk glanced at Grigori in time to catch a cold glare. “Well who was this button, anyway? You never gave me a name.” “Mikhail Ivonovich,” Grigori said. The lizard’s eyes jerked open and his hand shot back beneath the desk. Munk dove for cover. Something roared and his chair exploded into flying splinters. Grigori pounced on the desktop and booted the flailing lizard’s head. The lizard went limp. “What the fuck was that?!” Munk shouted as he stood up and brushed himself off. “He was in it. The others will be here soon. Get ready.” “Wait, what? I was supposed to be-“ the door crashed in. Munk dove for cover once more as the limp body of what had just been a potential business partner flew overhead and barreled into the centipede. Grigori leapt over the cowering simian a moment later and began stomping every intact segment of the squirming insect. “Grigori! Cool it!”

A curious Jon peeked into the hall to see if it was safe for him to run. Grigori’s automatic left a splash of red on the wall behind where his head had just been. “GRIGORI!” The boar charged down the hall, emptying his magazine into the first two bouncers up the stairs. The third was unlucky enough to feel just what it felt like to have your head torn off by a frantic boar. The fourth thought very hard about running for his life until his partner’s disembodied cranium crashed into his face. Munk cursed to himself and began looking through the lizard’s desk. After several minutes of hell on earth raging below and many upended drawers above, a file caught his eye. ‘Big Bear’ was scribbled across the front of the folder. Inside was a balance sheet, a contact card for Mr. Johnson and another for Bugsy. Munk grabbed the file and headed downstairs. His partner was busy trying to force a patron’s head through the long side of the bar. Those who hadn’t fled in terror lay about the room in various states of disassembly. “Grigori, lets go!” Munk shouted. The boar finally succeeded after another try and brushed his hands off. He turned and smiled at the monkey. “Thank you.” “Whatever, lets just get the fuck out of here.” “Did you find anything?” “Yes! Now lets get out of here!” Munk checked out front for more bystanders and, not having found any, began sprinting back to the plaza. Grigori tailed him until they stopped for breath a few blocks later. “What the fuck was all that?” “My job.” “Well you just fucking geeked our best lead on this.” “He was part of it. I had to punish him too.” “The next time you go off like that, I am done with this shit.” Grigori stared blankly at the simian. “Oh, right. You don’t give a fuck and I can’t quit anyways. God this job sucks.” “Always so negative, Monkey. Didn’t you find something?” “Yeah,” Munk rummaged through his pockets, “prolly would have been easier if I didn’t have to worry about the building collapsing around me.” He produced a contact card from the file. Grigori snatched it and read over it. “Bugsy?” The boar looked at Munk. Munk shrugged. “It has an address. I guess it is time to visit our mysterious friend.” “Just don’t off him before we find out who hired him.” Munk pocketed the second contact card as the boar incessantly eyed his. “That’s all it says, man. Now lets get out of this fucking place.” Grigori nodded and they began the journey back to the surface. The industrial wastes of Grayditch rolled away as the black land cruiser soared along the highway and up into the hills. The gray and brown landscape gave way to rolling hills and twisted trees. The leafless, lifeless graying things cluttered around the road, growing thicker for every hill the duo rolled over. Sun had sunk beneath the horizon and the dark of night hung thick about the cruiser.