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Cotton FBI - Episode 03

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

Jan Gardemann was born in Hamburg in 1961. After receiving his vocational diploma in graphics and design, he worked jobs at the Port of Hamburg and as a fashion designer, amongst others. He traveled extensively through Europe and later through the African desert and to Bali. Since 1991, he has worked as a freelance author. He currently lives with his wife and their three children in a quaint town between Hamburg and Hanover.

 

It had been a while since Tavy Lee had felt as happy as she did on that spring morning. The young flaxen-haired woman stood proudly beside her stout father on the covered bridge of the launch, a large motorboat, letting her eyes drift over the Hudson River.

To the right of the water towered the karstified mountain range that was the Manhattan high-rises, and along the distant shore on the left stretched a fresh green strip of forest, which concealed the sea of houses in Jersey City.

The Porto Alegro, as Bob Lee had christened his launch, had a diesel engine that was hammering away in a mindless rhythm, making the metal floor under Tavy’s feet quake. The boat had a barge in tow filled to the brim with waste and refuse that Tavy’s father was delivering to an incinerator in Westchester. The smell of diesel mixed with the rotten stench that wafted over from the barge, but that didn’t bother Tavy much. When she was little, Tavy had often accompanied her father on his tours of the Hudson, so for her the combination of smells inspired a sense of nostalgia rather than disgust or repulsion.

As they passed under the George Washington Bridge, Tavy admired the two monumental steel pylons, one of which was located on the New York shore and the other over on the New Jersey side. These giants rested on massive stone foundations. The wide bridge hung from enormous support cables and spanned a length of about three thousand five hundred feet above the river. Viewing it from below, Tavy found it both threatening and overwhelming at the same time. The network of steel beams lining the bridge to support the second level, which had been added later, looked particularly delicate. No wonder, considering that the structure was about six hundred feet above the barge that was chugging away below. In comparison with that colossus, her father’s boat seemed as small as a nutshell.

“Great view, isn’t it?” Bob Lee shouted over the roar of the engine. He was a sturdily built man who had put on some weight over the years. His face, with its layer of overgrown stubble, was weatherworn and covered in a mesh of fine wrinkles.

Tavy nodded in agreement. “But what I think is really great is that we finally get to spend a bit more time together, Daddy,” she said, looking at him affectionately.

Lee laughed gruffly. “It’s not my fault that we don’t see each other so much anymore.”

When the boatman noticed his daughter’s saddened expression, he smiled comfortingly. Using his right hand to steer, he clumsily patted Tavy on the shoulder with his left. “But it’s alright, kiddo,” he said in a cheerful tone. “Your school work is more important than keeping your old dad company on his rusty boat. Your mom would’ve been proud. She always wanted you to get a good education so that you wouldn’t have to struggle in life the way we did.”

Even though five years had passed since her mother had died in a horrific accident onboard the Porto Alegro, the memory of her hurt Tavy like a fresh wound every time. In a sudden rush of melancholy, Tavy directed her eyes straight ahead up the blue river, which reflected the silvery morning sun that had only just risen a few inches above the horizon. The shadow of the George Washington Bridge lay ahead of them, darkening the water ominously.

Tavy instinctively turned and peered upwards at the bridge as the Porto Alegro passed under it. When she saw the body falling directly toward the launch, she let out a piercing cry.

“What’s wrong, kiddo?” her father called out, concerned.

At that very moment, the body hit the pile of garbage on the barge with a thud. Like a bullet fired from hundreds of feet above them, the man pierced through the soft waste and disappeared on impact.

“A suicide!” cried Tavy, horrified. “He jumped off the bridge and landed in the barge.”

Bob Lee cursed through his clenched teeth. It wasn’t a rare occurrence for suicidal people to throw themselves off the George Washington Bridge, but of all things, did this one have to land on his barge and spoil this day that had started with so much promise?

Tavy peered up at the bridge, stunned, and thought she noticed one of the support cables move, but she didn’t have time to call her father’s attention to this oddity: Suddenly, there was an explosion on the barge. It was so violent that it created a shock wave, knocking the young woman off her feet and flinging her against the rudder.

The last thing Tavy saw before she descended into unconsciousness was her father lying beside her and tattered scraps of garbage raining down onto the Porto Alegro.

*

Getting from the level of the George Washington Bridge down to the shore of the Hudson River was not particularly easy on the Manhattan side. In order to spare himself a long, laborious walk, Special Agent Jeremiah Cotton unceremoniously veered off the Henry Hudson Parkway onto the gravel shoulder to find a place to park the Chevy in the shadow of the enormous bridge supports.

Sitting shotgun was his partner, Special Agent Philippa Decker. Her green eyes shot a questioning look at her younger colleague.

“From here, we only have to cross one street, the embankment, and a pedestrian walkway to get to the shore,” Cotton explained — his partner’s expression hadn’t escaped him.

He stopped the car in front of the bridge wall and turned off the engine.

“Is there no other way to get to our destination?” Decker asked.

“We could’ve driven to the next Hudson River Greenway overpass,” Cotton replied, “but you can only go by foot from there. From the overpass back to the bridge, we’d have to walk almost a mile and we’d lose valuable time.” He pointed to the police vehicles that were parked on the gravel. “It’s faster to take the same route as our associates from the NYPD. And that’ll lead us directly down the river bank to the water.”

