There are a few names everyone on deck 36 knows by reputation. A few of them are crime lords, scumbags who think they run the ship, of course they’re not wrong. One of them is deck 36’s chief of security, my boss, Franklin Ericsson. And one of them is Johnny. I don’t know Johnny’s last name. I don’t even know if Johnny knows his own last name, he might’ve been an orphan for all I know. But he’s a well known name on deck 36 for one reason— He’s the best at getting everything illegal on the deck, maybe even the whole ship. If you want something, guns, drugs, whatever, he’s the man to get it for you. So he knows every deal that goes down on this deck, and he’d certainly know about something as high-profile as a heat rifle. He was the first person to go to in a situation like this. Unfortunately, that meant going to Hole in the Wall.
Hole in the Wall was an illegal club start back years ago, before I was even born. It’s literally run out of a hole in the wall. Each deck’s walls are double sealed, so if something should happen to one of the walls, there’ll be a backup before the whole deck is vented out into space in the blink of an eye. However, there’s about a 50-foot gap between the two walls. Hole in the Wall is inside that gap. The hole was made so long ago no one’s even sure how it was made any more, but it’s there. It’s a small hole, sure, just big enough for a person to fit through, but it was still impressive. Something powerful had to make it through the steel that was several feet thick. On the upper decks a hole like that would be fixed within hours, but down here no one cares. If the outer wall ever broke, it’d just be one more deck that had to be sealed permanently, and no one above us cares enough to send a team down here to fix it. So Hole in the Wall was started. I suppose it’s the danger that appeals to people. Though really it’s no more dangerous there than anywhere else. In reality if the outer wall ever broke the whole deck would be dead within minutes, and the folks in Hole in the Wall would just be the first to go. Hole in the Wall isn’t owned by anyone, but there’s a definite order to things there. The more well known you are, the more powerful you are in the club. Power changes hands on a daily basis, but for a long time Johnny’s been the top dog of Hole in the Wall.
As I walked through the back alley leading to Hole in the Wall I noticed several dark figures duck away down corners and into doors as I approached. It must not have been hard to tell I was a cop. Most cops would’ve been nervous heading into Hole in the Wall-- I wasn’t. I nearly choked on some smog as I saw the neon sign hanging over the hole for which the club was named. The neon sign had been up since before I became a cop, advertising the illegal club to everyone nearby. It was restricted to go in between the layers of the walls, but no one cared down here enough to shut the club down and risk angering the crime lords who ran it. We had enough problems with them already, shutting down Hole in the Wall would cause them to declare an all out war on us.
I could see strobe lights flashing through the hole, and hear muffled thumping. As I ducked through the hole, the muffled thumping turned into deafening, pulsating music (or something resembling music at least). The strobe lights flickered. I took a look around. Most of the club noticed me as soon as I stepped in the door, and were staring at me now. I made them nervous. Rightly so, since most of them were obviously high off some illegal substance or other. That was fine by me, I wasn’t here for them, I had more pressing matters. The music stopped. The strobe lights flickered as the crowd continued to stare at me. I had my had on my gun, should anything go wrong.
“Ryan?” I heard a voice from the back of the crowd say. The crowd parted to let the owner of the voice step through. The man wore a torn shirt, had dark bags under his eyes, and had a woman on each arm, one blond, one brunette. “Ryan! That is you!” He said. “Hello Johnny.” I replied. Ryan turned to the crowd and said “It’s ok, Ryan’s with me.” That was enough for the crowd, as the music returned to its high volumes and the various punks and junkies returned to whatever they were doing.
“So Ryan, what brings you to Hole in the Wall?” Johnny asked. “Business.” I said shortly. “Oh you. Why don’t you ever just come to have a good time?” He replied. Years ago, before he had the name power he had now, I had arrested someone who had it in for Johnny. Coincidence, mind you, but Johnny still felt as though he owed me one. “I need some information on a deal—” “Ah ah ah,” Johnny cut me off, “now Ryan, you know I can’t tell you about my customers. Confidentiality policy.” I glared at him. “Johnny, this is big. If you help me now, you might make it out of this clean, but if I find out you’ve been moving heat weapons—” “Wait, heat weapons?” Johnny interrupted me once again. “Like what, a plasma cutter?” “No,” I continued, “A heat rifle.”
Johnny backed up and stared at me disbelievingly. The two girls standing near him tossed uncomfortable looks at each other. “Are you telling me there was a hit done with a heat rifle?” I wasn’t sure if Johnny was genuinely surprised or not. “It looks that way.” I said. “Who?” he asked. I didn’t see any reason not to tell him. Giving him a little information now, might get me a lot of information down the road. “Some doctor, Evan Taylor or something like that.” Johnny got a furious look on his face. “Cindy.” He said, still looking at me, but obviously talking to one of the two girls, “Someone has been encroaching on my territory. We need to find out who.” The blond girl nodded at him and took off somewhere.
“Johnny, are you telling me you don’t know anything about this?” I asked. “Unfortunately.” He replied, “And when I find out who does know something about this—” “I don’t want to know.” I said. While I wasn’t too keen on the idea of a new arms dealer on deck 36, I didn’t really want the incriminating details of what Johnny would do to them. “I’ve never dealt so much as a heat pistol, let alone a heat rifle.” He said, “Either someone else has made the biggest mistake of their life and started dealing weapons without my knowledge, or whoever made the hit on your guy already had a heat rifle.” I shook my head. “There’s no way anyone could keep a secret like that, not here.” “Which is exactly why I’ve got Cindy out looking for this guy right now. No one crosses me. No one.” Johnny said.
“Johnny, I want this guy.” I told him sternly, “If you find him, do not kill him.” Johnny let out a groan. “Really? Ryan, I have a reputation to keep here.” He said, tossing his shoulders back, glancing at the crowd, and letting out a short laugh. “I’ve done a lot for you because you’ve done a lot for me, I’ve made sure none of my guys would ever lay a finger on you, but I can’t promise that.” “Fine then.” I said, “Just give me a heads up before you do anything. Give me a fair chance at him at least. Let me talk to him before you…” I stopped short. Johnny must’ve gotten the idea, because he said with a sigh, “I make no promises, but I’ll think about it. That’s all I can do.” I knew Johnny wouldn’t say no to me. He was a crook, but he had always been loyal to me, and I knew he’d remain so until he felt he’d paid me back.
The pulsating music was beginning to give me a throbbing headache. I was done here, if Johnny knew anything he was doing a very good job hiding it. As reluctant as I was to admit it, there was someone with access to a lot of firepower loose on deck 36. That made him dangerous. He’d already made one hit, and odds were he was going to strike again before long.