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Sabre Takes a Case

by Roberto Sanhueza

Table of Contents
“Bogey Man” appeared in issue 120.

part 1 of 2

Claire’s a ghost, meaning she’s not really alive. She’s not precisely dead, either, but what else would you call somebody who doesn’t have a real solid body and can only be perceived by your VR implants?

Not that you could tell any difference. If you can see her you can also touch or smell her, that is, supposing she allowed you to. Her link to your neural cortex would be complete.

Furthermore, she’s technically not a “she” either. She’s an AI, but she chooses a female persona. Suits her well, besides. She’s the most gorgeous babe I’ve ever seen.

I haven’t seen much of her lately though. The last time I saw her she was just a flicker on my screen. The nasty broad had killed my implants with an EMP shot so I couldn’t visualize her.

I hold her no grudge, though, and I would love to see her again, even though it cost me plenty to get my gear back to the point I need in my line of work.

Why did I start thinking about her I wonder? I guess I have too much free time on my hands these days.

Which reminds me... I’m needing a commission rather badly. There are bills due some time soon and my last job seems farther away in time every day.

There’s always some job for private investigators: always cheating husbands and messy divorces or missing persons the cops are too busy to deal with. Besides, Sam Sabre, yours truly, is not an unknown name in the field.

But names don’t pay no bills, as the song says. Well known or otherwise. I’m putting my hopes on an appointment I have with a certain Mrs. Moore, due any time now.

She sounded rather worried in her message on my Secretary AI. That’s good. The more worried the customer, the more bills I’m likely to be able to pay.

She didn’t state the nature of her business in her message but I guess I won’t have to wonder much longer, that’s probably her I hear in my waiting room right now.

I have my waiting room and office VR simmed to look like an old 1930’s movie private eye office. Straight out of Bogart’s Maltese Falcon.

And it’s a very good sim too, if I may say so. Nice textures and colors. My AI secretary is also simmed to match. Tiffy is not too sentient, but she gets the job done all right.

In came Mrs. Moore, and I proceeded to thoroughly scan her with my implanted gear as I gave her my professional no-nonsense smile.

She was wearing a sim, of course, like almost everybody else, and in my line of work I need to know what my clients really look like to avoid nasty ulterior surprises.

My gear is not altogether legit and needless to say, very efficient. The only time my gear let me down was with Claire. I didn’t find out she was a ghost until it was too late. But that’s another story. (Why does she keep jumping my mind? I’m going to start worrying about it.)

Anyway, back to Mrs. Moore. What I saw was a middle-aged, nondescriptly dressed woman with a worried look in her face.

What my scanners saw was, surprisingly enough, not very different. Most people use their sims to enhance themselves and look younger or prettier or both. Some sims are really wild, some are artistic, some subdued, but they are almost always different from their usual, ordinary selves.

Not so with Mrs. Moore. What her sim did for her is to give her a somewhat smoother complexion and a more assertive stance. Cheap stuff.

So much for my hopes of paying all my bills, not much juice here that I could detect. I smiled nevertheless, beggars can’t be choosers.

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Moore. I am Sam Sabre. What can I do for you?”

“Good afternoon, Mr. Sabre. I think you can help me. I have some kind of trouble, and the police are just not interested. They say they have more pressing business to attend to.”

Here she looked truly downcast, her sim wasn’t so bad after all.

I went to her and showed her a chair.

“Where the police will not go is precisely where Sam Sabre usually deals. Tell me about it.”

She sat down and seemed to gather her courage. She looked at me and let it out like she didn’t really expect me to take her seriously. “My cat is missing, I want you to find her. Will you, Mr. Sabre?”

A straight face is a must in my profession, I did not flinch. “Your cat.”

She hastened to explain, but she didn’t need to, if she paid me enough I would look for her second cousin from Detroit in the ruins of the Manhattan bombing of ’45. I think I told you about my bills, didn’t I?

“You see Mr. Sabre, Tabby is not a common cat. She was specially gene-tailored for me by Stargene. I am a lone woman, and I spent some savings I had to buy me good company. She’s much brighter than the average cat and I’m very fond of her.”

“And since when is she missing?”

“That’s precisely the point, she goes out of our apartment in the afternoon but she’s always back for supper. She never misses a meal. But now she’s been gone for two days. I’m going out of my mind.”

“Have you looked for her yourself?”

Here she looked indignant. “Of course I have! I searched for her in every possible place in our neighborhood. She was just not to be found.

