Not Gonna Wait
by J A Howe
Part 2 and Part 3|
appear in this issue.
|part 1 of 3|
With care, Liz plopped out the newly broken window to hit the walk in a crouch. She grinned as she landed, cat-style. Baby’s still got it. She always thought that little thought at times like these. Made her feel alive. She’d perfected it over time so there was no bouncing; twisted her ankles a lot though when she was younger.
This, as opposed to the corpse she’d just left up there, floating a little above the floor by now no doubt.
No beepers yet, she noticed with some satisfaction as she trotted up the alley. Then again, the old man had had low contact with humanity. Dog never went out, for crying out loud! Just another of them science wannabees come to the colonies to try and make it big. Lots did that. And then, like most of the others, he’d pissed off the wrong crew once he got a few greens.
Bam, so ends the story.
She liked to say that she was no one’s enemy really. Killing was just a job. Stealing, smuggling, well how else to make it good in this dump? You stomped or you got stomped, was Liz Hopkins’ philosophy. Here on Colony Twelve, now called Blade City, those were the rules as long as she’d understood them.
Back to the body. She flipped over a pad on her wrist and typed in the code for her latest job, to get to the dough. “Received.”
Yeah. This was the place where stuff happened all right, ’cause she’d made it happen. Leaning against a wall on the corner of Green and Templeton, Liz could have been any bored teen out on the town. They couldn’t have guessed she was well over teen, and checkin’ out her ’hood, proud of all she’d accomplished that week. She yanked at a pocket in the baggy jeans she wore and strolled on, in the bouncing gait of a Col Gal.
Today was St David’s Day, and the library would therefore be closed, national holiday and all in this colony, she thought with a pang. Headed straight down to the sub system instead, where she waited for a train to go by before slipping out across the tracks.
No Man’s Land.
This was where the poor went, however you defined poor. They were Liz’s peeps just as much as the Upper Folk were, that’s sure. She slapped hands with a few on the way by.
“Got any candy?” asked a druggie she knew.
“Not today, just passin’,” she told the darkness.
Two more sub lanes and a manhole, and she blinked in the light again. Only a few more days before the sky went dark again, like clockwork, and then it’d be two weeks of flashlights and fires in the street.
Liz crossed, and entered the bakery.
Father Richard looked up with a sigh from the counter. “You’ve been playing in the sewers again, I see.”
She shrugged, nabbing a cookie. “Faster than walking the streets.”
“We have a visitor — or you do.”
They had an unspoken agreement: he never asked what she did or where she got the money, and she never did confession when he was in the booth. Anyways, she gave off half of it to charities she made up around town, and he knew it; hey, it was her ’hood, after all.
Huang Cho was locked in a chair in her room.
Liz sighed. She wasn’t surprised to see the old mob boss. He came when he wanted. They always did. “To what do I owe this honor?”
The old man did not blink. Probably wasn’t even him, she figured. Laws on cloning, or “budding yourself” as the Chinese called it, weren’t strictly paid attention to here. Besides, this dog looked more robotic than Cho did even normally.
“You killed someone on whom we had a mark.”
Liz stopped munching her cookie. “Michaelson? Guy from this morning? Lot of people had him down. I just took his highest bidder.”
Huang grunted. “A flower of many thorns, you are. You killed him before he could finish a job for me.”
Anybody else, she’d have said “tough” and maybe killed them. But Cho lived in this colony too, and he was far too powerful. “Okay, what job? So get someone else?”
Of all things, he looked — uncomfortable. Squirmed. She’d never seen him squirm before. It made her in turn feel uneasy. She knew he came to her alone in her room because he trusted her. She treated everyone on the street alike, and fairly. But that didn’t mean he didn’t bring a lieutenant or three with him, to wait outside somewhere.
“I cannot,” he said finally. “He was the only one with the information.”
Now she felt even more uneasy.
Shifted her stance.
Checked the exits — subtly, but she wanted to be sure she could get out.
“Um, okay, what job was it?”
Liz had never actually crossed him before. And it was a mistake, sure he’d know that, but they both knew that didn’t matter one bit.
She just didn’t like the way this was turning. She dealt in the ’hood — small-time killing, maybe a little dealing now and then. This was starting to remind her of spy cach. She didn’t want to get dragged into that.
Girl could get herself killed playing that game!
But there was the man, going on. “...fine-tuning, just before...”
“’Fine tuning’ what exactly?”
He gave her another one of those bland looks. “Me, in fact. Miss Hopkins, you just killed the only man who knew where my source body is.”
In cryo-freeze, that’d be.
There were forty stations, legal and illegal all told, around the Moon.
A couple hours later, there’s our girl again, back at the crime scene. Watching cops look around. She decided to play it wide-eyed. “Hey, what HAPPENED?”
Cop checked out Miss Innocent. “Some guy killed up there. You haven’t seen anything?”
Time for the wetworks. “M — m — me?” Sniffle. “N — n — noo... Omigod... you — you don’t think he’ll be back? ’Cause everyone knows most killers are male. And — and it’s like a — like a statistacala fact, yo.” Sniffle, sniffle.
