“I’m still not sure why you need me around here.”
Shaun glanced up from his phone when he spoke, taking a short look through the windscreen before turning to Grandmaster in the driver’s seat. He was staring at the front yellow door of the Red Bull, illuminated by four lights designed to look like lanterns in a horizontal row on the front wall of the building. The front entrance has two stairs either side, covered by a grey wall in front and with an old fashioned lattice fence in front of the edge.
He put his feet up on the dashboard of the car after a little fidget. This of all things caught Grandmaster’s attention, giving a glance to the left.
“I mean.” Shaun carried on. “We were here half an hour early and it’s quarter to twelve now, I’ve not seen this guy show up yet, and I’m not sure why you even need me here. You can take care of some goons by yourself, can’t you? You’re Grandmaster after all.”
He asked it as a legitimate question. To offer Shaun a rebuttal, he raised his hand and slapped his backhand onto Shaun’s shins. This caused him to flinch slightly.
“First of, feet off the dash. Show a little more respect for the man’s motor.”
Shaun complied with a grunt, lowering his feet.
“Second of, we need to be early in case he pulls something funny. Always gotta be prepared.”
He leaned back a little, one arm resting on the car door where the window was rolled down. A cool breeze flickered into the car, sending a lick of air across the back of their necks.
“Third, to be totally honest, we’ve got no idea what this dickbag’s capable of. Could be Fargraced, could be packing heat. You’re tough, and your powers aren’t flash or obvious. You’re a relative unknown, none of the criminals know what I look like, none of them give a rat’s ass about you. It’s a relatively safe bet we’ve got.”
“I figured you didn’t want me here for my charming personality.” Shaun cracked a smile, and locked his phone. He shoved it into his jeans pockets, looking out of the front window again.
“I’m not much for small talk. And fourth of all, don’t call me Grandmaster.”
“You have a name?” Shaun said.
“Being smarmy, huh Verus?” Grandmaster shot him a glance. He wasn’t in his armour today, taking a more casual approach to his attire. It was incredibly simple but it worked with his figure; white shirt, blue jeans, a black suit jacket and polished black shoes, which contrasted much with Shaun’s constant use of plaid shirts and Sketcher trainers. “Kai. Kai Rhodes.”
“I didn’t pick the name.” Shaun said in defence.
“Neither did I, but here we are.”
“Let me just run this through you again.”
“We’re going into that pub to wait for this really well known guy, real piece of shit, does all sorts of stuff on the black market, because he thinks he’s gonna meet the guy he made a deal with.”
“Ryan Macey of the Technomads.”
“Him, he’s gonna meet him again for whatever reason, in a very local pub in the middle of Stockport city central, and he doesn’t find it suspicious? He’s just fine with it?”
“Yup.” Kai responded.
“And we’re going to go inside and make an arrest on him, and he’s probably gonna resist and you want me here to back you up, and we’re gonna cuff him and drag him back to HQ for questioning?”
“That sounds about right.”
“Doesn’t that seem really suspicious?” Shaun asked, turning to Kai.
Kai nodded. “Oh yeah. Real suspicious. Let’s be honest here, this guy knows what he’s doing. He’s probably just gonna send us into a trap, or not even show up. But, this is the best lead we had, and I’ve every reason to believe he’s suspicious of us, but seeing as he hasn’t shown any paranoia, we have to go along with it.”
“You think we’re going into a trap?”
“Damn right I do. That’s why I want you here. You’re the anti-trap. What are they gonna do, stab you?”
“They might stab you.”
“That ain’t gonna happen.” Kai leaned back, starting to turn his neck left and right. One of the joints cracked.
“You’re confident.” Shaun turned to look out of his door side window. They were parked curb side on a T-junction in the road, facing a terrace of different sized buildings and in a line where the pub in question was. The Red Bull was the shortest building on that particular row, in the centre between two different road junctions that split off from the main street.
“I am. Aren’t you?”
“I’m feeling kinda neutral on the whole thing.” Shaun said. “Hey, we’re on double yellows, you know.”
“We’re part of the police force of England.” Kai said, as if to make his point clear.
“We should be setting a better example.” Shaun said in a mock tone, joking. “What would people think if the NFU were breaking all the laws?”
Kai cracked a smile, laughing under his breath. “You show me a single person who gives a shit about parking on double yellows. Everyone does it. We’re just here for a short while.”
“How can we explain this to the NFU though?” Shaun sat up, making elaborate hand gestures. “They’ll take my badge away from me.”
“Let’s use the excuse of ‘we were working with the public’s best interest in mind’. That’s a good one. I should ask the lab to add in some excuse generator software for times like these.”
