\ 2021-05-21 12:10 - Friday "Some juicy news" | unlimitedi.net
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2021-05-21 12:10 - Friday "Some juicy news"

Allyana's picture

Meredith bounced lightly from foot to foot, stretching her hamstrings while occasionally glancing at her watch. Cadee had paged her last night and they’d arranged to meet up at Central Park for lunch. Meredith had a free period before her next lecture and she’d planned a short run anyway, so it all worked out very well. Cadee hadn’t gone into detail about what info she had, but if she wanted to meet away from The Slainte, it had to be something pretty juicy. Right?

Her eyes scanned the various paths snaking off in all directions. At midday, Central Park was bustling with activity, cyclists and other joggers cut their own tracks over the green, while office workers enjoyed the sunshine and shared a sandwich on a park bench. Meredith’s nose twitched, catching the scent of fried onions from a hotdog vendor, though she couldn’t even see one. In New York there was always a hotdog vendor somewhere.

“Come on Cadee,” she muttered, her stomach growling in protest.

Cadee saw Meredith in the distance, near a fountain, as she stopped on a high spot of the park pathway.  Smiling, she stood on the bike pedals, bent forward, and lunged  easily and swiftly towards her, relishing in the warm May breeze while doing so. She had spent five years working as a bike courier, and she felt as comfortable on the bike as she did on foot. As she rode her Trek down the path, she promised herself to make some time for riding, just for fun.

She reached the other girl in a couple of minutes, and smiled brightly. Stepping down from her bike, she greeted Meredith with enthusiasm, trying to cover her nervousness. 

“Hello, Meri! What a day, right?” Then she signaled her bike’s attachable basket. “I hope you’re hungry, ‘cause I brought enough for a battalion.”

“Great, ’cos I’m starving!” Meredith blurted without even thinking. She was glad to see the other woman, Cadee was always like a ray of sunshine on a rainy day, which probably accounted for why she was so popular at The Slainte. But Meredith’s attention was pretty much taken up with the contents of her basket, she really was hungry, she always seemed to be hungry lately.

 “There’s a picnic area just over there,” she pointed behind a clump of trees. “And you can tell me all about this breaking story you have for me.”

She laughed, and nodded. “Lead the way, miss” she said, as she started to walk next to Meredith.  “I’m sure you’ll be interested in what I have to tell you.”

Obviously more familiar with that area of the park than Cadee was, the brunette led her to a clearing between the trees, close to the pathway, but at the same time, isolated enough to have a nice, private picnic.

“This is perfect.  How did you find this spot?” Se said, looking around. Incredibly, they were the only ones in the area. *Excellent for bizarre revelations, too* Cadee thought, as she extended a tablecloth on the ground. She had known she wouldn’t go wrong bringing food, Meredith was probably ravenous.

“The news is good, but the food is better. I made it myself, I take cooking lessons, you know? I want to have my own restaurant some day.” Then she started taking treats from the basket. “Tortilla de papas, club sandwiches, ham tapas appetizers, chicken salpicón, and good solid roast beef with potato salad… hope you like Spanish.”

“Wow,” Meredith’s eyes widened as Cadee lay a selection of cartons out on the blanket. The smell alone was amazing, a hundred times better than any hotdog, in fact her mouth was salivating. “The best I can rustle up is pasta, and whatever else is in the cupboard. Cupboard Pasta, it’s my speciality.” Meredith sat down and snagged a slice of the tortilla, devouring it in three easy bites. “Hmmm, this is amazing,” she mumbled appreciatively between mouthfuls, “you’ve got some talent, Cadee. What the hell are you still doing waitressing?”

Cadee watched Meri gobble down her lunch and laughed. She really loved to feed people, enjoyed their pleasure. “Money matters,” she answered, matter-of-factly, it was easier to answer that than explaining the real reasons, and it was true, anyway. She grabbed a club sandwich and took a bit. “I’m saving the tips, I’ll get there eventually.”

They ate in silence for a couple of minutes, time enough for Meri to deplete the contents of most boxes, and Cadee to think how to go on. Better start with the news.  “I’m glad you got out safely on Sat, Meri. I was very relieved when you answered my page.” She said finally. “Actually, what I have to tell you is related to that.”

Meredith nodded, chewing a forkful of chicken salpicón slowly. “Now that was one psychotic night, you should hear some of the things I’ve heard. One guy swore to hell and back that zombies had attacked the club, kept rambling about guys with their faces rotting off,” Meredith shuddered, “obviously a big Lucinda Graves fan. I have my own theories of course, so tell me, whaddaya know?”

“No zombies, that’s for sure.” She said, happy to be able to deny that truthfully, whatever those things were, they weren’t zombies. “But strange enough for the SCU to poke its nose.”

At Meredith’s puzzled look, she asked “You don’t know about them?” The girl shook her head, her mouth full, and Cadee went on. “Ok, SCU stands for ‘Special Crimes Unit’. They are regulars at the Slàinte, their offices stayed in the old Police Headquarters on Center Street, just a couple of blocks away. They are like… the X-files of NYPD. If a crime is strange enough, who’s you gonna call?”

She waved her hands, dismissingly. She didn’t want to sound too strange herself, not just as yet. “Usually there’s a logical explanation for everything, of course. Some psycho that believes himself a vampire, enough to kill girls with a syringe, or a burglar that covers himself as a ‘ghost’ in an old building” Those two were true too, she had heard the cops laugh about them.  Not all cases were true supernatural stuff.

“Or three strangely deformed guys rampaging into a nightclub…”

As Cadee talked, Meredith had taken out her notebook, scribbling down notes and circling SCU in bold. It kinda made sense and it was probably an excellent way of rounding up all the kooks and cranks - and there were a lot of both in New York.

