Phaedra’s Fist

Word count: | Reading time:
Crime
Mature
An all-girl vigilante biker gang is exacting justice in New York and Sansa Stark is the young detective assigned to investigate the case. As she begins to find clues that point close too home she can't keep herself from exploring the suspicious circumstance surrounding the closed case of her father's death. As the clues and stories start become interwoven what Sansa will learn will shake lives from her family to the highest members of city government.

Death in Queens

She peered upwards into the ceiling of the closet, not sure what she was expecting to find, but peering nonetheless. Her partner, a blond, butch slab of a woman, stood a few feet behind her, staring at her back. “Stark?”

She didn’t answer. There wasn’t anything remarkable in this closet, she thought. But she kept staring up into it anyway. This entire neighborhood had been built by the Germans in the 1920s and the buildings were so weirdly made; they were almost nice brownstones like the one she’d grown up in, but often had uselessly shallow closets like this one, along with absurdly high ceilings, bay windows where bay windows didn’t quite belong, dumbwaiters, air shafts that connected the bathroom to the bathroom on the floor above it so that it was basically like sitting in the same room with your neighbor and listening to them piss, or cry, or do whatever else they did in the bathroom, and those inexplicably-placed little “troll doors.” She made a mental note to read a little more about what those were supposed to be for. She slipped a glove on, tugged at the chain hanging down. A bare bulb convulsed to life above her head.

“What are you looking for?” her partner persisted.

“I’m not sure,” she said, her lips pressed firmly together as she stared into its corners, her clear eyes searching every inch.

“Well, when you figure it out, let me know, so I can look at something besides your backside.”

She’d take that as flirtation from any one of the other dykes at the station house, but Bree didn’t act like any of them, although she did sometimes socialize with them. Stark had never seen Bree flirt with anyone, actually, and maybe that’s why they were a good team. Just the work. No distractions. “I’m married to my job,” Stark would say, when the inevitable questions came from friends, relatives, guys on the street who wouldn’t take no for an answer. People couldn’t accept that an attractive woman in her late twenties might not be interested in dating, marriage, or any of the rest of it.

“It’s just weird,” Stark went on, her serious eyes wandering along the floor of the closet, along the molding underneath the door. “The body’s in the tub, but the tub’s empty. She was on those antidepressants, but if it was suicide, who tries to kill themselves in an empty tub? I think I want forensics to spend a little time on that table by the kitchen window… it was kind of a mess, which doesn’t add up because the rest of the place is neat.”

“And that means you’re staring into the bedroom closet because…?”

“Because-“

Thud. Crash!

They both dashed into the kitchen to find an unpleasantly familiar face. A guy in a tweed jacket and jeans, beady brown eyes, set in an otherwise good-looking face, much of it shadowed under the bill of a peat cap. In the “pre-war” kitchen (which war, exactly?) with its ancient appliances, taking pictures with his iPhone camera.

“Hunt, this is a closed crime scene, and you need to get out,” Bree said forcefully, striding over to him and placing a hand firmly, you could really say roughly, on his shoulder. She was a good head or two taller than he was, and probably could have crushed him with her bare hands if the situation demanded it.

Stark was right on her heels. Her eyes darted over to where he’d been standing and she saw his shoe print in the faint dusting of powder on the floor near the window. Forensics hadn’t been in yet but she had a feeling it might be coke, and this damned hack reporter from a local tabloid not fit to line a litter box was leaving a record of his Florsheims in it.

It wasn’t that Stark hated journalists. It was that she loved them. She’d been one herself, before things went south. And this guy seemed like he was out to singlehandedly make the entire profession look bad. The New York Post was famous for its lurid headlines, like the one after the Tonya Harding incident, which featured a picture of the figure skater with a too-wide grin, and the copy: "BODYGUARD FINGERS TONYA." The paper that Hunt wrote for, The Borough Record, made the Post look like the love child of Bill Moyers and Katherine Graham.

