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Cotton FBI - Episode 01

Contents

  1. Cover
  2. What is COTTON FBI?
  3. The Author
  4. Title
  5. Copyright
  6. Prelude
  7. 11 Years Later
  8. Next on Cotton FBI

What is COTTON FBI?

Your name is Jeremiah Cotton. You are a small-time cop in the NYPD, a rookie that no one takes seriously. But you want more. You have a score to settle with the world. And anyone who calls you “Jerry” will be sorry.

A new time. A new hero. A new mission. Experience the birth of a digital cult-series: Cotton FBI is the remake of JERRY COTTON, the most successful series of German novels with more than one billion copies sold, and it tells an entirely new story in e-book form.

Cotton FBI is published twice a month, with each episode a self-contained story.

The Author

Mario Giordano, was born 1963 in Munich, studied psychology in Düsseldorf and writes novels for adults old and young as well as screenplays (his credits include Tatort, Schimanski, Polizeiruf 110, Das Experiment). He lives in Cologne.

Prelude

You are running on and on and on …

This, in particular, is what’s haunting you night after night. Going down the whole length of South Lexington, and then taking a hard right onto 26th Street, into the deep shadows between the closely-spaced brick buildings with their fire escapes.

You remember the tourists taking photos of the fire escapes — as if they didn’t exist in any other place. What’s so great about fire escapes? you ask yourself. And then you’ve forgotten about the brief encounter, the fire escapes, and the tourists, because you run on and have no time to concentrate on anything else. You will remember all that much later, and when you do, you will remember every damned detail of that morning, each and every night from now on.

In that moment, you hardly notice anything else around you. The scenery just whooshes right past you without leaving even a scratch on your memory. The coffee shops, seedy real-estate agencies, and the cockroach-infested delis, too; the closed-down medical-supply businesses, the garbage men hollering something after you, and all the other people you swerved around and bumped into … all this seems like a mere daydream. It is all so trivial to you during those fleeting moments.

You simply keep on running. Your legs hurt and your lungs are burning, but you still have enough strength to run two or three blocks and maybe even more. If you have to, you’ll run all the way to Timbuktu to catch that black dirtbag. So what are a few city blocks?

You will not let this crook get away with that wallet. And when you’ve got him then you’ll still have enough strength left over to beat the shit out of him if you have to.

Four hundred and fifty-three dollars is what it contains — that’s all you have. You wanted to buy some cool clothes, clothes you can only find in New York City; a new pair of pants and some sneakers, a gift for Meg … something really nice … perhaps a ring if there’s enough money.

But maybe there’ll be no spending spree with the money now, because that dirtbag in front of you has it, and he is damned fast. He’ll get away if you don’t catch him soon. So what now? Give up and listen to Dad’s I-told-you-so story?

Never!

You went on a lot of hunting trips with your dad when you were growing up and you always liked it, until it came to the shooting part. Though you can handle a weapon just fine, and you’re actually pretty good with that old Browning, your problem has always been putting yourself in the position of the prey. You always have to try to imagine what it would be like to be hunted down. That’s how you’ve learned to sense that moment when fleeing turns into panic. And it seems like that jerk, barely twenty yards ahead of you, has reached that point. He no longer has a clear plan for where he should run. It is fear alone that is driving him onward. You can tell it from the way he keeps glancing back at you. It is now simply a matter of who is in better shape.

So, onward your feet carry you. The crook veers off to the left onto 2nd Avenue, and then to the right after that, onto 26th, going straight for two blocks, crossing over onto Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive. Along the four-lane highway that runs parallel to the East River, the morning traffic crawls like a huge metallic worm, pressing cars and people into the city.

And what does this son-of-a-bitch who has your money do? He simply runs right across the busy strip of concrete. Every night you remember how he weaved between the cars as if it were nothing, and how he bounded over the concrete barrier running down the center of the highway and then sprinted on towards the river. And you go after him, because giving up is not an option — not when the end seems so near.

It is odd, but you remember every detail of this morning. It was a mild late-summer morning with the promise of another hot day. The air was crisp and clear. You were wondering at how clean the New York air was. You had imagined everything differently, but it was your first time in this city that never sleeps.

Gosh, New York City! Two days ago you arrived here from Grinnel, Iowa, with your parents to visit your sister. You are a country boy, a hick from a small town in the Midwest; a flat and empty nothingness that seems to consist of nothing but rows of corn … a place that was just a wild and desolate prairie a hundred and eighty years ago. A land of grass and buffaloes, of untouched nature, and the hunting grounds of the Iowa and Sioux tribes. Today, it is basically nothing but a huge cornfield.

