The U.S. Marshals Service office was only a few blocks away from the Sheriff's station -- Eric had never actually been there, but a quick @Google search from his phone gave him the address. Assuming Dean didn't make a habit of knocking off early, Eric figured he should be able to catch him at the office.
He was expecting secured blast doors, an armed guard, or at least a front office. What he found instead was a single, normal wooden door with "U.S. Marshal's Service" stenciled on it. He opened the door and walked right into an open office with five agents, Dean among them, sitting at desks.
"Um. . . hey," Eric said, waving.
Two of the agents looked up. One of them tapped Dean on the shoulder.
"Hey, Eric. Be with you in a second," Dean said, signing off on a few sheets of paper. The huge agent stood up, stretched, and checked his watch. "Up for a stroll?"
Dean escorted him back out of the office and onto the street, where the Marshal lit up a cigarette as he shrugged into his suit jacket.
"You look like hell," Dean commented.
"I heard. I also heard you've been working with the Sheriff's Department as a consultant."
"No, it's fine. You probably just should have mentioned something. C'mon. I have something in my car you should see."
Eric followed Dean to his Crown Victoria, which was parked in a garage just across the street. Dean opened the trunk and pulled out a briefcase, which he unlocked and opened. He pulled out the only object in the case, a manila folder with the FBI's logo on it.
"I've got it on loan for the day. I have to watch you while you look at it, but I did manage to get what you asked for."
Eric nodded and opened the folder. Inside was the full autopsy report on a 29-year-old male, found in the parking lot of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, shot several times in the chest. The man's face had been burned with acid, and both of his hands had been cut off. Eric skipped over the written report and flipped through the pictures. After less than 30 seconds, he handed the file back to Dean.
"Nope. Not Russel Brandt."
"What? How can you tell?"
Eric sighed, reopened the file folder, and pulled out a picture. He flipped it so it was facing Dean -- it was a close-up shot the forensic dentist had taken of the inside of the body's mouth.
"This guy has a tongue. Russel didn't."
"Fuck me. You're sure on this?"
"Yeah, I'm sure. I knew the guy eight years, he never spoke word one. His father cut his tongue out when he was a kid. Those don't tend to grow back."
"I need to get on the phone. We need to get you moved, and quick."
"Too late for that, I'm afraid," Eric smiled weakly, handing the file back to Dean. He walked away, leaving the agent standing confused next to the open trunk of his car.
When he was a kid, Eric was diagnosed with mild hypoglycemia. As the years went on, the condition mostly went away, but he still tended to get extremely cranky if he ignored his diet for too long. The half-meal he'd eaten in the past two days, combined with his recent lack of sleep, was making him feel downright belligerent, so he stopped for Chinese takeout on the drive home. As it was only four in the afternoon, the restaurant was pretty much empty, and they got his hot braised pork to him in about five minutes.
Johnny had been thoughtful enough to lock the door to his apartment as he dragged Yang Shao out, so Eric unlocked the door and set his takeout bag on the kitchen table.
"Hungry?" Eric asked.
"Nah," Yang Shao answered from his perch on Eric's couch.
"Yeah, I figured as much," Eric nodded, opening the box and sticking his chopsticks into the pork and rice. "How much amphetamine are you on, anyway?"
"I think the medical term is 'a lot,'" Yang Shao smiled. "What tipped you?"
"I suspected when I saw your eyes. Way too dilated for the harsh lights in the interrogation room. Then, when you took out the cops -- no one as sick as you are should be able to move that fast."
"Nice side effect of the Dexedrine-L-DOPA cocktail. Makes the reaction time faster than Bruce fuckin' Lee."
"Where's the cancer?"
"Started out in the lungs. Didn't catch it until stage 3."
"So it's terminal."
"Afraid so. Moved to the lymph nodes and the brain. I figure I've got two months, maybe three."
"Hence the amphetamine. Doped up enough to walk around, finish off one last errand for Jian Wa."
"The thing with Russel? It's personal. I get you, too, so much the better for Jian Wa and his people. I couldn't care less, honestly. But my best bet is to stick around you until that freak pops up."
"I tend to agree. Which is why I was going to have them move you to a hospital rather than County."