Decker, who didn’t like taking lessons from her junior colleague, got out without saying a word. Shortly afterwards, the two special agents were standing at the edge of the road, waiting for an opportunity to cross the busy street. The wind from the passing cars made Decker’s shoulder-length blond hair blow about. “Now!” she called out as she spotted an opening that would allow them to safely cross halfway. She grabbed Cotton by the jacket sleeve and dragged him behind her across the street. The driver of an approaching Lincoln exasperatedly honked his horn, but by the time he caught up with the two agents, they had long since reached the other side of the road.

Cotton skillfully climbed over the waist-high concrete boundary wall. When he had found secure footing on the steep downward slope, he gallantly offered Decker a hand to help her over the barrier. The tall, slim agent eyed Cotton coldly, but then took his hand and maneuvered herself over the wall.

The path led straight down the slope and was densely overgrown with bushes, indicating that this shortcut to the Greenway and the observation deck beneath the bridge was only rarely, if ever, used. As Cotton masterfully descended the steep slope, Decker instinctively scrutinized him.

Cotton’s movements revealed strength and endurance. He was a few inches shorter than her, but exuded a strong resolve and tireless energy. Regardless, by Decker’s standards, Cotton was much too hotheaded and impulsive. He would still have to gain a lot more experience before he could be considered a seasoned agent. He already had the predisposition — that had been proven during his years of service with the NYPD.

Finally they reached the Hudson River Greenway, a narrow walkway that runs along the river’s edge for several miles, fenced in on both sides by a railing. Instead of turning left to get to the observation deck where a small red lighthouse stood, Cotton climbed over the railing to the rocks along the shore. Decker did the same, but this time she made sure that her partner didn’t have any chance to offer her another chivalrous hand.

A small crowd had formed around the lighthouse and along the path. They were peering inquisitively at the launch, which was anchored near the rocky shore.

The barge being towed by the launch had been basically destroyed. The railings and the sides of the ship above the waterline were completely mangled. The bow was covered with waste and refuse, and scraps of garbage also lay scattered on the launch. All of this trash had been part of the barge’s cargo.

An NYPD patrol boat was moored to the side of the launch that faced away from the shore. A number of uniformed cops were on the boat.

“How do we get over there?” Decker asked a little helplessly and waved to get the attention of their colleagues on the launch. They were apparently too busy to notice, or else they took the two figures on the shore to be onlookers. Either way, they didn’t react, continuing their work undeterred.

Just then, among the uniformed cops, Cotton spotted a stocky, menacing-looking man in civilian clothes. He had dark hair, was dressed in jeans and a brown leather jacket, and wore his police-issued pistol and holster in plain sight.

“That’s Joe Brandenburg over there,” Cotton explained to his partner. He stuck two fingers in his mouth and let out a piercing whistle.

When the NYPD detective turned toward the shore, Cotton quickly waved at him.

Brandenburg returned the greeting with a curt gesture, then turned to one of the uniformed officers and said something to him. The cop nodded in agreement and, eager to fulfill his duty, climbed up to the police boat and vanished from the sight of the two agents.

After a short wait, a motorized inflatable yellow raft emerged from behind the launch. The cop who was operating the outboard motor directed the vehicle purposefully toward the two special agents.

Cotton gave Decker a disarming smile. “Relationships are everything. Without them, you’ll never get far in your career.”

“It’s very funny,” spat Decker, “that you should be so smug about knowing this dubious Joe Brandenburg so well. Rumor has it that he gets involved in criminal activity to help supplement his salary.”

Cotton put up his hand in disagreement. “Those are just rumors,” he said, even though he knew better. “I’ve known Joe Brandenburg for years. As you know, he was my partner in the NYPD. I learned a lot from him. Without Brandenburg, I never would’ve managed to get onto the G-Team.”

The G-Team. Officially, this special FBI unit of which Cotton was a member did not exist. That being the case, the vast majority of cops, outside of a handful of close confidants, took Cotton and Decker for normal FBI agents. Joe Brandenburg was one of the few who were in the know.

Meanwhile, the inflatable raft had drawn close to the shore. The cop greeted them and threw a rope to Cotton, who caught it and pulled the bow of the boat onto the weathered rocks with a firm tug.

“Ladies first,” Cotton said, gesturing toward the raft.

Decker climbed aboard. Cotton jumped in behind her and then pushed the raft off the shore with his foot.

On the way back to the patrol boat, the motor-driven raft bobbed over the waves. Water splashed up the sides, creating a mist that blew into the passengers’ faces.

Decker wrinkled her nose. She had only just noticed the garbage that was floating in the water along the shore.

The cop, who was blatantly checking out the attractive agent, saw her facial expression and yelled over the noise of the engine, “The trash is from the barge. It was filled to the brim with refuse at a port facility in Brooklyn and was on its way up to Westchester. The cargo suddenly blew up after the man fell from the George Washington Bridge and crashed into the middle of the garbage.”

The scrappy Puerto Rican cop shook his head. “Patrolling the Hudson, I’ve seen a lot, but this incident tops it all.”

“Is it already clear what caused the explosion?” Decker asked.

The cop shrugged.

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