Snake Slough by James Bayers

Police Officer Lee Curtis has met his precise equal, in no way but genetics. In every other way, his genetic equal is not like him at all. In fact, his genetic equal is just the opposite. Especially the opposite side of the law. Oh, but how things change as Snake Slough ensues.

As it twists and turns like DNA, Snake Slough is brought to life.


The Clash
There were over thirty rugged looking men waiting on the sidewalk for a green light. They’d spent a good part of the morning being briefed on what exactly they should expect and how to approach resistance. Before the bus ride most of them had already psyched themselves up to go in.
Everything was ready, cleared from the top, with a good chunk of the force eager to proceed, even though most of them had only been alerted a few hours before their shift. The ones who hadn’t received the phone call and only learned when they arrived at the motor pool for shift were directed to the war room by the motor pool staff where they walked into a room crowded and buzzing with expectation.
Thirty minutes into shift the Sargent entered the war room and worked his way through the crowd at the rear and past the chairs and desks which had all been filled long before shift. The Sargent introduced the operations leaders and then the briefing began.
Anticipation was high all morning. Over sixty officers had been pulled from regular duty for the bust. Thirty where assigned to the sidewalk a block from the target while fifteen plainclothes converged on the building from every direction providing Intel to the command center as they approached.
When the team leader raised his hand and made a fist to signal that they had received the green light, the team of thirty men instantly broke into a run, rounding the nearby corner and then taking the block ahead in mass. As they approached the warehouse, four plainclothesmen came to life just ahead of them, leading them in as they acquired the front entrance.
Inside the warehouse they spread out into four man teams and began to sweep the entire structure for occupants.
Outside the warehouse the remaining plainclothesmen formed a net around the building to contain runners.
The remaining fifteen officers assigned to the operation manned the command center two blocks away from inside a small retail suite with windows papered over and marked with the lettering        “For Lease” rubbed onto the glass with soap.
Plainclothesman, Lee Curtis, and his team hung back at the entry doors while other teams penetrated farther into the building to make apprehensions. The warrant was for the building and its occupants. Occupants were brought out to Lee and his team and then held for transport.
After the initial sweep the team leader emerged from the working half of the warehouse and lifted the face shield on his tactical assault helmet as he approached.
“Initial pass-through is complete. Call a wagon and get these dirtbags out of here,” he directed, “If we dig anyone else out of there a squad car can bring ‘em in.”
“Ok, we’ll call it in,” Lee said, raised his handset to his mouth and began arranging it with the command center.
Lee and his team spent the next half hour waiting for the wagon and then supervising the loading of eighteen suspects for transport.
Shortly afterward, the building was deemed clear and converged on by forensic teams looking for plates, paper, ink, certain machinery or evidence that certain machinery had once been used in the warehouse, photographs, computers, printers, invoices, account ledgers, or anything else directly indicative that the warehouse had been used in the production of counterfeit money.
After dispatching his team to their regular patrols, Lee Curtis walked away from the front entry doors of the warehouse towards the evidence teams farther inside.
As he approached the other end of the warehouse, he saw a group of forensics people down at the opposite end of one of numerous freight racks piled high with pallets of freight. He began down the row between two racks towards them.
“Hey!” he shouted as he approached.
Several heads turned his way, and a salt and pepper haired man holding a clipboard out in front of him shouted, “Hey!” back at him.
“Hey, who’s in charge here, I want to volunteer,” he said, as he flashed his badge and continued to approach.
“That’d be me,” the man responded.
As Lee neared the group, he saw several more officers on the other side of the freight rack taking pictures of a large bulky machine of some sort.
“Ah, well good, I’m Detective Lee Curtis, and like I said, I’d like to volunteer in the evidence sweep. Give you another set of eyes looking around,” Lee said, with the large machine the group was photographing pulling his attention.