“Hey come on,” he protested, “freedom of the press! The Fourth Estate and all that jazz! Come on, Detective,” he shot a phony pleading look in Stark’s direction, “you of all people should appreciate that.” Stark had come to develop a sort of affection for the buzzsaw quality of the Queens accent after years of working this precinct, but from Hyle Hunt’s mouth, it just made her teeth itch.

Stark had only been a detective for a couple of years, but she already had a rep as being extremely meticulous about her crime scenes and reports. “I’ll tell you what I appreciate, Hunt. I appreciate a cold glass of white wine or better yet, a mimosa. I appreciate a few bars of Claude deBussy when I'm in the right mood, and I really appreciate those unloved Willem deKooning paintings of women. You know the ones with the big eyes and square heads? I love them. But I really, really appreciate, more than anything on earth, when morons don’t snoop around fresh crime scenes, tampering with my evidence and then trying to pass off their sensationalist half-information as reporting.” She pointed with cool fury at the shoeprint. “Do you know what that powder on the floor is, that you felt the need to leave your autograph on?”

Hunt smiled and shook his head.

“Yeah, and neither do we. Forensics hasn’t even been here yet. There’s police tape over the door.”

“That means stay the fuck out,” Bree interjected helpfully.

“You want information, call someone at the precinct.” She waved irritably at him. “Bree, show him out.”

“Can I call you for information, Detective? Your hair looks really pretty when you wear it up like that,” he badgered as Bree dragged him toward the door of the third-floor walkup. “Maybe you could help me with my story and I could help you with-“

“Hunt-“ Bree warned him. “Don’t.”

He grinned. “Come on, Detective, I’m just a humble journalist trying to make his way in the world,” he went on cheerfully, even as his feet were only sort of touching the floor.

Stark decided she’d had about all she could take. She marched over, shoved him loose of Bree’s grip, grabbed his collar, and socked him in the jaw, sending him staggering backward through the police tape which snapped as if he’d crossed a finish line, and leaving him sprawled out on the linoleum in the hallway, groaning, probably more in surprise than in pain.

Bree shook her head and put both her hands up to her face. “Sansa, what the hell? Selmy is going to fucking suspend you.”

Sansa’s breath had quickened only a bit, and she opened and closed her hands a couple of times to make sure she hadn’t messed anything up when she landed her blow. “Screw it. I could use a vacation.”

*******

It was true. She and her partner had busted up a local sex trafficking ring a few months back, in an investigation that had mostly flown under the radar of their captain, not to mention the older, more experienced detectives who had trained them. There'd been a heartbreaking number of minors among them, mostly girls but a few boys too. It was the kind of bust that got a couple of young detectives a lot of new attention, and not always the kind they wanted. Sure, they got commendations, they got their faces on the local news, they got a phone call from the new mayor, who’d just been sworn in. But they also had older detectives suddenly feeling threatened and hostile, and they started attracting cheapo tabloid vulture “reporters” like flies. She was not sorry for one second that they’d made the bust, but the fallout was sometimes a lot to deal with, and her normally diplomatic, even temperament had decided to stay in bed today while Detective Stark was out saving the city. By the time she was sitting in Captain Selmy’s office, she was practically praying for a suspension. A nice long one. Punching someone in the face, even someone as obnoxious as Hyle Hunt, who was pretty much asking for it, wasn't really her M.O.

Selmy's office was dark and messy, and Stark guessed that it probably hadn't changed in thirty years and half a dozen captains. If someone had told her that they'd shot episodes of Cagney & Lacey in here, she'd believe it. It was all green and grey steel office furniture and squeaky desk chairs, with stacks of folders on either side of the desk. He basically had to do a "Moses parting the waters" thing with the wall of paper and folders in order to clear a channel down the middle so that they could look at each other while they spoke.

She'd walked past the bull pen to a round of applause (nobody in that room liked Hyle Hunt) and was now sitting uneasily in front of him, wondering how things were going to unfold. He was trying to be stern, looking at Sansa Stark with the closest thing she’d ever seen to a twinkle in his eye. He scratched his beard, then scratched it some more, looking at her for a long minute before saying anything.

