Hh Com Rd 2 -50 (177)
TITLE: Shooting the Moon
I stood outside the guy's door--a basement room in a 4th Ward megabloc. I flexed my right hand. I squeezed--fingers tight around titanium. Most guys these days use stunstiks or shock hammers--less work, less mess. Fuck that. You blow beaucoup bills on some surplus NorKor military package and you're afraid to break a nail? I kept it simple: weighted 'brass' knucks and a good right cross.
I stood. I squeezed. I scoped escape routes. I scoped surveillance. It was ideal: a cramped alley, zero foot traffic, easy street access, windows blocked or covered. No camera concerns out here in the Burbs--any data that went into the FreeNet was too corrupted to be worth a damn anyway.
Back before they walled off the City networks they tried meatfitting video feeds into rats and stray dogs--total surveillance/war on crime shit. These days rats didn't last much longer than cameras.
I stood. I squeezed. I felt the knot in my gut. Pipes sweated overhead--rusted arteries sprouting veinwise from concrete skin. Water dripped down my neck.
Cash said this one should be cake. Cash was throwing me a bone. Cash was giving me one last chance. Cash didn't ask if I wanted it. We both knew I didn't have a choice.
* * *
Cash always called when I was hung over.
"Stubbs." Cash's voice fit his looks: blandly handsome, carefully nondescript. "Got a job for you. Some deadbeat over in the 4th owes some people some money."
I said nothing. My pulse twanged in my neck. Cash kept talking:
"...some Burb shitheel--nothing you can't handle. Tiny's got his hands full right now, so this one is all you."
Unspoken: this is a test. That last fuck-up signaled slippage. Let's see if you can still hack it.
"Swing by the office at three. I'll give you the details."
* * *
Cash worked out of a crappy starter community. I logged in as a guest--security swabbed my cheek; ran my DNA against the invite list; sent me on my way. They didn't even hassle me about Stubbs Jr.--too down-market for animal quarantine.
It was drizzling. Droplets beaded the brim of my porkpie. Welcome to myTown #14: megastores and insta-housing, everything too loud and too bright--aggressively cheerful covering for cheap and shitty.
Locals swarmed the sidewalks. Locals flaunted their skull phones--gaudy plastic covers socketed behind one ear. Locals talked loud--cheap phones/shitty reception.
They were living the dream. They felt sorry for losers like me--no community/no CityNet. They considered themselves lucky.
It was twelve blocks to Cash's office. I popped sweat. I huffed. Stubbs Jr.'s tongue lolled. He huffed. My wraps fogged at the edges. The streets were crowded--people talking to nobody.
Tiny opened the door. Tiny was geeked out with a Zanshin pit-fighter package--reflex maps/grafted muscle/reinforced bone. His hands were too small--doll-like things beneath bulging forearms. He smirked. "Let me guess--old-timer's day?"
He eyeballed Stubbs Jr.: short, thick-necked, with an oversize wedge-shaped head and one mangled ear.
"I swear it gets harder and harder to tell you and that dog apart."
"Your mom has that problem too."
"What the fuck did you say?"
"Stubbs?" Cash's manicured voice. "Come on in."
Tiny moved over a step. He made me push past him. The logo on his neck twisted: a 'Z' into crossed swords, back and forth.
Cash's office: two rooms--dingy corners and water stains. Cash sat at a cheap metal desk. He looked out of place in his fitted suit and surgery-smooth skin.
"Stubbs. Grab a chair."
I sat. Cash laid out the job. Cash said it should be a snap.
He nodded. "It's a Latin Kings 'bloc. I spoke to the madrino, made a donation. We're covered."
We sat. It hung in the air between us. I said it: "What about this guy? Anything I should know? Any mods?"
Cash smiled his bland, perfect smile. "Would I be sending you if there was?"
My neck got hot. Tiny snickered. I turned. "Tell me something--is it true all that extra muscle causes impotence?"
"What did you say meatstick?"
"I said the only thing keeping your dumb ass breathing is that Zanshin package."
His piggy eyes went pinpoint--grafted muscle bunched in his neck. I stared back. Stubbs Jr. growled low in his throat.
"Enough." Cash's tone didn't change. It was an order notwithstanding.
"No wonder he drags that dog everywhere." Tiny said. "They're like twins--old and fat and mean."
I spent the morning reading The Wheelman by Duane Swierczynski so I'm ready for this crisp, no backstory, just get going kind of thing. A little goes a long way though and one thing I notice here is there's very little variation in the short staccato sentence rhythm and there just might be a tiny bit of overkill in the testosterone posturing. That said, of course I'd read this, and probably ask for 50 pages too. I wouldn't call it SF either. I think it's called Urban fantasy but I call it dystopic crime noir and I love it and it sells.