“It’s an old printing press,” the man in charge explained after sensing his intrigue. “It doesn’t look like it’s been in use for some time though. It’s got a healthy layer of dust over every square millimeter, and there is no electrical hookup in this vicinity of the building.”
“Wsst, monster isn’t it?” Lee observed.
“Shure, yeah it’s big. Nothing to me though. Last time this baby was in use I’d bet my grandpa was still in grammar school. If you want to help us, keep your eyes peeled for signs of recent production coming out of this building.”
“Recent production. Got it,” he confirmed.
“And don’t worry about the electrical equipment,” he said, “we’ve got specialists coming in to haul the computers and electronics to a lab where they’ll be probed going all the way back to their inception.”
“I won’t worry about computers then,” he said before pointing to a wall at the far end of the warehouse where large commercial freezer doors frequented the bottom half of the wall, and the top part was populated by office windows looking out from a loft of upper offices. “How about over there, we’re checking over there right?”
“I think there were a few detectives who broke of that direction, but most of my forensic people are still in the working warehouse area,” he said, “looking for large setups like this old betsy. You could join the detectives working that back wall if you like. I think we’re more than covered out here.”
“Thanks, I’ll do that,” Lee said and then began across the concrete floor of a staging area where freight was laid out in rows directly on top of the concrete instead of onto the tall freight racks.
As he neared the back wall he glimpsed other detectives passing by the windows upstairs as they searched the offices. Lee paused at the bottom of the stairs to pull a pair of gloves from the inside of his jacket and slip them over his fingers so he wouldn’t contaminate anything.
At the top of the stairs an open room was occupied by several desks and lined with office doors on two walls. When he stepped off the stairs and onto the floor it felt hollow, and if not for the carpet, he imagined that it would have made a sound to prove that it was.
The detectives had either not investigated this area of the office yet, or they had already cleared it and moved on, because nobody was in sight.
A couple of the office doors were wide open so Lee approached them.
At the first door, when Lee looked inside, he saw two other detectives working their way slowly through a stack of file cabinets.
“Uchm, excuse me gentlemen,” he said.
One of the detectives looked up, the other only grunted in reply.
“I’m here to help. Where are you all at here with this?” Lee asked.
“We’re almost done here, then we’ll move on to the next office and just keep going down the line,” one of the detectives explained. “If you want to help, I think the best thing right now would be to go downstairs and see what’s taking Keith Overton so darn long.”
“Sure, I’ll go down and find him. Where’s he supposed to have gone?” Lee asked.
“He was just supposed to go to assess the coolers and freezers. He should have been back a while ago. Tell him to hurry his self up,” the detective said.
“I’ll tell him,” Lee said before leaving the office to head downstairs in search of Keith.
At the bottom of the stairs Lee looked down the wall at the cooler doors. Every one of them was closed tight, all the way down to the end of the wall, so there wasn’t really any way to tell if Keith might be inside one of them.
Lee walked along the front of the wall for a moment, looking for any sign of the other detective. At about a quarter of the way down, he noticed a few dark spots on the concrete floor leading out of a freezer a little way ahead of him. He quickened his pace until he reached them then stooped down to inspect one.
After concluding that the spots were the product of moister left on the concrete by footprints exiting the cooler Lee stood and followed them until they stopped a few feet away. It looked like they were headed toward the pallets of freight staged in between the coolers and the freight racks, so Lee walked toward the pallets and yelled, “Detective Keith Overton,” twice, loudly into the warehouse. The sound of his voice disappeared in the large space and nobody responded.
Second guessing himself, Lee returned to the cooler doors and opened the coolers on either side of the one with the exiting footprints. Keith was not in either one.
Lee returned to the footprints outside the cooler and inspected them again. They definitely were footprints. He could tell that by the shape, and he assumed they were left because of moisture gathered on Keith’s feet while he was inside the freezer.
Lee walked up to the freezer door and pulled it open.
Inside, several pallets stacked with boxes were visible up front, but farther in the back were several boxes which had fallen and spilled their contents onto the floor.
