Sabre Hits and Misses

by Roberto Sanhueza

Table of Contents
“Sabre Takes a Case” appeared
in issue 155.

“What do you make of this, Inspector?”

Inspector Brody didn’t answer. He just kept on looking at the mangled body lying on the floor.

He had seen many a dead woman in his years in the force, but death was never routine to him. He just sighed and turned to Sergeant Moreno. “Can’t say just yet, Sergeant. It looks like she put up a fight, though. Any trace of the murder weapon? I’d bet on a club or a baseball bat, judging for what I can see of the wound.”

“Nothing so far, Inspector. But we’re working on it. The kids are sweeping the place and they’re taking holos of everything before we move the body.”

“All right, Moreno. We’re going back to the precinct to check this woman’s ID. Let’s let the guys do their job.”

* * *

It seemed stupid to me to be talking to the cat, but I did it anyway.

It felt like expressing my thoughts out loud and Tabby was a good listener by all means. She looked at me like she was paying the utmost attention as she licked her paws.

“No matter how I look at it, Tabby, I can’t find any trace of forgery. These fingerprints on the bat are as good as those on my fingertips.”

She purred.

I had been going at it for the last half an hour, scanning the bat north and south to no avail. Day light was coming through my office window and I Could hear the crowds outside already.

The cat was looking at me

“What’s that, cat? I told you, the fingerprints on the bat match exactly those in my ID records. I checked it in the police’s mainframe. It’s a 99.99% match.”

She came over and licked my fingers.

Then it hit me.

Nah! it couldn’t be. No way Tabby could be hinting at anything. She was just a cat. But whether she meant anything or not, the truth was I had checked against my record but not against my actual fingerprints.

So, I put some ink on my fingers and printed on a piece of paper. And I saw it. ”Hey Tabby! looks like I found something here!”

I have this little scar on my thumb, from a cut I got last year in a situation you don’t want to know about. The thing was, the fingerprint on the bat didn’t show the scar. So the prints were from fingers amazingly like mine but not exactly.

Then it hit me again, twice in five minutes. That was an honest to goodness brainstorm. ”Come on cat, we’re going out!”

I grabbed Tabby and put her inside my traveling bag. The bat I put inside my safe, the really safe one hidden beneath my floor, not the beautifully ancient piece of junk you can see in my office. That’s just a sim. ”We’re going to Samplex, Tabby. Ever heard of them?”

Samplex is one of the insurance companies which keep tissue samples in deep freeze, in case you should need to clone some organ for a transplant or something.

They also keep memory imprints, which you’re supposed to update regularly if you want to eventually download those memories to a whole-body clone. After you’re gone to that great dump in the sky, you can go on living forever.

There’s a fierce opposition to that anyway. A good many people want to make whole-body cloning illegal. There’s already too many people in this country, they say, to have folks live forever.

Me. I don’t give shit. I believe when you’re gone you’re gone, and that’s it. Whoever might walk the Earth wearing my body and my memories after I bid this cruel world goodbye ain’t gonna be me, baby.

But I keep tissue samples though. It is nice to be able to grow back an arm should I lose one. So if a hand of mine is going around without my knowing, it just had to come from Samplex.

I opened my office’s door and three things hit me.

One was the noise of the crowd, the other two were Dino & Rhino.

Not the best sight to behold this early in the morning.

Not only because they’re a couple of big ugly buggers but because they’re Manson’s big ugly buggers.

“You goin’ somewhere Sabre?”

“Well... in fact I was, Dino”

How lost is subtlety on Dino & Rhino.

“No, you ain’t anymore. Come over here, Mr. Manson wants a word with you in the car.”

Not good. I could see Manson sitting in his car looking my way. The very fact Manson chose to use a ground vehicle was a sign of his wealth. Taxes on ground cars are outrageous; they seek to encourage the use of public transportation and decrease chaos on our overpopulated city.

I went with them, of course. You don’t argue with D&R.

They sacked me in the back seat, sandwiched between them.

Manson turned around and smiled at me. ”Good morning, Mr. Sabre. It seems to me we have some matter of payment to discusss.”

Don’t let Manson’s mild manners and voice fool you. The man is poison. Dino & Rhino fear him and that’s saying a lot.

“It so happens, Mr. Sabre, your credit bounced on me.”

“Why, yes, Mr. Manson. So I found out... It’s just that...” I was babbling and even I could notice it. This wasn’t doing any good.

“I suppose you’re aware I’m going to have to retrieve my merchandise, Mr. Sabre, unless you can pay me right now. Cash only, please.”

