Shark and Sparrow Chapter 2

Shark and Sparrow
Chapter 2
by Anonymous

It was almost noon in the southern end of Mainport, which meant Tooth's “front-yard” was sweltering. Three vacant lots with no shade whatsoever. The only relief was the wind that drifted in from the river. But Tooth didn't mind the heat. He'd grown up in it.

His hyena, Claw, was dozing lazily by some tall weeds growing near a chainlink fence, watching two seagulls fifty feet away hovering near a dumpster. Tooth was relaxing in a recliner he'd found in an abandoned house nearby. This was what he truly lived for. This was his time.

It had been a while since he'd mingled with “his element” in the city. When you were a “villain” like he was, you knew knew the right places to go and the right people to talk to if you wanted to keep abreast of the battles going on around you. The last time he'd mingled with civilized folk must've been some time two weeks ago. El Tiburon and the Wave had put away a member of the Shark Family. Caballero Blanco broke Hellebore's arm. One of the old Black Bikers had died, he wasn't sure which one but there was a big funeral parade. And Burning Heart had been missing for at least a week now. Nothing interesting.

Claw stood up, he smelled something. Through their link, Tooth smelled it too. Tooth's territory may not have been large compared to most, but whatever belonged to him, belonged to him. It smelled like…sweat…and feces…and…desperation…and…cocaine?

“Coke Moe!” shouted out Tooth. “Come out in the open!” Silence. The smell of desperation gave way to fear. “You come to rob me? Slit my throat? What?” Claw's nose found him, hiding behind a concrete pillar thirty yards behind them.

Coke Moe stepped out from behind it. His hair and beard were past his shoulders now. The brown t-shirt he'd been wearing for weeks held mysterious multicolored stains that Tooth didn't even want to know the tale behind. He rubbed his hands together. “Tooth!” He waved at him. “How's things, brother?” He sniffed. Claw put himself between Moe and Tooth.

“You don't give two shits about me, Moe. What do you want?”

Moe rubbed the back of his neck. “It's Boss Negro. He wants to set up a meet with you.” Boss Negro was neither a man you wanted owning you or a man you wanted to keep waiting. Claw growled making Moe jump back a little; he held his hands up like he was being arrested. “I'm just the messenger, brother, I'm unarmed and I come in peace and shit!”

“Yeah, what about that though? Why'd he send you?” Claw continued to growl, but Tooth could tell that he didn't really mean anything by it.

“He wants to show you,” he couldn't take his eyes off of Claw's teeth, “that he respects you by not sending any muscle on your turf.”

Tooth grinned. “No, Moe, I mean, why did he send a coked-up strung-out wiry son of a bitch like you?”

It registered in Moe's mind that Tooth had a way of knowing if you were lying or not. He didn't know if it was a super-power of his or if he was just like that. “If we're all being honest here…” Coke Moe wiped his lips with one hand, but kept the other one up, “…I think he expected you to kill me.”

As Tooth made the trek along the sidewalks that led to the west side projects, Claw followed in the back alleyways out of sight by man and beast. Boss Negro ran a tight ship. Drugs and prostitutes were sold out of sight, off the streets, and since he'd come back from the Motherland there'd been far less violence out in the open. At least in his territory. In the other lower-class areas of Mainport his soldiers and thugs were committing manslaughter. But it never seemed to carry back here.

Out of the corner of his eyes he could see people darting in and out of windows or behind corners; the Boss's surveillance network hard at work. He'd be aware of Tooth's presence long before he'd arrive.

The scrapyard soon came into view. Meeting on Boss Negro's turf was risky business, but Tooth had worked with him before and came out shining. And Boss Negro wasn't the type of man who’d sell a man out to his enemies, at least, not after he came back from the Congo. There'd been no bad blood between them and no reason to be worried. But the Boss was still unsettling to work for.

A heavyset black man appeared at the scrapyard gate as Claw came trotting beside Tooth from seemingly out of nowhere.

