After a good day’s work, they split up, and went about their investigations in the morning.
Terry could take it easy at work, as he had a brand new enthusiastic partner, Kelsey Dumont, from rural Wisconsin. She was learning how things work in Grifton. He dug for what he could find on Jim Gunderson, and narrowed down from 8 in Grifton to a handful. He noted one of them was only in the system for a parking ticket at the University. Pursuing that further, he found an address in Kelsen Estates, and found he used to work at the same slaughterhouse as Truc, the Savnitz Meatworks. Oh, and he was under massive student loans (which he still owned) and about $15,000 that was in the hands of collection agencies. His wages were garnished to pay on that.
Truc went to work at the Savnitz Meatworks, and asked around to see if anyone there knew Jim Gunderson. One toothless old-timer that worked the front desk remembered him (in HR there was such high turnover that no one was still there from three years ago.) Gunderson was a college kid from a middle class or maybe upper class background, and try as he might, he never fit in or made friends. Then, like most do, he just quit one day and disappeared.
Doctor Jones spent the morning researching the drug. After a mind-melting four hours of sifting academic blogs and forums and web sites he found an argument about neural processing that linked to the thesis Jim Gunderson wrote in his post-graduate work. Something about using chemicals to change the brain’s processing capacity and activating bio-processing, like the placebo effect, as a force multiplier for chemical intervention. Theoretically, of course.
Lawrence checked in with some underworld contacts to see what the story was with Mr. Swan. He found that the tough guy had killed someone with a pair of bricks a month ago (just a fun fact) and people figure he’s working for the Underground, as usual, and is a deniable part of their inevitable bid to take control of Gangplank from the Shambles Crossroaders.
The investigators made extensive use of text messaging to keep each other appraised of their efforts.
In the afternoon, Truc checked around shift managers and finally found the guy who managed Gunderson. He verified that the kid kept to himself, and didn’t leave a forwarding address when he disappeared. He didn’t go to any of the other slaughterhouses; people figured he probably went home, wherever that was, or overdosed and died in a gutter. Whatever. He was smart–kind of too smart.
Doctor Jones spent hours processing the Gunderson paper so he could put it in layman’s terms and understand what the paper’s implications might be. Gunderson linked the neural capacity of the brain to process bioelectric energy to moisture in the atmosphere, relative to the heat of the air. If the air was warm, it could hold exponentially more water, and if the brain was properly prepared, it could process far more than usual. His intended applications were to assist in gene therapy and use bioelectric feedback to aid in healing.
Lawrence checked into Jacobson. As far as anyone knew, he disappeared off the grid and crawled into a bottle. No real enemies, no new friends, he was in a flophouse drinking himself to death. Lawrence got the address.
After Truc got off work, he and Lawrence checked in with Irwin, who seemed troubled. They decided to have something on hand to cheer him up, if that would help.
Lawrence checked in with Pink Spot by texting with an underling. He agreed to do a favor for Pink Spot, which was to get a cargo van out of police impound without drawing attention to it for a more thorough search. In exchange, Pink Spot’s underlings would throw a post-fight party for Truc, with spray paint and booze in the basement of an abandoned slaughterhouse they could decorate with the paint.
So, they approached him, and found he was concerned about some new distribution plan. Truc insisted he wanted to know more about the drug and its source. Against his instructions, Irwin confided that there was a sub-contractor who sent the drugs in a truck, where it was swapped out for money, every two weeks. Very anonymous and hush hush. Truc wanted Irwin to put in a good word for him so he could maybe be security for this contractor, and Irwin enthusiastically agreed. And, he looked forward to the after-fight party, too! He could go with Lawrence to make sure a reluctant Truc had a great time.
Terry got the address for Jacobson and went to pay him a visit. The former bodyguard wasn’t home, but a friendly and easily bribed maid told him to check the Medusa, a very nearby hole-in-the-wall bar.
When Terry arrived, loan shark goons were preparing to do something terrible to Jacobson. Terry intervened with his badge, to borrow Jacobson, who went back to the bathroom with the detective in tow. Since the building was old, and subdivided from a previous bigger building, there was a back door in the men’s room, so they escaped to a nearby alley. There, Terry admitted he was looking to stop Gangplank, and tested the waters to see what spooked Jacobson into leaving the Shambles Crossroaders.
First the drunk rambled something about how a wall is not monolithic, it’s made of bricks and mortar in some kind of order. But even those smaller things are made of molecules, which are mostly energy and empty space. Similarly, the world looks one way to people who don’t know better, and as a career criminal he knows the bricks and mortar and order that hold the world together. But he saw behind that, behind the curtain, to the deeper level. The world is going to be destroyed, it’s already too late. He rambled something about how dreams are important to have, but only while asleep, and something about turning the curtain inside out so dreams walk the earth.
Terry asked how to stop it, and Jacobson’s despair was revealed; he suggested the intervening barrier was already broken and it was a matter of very little time; they are already here, where you least expect, among us. There may have been more creepy rambling. Jacobson certainly didn’t think Terry’s curiosity and insomnia would be fixed by diving into this stuff, but he also apparently believed the end was near enough that he could live on loan shark money for alcohol until it was over.
As a parting gift before blearily stumbling off (and taking some of Terry’s money to repair his badly damaged buzz) he said if Terry really wanted to get to the bottom of it, he should go to the Sears building.
Terry was somewhat unsettled, so he called everybody together to go with him to talk to the super for Gunderson’s last known address. He quit paying rent 8 months ago, but apparently it was not a desirable apartment, so his stuff was all still there.
They all put on “GPD” windbreakers to go with Terry, and the building super let them into the apartment in the depressing basement of a somewhat ruined (but overoccupied) apartment building.
Truc found all sorts of things while pretending he didn’t know what he was doing. The others helped sift and sort. It was dark in the apartment, so they all used the flashlights on their cell phones.
Truc went through a crate of bills, seeing how they all defaulted. Apparently Gunderson struggled with narcolepsy, and insomnia, so they did a sleep study to see if they could pinpoint the reason. He was also diagnosed with the early stages of brain cancer. Gunderson buckled under the debt before he could pursue treatment; the system wrote him a suicide note to sign.
He self-medicated with opiates hidden in the cushion of his duct-taped chair.
Terry skipped to the end of his dream journal, where he wrote about going to meet the Reflection, as Alice went down the rabbit hole, to put an end to all this. There were three months of entries, but that was the end.
Truc also found an unregistered revolver, and a rolled-up sheaf of charcoal drawings on foolscap. He took that out into the hall where there was light, and unrolled it, finding pages and pages of formula and proverbs scrawled together, and three pictures; a neat suit and tie with a glob covered in white circles where the head would be, called “Reflection.” A snake eye, with a human head and snake head overlapping to both use it. And a picture of a puddle, in a cracked floor.
They gathered their stuff, and headed across the street to where they parked. But Terry hesitated, coping with an odd feeling of foreboding, and looked back.
Across the alley street from the apartment building was the darkened bulk of a long-abandoned Sears building.