“I have to admit, Stark, I didn’t know you had it in you,” he finally remarked dryly.

“Er, thank you, sir?”

“You’re a damn good detective, but you’ve never been the aggressive type. It’s nice to see you can let one fly once in a while.” He sighed wearily. “Now I got Detective Tarth’s report, but why don’t you fill in the blanks for me.”

“Very simple, sir. He was tampering with my crime scene.”

“And?”

“He also tried to hit on me. Badly.”

"Did he."

“That’s not the worst part, sir.”

“Oh?”

“He called himself a journalist, sir,” she deadpanned.

Selmy sat back and allowed himself a chuckle. “Is that all?”

Selmy was clearly amused. She hadn’t done it to raise her stock with him, but it seemed to be having that side effect. “Well, look, Stark. That little shit deserved it. I’m sure it’s not the first time someone’s punched him in his weasel face and probably won’t be the last. But, he’s going to file a complaint if he hasn’t already, and if we’re going to keep this and you out of court on brutality charges, I have to make like I give a shit. So, you’re suspended, with pay, for two weeks.”

“You’re not going to reassign Bree while I’m out, right?”

He smiled knowingly. “Don’t worry, Stark. Your partner will still be your partner when you get back. I wouldn’t want to tear you two apart.”

She gave him a puzzled look, which elicited more weird, knowing smiles from him. “We’re not a couple, sir, if that’s what you mean,” she said.

“Okay, Stark.” Smirking, and more smirking. “That’s fine. You’re dismissed.”

The D.A.'s Special Request

The Commissioner’s secretary, a bright-eyed woman of fiftyish, looked up from her computer. “How are you today, Miss Tyrell?” she said, briskly but not brusquely.

Margaery gave her a sparkly smile, that disarming smile that wound so many around her finger, that disarming smile that made witnesses on the stand relax so thoroughly that they routinely incriminated themselves before she’d even really gotten warmed up. “Come on, Candace. My friends call me Maggie.”

“I’ll start calling you Maggie when I’ve had cocktails at your penthouse,” Candace parried.

“You stop by anytime, Candace. The Commissioner has my address,” the dimpled brunette replied with a cheery wink.

Candace gave her a smile that said she knew Margaery was full of shit, but that she liked her anyway.

Margaery Tyrell exuded confidence. And well she should. She was a knockout. She was young. She came from a lineage of power; her Air Force veteran brothers had both served a couple of terms in Congress, her father Mace had been minority leader of the State Senate for almost a decade, and her grandmother Olenna was New York’s first female mayor back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. While nobody would have called her grandmother revolutionary at the time, it was generally acknowledged that she held the city together during a time of local and national turbulence. What would only come to be acknowledged later were the many programs she quietly shepherded through the City Council to support women’s access to birth control, increase funding for food stamp programs, and other things that might have been considered small-bore initiatives, but paved the way for bigger things. There were a lot of plaques in buildings around New York with Olenna Tyrell's name on them.

Margaery also came from considerable wealth; the Tyrells came into their money in the Roaring Twenties, when her grandfather sat on the board of JP Morgan, which by some standards made them “new money,” but they took to it like Kennedys. And in truth, they were rather like New York State’s own Kennedys; a clan of striking, intelligent, liberal-minded political types who knew how to wear their mystique, and who all carried, nestled somewhere within their layers of rabid ambition, a sincere desire to do a bit of good.

It would be easy to assume that Margaery had what she had because of her family connections, or her good looks, or both. Anyone who knew her, though, knew she was intelligent, driven, insightful, and persuasive –or manipulative, if you felt ungenerous. But she had graduated Yale Law School ahead of schedule despite also helming the Law Review in her final year and, after switching from public defender to prosecutor, was one of the most effective prosecutors the city had had in a while. That’s how you get to be the youngest Manhattan district attorney in history.

Candace glanced at the schedule. “The Commissioner’s not expecting you.”

