The mocking program by Alan Dean Foster

“I’ll see you there at eleven o’clock then, Ms….?” Cardenas lowered the spinner and looked up. “She cut off.”

Hyaki shrugged. Beneath his disabled slicker, flesh rippled against the night. “Not surprising. You just told her that her husband, or boyfriend, or favorite gigolo, has been murdered. She needs for that to sink in, to do some serious bawling.”

Cardenas nodded. “Hoh. That would be the normal thing to do. Except that this is looking less and less normal.” Above the mustache, incongruously blue eyes that had once belonged to a beautiful nineteen-year-old French girl gazed up at the sergeant. “Why wouldn’t she confirm her name? She must know we can pull it up from Records in a couple of minutes.”

Hyaki considered. “You want to go out to the house now?”

The Inspector hesitated. “No, not now. It’s late. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt.”

“What doubt?” Hyaki was cozing his own spinner.

“Hell, I don’t know. Think of something.” Turning, Cardenas headed toward the waiting cruiser.

Hyaki found what he was looking for before the doors of the official vehicle slid silently aside to admit the two cops. “Funny thing. City records say there’s a Surtsey Anderson living at the same address as our George Anderson. But she told us there was no Ms. Anderson. Ain’t that odd? There’s also a Katla Anderson, age twelve, listed as being in residence. Undoubtedly not the daughter of George and Surtsey.” He slipped the spinner back in his pocket. “Which leaves us with the question of where to find Wayne Brummel.”

“On his way to the morgue, apparently, dwelling in silent symbiotic communion with George Anderson. A cleanie who doesn’t have a wife named Surtsey or a daughter named Katla.” Muttering to himself, Cardenas slipped into the seat opposite Hyaki. Sensing clearance, the door automatically slid shut behind him. Hyaki put the unmarked vehicle in forward and the engine hummed on full charge.

“You want to follow the body?”

Cardenas shook his head. He knew where the body was going. It was not a place he was particularly fond of visiting, especially late on a cool night. He’d spent far too many nights there.

“Forensics needs time to do their work. Not that I think they’re going to find anything else of significance. I’m tired, and confused. Let’s go to Glacial.”

Hyaki turned down the appropriate street. An advert tried to attach itself to the window, careful not to block the driver’s field of view. Static charge flowing through the glass drove it away, squealing. The charge, like the advert, was technically illegal. But police work was tough enough without having to suffer an endless parade of flying neonic blandishments for snack foods, vit shows, technidrops, soche services, sporting events, and assorted gadgetry that was as unnecessary as it was remarkable.

The sergeant drove slowly, merging with the traffic. Even though the great mass of commuters used the climate-controlled induction tubes or company-supplied armored transport to travel to and from work, there was always independent traffic in the Strip. With forty million people, give or take ten million undocumenteds, spread out like people-butter from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico, it could not be otherwise. But now, approaching midnight, it was comparatively easy to get around. The evening maquiladora shift was still hard at work, laboring in the vast spread of manufacturing and assembly plants and their attendant facilities, and the bulk of the night shift wouldn’t come online for another hour yet.

The unmarked police car slipped straightforwardly through the largely silent traffic. A renegade Ladavenz, tricked out to sound like it was running on an internal combustion engine instead of fuel cell and batteries, let out a primal growl as it accelerated among lanes. Though technically breaking the law against late-night noise pollution, the three kids inside were not seriously abusing the opportunity. Cardenas and Hyaki ignored them.

As soon as they skated out of Quetzal, passing the number eighty-five induction shuttle station with its opaque, solar-energy-absorbing walls and unseen commuters waiting patiently within, the looming shapes of the industrial-commercial district gave way to an architectural panoply of codo coplexes and enclosed shopping facilities. Coated in a wide range of solar energy-absorbing polymers, the pastel structures were a spirit-lifting shift in tone from the utilitarian gloom of Quetzal. The Glacial Cafe was situated at the end of one such pedestrian coplex, backed up against a garage and rapicharge station. Only two vehicles were parked at the latter, topping off their batteries for the night.