 “Thanks for the tip, so you recognised some of the cops at the Graveyard? I don’t suppose you could throw a name my way?”

Cadee reflected a little on that. It wouldn’t do any harm, would it? Meredith would probably do her own investigation on the police unit and Pablo Sandoval was in the payroll.

“Actually, I can. Detective Juan Pablo Sandoval, he’s top man in there, and a regular at the Slàinte. I think he was just attending the party, though. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.”

Cadee smiled, she was getting there with Meredith without disclosing any ‘private’ information still, but she had some news she could share, she had been busy snooping around. 

“However, all that is public news, you wanted some juicy info.” She paused for drama, and went on. “The SCU believes one of the men was the leader of a small gang from Hell’s kitchen: the New West Berlins. They deal in drugs, girls, firearms, you name it. The guy’s name is Drago, but I couldn’t get his surname.”

Meredith’s pencil stopped scratching out her notes on the paper. Drago… that was the name of the guy Balthazar Romano had been talking to. So her suspicions had been right, he was a gang leader, the New West Berlins. She’d read a few articles about them and another gang operating out of Chinatown, The Blades, or something like that.

Without looking up, Meredith slowly jotted a few more notes down before casually asking: “You ever hear about a guy called Balthazar Romano?”

Cadee hand stilled midair to her mouth, the ham tapa she was eating forgotten in it. Bathazar Romano again? First Jasmin’s warning and now this. Besides, how the hell had Meredith got to know Balthazar Romano? That was no good news, one thing was to give her information to investigate the NWBs, washed-out as they were, and another a VIP of the supernatural world like Romano. She swallowed, before answering.  Probably the truth –or as close to the truth as she could get–  would be the best way to go.

“Romano is bad news, Meri. The man is dangerous, more so because he covers his smoky business under a layer of legitimacy. The cops have never been able to nail him.” She was worried and she didn’t mind showing it, besides, there was something in Meredith’s casual way that scared her. “Please promise me you won’t get into that…”

*Now that’s…. interesting.* Meredith looked up, surprise clear in her features. “You sure hear a lot at The Slainte,” she frowned slightly then shrugged, “I’m well aware of what kind of guy he is, you can add primo-sleaze-bag to his list of not-so redeeming features too. I have a lead on a story that might just give the cops something to nail him with, but it’s nothing solid, just theory. So don’t worry, I’ll keep my distance, if only to avoid him hitting on me again.”

“Good,” she said, relaxing. “I’m sorry, I don’t want to sound all mommy-like, but that man gives me the creeps.  He hit on you? Disgusting.” she shuddered, the thought of that slimy old man and Meredith was really disturbing. 

Meredith knocked the cap off a bottle of soda and took a gulp. “I think he tried to spike my drink or something, it was the weirdest thing, for a moment I actually considered leaving with him. You know, like it almost seemed like a good idea!? I swear I thought he’d slipped me a mickey but then all of a sudden, I was myself again, so I figure I had a momentary lapse of sanity, right?”

She shrugged, leaning back on her elbows and enjoying the midday sun for a moment. “Don’t worry about me, I’ve dealt with plenty of sleaze-balls in my time. Besides, if my hunch is right, he’ll get his soon enough.”

Cadee watched Meredith for a little while, thinking about her words. Some kind of drug in her drink was a possibility, but given Romano’s skill, a spell was more like it. It talked about Meredith’s strength that she had been able to fight it and not ended in the man’s bed. That was good, she’d need her strength if she was to survive the next full moon.  

Then she frowned. “Do you have something on the guy? You mentioned a lead on a story.”

Meredith eyed the other girl for a moment before shaking her head. It’s not that she figured Cadee would scoop her story, but trust was nothing something that came naturally to her. “Just theories and circumstance at the moment, the girlfriend and mom of an employee of his were brutally murdered about a week ago. Then he just happens to be at a party which is the target of a gang related attack?” Meredith shrugged again. She decided not to mention that she’d overheard Romano talking to Drago, or the red gem she’d taken from the girl’s bedroom that Romano seemed so eager to retrieve. She’d like to think she could trust Cadee, but the truth was you just never knew. Besides, if she did get into trouble, the last thing Meredith wanted was to drag the other girl into it by association. No, it was safer all round if she kept the majority of what she knew to herself until she had concrete evidence.

“It could be coincidence, but Romano is the common factor in both events, plus we’ve already established that he’s as slippery as an eel, not to mention a total sleaze and a potential date-rapist.”

Cadee nodded, not wanting to press Meri, but taking a mental note on what she had said. She would investigate about those related killings, hopefully she’ll get the names of the murdered women by herself.

“It makes sense,” she said finally. The gang part, the employee, the killings, not to mention magic –something that Meri ignored but she didn’t; those creeps in the party had to be powered by magic, and Romano was a sorcerer.  “Too many coincidences.”

Then she laughed, “you probably believe I’m a little snoop myself, right?”

“Though in my case it works to my benefit,” at Cadee’s confused frown, Meredith smiled, continuing. “Well, you’d be a lousy source otherwise. Besides, I intend to make snooping my career, so, you’re in good company.”

“Fair enough,” Cadee replied, and leant back herself, closing her eyes, an arm resting on her face. The sun was warm and there was a nice breeze; the sounds of the people in the park sounded far away, so far it was almost as if they were alone in the world.  She wanted to extend the easy moment as much as she could, forget about magic, zombies or werewolves;  forget they weren’t just a couple of ordinary girls having a picnic in Central Park. Be normal for once in her life.

Too bad that wasn’t possible.

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