“You can get that?” Shaun asked, sitting upright and looking to his right. “Really?”
“Hell if I know. Maybe. I’m gonna have to ask when we get back.”
Kai took a glance at the time on the dashboard behind his wheel.
“Eleven, fifty two. We need to get in early, so show time.” Kai took the keys out and unlocked the doors. “Remember. We’re doing the dad slash son gimmick. We’ve heard good things about this place and we decided to stop in for a quick pint before going down south. Fishing trip or some crap.”
“So I just need to pretend to be your kid and act like I don’t like you? Should be easy.”
“See. You’re a natural.” Kai gave him a pat on the shoulder. “We wait to see what happens. If for some reason he does show up, we arrest him and chuck him in the back.”
Kai knocked on the panel separating the front seats of the car and the back. The glass had a few scratches and it sounded dense.
“Bullet proof, and the doors are locked on the inside. Just like a squad car. We bring him in, I grill him for what’s going on or who he’s working with, and we get one closer to sorting this mess out.”
“This is a weird question to ask, but what if he does show up and he get him?” Shaun asked curiously.
“Then I wanna know what the hell is going on, because nothing is that easy.”
Kai stood out of the car first, and Shaun followed afterwards. Once they were outside, he locked it twice to be sure, then looked over and gave Shaun a nod. They walked to the end of the street, made sure no traffic was coming either way, then walked across. They took opposite sets of steps to head up inside, and Kai was the first one to push open the double doors and make his way inside the Red Bull.
The interior was as most pubs were in Manchester; working off the rustic aesthetic that the English pub was well known for. The pathway forward was blocked, and lead off into the left side, where a dark wooden arch lead them into the main area of the pub. To the right was the bar, where a single patron was sitting down in a dust brown overcoat, a flat brim hat on his head, a nursed pint of Guinness in his hands. Wooden tables littered the area neatly, with our chairs each, and at the far left of the room were leather booths with tables in the center against the creme walls.
If one went around to the other side, they’d enter the function room. The floor looked more like old, grey scale prints with a spotty design and the chairs had more fabric woven into them than anywhere else. The bar could serve either side this way, though it seemed that Kai had predicted incorrectly. Only the barman and the lone patron were here at the moment, and both of them looked about as bored as each other.
Between both rooms, the room extended a small corridor outwards. Gents to the left, ladies to the right, smoking area out at the back.
“Thought you said it’d be busy.” Shaun said, as he walked inside and took a look around with a sceptically raised brow.
“Thought it would be.” Kai said, as he walked inside further. They caught the attention of the bartender, who stood up a bit more upright and flashed a warm grin. He looked in his fifties, with his hair starting to go grey at the roots. He had a worn face, and hands that suggested a long history of manual labor. His navy polo neck shirt was tucked into his trousers, straining to hold in a large beer belly.
“Afraid we’re comin’ up to pay day. Footies not on either. It’s a slow ‘un.” His accent was definitely Mancunian.
Kai and Shaun walked over to the bar, and Shaun took one of the stools and had a seat. Kai leaned on the bar, and engaged the bartender. “You’re not wrong. Hell, I thought a well known place like this would be packed tonight.”
“Aye, not tonight. It just happens, ain’t the end of the world. What can I get you two?”
“I’ll get-” Kai took a moment to look through the small fridges underneath the bar, at the far end. He briefly scanned up above, eyeing up a half full bottle of vodka that was hanging with the rest of the spirits behind the bartender. “-you got any good local beers or ales on tap?”
“None on tap.” He said, giving Shaun a quick look.
“Can I get a bottle of Doom Bar?” Kai leaned on the bar with an elbow. He started to reach for his wallet as the bartender nodded, and turned to Shaun.
“Can I get a bottle of Stella?”
The bartender looked over Shaun for a second, then back to Kai. He gave a nonchalant shrug, then turned around and fetched the beers out of the fridges. He used the bottle opener underneath the bar and popped them both open, then handed them out. “Glasses?”
“Nah, I’m good.” Kai said, turning to Shaun.
The bartender nodded. “That’ll be six twenty.”
Kai handed him a ten pound note. A second later, his hand was filled with change and he nodded, obliging him with a smile. “Appreciated.”
Kai and Shaun took their bottles and walked over until they were at a booth. Kai sat facing away from the door, and sat close to the wall. Shaun sat facing the door, and Kai gave him a nod.
“Just keep an eye on the door.” He said, in a hushed tone. The television near the bar was on, showing Sky Sports, so Kai wouldn’t have been heard by the bar. A man in a black suit and a blue tie was reviewing the previous games done yesterday, with a woman in a blue jacket and black top moving onto sporting news afterwards.