“I went to the police on the second day she did not come home, but they said they had enough missing people to worry about and they were not going to use resources searching for...”

Here she actually pouted. “Cats.”

“Of course they wouldn’t, would they Mrs. Moore? But don’t worry, Sam Sabre has found every missing item he’s ever been commissioned to. I will help you.”

“Oh will you really, Mr Sabre?” She seemed on the verge of tears.

“Indeed, please give me whatever identification you can produce on Tabby.”

“Oh! Here please take! This is a holo I took from Tabby a couple of weeks ago, and this is a print of her chromosome pattern. You just have to take a hair sample and any mainframe can give you a match.”

She seemed suddenly to come down to Earth again and gave me a shrewd look. “I know this is not all important but... how much is it going to cost me?”

I took her by the elbow and led her to the waiting room. “You’re absolutely right, Mrs. Moore. It’s not important at all. Usual fee. A hundred credits as down payment and two hundred when the item, in this case Tabby, is delivered. No refunds.

“Here, let Tiffy take care of the financial details. You tell me where you live and I’ll start the search right now.”

I don’t know what she thought of my “usual fee” but she gave me a paper print with her address on it and turned to Tiffy.

I left before she changed her mind.

Five minutes later Tiffy’s voice sounded in my implant.

“All right boss, she paid. You’re on.”

So I was.

First thing first. I let Tiffy pay my bills, that is, the legal ones, but there are some other bills I pay myself, such as my new not-so-legal implants.

Those have a much greater urgency. If I don’t pay, they’ll come and remove them. No anesthetic.

Taking care of that most pressing matter took me the rest of the afternoon. By six I was free and decided I might as well have a look around Mrs. Moore’s neighborhood. The sooner I found the cat the sooner I’d get the rest of my money.

I called Tiffy. “Hi Tiffy, please download to my gear any useful information on cats you can find on the web. Behavior patterns, feeding habits, mating customs. Whatever.”

“Sure thing boss, just give me a sec!”

Sometimes I wonder if I programmed Tiffy way too perky.

The address my customer had given me was in an apartment building not far from the river and not far from the ruins of the bombing. Shabby thing, it had obviously known better days.

I stood on the corner and played the information Tiffy had sent me trying to figure what sort of place might be more attractive to the likes of Tabby. Mrs. Moore had said she had looked everywhere for the little pest but I set nevertheless my sights on an abandoned playground on the next block to start my search. Felt kind of right.

The playground looked just as sad and musty as the rest of the neighborhood, and I could well imagine the synth head junkies getting their kicks there at night.

As I came closer to the ruined fence I saw right in the middle of the little square a cat sitting among the broken swings and see-saws.

My heart skipped a beat. “No, it can’t be Tabby, no way.” I thought to myself. But the closer I got the more it looked like it.

I got nearer ever so slowly, trying not to scare the runt away but it didn’t pay me any attention. It just kept on licking its fur in that disdainful way cats have with us lowly humans.

“Here kitti!” I said and made all those noises supposed to allure cats to us.

Tabby, by then I was pretty sure it was her, looked up to me and came closer. She rubbed against my leg and started purring.

I just couldn’t believe it. I took her in my arms and she just purred louder.

So much for my case. Fastest one ever.

I called Tiffy anyway and asked her to play me the holo.

“Sure thing boss! right away!” She said, you would never have guessed, would you?.

Perfect match to the holo.

I started walking toward Mrs. Moore’s apartment with the cat cradled in my arms and feeling quite happy. The little pest was worth exactly 200 credits for me.

I took the antique elevator to the sixth floor and came to my customer’s door at the end of a dark corridor. Nobody in sight, not a sound in the whole floor.

I meant to wait till she showed up if Mrs. Moore wasn’t home, but to my surprise the door to her apartment was wide open.

“Hello, Mrs. Moore!” I called. “It’s Sam Sabre, I found your cat!”

No answer.

I went in rather reluctantly, all the while tightly holding Tabby and calling out loud for Mrs. Moore.

Still no answer.

I stopped dead on my track. The apartment looked like somebody had had the fight of his life in it and probably lost it by the looks of it.

Everything was a mess, smashed furniture and broken glass. I almost dropped the cat.

“Mrs. Moore?...” I called hesitantly, but to no extent it seemed if that leg showing behind the couch belonged to her.

My heart was beating like crazy, this didn’t look good.

Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2005 by Roberto Sanhueza

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