Before entering the freezer, Lee paused to take a moment and analyze the situation. What he had was footprints leading out of the freezer and away from the back wall, a missing detective, and fallen boxes which could have fallen for any number of reasons, including being the result of a struggle.
Before proceeding, Lee radioed command and informed them of the footprints and signs of a struggle. Then he walked down a narrow path between two pallets stacked high with boxes to where the fallen boxes had spilled their contents onto the floor. When he reached mess, he crouched down to identify the spilled contents.
It was all vacuum sealed large cuts of meat. The kind a local grocer might make cuts off of. They were all frozen rock hard. Lee noticed that one cut had a caking of grime crusted onto the outside of its plastic vacuum wrapping. He reached out to it and pinched a swath of it between his thumb and forefinger, rubbed it between his fingers and determined that it was a mixture of frozen blood and hair: human hair.
Lee stood immediately and radioed in confirmation that a struggle had taken place and requested an ambulance be sent to the site to stand by. He also requested that forensics be notified and sent to the coolers immediately.
After putting out the alert, Lee began a cursory search of the cooler to locate the person who the blood on the meat came from. At the cooler’s rear wall was a three foot clear space between the wall and the freight. The thin film of frost which covered the floor indicated that something had been dragged along the empty space for several feet, and then the trail vanished suddenly without any apparent reason.
Lee followed the trail to its end and looked for an explanation. On one side of the trail’s end was a pallet stacked nearly to the ceiling with boxes of frozen meat. On the other side was the back wall of the cooler. Ahead of the trail’s end, several feet away, was the corner where two freezer walls joined together.
Lee walked to the corner and back, then examined the pallet of freight more closely.
When he was done with the pallet, Lee gave the back wall another look. Under close examination there were several crevices in the wall, giving the idea that the wall was made up of a series of panels.
He used his gloved hands sparingly to prod the wall until he felt movement. At the budging of a small section of the wall, Lee raised his hands above his head where he considered it unlikely he would disturb fingerprints, and he gave a good push into the panel. The panel slid back and then pivoted away to reveal a hidden room.
Inside the room sprawled out on the floor was the body of a man Lee only presumed to be Keith Overton. He brought his hand to his radio immediately and called in that an officer was down.
Lee stooped down to the body and pressed his fingers into its neck looking for a pulse. It was there and he prayed that it stayed that way. He left the body unmoved and moved quickly back though the freezer and into the warehouse.
People were approaching the back wall from every direction, and Lee waved them his way. “We have an officer down!” he shouted to everyone close enough to hear. “The ambulance should be on the way. Is anybody ready to meet the ambulance outside?”
The forensic investigator he met on his way in arrived at the cooler with a small group of forensic people first. “Operation command has people outside securing the building. They can direct the EMT’s when they get here,” he said.
“See these?” Lee said and pointed out the footprints on the concrete floor.
The Investigator turned his head and shouted, “Ray! Get a camera and start photographing everything inside here. Starting with these footprints. Do it now before the EMT’s arrive.” Then he turned back to Lee and asked, “What’s going on here?”
“You’ll find everything you’re after in here,” Lee said, motioning to the freezer, “including a detective who’s taken a hard blow to his head, but these footprints are leading that way,” he turned to motion to the staging area, “That’s where our manhunt begins.”
“The sweeper teams left about thirty minutes ago.”
“Well I know there are still a handful of detectives around looking for evidence. They should be notified. Everyone in the building should be. We have a dangerous person in the building. There’s already one man down.”
“I can handle the evidence and the ambulance, but I’m not taking responsibility for the manhunt. That’s not what I do,” the Investigator said.
“Radio command center and have them dispatch more manpower. When they get here, show them the footprints and have them begin to re-sweep the building,” Lee said. “It’s your show until command center tells you otherwise.” Then he turned and walked away from the Investigator and the cooler after the assailant.