“Right. Did you pick up on anything?” Shaun asked, whilst taking a sip of his beer.
Kai took a sip of his own drink, and nodded. “Yeah. That bottle of vodka they have behind the bar is the best thing to use to crack somebodies skull open. Other than that, nothing. They might be in on it, not sure yet.”
Shaun nodded and put his beer down. “Helpful. So we just wait now.”
“Yup.” Kai said, leaning back and sipping on his ale. “Try to not talk too much about work stuff.”
“That doesn’t leave me with much to talk about. It’s the only thing we’ve got in common.” Shaun said, taking out his phone. He holds it up, so the back of it faces the door. “What do you do when you’re not at work?”
“Not a whole lot, tell you the truth. I’ve been watching a lot of series. Got that Netflix, so I’ve been catching up on everything that everyone’s talking about.”
“I didn’t take you for a binge watcher. What have you been watching?”
“Started with The Wire and Breaking Bad, because people won’t shut the hell up about how good they are.” Kai holds his ale up. “I’ve looked into a few other things. Parks and Rec is funny, but I don’t have much faith in comedy from the yanks.”
“It’s pretty good.” Shaun said. “Have you seen any of the animated shows? Bojack Horseman, or Rick and Morty?”
“Can’t say I’m into the cartoon side of it all.”
“They’re pretty adult cartoons.” Shaun said, pausing. Kai gave him a funny look, smirking slightly. “Not like that sort of adult cartoons.”
Kai holds his hands up. “Hey, whatever floats your boat, not gonna judge.”
Shaun rolled his eyes. “They’re really funny. Give them a go.”
“Recommendations noted.” Kai said, finally taking another sip of his beer. “Football team?”
“Stoke City, ‘course.” Shaun said, confidently.
“West Brom here. Could be doing better this season, but Stoke ain’t doing too bad lately.”
“Huh.” Shaun said, though his attention drifted elsewhere for a second. Still holding his phone up, he loaded up the camera and muted the volume, making sure the flash was turned off before he took a picture. He lowered his phone down and put it face down, sliding it over to the table to Kai.
Kai couldn’t see what was going on behind him, but as he lifted up the camera and looked at the latest picture, he was filled in. A man wearing a dark green t-shirt, an opened waterproof jacket and black tracksuit bottoms, with white trainers underneath. Kai put the phone down without changing his expression and slid it back, his tone going even quieter.
“Fuck me. He actually showed up.”
Michael Burnham had taken a look inside for a second, then walked over to the bar. He gave a nod to the bartender, who nodded back to him in response. His voice was deep rough around the edges, and his accent sounded more like it was practised than natural.
“Pint of bitter, ta.”
Their transaction was mostly wordless afterwards. The bartender poured him out a fresh pint, and he handed him a crumpled fiver in return. Coins were given back, and he took a sip and sighed afterwards. They nodded to each other again, and he walked over to a table near the middle of the room with his front facing the door.
Shaun took a glance out, then began talking again to clear the silence. “Hey, I just saw something on facebook you might like.”
Go on.” Kai said. Shaun began to type into his phone on the touch screen, then passed the phone over. It was an unsent text message, with the words freshly typed in.
Kai laughed to himself. “Send me that link later. That reminds me of something. Let me just take a look.”
He typed a munch longer string and passed the phone back. Shaun took a look.
Finish your drink. He’ll know what we’re up to. Follow my lead.
Shaun took another swig of his beer. He considered it lucky that he was almost finished anyway, and Kai just left the remaining third of his ale in the bottle. Shaun tilted the bottle up and necked it, putting the phone in his pocket.
“Well.” Kai said, starting to stand up. “That’s one. No more for me. You want another?”
Shaun took a second to look at Kai and shook his head. “Nah, I’m good.” He took a stand shortly afterwards, leaving his bottle behind.
Kai turned around and caught a glimpse of Michael, who had his pint in one hand and his phone in the other, hidden underneath the table. On second thought, he reached behind him and took his bottle with him, and he walked over to Michael’s table and sat right down next to him. Shaun followed, and sat opposite him.
Michael turned his head slowly at Kai, who showed a much more cheerful disposition. “Hope you don’t mind if me and my lad take a seat here. The place is kinda dead, y’know?”
“I kinda do mind.” He said, squinting. “M’waitin’ for someone.”
“That so?” He said, turning his head to Shaun. “Well, if that’s the case, I do apologise. We were just stopping by, seeing the locals. We heard nice things about this place, but we thought it’d be a lot busier.”
Michael’s squinting turned into a deathly stare. He put down his pint and shifted his phone back into his pocket.
