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Living Standards

by Bill Kowaleski

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Living Standards: synopsis

In a future world marked by extremes of poverty and wealth, 13-year old Jiri has known only poverty. One day, a wealthy woman appears in Jiri’s enclave, the slum he calls home, and offers his mother an unimaginable amount of money for Jiri’s services. Little do Jiri and his mother know what the woman intends, but they accept. As Jiri grows and prospers in his new life, he becomes involved in a dangerous movement that will change his life and everyone else’s as well.

Chapter 23: Discovered!

“I don’t like it at all. It hasn’t moved since I first noticed it two hours ago. Why would such a large boat drop anchor immediately offshore from my house?” Imelda paced, picked at her nails, ran her fingers through her long black hair repeatedly.

“Probably just a party boat,” Eduardo said in his most reassuring voice. He’d been head of her security team for only two weeks, when United Enclave Services had chosen to do what they called a routine circulation of staff. He had told her then that they never let a team stay on a private contract more than six months; better to keep moving guards from job to job with minimal notice of a change. It was much harder to plan a theft that way.

Imelda had hired UES when they presented their plan to her nine months ago, underbidding her old firm by more than half. So far, they had delivered on their promises. The private market really worked! She had saved money, given work to twelve clavies, and she still felt safe and secure. It was a win-win all around.

“It’s not a party boat. They seem to be deliberately keeping the lights down. I think you should check it out.”

Eduardo smiled. Why not? “OK, I’ll get right out there and call you from the boat. But it’s three o’clock in the morning, and I’m not going to piss them off by waking them. I’ll just take a look and come back.”

“Sure,” she said. Eduardo was a handsome young man, though she doubted he would ever been a candidate for starring in her productions. He was a little too short and squat, and his face spoke of many generations growing corn in the Mexican sun. But he had an intelligent and soothing way about him. He had won her trust on his first day.

Minutes later, Eduardo was in the small Gates family launch, speeding toward what looked like a former Lake Michigan ferry, a ship really, capable of carrying hundreds of passengers as well as vehicles below.

“Eduardo Muñoz calling the Freedom,” he yelled into his UES comm.

Freedom here, why are you approaching?”

“Target is suspicious. She’s watching us with her binoculars. Need to make a show of checking you out. Act like you don’t know me.”

“Sure, no problem.”

As he came up to the hull, a young man and woman leaned over the railing, making sure a light shone on them. The man wore only board shorts, while the woman wore a bright, lime green bikini. Eduardo was impressed with their planning: they had clothing wealthies would wear, and they had made sure some fair-haired types were onboard. Imelda would never suspect a thing.

“Hey, homo!” the man on deck laughed. “You having fun living with the porn lady? Gettin’ any thirteen-year old poon?”

Eduardo tried to keep a straight face. “Oh yeah! Let me tell you, brother, it’s like I died and went to heaven!”

The woman was far more serious. “She’s suspicious, no? Should we move up the start time?”

“Naw, don’t think so. I’ll tell her you got engine trouble, waiting for some help in the morning.”

“OK, contact us at once if you think she’s called for help.”

“Will do.” Eduardo turned the launch back toward the shore and accelerated. He grabbed his other comm and called Imelda.

“Hey, they got engine trouble. Got to wait till morning to get some help. That’s all it is.”

“OK, I see. Well, thanks for going out there in the middle of the night, Eduardo. I really appreciate it.”

She broke the connection, touched the contacts button, and scrolled to Bain’s record.

“Imelda, it’s three in the morning,” Bain mumbled, his annoyance evident. “And you’re calling my private line in emergency mode.”

“Jack, I’m worried. There’s a very large boat just offshore, directly opposite our house, hasn’t moved in hours. Eduardo went out there and checked it out. Said they had engine trouble. What do you think?”

“I told you to get out of there! Why are you still at home? Anyway, it sounds quite odd. A big boat would have more than one engine. They could limp into port. It sounds wrong to me. And who’s Eduardo?”

“He’s head of my private security team.”

“I see. I thought some guy named Vladimir was head of your security team.”

“Oh, that was that Russian bunch. They charged an arm and a leg. I switched to this new company a while back. Much cheaper, and they do a great job.”

“Much cheaper? You chose a security firm based on price? What’s their name?”

“Ah, United Enclaves, or something like that.”

“Not United Enclave Services, with a green and white logo like a shield that has UES in the center?”

“Yeah, that’s the one. So you know about them too!”

The line was silent a long time.

“Jack, are you still there?”

She heard a small click, then Bain’s voice: “Those people are the ones I warned you about, Imelda, the ones who’ll open the door to your murderers. You need to get out of there now. I just put in a call to the Lake Forest police. They’re sending in an air rescue team.” There was no annoyance or sleepiness in his voice now.

“But Eduardo seemed sure that...” She tailed off, finally realizing the extreme danger she faced. Her killers were in her house, out on the lake, primed to finish her. It seemed the free market hadn’t filtered out a service provider with an ulterior motive.

On the launch, Eduardo listened to Imelda’s conversation with Bain. They’d put the tracer in her phone a week ago, and now it had paid off. Every call she made or took rang through to his comm where he could eavesdrop without fear of detection. Elise had written the app herself, and it worked magnificently.

Eduardo grabbed his UES comm and called the Freedom. “She’s on to us. LF Police sending in air rescue. The operation needs to start now!”

Proceed to Chapter 24...

Copyright © 2016 by Bill Kowaleski

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