He was at a near run by the time he reached the pallets in the staging area and disappeared out of sight. The Forensic Investigator watched him go as he communicated over the radio with the command center.
The warehouse was a large building. Large enough that you could put a full sized professional football field inside and still have lots of room left over. The footprints Lee had let lead him into the staging area for the assailant began at the cooler wall, which was in comparison to a football field the equivalent of leaving the entire field in the search perimeter. Lee wasn’t deterred by that kind of coverage comparison though because the staging area was only about one fifth of that, and he doubted that the assailant would have risked walking down any of the aisles of freight racks while forensics was in full search mode. He had an idea that the assailant was holed up in the staging area somewhere waiting for a chance to leave. And well, Lee wasn’t going to give him that chance if he could help it.
The forensics people were either being pulled out of the building for safety or gathering at the freezer to comb evidence, which meant that the assailant would have the entire inside of the warehouse all to himself in a matter of minutes. Lee didn’t want it to be that easy for him though. He passed through the staging area quickly and then set a perimeter at the other side, got on his radio with command center and asked them to give him an open channel with the two detectives on the opposite side of the staging area, the detectives he’d met earlier in the office loft.
In no time a channel was cleared and the three of them could communicate from two sides of the staging area.
“Who have I got over there?” Lee asked.
“Name’s Hoyt Douglass,” said one of the detectives.
“Elmo Miller,” said the other.
“Ok, Elmo, Hoyt, here’s what we’re going to do,” Lee said, “You two are going to recruit one of those forensics people at your side to watch that perimeter of the staging area. You know what I mean when I say staging area?”
“Yea, I was at the briefing this morning. I know,” one of the detectives said.
“Ok, Good. While the forensics person has that side manned and I’m manning this side you two are going to go in together as a team. He’s already taken one man down so you’re going to be extra careful and make sure you’ve got each other’s back, and you’re going in after him, or her, or them, or whichever it is we’ve got here. You’re going to check every nook and cranny in that staging area including on top every pallet of freight so if you can find a ladder anywhere over there you should bring it with you. That sound five by five to you?”
“Five by five, over,” one of the detectives confirmed.
“Ok, alright, get set up over there and then let me know when you go in,” Lee said and then switched channels and radioed command center again.
“What’s the status on manpower?” he asked after identifying himself.
“Most of the original sixty men we had this morning were dispatched to regular duty, so we’re pulling manpower from whoever is close. Not everybody you get will have been on the bust earlier this morning,” the command personal said, “but we do have the team leader available. He’s already on his way. You can debrief him when he gets there.”
“Thanks,” Lee said, and then released his transmit button.
He looked into the staging area where he thought he’d seen a flicker of movement and stared into the maze of stretch wrapped cardboard freight for a moment without seeing anything out of place. He walked toward a long aisle between the pallets of freight for a better look down the aisle until he was five feet out from the yellow line cordoning off the staging area and looking straight down the aisle all the way to its end where it T’d into another aisle running perpendicular down the center of the staging area. Nobody was there.
His radio crackled to life and one of the detectives said, “Ok Lee, we’re going in.”
“Copy,” Lee said.
After clearing his radio Lee heard a noise from someplace nearby. He looked all around but didn’t see anything.
Five minutes into the search one of the detectives radioed and asked if Lee could get somebody up on the catwalk with a pair of binoculars to help in the search.
Lee looked up and saw a catwalk covering the length of the building. He radioed command center and said, “Detective Curtis here. What’s the status on back up?”
When his radio crackled to life with a response Lee heard a noise nearby again. He clicked his radio off and looked around.
After a second of silence he heard the noise again. It sounded like it was coming from the top of a nearby pallet of freight. When he looked up for the source of the noise, a man sprung off the top of stacked freight, at him. Lee raised his arms reflexively to protect himself and watched the man hurtle through the air and then crash into him.