In high school, you are just an average student who fails to meet his full potential — your teachers keep saying. Meg thinks it’s because of your fiery temper, which gets the better of you, like a thunderstorm you cannot avoid. You’ve been dating Meg for a year now. She’s a pretty girl, uncomplicated, and with a laugh that is downright infectious. She’s good for you, your mother told you.

The way things look, you’ll be marrying her after you graduate from high school and take over your father’s outdoor sports store. The store is a sure thing; there’s always fishing and hunting being done. You simply didn’t have Laura’s drive; she wanted to go to college — to get away from Grinnell. Laura, the one who had always striven to accomplish better things. She’s been with the PR section of Brodmann & Campbell for about a year now. You don’t even know what PR stands for. All you know is that your sister works in a fancy office overlooking Lower Manhattan. The sound of this is enough to make you puke.

But, if you are honest with yourself, as you listen to the freight trains rumble by slowly at night — thudadum, thudadum, thudadum — then you feel just like Laura. That there’s something missing. That this isn’t all there is. That your place in life lies elsewhere — anywhere, just not in Grinnell, Iowa. You simply had no idea where this would be, until two days ago.

Now you do. And this is where the problem lies. This is why you had that argument with Dad last night, all the crap with the money, the running …

Just because of Laura.

Laura has a small apartment in Queens, on the corner of 40th Street and 47th Avenue. There are worse neighborhoods. The building is a plain brownstone at the edge of an industrial area. It’s a railroad apartment building, and the apartment itself is merely a hallway with two rooms and a bath — a place in which Uncle Caleb would’ve suffocated. And when your mom saw the kitchen, her eyes teared up.

Well, it doesn’t matter. Nobody has to tell you that New York is an expensive place. At any rate, there are four people living in that apartment for the next few days, which naturally means stress. You spent the first two days simply walking around Manhattan with Mom and Dad. The three of you had been looking at everything, and that’s when it dawned on you: This is it. New York City — your city. Now it seemed crystal clear. Last night you told your parents that you would move to New York after high school. Your decision was made. Of course, this caused problems, especially with Dad. What would become of the store? What about Megan? Your parents told you that this was nothing but one of your hair-brained ideas again … all the usual parent talk …

Of course, you understand your parents, but when they start that sort of talk, you switch to stubborn mode, and then one thing leads to another. You and Dad got into a hefty argument. It was such a bad quarrel that you hardly slept at all that night. When the first signs of daybreak shone through the windows, you couldn’t stand it anymore and had to get out. You walked all the way to Brooklyn, over Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan. You wanted to be alone with the city, which was waking up and beckoning you with the promise of an exciting day. You wanted to understand — to make a final decision.

And this city had shown you what it thinks about hicks by sending you that dirtbag.

In the meantime, the guy has slowed down some. He also seems to be running out of breath. You see how he runs through a gate to a parking lot. You don’t hesitate and barge through the honking cars, across FDR Drive to Waterside Plaza, and simply keep on running until you reach the parking lot located beside the piers with the mega-yachts. You only catch a glimpse of the big sign, but it is still enough for you to read “United Nations International School”. A guard is shouting something after you and then joins in on the chase when you don’t stop. No matter. It won’t be much longer until you’ve got the dirtbag and your money, too. Barely twenty minutes have passed since the dude ripped you off in Union Square, when you, idiot that you are, had nothing better to do than to count your money for all to see. But who would think of such a possibility at half past seven in the morning? It was a black youth, barely older than you, wearing a hooded sweatshirt. You saw him out of the corner of your eye, but too late. He simply tore the wallet out of your hands and kept on running. Manhattan has given you the finger.

But now you’ve got the little shit. He tripped, and that clinched it for him. It was behind the International School complex, at the end of the pier, that you grabbed hold of his hood and pulled him down onto the pavement. For a fleeting moment you thought that he might have a knife, but luckily he didn’t. He tries to defend himself, kicks at you, but he has no chance, because you are a strong farm boy. Like a nut you beat him, screaming something, until he finally lets go of the wallet. Only then do you release him, too. It’s at this moment that you see his face for the first time. You see fearful eyes — eyes that also reflect the kid’s despair — and they calm you down on the spot. He’s actually hardly older than you, but it’s the despondency in his eyes that catches you off guard. For a moment, it seems as if the world is standing still — everything is quiet. You’re not running anymore; the two of you are just standing there facing each other, breathing hard.