“You really want to bring that animal inside?” said the man, he lifted his shirt revealing a glock tucked into his waistband.

“You really want to stop me?” said Tooth, looking him in the eye. Claw started to growl.

The man considered it for the briefest of seconds. He'd most likely not been told much about Tooth or Claw, which meant he was a low-level enforcer. He shrugged and pushed the gate aside. “He's in the back, by the crane.” Boss Negro's bodyguards were often nonchalant about his personal safety. The man was, after all, untouchable.

Claw moved on like nothing was wrong and Tooth walked after him. The crane was around a bend in the back corner. A man in a tophat and what looked to be a fading black ringmaster uniform sat on a barrel at the bend.

“You goin' to see the Boss-Man, Mr. Tooth?” he stared off into the rusting junk piles that flanked the perimeter.

“Are you the mad-man that holds his leash?” Tooth laughed nervously. Boss Negro's crew was known for being…well…spooky. But he'd never known if it was to intimidate the stupid or whether or not there was some actual bad old magic going around. There were some days that he barely even believed his own powers let alone the powers of others.

The man smiled ominously. Without looking up it felt like he was staring a hole right through him. “No, no, that man be the Madubwana. But he's holding a leash as much as you are with your friend…” Claw sniffed at him curiously, “…that is to say, not at all.”

Tooth walked around the man. He saw the Boss and his lieutenants talking around a barrel by the crane, but the man in the top hat spoke up and grabbed his arm, still staring at nothing. “Me name's Master Aza'gani, friend, and you be connected just like we be.” Tooth shrugged out of his grip. “Tooth and Claw are one, and your power comes from the same place ours does…” he paused, but Tooth didn't know if he was going to continue or not. Tooth almost turned to go before he spoke up again, “our dreams are getting darker and darker, brother. In the spirit-world, that means the sun is being eclipsed. That means, it's the shadow-time.”

“Ignore him,” said a voice by the crane. They were all black men in suits, but there was no mistaking Boss Negro. His face was unmistakable after you'd seen it, and his jacket flowed behind him like a cape.

Tooth walked towards the group. “The way he says things makes it hard to ignore…”

“He says a lot of things,” the Boss smiled and shook Tooth's hand. “So you've worked with me before?”

Claw stayed behind and stared at Master Aza'gani. “Yeah,” said Tooth, unsettled, “the heist at the Towers with Gentleman and Loner, and some muscle work before that.”

“I remember that…you're good,” they walked back towards the crane. “I've been told you're making a name for yourself on the south-side, up at the Industrial Park.”

Is that what they wanted him for? His cooperation south of the river? “I just hold my own down there, I don't really have an operation or anything.”

The Boss patted him on the back. Tooth didn't know what was more unsettling, when the Boss was staring at you like you were already dead or when he was being congenial. “Even still, everybody in the city knows who you are…”

“And for a man who can't make things explode with his mind or break concrete with his bare hands, in this city, that means a lot,” said a mustachioed man in a blood stained suit. Madubwana. The mad man. A thick man to his left handed him a white towel which he used to wipe his bloody hands with.

“Tooth, this is Aloysuis Carne, my friend,” he said pointing to Madubwana, then he motioned to the man's left, “this is Duke, back there is Katana,” behind them in the shade of a small tarp was a wiry looking woman sharpening a throwing knife, no doubt she was present in case Tooth was less than cooperative, “and over there by the barrels is Babyface.” A man in a long black coat and top hat was crouching away from him. He turned to look at Tooth suddenly which made him jump. Babyface was wearing an overly large flesh-colored mask.

Madubwana threw the now bloodstained cloth into the barrel as well. It took a second for Tooth to realize that the barrel was smoking. It had a fire in it recently. “So, why did you bring me all the way up here to Negro-ville?” Tooth didn't want them to make the mistake of thinking that they owned him.

Boss Negro looked at Madubwana, then back to Tooth, “we wanted to warn you.”