He knew as well as I did I couldn’t. I just shut up.

Manson turned to the driver.”All right Dave, take us to a quiet spot where we can further discuss with Mr. Sabre the inconvenience of failing to comply.”

I wondered where was Dave to find a quiet spot in town. To my surprise, Dave took the car right into the banned zone. It made sense. Everybody knows the bombings are no longer hot; it was after all a very small nuke and 40 years ago. The perimeter is sealed but there are plenty places to sneak in. It’s just that people don’t come here. It’s become a memorial of sorts. And also precisely the place where nobody will hear me scream.

Dave stopped the car and Rhino poked me on the ribs.

“Out.”

My mind was racing and I was about to charge ahead, in spite of the guns (I have this thing about excruciating pain) when a woman’s voice spoke right behind the thug’s head.

“Oh my, that’s really gross!”

One thing I can say for Rhino. The bugger is ugly but he’s good. He turned around, fast as lightning, and had shot three times before anybody could say ”Who’s there?”

But I think I’ve mentioned before that Claire is the closest to a ghost you can get these days. A mere bullet won’t bother her.

“Down Sabre, down! Cover the cat!” she shouted at me.

Dino and Dave had added their firing power to Rhino’s by now, but Claire just stood there, ever so cool and untouched. Then she attacked.

Claire, Dino, Rhino and Tabby Claire is just an illusion. Sensorial input is sent directly to the virtual reality implants everybody wears these days, but she can modulate that input to fierce intensity.

Manson, Dave, Dino and Rhino fell to the ground screaming.

I was already on the ground and she wasn’t aiming at me but still some of the wave touched me. I shivered, it wasn’t nice, no sir!

Tabby chose that moment to show her whiskers from my bag. Not having any implants, she’s quite impervious to Claire’s tricks.

I sat up, rather dumbfounded. “Nice to see you Claire.” And I meant it.

She gave me flashing smile number four and looked over the fallen guys. None of them was moving. “What is a boy like you doing in a place like this?”

And I thought wit was my department. “Not my choice, Claire. All these gentlemen are part of the ‘Get Sabre’ conspiracy.” And I brought her up to date on Manson and on Manson’s unpaid-for special gear.

“I see, I guess this wasn’t intended when Mrs. Moore’s account was tampered with, but it worked real fine to get you in further trouble.”

“Exactly, and there’s more to it.” I told her about my findings on the fingerprints.

Claire was clearly exited about it. “So that’s how it was done! It had to come from your samples.”

“My thoughts exactly.”

“But Sam, what if it wasn’t just your hand that was cloned? What if there is another whole Sabre going around? That would explain some things...” She fell quiet, thoughtful.

Then it fell on me where I was, that there were four unconscious men, a weird cat and an even weirder ghost woman with me in the middle of the ruins of the Manhattan bombings of ’45.

“All right, Claire! Time out. I want you to tell me all you know about this messy business. It’s my ass everybody is after and I’m running in the dark. Speak up!”

But she started fading. I hate it when she does that. “In time, Sam. In time. You’re doing just fine so far. But don’t worry, I’ll be around. See you!” And she was gone again.

I sighed, turned to Tabby and picked her up. “Come on cat, we’re leaving before these fellows wake up. We’re going to Samplex.”

It was midmorning when I quietly slipped out of the ruins and joined the crowds. I was sitting in the monorail when Tiffy called.

“Good morning boss! Detective Inspector Brody requests I give him your personal number to get in touch with you.”

Brody, I figured it was about time anyway. It wouldn’t have taken him much longer to link the deceased Mrs. Moore to me.

I sighed once more. “All right Tiffy, pass him on.”

Brody appeared in front of me, his VR image anyway. Even though the mono car was full, our conversation was quite private. Brody was coming in only to my implants and I was subvocalizing for answering.

“Good morning Sabre.”

“What ever happened to ‘Mr. Sabre’, Inspector?”

He just laughed. “Don’t get touchy, we’re old acquaintances by now. Can I ask you a few questions?”

We both knew that if I said yes, he would record the whole conversation and everything I said or did could be held against me and so on, you know how it goes.

“Sure, what is it? Personal or business?”

“Business, Sabre.” And his voice changed to a slightly formal manner. I don’t think he even realized it.

“Do you know a woman by name of Helen Moore?”

“Why, sure, Inspector. She’s a client of mine.”

“What kind of work are you doing for her?”

