What could he want at a pawn shop in one of the busiest, most rundown parts of the city?
He emerges no more than fifteen minutes later clutching a brown paper bag. It occurs to me what’s inside after watching him discreetly-but-not-so-discreetly glancing around the street. He’s bought a weapon. A new one that’s possibly harder to trace back to him.
Flynn returns to the subway, hopping on the blue line. I’m barely able to squeeze into a car in time before the train departs. As we hurtle 60 mph through the dark tunnel, I keep my attention glued to my tracking app. The red dot that’s Flynn blinks up at me, signifying he’s still on the same subway train I am.
He gets off on the Old Northam stop. More than once, he takes a wrong turn down a street and then doubles back. He’s not the most familiar with the older, grittier neighborhood. A figurehead police commissioner like him probably makes a trip down to this part of the city once or twice a year at most.
I’m still not sure where he’s headed. If he’s even meeting up with our blackmailer at all.
The moment of truth arrives when he reaches a dead end street with an old shopping mall. Many of the businesses have been shut down for months if not years, with the shops moldering and boards on their windows.
I hesitate before following. The eastern perimeter of the deserted shopping mall overlooks the Northam River. Several of the outdoor walkways connect to allow past shoppers the chance to move from shop to shop while gazing at the deep waters some fifty feet below.
In its desertion, the cracked cement walkways appear pitiful with trash scuttling by, pushed by the wind. Flynn travels down the promenade as if instructed to the specific spot where he stops, directly in front of a guardrail.
He checks his phone and waits.
I dip behind a nearby wall dividing the promenade and a long-closed perfume boutique.
Footsteps pad down the abandoned walkway, soft and hesitant initially, before growing louder. I inch closer to the edge of the wall I’m hiding behind and chance a glance at the promenade where Flynn is waiting.
Shock flutters through me, my mouth opening for a gasp I barely manage to hold in.
“You,” Flynn says in a harsh, bitter tone.
“Hello to you too, Commissioner,” Brenda says, strolling up to him. “I’m so glad we could finally meet face-to-face.”
“Well, go ahead, Liang,”Flynn snarls. “Tell me what it is you want from me in order for you not to destroy my life and career. I should’ve known NorthamNeptune would be a bottom-feeding social climber like you. You’re a failure in life so you want to sabotage those at the top of the food chain. Is that it?”
“You have a very high opinion of yourself, Commissioner,” Brenda says, advancing toward him. “You may be at the top of the food chain, but you’re not better than me… or anyone. You’ve gotten where you are by playing the game. Never mind the people you’ve hurt in the process. Empty your pockets of everything. I know you’re armed.”
Flynn grimaces, pauses, then does as asked. He digs into his pockets and dumps his belongings onto the ground—his keys, cell phone, wallet, badge, and last, the crumpled brown paper bag he’d purchased from the EZ Pawn.
“Kick it away from yourself,” Brenda instructs. Once the items are far enough away, she grabs them, reaching into the bag and taking out a small pistol. She clicks her tongue. “Commissioner, you weren’t going to double cross me, were you? Put your hands behind your back and turn around.”
She reveals a coil of rope from within the backpack she carries. She’s changed out of her typical professional attire she wears at city hall and into sleek black clothes ideal for moving around and blending in.
I can’t believe what I’m seeing. For the first time, I’m questioning my eyes and ears. Brenda Liang, the cherubic-faced, bright-eyed, upbeat woman who has only been assistant district attorney for a year, has been the person blackmailing countless members of the ‘elite’ in the city?
I’ve spent many days working side by side with Brenda. I’ve viewed her as my mentee, my protégé in many ways. She petsit Salt and Pepa for me for weeks. I’d go as far as to say we’re friends…
“What are you going to do to me?” Flynn asks. He follows her orders after a pause, his gaze skimming over her as though debating if he should risk it and overtake her.
“Don’t try anything, Commissioner,” she says. “The second you do, is the second you’re done for. We will release the video you’re ashamed of. We will reveal to the entire city how you’ve looked the other way and enabled your friends to do what they do!”
Her voice fills with anger and her cheeks flush a rosy shade of indignation. At her sides, the hands gripping the rope, shake.
“Any indiscretions of my so-called friends can’t be held against me—”
“I said turn around!” she shrieks, a mad gleam suddenly in her gaze.
“Brenda… what are you doing?” I step out from behind my hiding place, unable to observe a second longer. I need answers. “You’re NorthamNeptune? You’ve been blackmailing me and others like Flynn?”
Shock flashes onto her face, her mouth hanging partially open. “Delphine, you’re not supposed to be here.”