Tooth felt insulted. “You sent Coke Moe, Coke Moe of all people, to my territory to pull me halfway across the city to warn me? About what? About the Mirror-Man? Or, how about the robot that lives in city-park? Or did you call me to warn me about all the knights on motorcycles busting heads across town?” The Boss started to look frustrated. “Another day alive in Mainport is about as interesting as the river turning into orange juice, oh wait, that happened last spring!” He would've smacked the man if he could've guaranteed that his hand wouldn't have been cut off before it reached him. “What could you possibly have to warn me about? The only reason I rule south of the river is because no one else wants to be there.”

Boss Negro's frustration wore off, and he finally adopted his comfortable soulless black hole-of-a-gaze. “Mr. Mahi does.”

Tooth felt like someone punched him. “What? Why?”

The Boss sat down on a folding chair and stared into the dirt. Madubwana spoke up, “He's consolidating his power. He's scared of all the heroes and freaks walking into a city he believes he's owned for decades,” he reached into his pocket for an envelope and pulled out a stack of papers. “He wants the south-side because that's the place people run to when they have no where else to escape.” He handed Tooth the papers.

He wasn't wrong. There were hidden dens and rat-nests all over the city, but when you had no where else to go you went to two places. The sewers and the south side. And the south side had a lot fewer bodies floating out of it. “What's this?”

Boss Negro spoke up staring into space like Master Aza'gani. “That is a private e-mail sent from the Mainport City Police Department to the Mayor's office. It contains an abbreviated list of equipment, training exercises, and personnel for the city's new SPARROW unit.”

Tooth looked at the paper. Guns. Ammunition. Grenades. Computers. He didn't understand these things. They weren't his world. “What's a Sparrow unit and what does it have to do with me?” He handed the paper back to Madubwana.

Boss Negro looked at him. “The SPARROW unit is the police for the un-policeable. They're soldiers armed with the most sophisticated weaponry on the planet, and they're funded in part, by the old man himself.”

“I still don't-”

Madubwana spoke up, “He's making a move. The SPARROW unit is the police but Mahi owns every politician in the city. It may not be today or tomorrow, but his army of puppets are going to move in and take the south-side.”

Claw came walking up and sat at Tooth's feet. “How do you know?”

Madubwana folded the papers back into the envelope. “There are other e-mails like this one, from MahiCorp. Dummy corporations and fronts owned by MahiCorp are bidding against one another to buy abandoned warehouses and factories down there. And construction companies and contractors are already estimating the costs of future projects there before they're even bought. I have more envelopes like this if you want to see them…”

Tooth didn't fully understand, but what he did understand was what Boss Negro wanted. “And what'll you pay?”

“For shutting him out of there?” Boss Negro folded his hands together. “My friendship. Anything you want from me, you'll get it as long as you keep those factories out of the old man's hands.”

Tooth looked at Claw, “If he's sending this SPARROW unit there, I'd need muscle.”

“Whoever's on my roster, they're at your disposal.”

Tooth felt his stomach churn. If Mahi moved into the south-side with these super-police, he'd run him out for sure. And then he'd have no choice but to shore up with one mob boss or another, and not on his terms. “I want you to understand one thing before I sell my soul to you,” his eyes were set and unmoving, Boss Negro gave the slightest of smiles, “When Mahi gives up on the south-side and goes back to whatever he does when he's not making war, your men will leave, and I won't have to chase them off…”

Boss Negro gave the slightest of nods, signaling the end of their meeting. Tooth and Claw walked off, turning the bend where Master Aza'gani had been moments before.

The Boss looked up at Madubwana, “contractors and construction companies?”

Madubwana chuckled and folded his arms, “it was easier for him to chew on the lie than to swallow the truth.”

Boss Negro stood up and looked into the smoking barrel where the cow's heart still lay smoldering. Even a man blessed by the gods living in the most unbelievable city in the world like Tooth could believe only so much. He wasn't ready to learn about what visions they'd seen in that fire or why they truly needed his alliance in the trials ahead.

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