“I know. I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d drop by. I need to run something by him. Is he here?”

Candace glanced at her, then back at the schedule. “He’s indisposed.”

“In a meeting?” Margaery persisted.

A pause. “Yes.”

“Because it’s funny, indisposed is the euphemism my mother used to use when someone was in the restroom,” she pursued, with the same sparkly little smile. “Is he in the restroom?”

Candace gave an irritated sigh. “No, I told you. He’s in a meeting.”

“With who?”

“Oh, no you don’t,” Candace protested.

“What?” Margaery asked innocently.

“Don’t you even try that thing you always pull—“ She made some vague imitation of Margaery’s voice. “Oh, who’s he in a meeting with? Oh, the president of the United Way? Oh, I’m best friends with him, I’ll just stick my head in and say hello! And then you go traipsing by me like I’m not even here and—“

Margaery breezed past the desk. “OK then, Candace, I’ll spare you. I won’t ask who he’s meeting with.”

“And then he gives me a hard time after you leave!” Candace called after her.

Margaery pushed the heavy wooden door open to find him sitting at his desk, on the telephone, scotch in one hand. “Of course I appreciate it,” he was saying wearily, “but I’m not a magician. I can’t just— ” He looked up and saw Margaery peeking around the door and looked pained. “Listen, I’m sorry, but the District Attorney is here right now. I didn’t realize we had an appointment at this time. I’ll call Patricia for your schedule and we can have a longer discussion about it.”

He hung up.

“Let me guess,” she hazarded. “Deputy Mayor?”

He huffed. “Is it that obvious?”

“She’s a fascinating woman,” Margaery observed, “but she does seem to torment you, a little, Commissioner.”

"So do you." He ran a hand back through his graying blonde hair and sighed. “We don't have anything scheduled now. You did an end run around Candace again?”

She smiled. “Guilty.” She slid into the green Victorian chair in front of his desk. “I know when she’s lying about you being in a meeting.” He looked particularly put-upon as she said this. “Look, I did you a favor, I got you off the phone with the Deputy Mayor,” she pointed out.

Commissioner Mormont sighed again. He had a perpetual world-weariness to him that Margaery found at once sad, noble and endearing. In small doses, of course. He held up the drink in his hand. “Scotch?” he offered.

“I haven’t had lunch yet,” she demurred, “but thanks.”

“So,” he said, “now that we’ve exchanged pleasantries, what is it that you need from me?”

“Well, it’s this sudden flurry of gang activity.”

He nodded. “The bikers, right?”

“Yes. I want to put a cop on it.”

“We have several cops on it. They’ve been active in a few different precincts.”

“Yes, but,” she said slowly, “I want to put a particular cop on it.”

“Who?”

“Detective Stark. Sansa Stark, 104th precinct.”

“Queens?” He looked suddenly wary. “The one from the sex trafficking bust a couple of months ago?”

“Exactly. Can you work out transferring her to a precinct that’s handling one of these biker investigations? I was thinking Midtown South?”

He hedged. “I’m not sure.” Then, “Why do you want her on this?”

“I’ve been watching her for a while. I think she has potential. Plus her case files on the Woodbine bust were...immaculate. Thorough. I wish all my police reporting looked like that.” Margaery leaned forward, fixing him with that earnest stare that often got her what she wanted with him. “There isn’t some reason why you don’t want her working this case, is there?”

He paused. “No.”

“Excellent! So I can have this one?”

He seemed to consider her for a minute. He was clearly making some kind of calculus about whether denying her was worth the trouble that this move could cause him, but he didn’t seem disposed toward telling her what that trouble might be. “I’ll make a couple calls.”

She smiled brightly. “Thanks, Jorah. I’ll have my office check in with you on Monday. Oh! And do me a favor and don't drop my name, if you can help it.” She stood up. “I’ll take you up on that scotch next time, I promise.”

"Take care, Maggie."

She glanced at her watch as she glided out the door. It was ten-thirty a.m.