Cop puffed out the chest a bit. “He won’t. You’re perfectly safe here.”
Wider eyes, babe.
He’s breathin’ heavier now. You two are all alone. “Yeah... Really.”
She punched him then, in the good ol’ solar plexus, whacked the back of his head as he fell. He went down like a rock.
Men were so predictable.
The inside of his digs looked about the same, ’cept no body. She’d made a clean job of it as usual: prided herself on being tidy. Now. Where to start looking. Computer, small vid, chair, pull-out bed, bottles of supplements, and a standard Dry Space hood. Blech.
“Okay, talk to me,” she flipped her bum into the chair and locked down.
Great. So this cach was going to take some hacker knowledge.
Liz thought a minute and called Juicy.
“Can you get down here? I got a job, yo.”
“Honey, we’re eatin’ cream puffs, in case you don’t recall it’s St David’s...”
“I’ll cream puff your hand with a fifty now, fifty later! Get your twllt din down here!”
He was the best around, she could afford it. Besides, kids had even less of a chance of a record than adults did, no matter how many times he got caught.
He was there in twenty minutes. Gave Liz the mewly eye. “Girl, what you been doin’?”
“Not your prob, Juicy. I just want somethin’ traced.”
Gave over the fifty.
That got the bug-eyes out.
Check it: Liz had never felt un-comfy in her ’hood before, no matter what she was doin’, but that look he gave her, it sure did her in. They knew she did small-times and that wasn’ the deal. Bigness of the situation, yo. So there’s our girl, bitin’ her lip, feelin’ real small.
“A body,” Juicy repeated. “Damn.”
“Yeah, well, pays the bills. So, you gonna help here?”
Girl didn’t ask for help often and he knew it.
For her? “Yeah. I’ll do it. Lemme see...”
So he hacked the frame, but all he got was this cloning cach. Stuff Liz didn’t need to know ’bout. She sighed and wandered the room while he hacked away. Pulled out a few drawers.
“...here’s a scheduler, yo.”
She came running. “you think the cops have seen this yet?”
“Ffwcia no, not the way this dog has it locked. ’Sides, not many now trained to do comp work even so. He’s got an event this evening, yo.”
Groan from below then, feet on the stairs. “Crap! Sleepin’ Beauty’s up. Out the back.”
“You crazy?” but he was already shutting the comp down.
“Yeah, I’ll stall him. You go.”
Liz didn’t argue. She up and dashed out the same window she’d popped earlier. To the sound of breaking glass and the cop yelling “Vandalism is a crime, kid!”
She grinned. Sounded like Juicy’d just made sure nobody’d ever know the man’s plans.
Home was fun. “You are going to the Velvet Show for a job?” Richard asked when he heard where she was headed that night. “Isn’t that a bit over your head? I have heard of the Velvet Show.”
“From who, yo?”
“Dave ap Paul.”
“Chief Bard last year?”
Liz very vaguely remembered that eisteddfod; she’d been very very drunk and had a lot of fun singing bawdies with a couple of robed — and un-robed — homies. The Druids may have been nationalistas, but they could be cool.
Father Richard sighed. “Yes, that is he. My dear, this is dangerous territory.”
“An exotic plant show is dangerous territory.”
“They front the bootleg genetic business, Elizabeth. And that is a dangerous bunch.”
That explained why Michaelson had been going, at least, she thought. Probably some of Huang Cho’s guys would be there if not the man himself — well, okay, his clone or whatever it was, yo. Dog hadn’t clarified.
Dammit, Liz thought, it’s already getting way too complex.
“Well, I gotta go there, Rich. Think David would want a girl?”
The priest’s eyes narrowed.
Those bushy brows, shoulda been a Druid, yo, she thought. Though dog didn’t have a mean bone in his body, and them Druids, they were mean to people with sermons. Catholic guilt was nothing like getting your twllt din lectured by a robed bro, she’d heard. Juicy’s parents did the Druid thing.
Regardless, Rich had decided to do her a 180 and be mean today, of all times. “Would you at least tell me what is going on?”
That made her sit up. Dog had had sort of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” thing goin’ on ever since she’d started her gig. Decent of him, she’d always thought.
So now what?
He caught the look and smiled. Nodded. “I know. I never asked before. But this is big, Elizabeth, and, well, I do have some connections. I want to help you so that you end up safe. This isn’t like your usual jobs.”
I kill people all the time, deal drugs, do a little smuggling. Protect the folks o’ my ’hood best I can. And you’re telling me all of a sudden I’m in danger?
Then again, this job was making her more and more nervous all the time. She still didn’t know exactly who’d sent her the dough to kill Michaelson — standard fee, half now, half later, but she hadn’t recognized the sig on it. Hell, she couldn’t even read the sig, yo. She’d figured it was someone big-time, but now she wasn’t sure. Cho ran the goods here in Twelve.
So she gave Father Richard the low-down on this one — just on this one, yo. Cut and dry version, none o’ that freaked out cach. Dog always paid good heed to her, at least. Had ever since he’d taken her in when her parents died.
Copyright © 2007 by J A Howe