“I don’t know who you are, but I’m gonna give you some advice. You, and your ‘lad’, need to piss off and leave me alone. Yeah?”
Shaun and Kai exchanged a glance. Kai held his hands up and stood up from his chair, and Shaun did the same as he made a remark. “Wow, that’s rude.”
“Yeah, tell me about it. Just here, trying to be friendly. Did you hear that?” Kai turned to the bartender, who shrugged.
“Didn’t hear nothing.” He said, in denial.
“Guess we’ll just be going then. Don’t wanna cause a scene or anything. Have a good day.” Kai said with a pleasant smile, and turned to walk away. He took a single step before he stopped, and Shaun walked around until he was just out of Michael’s line of site. “Oh, yeah. I shoulda said something.”
Kai walked back, and put his bottle on the table on the corner, standing above Michael, who wasn’t giving him the time of day enough to even look at him.
“I have a message for you. From some guy called Ryan Macey. Says he’d love to come down for a quick pint and to catch up on business but he’s too busy rotting away in custody whilst he waits to be sent to prison, so he can rot in a cell there.” Kai grew a smile, and withdrew his NFU badge from his pocket, letting it fall open to show Michael. “But I reckon, you won’t need to worry too much. I’m going to make sure you’re going to jail along side him. Michael Burnham, you’re under arrest. You know your rights. Let’s just stand up slowly, and make this easy for everyone involved.”
Kai reached for the handcuffs inside his jacket pocket. Michael pushed his chair back slowly and raised up to his feet, and as he did so, the door to the pub opened again. Shaun turned his head as a pair of individuals came through the threshold, the first of which was a tall, well build man with a shaved head, wearing a light grey, button up shirt with short sleeves, dark grey trousers and black trainers with green laces. The other had dark, black skin and wore a white shirt, black tracksuit bottoms and a zipped up tracksuit jacket that covered his neck. He too wore a shaved head, and both looked as if they spent more time in the gym than they did at home.
“He brought some mates.” Shaun said, turning his head to Kai. Kai gave him a nod, and Michael began to grow a smug smirk along his face.
“Looks like you two are a bit fucked, aren’t ya?” He said, as he turned around. He and Kai stared at each other, locking eyes for a moment. Kai’s expression changed from one of confidence, to scanning Michael’s expression as if to determine something about him. Michael began to sidestep, but not before Kai reached up and placed a hand on his shoulder, much to Michael’s distaste.
“Not as fucked as you’re gonna be. Shaun.”
Shaun took the subtle hint and turned, walking to the two men who were now feet from the confrontation, and stood in the way to bar them. They both turned to each other, shared a glance and cracked a smile each.
The man in the tracksuit had a deep, rumbling voice. “I don’t feel good about beating up a kid
Shaun held out his arms slightly, a calmness in his voice.
“Let’s be reasonable, yeah? No need for this to turn south. Let’s just stop and-”
Shaun felt a fist plunge into his stomach, catching him off guard and causing him to lean forward.
Kai turned around to see what was going on. Michael broke from his grip and bolted for the door. Kai grabbed the bottle off the table and swung around, aiming to strafe around the hired muscle, who was reaching out to grab him and thwart that attempt. Shaun didn’t wait for him to try, and grabbed the arm that was pulling away from his torso. Once he had a grip, he threw the arm to the side, causing one of the men to stumble and knock into the other. Both of them were caught off balance as the one who was shoved caused the other to strike into the wall.
Kai made a break through the door, bottle in hand. The two thugs both swore between them. The dark skinned one kept his eyes on Shaun, whilst the other was turning to leave.
Shaun grabbed him by the shirt so that when he went forward, he lurched and strained the fabric, and Shaun pulled him back to get his attention. Both of them stepped forward, bolstered by outnumbering and out-sizing Shaun at every step. They had nearly a foot of height over him at least, towering down on him. This didn’t stop Shaun from walking forward, meeting them in their personal space.
“I was gonna be nice, but I’ve changed my mind. You’re both under arrest.”
They both shared a low chuckle, and the one in the tracksuit let out a louder laugh.
“Yeah, boy, what’chu gonna do to-”
Shaun raised his hand and struck him across the face with his backhand. He didn’t stop rolling on the floor until he slammed into the opposing wall, causing one of the paintings that was hung up to rattle and come lose, striking him on his shoulder.
The other guy’s face dropped, turning an even paler shade of white. Shaun didn’t give him the pleasure of chatting and raised his other hand, striking across his face with an open palmed slap. His body tumbled, colliding with his colleague into the wall, both out with a single show of force.