Empress Makes a Pick

“When a shepherd goes to kill a wolf, and takes his dog to see the sport, he should take care to avoid mistakes. The dog has certain relationships to the wolf the shepherd may have forgotten.”

–Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

She saw the redhead before the others did. Somehow she knew that the bike parked out front, a beat-to-shit metallic-black Ducati Monster 696, belonged to her. It wasn’t a bad bike, if you were a beginner, or just broke. She’d have to be upgraded at some point, but right now, it was the girl that mattered, not the bike. Empress was looking for a particular kind of flash in the eye, and the girl had it.

She was without question a real specimen; she was drunk, and she was Scottish, which meant you if you were listening to her talk, you could only understand the word “fuck” and its variations; but since roughly every fifth word was “fuck,” you were sure to understand at least twenty percent of what she was saying. Empress wasn’t listening for that, though; she was listening for a particular fire in the girl’s belly, and she heard it from across the room. She reminded Empress a little of herself at that age, though she hadn’t been half as crazy as this one. Not back then.

This bar was a dump, perched in what polite Manhattanites would call the Upper Middle of Nowhere, and that was how Empress and her girls preferred it. It was Manhattan in only the most technical sense, as you’d never find any sharp-tongued socialites anywhere even thirty blocks south of here. The tops of the tables were more water stain than wood, the bartender was permanently in a state of angry despair, and the walls were still stained yellow from when you were allowed to smoke in bars in the city, which was a good decade ago at this point. Neon signs for cheap beers hovered in the blacked out windows and the occasional howl of sirens would come and go in the background. The jukebox was from before the dawn of time and contained a weird selection; half salsa, half hair metal, and for some reason, if you scrolled all the way down to one end, Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.”

The sparse crowd on this particular evening was favoring the hair metal, and unfortunately for everyone concerned, a drunk guy in a denim jacket and bandana was getting up to play the same Motley Crue song for the 12th time in the last hour. The redhead in the corner saw him getting up and immediately started shouting at him. It was clear that she was not in the mood to hear “Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room” yet again.

“Her,” Empress said calmly, watching with unbroken interest.

Arya, sitting her right and working on a Heineken, looked incredulous. “Seriously?”

“Seriously. Watch.”

On Empress’s left, Asha sat quietly, observing with an interest that was probably coming from more than just curiosity as to Empress’s prediction. Her dark eyes were fixed on the redhead, and Empress knew she was already taking the girl’s clothes off in her head.

“We’re not picking out your next girlfriend, Asha,” Empress said evenly, without even looking at her. “Stay in the game, please.”

“I’m always in the game, stoosh,” Asha replied, with her musical Jamaican accent and perpetual cocky smirk.

That was mostly true. Asha was almost always in the game. Equally ready for brawling or boning at a moment’s notice. “Stoosh yourself,” Empress rejoined calmly. “I know how to make a pick.”

“Ay, fucker!” the redhead was yelling to the guy, who was fishing through the pockets of his threadbare jacket, looking for more money to put in the jukebox. She lurched over to him, surprisingly light on her feet for how drunk she clearly was.

He, clearly about as drunk as she was, and looking like he hadn’t shaved in a couple of days, lolled his head to the side to look at her.

“I said,” she repeated emphatically, “if you put that fuckin’ Motley Crue shite on the fuckin’ jukebox one more time, you’ll be [something Scottish] out your fuckin’ [something Scottish], okay?” The words were hard to pick out. But she grabbed hold of his collar with her free hand, to emphasize them anyway. The other hand was still holding a mostly-finished mug of beer.

His face turned from passive mean to active mean. “Bitch, I got no problem hittin’ a broad, alright? Take your fuckin’ hand off me, and let me put my goddamn song on, or I’ll lay your ass out.”

She seemed to take this as a challenge. “Oh, really? I’ll bet you [something Scottish] fuckin' [something Scottish] but I’m a bit tougher than that fuckin' eight year old you beat up for his milk money this morning.”

He shoved her off of him and raised his fists, blearily trying to stare past them at her face, which was lit with a kind of amused rage.