I remembered in time: the records had been tampered with. “She asked me to search for a niece of hers. Inheritance matters I think. I didn’t ask, of course. In fact I’m working on it right now.”

Brody just shook his head and looked sadder than usual. “Well, don’t bother anymore. You won’t collect, I’m afraid. She was murdered last night.”

I hoped my expression was as surprised as I intended. “Murdered? How?”

“Somebody hit her on the head.”

At that moment Tabby moved inside my bag, I felt cold sweat going down my spine.

Brody didn’t seem to notice. “I’m going to need any information you can provide, that Moore provided for your search. Can I have it for this afternoon?”

“Sure Inspector. I’ll have Tiffy sort it out and mail to you in the precinct. That’s bad news you’re giving me.”

Brody nodded. “That’ll be all, Sabre. Sorry to waste your time and be the bringer of bad news. We’ll be in touch.” And he was gone.

I shook my head and got up, my station was next so I pushed my way through and found the door.

By the time I got to Samplex the sun was a fiery ball through the polluted city skies and getting inside to air conditioning and away from the crowded streets was something to look forward to.

Then Tiffy called again. “You have a tail on you, boss.”

The good thing about AI secretaries is that they are always on duty.

Tiffy keeps accurate track of my whereabouts through my GPS chip and, with the help of Manson’s add-on to my implants she can also keep track of anybody going the same way I’m going for more than some minutes. Neat trick in a busting city like this one where following somebody without being noticed among the crowd is the easiest thing in the world.

I passed Samplex door and kept walking. “I read you Tiffy. Coordinates?”

“25 meters behind you, other sidewalk. Fellow’s been following you since you came out of the monorail.”

“Any ID from the database?”

“I’m running an anthropometrical scan this very moment, give me a sec, boss.”

It had to be a scan, of course, to cut through his sim. Visuals wouldn’t give me a clue if the fellow could look like whatever he wanted or could afford.

“That’s a positive, boss. Sanchez, Luis Manuel. Works as a waiter in the Café Américain, property of...”

“I know who owns the Café, Tiffy. An acquaintance of mine. Think we can shake our tail?”

“Sure thing boss! just wait until a vehicle goes by between you and him and I’ll scramble your signal. Then you change your sim, he’ll lose both signal and visual. He won’t know where you went.”

A couple of seconds later Tiffy gave me the go. I switched to sim number three — fat old man — and turned around and started walking the other way.

If anybody on my side of the street was surprised by my sudden change of appearance they didn’t show it. Everybody kept to their business and the slow river of people kept rolling.

As I went by ol’ Luis Manuel on the other side of the street I gave him a sideways glance.

He stood there, a lost look on his face as people went by him, staring hither and thither, searching for a Sabre that wasn’t there anymore.

As son as I entered Samplex I put back on my usual sim and addressed the secretary there.

“Good morning Mr. Sabre. Back so soon?”

Either “soon” meant something entirely different for her or she had actually seen the likes of me lately. However, my last visit had been last year, to update my stored memories. And it wasn’t a matter of merely copying my sim; anybody can do that. To access my samples and memory files I have to go through a retina scan and properly identify myself.

I smelled a rat. “Why, yes, Ms. Chiang, I have a particularly interesting memory and I would like to make an appointment to store it while it’s fresh. When was my last visit? I can’t recall the exact date.”

“Let me see your log... Yes, that’s right, you were here three weeks ago. You shouldn’t do the probing so often, Mr. Sabre. Doctors advise against it.”

“Guess you’re right, Ms. Chiang. Perhaps I’d better wait a little longer.”

“You definitely should.”

Then Tiffy called again. “Dino and Rhino were here in the office, Boss. A couple of minutes ago. You’d better not come back here today.”

Time to keep moving, Sabre.

I thanked Ms. Chiang and left Samplex. It looked like Claire might be right about another Sabre going around.

Back on the street I felt lost and tired. Moving with the slow flowing crowd I considered my options. Correction, before considering any option of mine I should consider Tabby. She’d been for hours inside my bag, and she was starting to show it.

“OK, cat, you’ve been a really well behaved girl. Let’s find a place where you can let go of gut and bladder. Then we’ll grab a bite to eat and we’ll lock up in one of the coffin hotels for the rest of the day. We’re visiting the Café Américain tonight.”

If anybody on the street thought it strange to see a fellow talking to his traveling bag, they didn’t show it.

The bag answered “meow.”

The river of people moved on.


Continuation pending.

Copyright © 2005 by Roberto Sanhueza

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