“What’s your name?” you ask him, surprising yourself by asking such a question in this situation.

“Rashid,” he answers.

That’s when the guard catches up with you both and pulls out a taser. Rashid takes off; you don’t. You stay put. The rays of the morning sun shine into your eyes, and you don’t even notice how the guard has grabbed you hard by the arm and is asking you something.

“What?”

“Your name, boy!”

You mumble your name and show the guard the wallet that you have managed to get back. At first, he doesn’t believe you and wants to call the cops. But after you tell him the exact amount of money in the wallet and about the photo of you and Meg, he finally believes you.

“You ran from Union Square all the way to here?”

“Yeah.”

“Not bad, son. You don’t give up easy, do you?”

“I guess.”

He looks at you as if he is trying to figure out whether you are trying to mess with him. He lets you go. At that moment you think, Gosh, this is the best day of my life.

How wrong can you be?

It is now a quarter after eight. You should call your parents, but you don’t have a cell phone. By now, they will be gone anyhow. Today is a special day: Super Laura will be showing off her big office. But since you’ve got your money back and this is the best day of your life, you don’t want to overdo it. So, off you go to meet her. You take the Z train from East River Park over to Fulton Street, and then walk the rest of the way.

Manhattan gives you a wink; you’ve passed the test. The city purrs, and it belongs to you now. You think about Rashid and the pain in his eyes, and then you think, To hell with him!

Shortly after eight-thirty you walk across the lobby of the North Tower of the WTC and get into the line of people standing in front of the elevators. Every fifteen feet a black dude shows you where to go, even though the area is marked off with yellow tape.

Brodmann & Campbell occupies the entire 94th floor. You’ll have to ask your way through when you get up there. There are different types of elevators. A few go all the way up, others don’t. The line for the direct elevator is long, and the darned elevator takes its time, and time is something you don’t have right now. You are almost bursting with excitement, you want to share your triumph, want to announce it to the world.

You want to apologize to Dad. You don’t want to argue anymore; not today.

So, you leave the line and take the express elevator up to the Skylobby on the 44th floor. There, you want to take another elevator, one that will take you to the 94th, to Laura, Mom, and Dad.

But you’ll never make it that far.

Just as you get out of the elevator on the 44th floor, AA flight 11 slams into the building between the 93rd and 99th floors, killing your parents and your sister on the spot.

But you don’t know this yet. You only hear the thud and then the dull detonation above. And you feel how the whole building trembles, resonating like a giant bell. The people in the hallway are screaming and shouting and trying to understand what is going on.

And you run again. Because you realize one thing: Whatever it was, it happened above where your parents and sister are. You run through the hall in the Skylobby and see smoke, so much smoke. Far too much smoke. And you see debris from the building falling down past the windows, as if it were almost floating. Like a loon you storm into the stairwell where the first wave of people is rushing down the stairs, fleeing with fear and panic in their eyes. In the chaos you ask what happened, but you don’t get any sensible answer.

You fight your way upward, pressing through the crowd, but thick smoke floods the stairwell on the 56th floor and even here you can feel the heat. On the 61st floor, going on becomes impossible. The smoke is too dense and the heat unbearable. A man with cuts on his face grabs hold of you and shouts that everything above is in flames. You desperately want to go to Mom and Dad and Laura, but there’s no chance. You can’t go any further. The only hope you still have is that they made it down some other stairwell, or that they’re not even in the tower at all …

Yes, that’s it! They lollygagged around too long, waiting for you, took the subway too late and are now sitting in a train without a clue as to what’s happened, while you are here, stuck in deep shit.

You hear a totally disturbed woman babble something about an airplane, but you don’t believe it, even though she insists she saw it. You simply can’t believe it. You just imagine Mom, Dad, and Laura in the subway and then you focus on getting back down.

It’s slow going; there’s no panic, only shock and a feeling of vulnerability. One man even has his coffee cup still in his hand. You just want to get out of the building, but then you hear a woman call out. The voice is coming weakly from one of the offices. She’s calling for help, constantly and steadily, just like an automatic SOS signal. But this is no signal; it’s a human voice. Why isn’t anyone helping the woman?

You ponder on it for just a moment, and then you go looking for her. Choking smoke hangs low from the ceiling and billows out into the hallways. Everyone who works here has long since left via the stairwell. Only this woman whose voice keeps calling for help is still here.

She is trapped in an elevator, stuck half-way between the 60th and 61st floors. It’s a miracle that the steel cables are still holding in the intense ...

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