Before he struck him, Lee was shocked at how closely the assailant resembled himself.
When the assailant knocked Lee off his feet, Lee pulled him down on top of himself and then tried to roll him over and pin him down, but the assailant struggled and kept out maneuvering Lee until he had Lee pinned to the floor by his arms. With one hand on each arm, the two men’s faces only a foot apart, the assailant gasped, “Holly crap,” under his breath.
The resemblance was incredible. Except for several small tattoos, the two of them had identical faces.
The assailant took advantage of his position by wrestling Lee onto his stomach and then relieving him of his firearm and radio. He used Lee’s own cuffs to secure one wrist and one ankle and then fled down a nearby aisle between freight racks.

The Burn
That night there were seventeen house fires tied to the money laundering organization responsible for operating the warehouse. Three bodies would later turn up in federally protected forestland. Two of the organization’s members would get into an argument over a suitcase full of counterfeit money. One would be brutally stabbed to death, and then the suitcase would be gassed and burned on a backyard barbeque. The police would raid two more business establishments in the following weeks on warrants obtained with information obtained from suspects arrested in the warehouse raid, only to find that the safes and file cabinets of those establishments had already been completely emptied.
The counterfeit organization had all but killed itself.
With nothing to occupy them on a daily basis many of the organization’s members fell into drinking and drugs, a few fled the city for a fresh start, a few went straight, and a few pursued other lines of crime, but none of that was for Aleck Carver.
Aleck Carver spent the three weeks following the bust hanging out at the police station. Not because he liked it there. He hated the police station. The thing of it was; he’d met his doppelganger, and he just couldn’t let it go.
One day after sitting in his big boat of a car eating fast food with his friend Lester and watching the station, he caught his doppelganger leaving after his shift, and he followed him. When it turned out that his doppelgänger had a nice spread in an upbeat neighborhood it put a smile on Aleck’s face.
“This guy doesn’t have it too bad, does he?” he said to Lester.
“Yeah but he’s a cop. That’s like having a major mental illness,” Lester said.
“Yeah, ain’t that a kicker,” said Aleck, “my own doppelganger turns out to be a cop. I just don’t get that.”
“Do you think you’re related?”
“Could be, you know I never met my real parents. This guy could be my brother.”
“Hu,” Lester said, biting into a french-fry, “ain’t that somthin? You find a brother you never knew you had, and he already wants to throw you in jail. You know, some people spend years developing that kind of relationship, but you two hit it right off.”
“Stop smarting off! I’m serous. I want to find out more about this guy,” said Aleck.

A Bruised Ego
The week after the bust Lee Curtis was still the hero who found evidence of the counterfeit operation. He was also still trying to wipe egg of his face after being hog-tied with his own handcuffs.
That he could handle. What got him though was the face of the assailant. It was so similar to his own that it was almost like having a mirror put in front of him.
After the debriefing following the raid the first thing he did was make an appointment with DGE (the Department of Genetic Engineering).
The next day when he arrived at the DGE complex he was escorted into a meeting room and introduced to three scientists who looked and dressed more like a team of seasoned corporate executives than scientists. After introductions, the scientists sat on one side of a large table and Lee was motioned to a seat across from them.
One of the men poured water into a flimsy paper cup and took a sip.
“Help yourself,” he offered to Lee.
Lee poured himself a cup.
“I want to have access to my inception files,” he said.
“Why would you want that?” one of the men asked, “You’re a cop, not a scientist. What would that data mean to you?”
“I want to know if there are others,” said Lee, “twins.”
“Twins?” one of the men asked quizzically.
“Yes, twins,” said Lee, “I’ve recently been assailed by my perfect double.”
“My, that’s interesting,” said one of the men.
“I’d like to know who my donors were, and I’d like to know how many of, well how many of ‘me’ were created.”
“Of course you do,” said one of the men.
“And there’s a chance we can help you find out who this ‘other you’, as you put it, is,” said another.