"Awww. You were gonna break me out. I'm touched. Unnecessary, though. I can handle myself."
"Not with the short one."
"Got the drop on me. My dosage hadn't kicked in yet when the cop came in. Not planning on it happening again."
"Amphetamine psychosis?" Eric asked, shoveling low-grade pork into his mouth.
"Not yet, but it's in the mail, for sure. So we should both probably hope Russel shows up sooner rather than later," Yang Shao said, lifting one of the @Newcastle bottles to his lips. "Borrowed one of your beers. You mind?"
"All yours. I should tell you, though, cops tend to drop by here all the time. My handler from the Marshal's Service, too."
"Yeah, I guessed that might be a problem when the tiny redneck shitkicker dropped in unannounced. Don't worry, I can stay out of sight. You wouldn't happen to have any guns around, would you?"
Eric shook his head as he plowed through his food.
"'S alright. I have a few in the trunk of my car."
Eric finished off the takeout and tossed the carton in the trash.
"Not that I'm not enjoying the company, but I really need some sleep."
"No problem. I'll stay entertained. Couldn't sleep if I tried, anyway," Yang Shao smiled, taking another swig of brew.
* * *
When Eric woke at six the next morning, he didn't see Yang Shao anywhere around the apartment. It was just as well -- he really didn't feel like playing The Odd Couple with a dying Chinese gangster if he could avoid it. Besides, just because he couldn't see Yang Shao didn't mean he wasn't there.
Years back, Eric had heard stories of how Yang Shao had waited in a Russian mobster's house for two days, never being seen, until the Russian was alone. He'd then slipped out of hiding, cut off all of the man's limbs, and left him to die on the front door of his boss's house. Eric knew he shouldn't have found this memory comforting, but in an odd way, he did.
Kenny had emailed Eric after the accident to let him know he could take as much time off as he needed, but Eric was planning to go to work anyway. He needed something to do other than wait around for Russel to come in and hack him up, and work was just boring enough to shut his brain off for eight hours or so. After showering and dressing for work, Eric fired up the Thunderbird and headed downtown. He thought he caught a glimpse of Yang Shao's black BMW trailing him, but the car was gone as soon as he saw it.
"Damn if he ain't creepy," Eric muttered to himself, turning up the stereo. The MC5's "Motor City is Burning" blared out of his open windows as he pulled into the parking garage and killed the engine.
"Um, hey, Eric. Uh, how are you feeling?" Kenny greeted as Eric walked past his desk.
"Couple cracked ribs. Broken fingers. Not too much worse for the wear, all told," Eric said.
"Um, good. You know, you really didn't have to come in today."
"Yeah, I needed something to do. I suck at downtime. New code build last night?"
"I'm on that, then," Eric waved as he walked to his cubicle.
Eric worked straight through lunch, as usual, and was ready to roll at four that afternoon. He'd fortunately been able to unplug from reality, jack his brain into his iPod, and work mindlessly for the entire time he'd been at work -- it was almost like sleeping, and Eric desperately needed the rest. He shut down his computer, finished off the last of his coffee, and headed for the door.
Again on the drive home, Eric thought he saw Yang Shao's BMW, but when he looked closely -- nothing. Eric made a quick stop to pick up a case of @Rockstar_Energy, then drove home and walked up to the apartment door. He was meeting with Johnny and Nathaniel for dinner and strategy before te meet with the Russian Mafia boss that night, and he needed to shower and change first -- it had been over 100 degrees again that day.
As he was drying off, he heard the sounds of a quick altercation in his living room. Eric quickly threw on a pair of pants and rushed out of the bathroom to find Yang Shao standing over the unconscious form of a white male in his mid-30s. The guy was obviously in very good shape, and he was dressed in a pair of black cargo pants and a black T-shirt. His hair was short, almost shaved, and a H&K MP5 submachine gun rested on the floor next to him.
"Friend of yours?" Yang Shao asked, shaking out his right hand.
"Nope," Eric shook his head, rolling the man over onto his back. He noticed that the main was wearing some sort of necklace under his shirt -- Eric pulled it out and realized that they were dog tags.
"Captain Henry Graham, United States Army," Eric read from the tag.