Hyaki dodged couples and families as he pulled into an empty parking space. There was a larger than usual number of pedestrians on the street, reveling in the rain-cooled night. Tomorrow, everyone would disappear indoors, when the sun reasserted its ancient dominance over this desiccated part of the world. One couple, feeling no pain, nearly ran into Hyaki as the two policemen approached the entrance to the cafe. Their eyes widened as they took in all of him. The sergeant hastened to reassure them with one of his wide, beatific smiles. Grateful, they staggered past, weaving more or less in the direction of the nearest mall entrance.

A blast of cooler air enveloped the two men as the door to the establishment scanned their faces. Failing to match them with any known or reputed antisocs, it granted them entrance.

Cardenas was fond of the Glacial. With its retro-2040s Alaskan decor, soft lights, and Brazilian-Namerican fusion menu, it reminded him of the good times of his youth. Married once, he had few dates these days. Relationships often began well, only to end in shock and wariness on the part of his partners when they found out he was an intuit. Explaining that he could not read minds, that he was only making use of highly specialized police training for which he had demonstrated a particular aptitude, did little to bolster a woman’s confidence in her ability to feint and jab.

“You know what I’m thinking!” they would exclaim.

“No I don’t,” he would invariably protest. “Intuits aren’t mind readers.”

“But you can extrapolate from everything I do, everything I say. The way I look at you, the inflection of every syllable I mouth, how I hold my left hand, the way I …” At about that point they would break off the argument to declare, “You knew I was going to say all this, didn’t you?”

Protests of innocence were of no use. Most women were convinced that dating an intuit was akin to trying to run through the starting defensive line of the Moscow Dynamo: a girl was simply outmatched before she could get started.

Not, Cardenas reflected as he and Hyaki settled into an empty booth, that the majority of single cops didn’t lead lonely lives anyway.

Vitalizing before him, the menu politely inquired if he wanted to null the audio and read about the establishment’s offerings in peace. Correctly taking Cardenas’s lack of response as permission to continue, it proceeded to recite the late-night specials. Stuffed into the opposite side of the booth, Hyaki was mooting whether to order the tambaqui and chips or fejoada with barbecued capybara.

Not long after their respective orders were relayed to the kitchen, a waitress appeared with Cardenas’s keoki coffee and the sergeant’s double espresso milkshake. Hot and cold for slim and large, the Inspector reflected as he dosed down on his steaming mug. The confused identity of the corpse they had just encountered collided in his thoughts with the puzzling response of the man’s wife-not-wife. One did not need to be an intuit to realize something more than the usual mug-and-drug was involved in the man’s death. It was turning rapidly into a bona fide realimad, non compos mental, strain on the brain, jane. Cardenas didn’t like that. He liked things direct and straightforward, in the manner of most cops. Neat and clean on the scene. Better if the scan on the dead cleanie had turned up no identity instead of two.

The ganglet of ninlocos arrived before his food did. They swaggered in past the protesting door, the lanky chieflado in the lead spizzing it with a spinner whose ident was torqued to reflect instead of inform. Behind the chingaroon ambulated a group of negs and poses, though which was who and who was witch was hard to say at first glance. Hyaki looked over his shoulder, grunted a kata, and wished that their food would hurry up and emerge from hibernation in the kitchen.

Traying chow, the waitress delivered to another table. One of the nins, of inscrutable gender, tweeted at her and accompanied the whistle with an obscene vapowraith that oozed from the lipgrammable stimstick held in his/her mouth. The scented smoke sculpture wrapped itself around the unwilling waitress, wisps of pale suggestiveness clinging to her like glued air until with flailing hands she slapped the last of it away. Laughing at her fretful efforts to maintain her dignity, the nins took over a particularly well-situated table from a pair of uni students. Wholly intimidated, the young couple abandoned it without a word, pocketing their glowing vits and fleeing the restaurant with as much haste as they could manage.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57

Categories: Alan Dean Foster