Michael bolted past a silver car that was parked just outside the Red Bull, almost stumbling into it as he made a break across the road. As he scrambled to get clear and gather some distance, Kai leapt down the three steps that were separating the pub from the pavement below and weighed the bottle in his hand for a moment. He already knew how to use it from the moment he saw it. Instinctive tugs from his powers already gave him insight into how best to use it as a bludgeon, but now as he thought about throwing it, his muscles had already learned how to turn it into a projectile.
Kai took a step to run forward, then pelted the bottle. It spun through the air until it came into contact with the nape of his neck. He didn’t want to aim for the head, as it may have caused more damage than allowed, but the nape would have stunned him regardless.
Michael felt the glass bottle strike him, and he took one step before he fell over onto his face. The bottle deflected off him, launching a little into the air before dropping down and shattering on the floor in the middle of the road. He lay there as Kai ran over, handcuffs in hand.
He kept him on his back and kelt down, pushing his knee into his spine. There was a little struggle between them as Michael tried to stop his arms from being grabbed, and tried to keep his arms apart when Kai shoved the handcuffs over them.
“You’re nicked. Up and at ’em.”
Kai stood up once he was physically detained by the cuffs and grabbed him by the clothes, hauling him to his feet. He made sure Michael was in front of him at all times and kept pushing him forward, making him walk quicker than his staggered state would allow. When they got to the car, Kai fished out the keys from his pocket, and unlocked the rear doors before unceremoniously shoving Michael into the back seat, slamming the door afterwards.
Michael sat up, but didn’t seem to want to cause any further fuss and simply glowered in the back seat.
Kai shoved the keys back in his pocket and dusted his hands. “Alright. One down, two to go.”
Just as Kai had started to walk over and reached the steps of the Red Bull, Shaun had made his way outside. Over his left and right shoulder with an arm over each to keep them in place, he carried both of the thugs and hopped down the steps. He nudged his left shoulder up, where the black skinned man had a pair of handcuffs on. The other man was lacking, his hands dangling free below him.
“I’m a bit disappointed. Only took me one punch to beat them.”
Kai just shrugged, smiling slightly, a dry sarcasm in his voice. “Damn. What a pity.”
“I only had one set of cuffs.” Shaun said, shrugging. Both men bobbed up and down in the air. “What are we going to do with the other goon?”
“Spare set in the glove compartment.” Kai nodded, then turned and walked back to the car. Shaun followed with him, and when Kai opened the back door, Shaun dumped the unconscious body into the back seat, and he landed with his head on Michael’s lap. Michael had shuffled over to the far side, but even then he wasn’t far enough to avoid any contact with the body. Kai meanwhile opened the passenger seat and flicked open the glove compartment, grabbing a spare set of handcuffs that lay on top of an extendible police baton and a taser. The second thug couldn’t resist as he slapped the cuffs on him, and Shaun hoisted him up and dumped him on the back seat.
“Make sure they’re sat up. Needs to look professional.” Kai said, giving Shaun a flick-point. Shaun nodded and obliged, leaning over the pair of bodies and began to rearrange them. Michael stared at Shaun as he did so, and it wasn’t until a second passed that Shaun noticed and returned the look. They looked at each other for seconds, and Shaun felt a mild discontent in keeping him in his sights for too long. He frowned, and returned to adjusting the men in their seats.
“Just remembering your face.” Michael said.
Shaun stopped for a second, then turned to him. “Yeah, that’s a really creepy thing to say. Prison’s gonna love you.”
Michael grinned widely, stretching his lips across his face. Shaun frowned even harder at him, and finished sitting up his hired muscle properly. He stood upright before closing the door with a flick of his wrists.
Shaun opened the passenger seat door and sat down, interlocking his fingers and cracking his joints. Kai was already sat in the driver’s seat and revved up the engine, turning his head to Shaun.
“Good work. Knew it would be easy.”
“I expected a bomb or something.” Shaun said. “Big explosion, death trap sort of thing. Maybe work’s just getting my expectations up.”
“You never know. Buckle up.”
Shaun nodded, and locked his seat belt in place. “So, next step?”
“We drag them back to HQ, put them into custody, and get them ready. I’m gonna be interrogating our new acquaintance Burnham to find out what’s going on. Then, we see how many years and convictions we have evidence for, and make sure he spends as much time in jail as we can physically get for him.”
“Sorted.” Shaun said, putting his hands behind his head.
Michael remained silent as Kai slipped the car into first gear, and began to pull away from the Red Bull pub. He only began to smile and feel a moment of satisfaction when he saw it finally fade out of view in his side mirror. He wound down the window with a push of a button and let the cold night air brush against the back of his neck again, shifting up gears and heading back to headquarters with due haste.