She knocked back the contents of the mug and then smashed it against the edge of the table next to her. At this point, the song stopped and there wasn’t another one cued up, so it fell quiet. The bartender grumbled loudly and started to reach under the bar. Empress and the girls knew what was under there.

It was escalating quickly.

Empress got up and waved them along with her. Asha grabbed the redhead’s arms and pinned them behind her. Arya shoved the guy back against a table. Empress stepped in between the guy and the redhead. She wasn’t that tall, and she wasn’t as young and fit as the girls, but she had a kind of authority. Even this drunk idiot could see it.

“I think everyone needs to settle down a little, don’t you?” she asked calmly.

“Hey, fuck you! She started it. Mind your fuckin’ business!” he protested. But he was looking back and forth between the women in front of him and trying to fathom his situation. There was a lot of black leather in this room.

You started it with that shite song you keep playing!” the redhead shouted back, struggling against Asha’s grip.

“Take it easy, girlfriend,” Asha said in her ear, in a kind of croon, “We’re you’re friends out here, me and dem, ok?”

She stilled for a minute and glanced over her shoulder at Asha. She looked quizzical, but suddenly seemed to be enjoying her situation more. “Oh, hello,” she said casually, as if she’d just noticed her. As if it were an everyday thing that people introduced themselves by running up to her during a bar fight and pinning her arms behind her back.

Asha grinned at her, all white teeth and sly eyes.

Empress smiled mirthlessly and told the guy, “I can see, in that slow, drunken brain of yours, you’re trying to do the math to see if you can take the four of us. Let me explain your situation to you.” She gestured to Arya. “She… wins kickboxing tournaments on the regular. She,” she went on, gesturing to Asha, “is armed. And she,” she finished, pointing to the redhead, “is insane, apparently.”

He looked for a moment, processing it. Finally, he looked at her. “What about you? What do you do?”

“I make picks.”

He didn’t understand.

“You have a choice. You can get up, and you can leave, and nobody goes home with anything broken. Or, I go to the jukebox, and I pick. And if I get to pick, that means that you get your ass kicked with Blondie’s Heart of Glass as the soundtrack. So, you pick, or else… I pick.”

The place was quiet. The bartender was holding still, waiting to see if he was going to need to take his twelve-gauge out from under the bar. The guy turned to him with an entreating look, but it wasn’t clear what he was even expecting him to do.

“I think you better go, Ace,” the bartender finally said.

Ace got up and stumbled out the door, cursing under his breath.

Asha finally let go of the girl’s wrists, but by that point, it was already clear that maybe she didn’t mind being restrained so much if it was Asha doing the restraining. She rubbed her palms on her jeans and turned around to get a good look, first at Asha, and then the rest of the party. “I coulda taken him fine, you know,” she began.

“Yes, I think you could have. But you didn’t have to,” Empress said. “What’s your name?”

“Ygritte,” she answered, tossing her hair back over her shoulders.

“Empress likes you,” Arya said.

“I like you,” Asha interjected.

“Empress!” Ygritte hooted, looking her up and down. “What happened, lass, was Queen taken and you didn’t care much for Admiral?”

Empress smiled a little. “Something like that.” She glanced over at the bar, where the bartender had gone back to listlessly running his dirty rag over its surface with a look of total futility and meaninglessness on his face. “Let’s go for a ride, Ygritte. I’d like to invite you to our little party. I think you belong there.”

“It’s not like some type o’ weird sexual shite, is it?” It was hard to tell if she was joking, or if it would have been a bad thing if it had been. Ygritte’s eyes were scanning the three of them with a growing curiosity.

“Not unless you want it to be,” Asha answered.

Ygritte didn’t exactly seem put off by Asha’s flirting.

Arya snorted and rolled her eyes.

“That’s your Monster out front, isn’t it?” Empress asked.

Ygritte nodded.

“You’re too drunk to ride,” Empress decided. “Ride with Asha. You can come back for the bike later… if you still want it.”

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