The name’s Nero, Sam Nero. Private eye and augmented android. Me and my holographic sidekick, Sugar, operate out of an office on the fifty-fifth level of The Last City. We do okay. But some days are a bit bumpier than others…
“Never fails,” Katie laughed. “If Sam gets the live goods we can send some boys to fetch the droids and the security feed disks. Oh, and they can return the weasel to his pit.”
Her daddy aimed an affectionate swipe in her direction. “All that Katie Scarlett said. Plus back here. Couple hours?”
I nodded. Then I had a thought.
“You want them kicking and screaming, or on their own two feet, convinced their little plan has worked even better than they hoped.”
O’Halleran’s flat, shark eyes sparkled with mordant humour.
“The second option, if it’s achievable…”
I nodded and Katie Scarlett laughed, it was a sound like silver bells but underlain with a wealth of malice.
“Do tell, Sam.”
“Simple. The spy they are bound to have in the club will have told them there is something amiss. Depending on how close to you the spy is, they either think your daddy is missing, or they are wondering what the Sam Hill is going on. Either way, I would have thought a cordial invitation from you, Katie Scarlett, would bring them running.”
O’Halleran looked at me with a sparkle of real humour in his killer’s eyes.
“And when they get here, just think how much enjoyment we will have disabusing them of their false notions.” His laughter was absolutely genuine, but it scraped along my nerve endings like some kid running its fingers down a chalkboard. “You just write them a nice little note, my darling, and we’ll have Sam and the twins deliver it.”
They exchanged a look of pure unadulterated malice and I made eye contact with Zig, who favoured me with the merest hint of a shrug.
It wasn’t until a bit more than an hour later that father and daughter felt they had the groundwork in place. I was presented with a note, written on pink scented notepaper, and me and the twins went for a walk. We had to drop two levels and when we got down to thirty-seven the atmosphere was intimidating to say the least.
“Riot in the air,” I murmured, and Myk gave a soundless laugh.
No matter how proddy the local hoodies might have been feeling, nobody had the courage, or the downright stupidity, to want to tangle with Zig and Myk, so we made our way to our destination unmolested. Which, judging from the screams and bumps in the side streets we passed, was far from being the case for everyone.
Seamus O’Halleran’s home and place of business occupies a whole block, and even has a bit of green space out front. The local hoods leave well enough alone, as Seamus has the reputation of being both humourless and spectacularly vicious.
We ambled along the sidewalk towards the concrete edifice and Myk quirked an eyebrow. Zig went one better, going so far as to ask ‘what business’, with his fingers flying.
“Whorehouse,” I said quietly. “Caters for people with very specific tastes.”
The twins looked down their noses, and I grinned.
Once we set foot on the broad brick pathway to the front door, I could feel the eyes. It wasn’t long before a couple of security droids appeared in from of us.
“Your business, gentlemen?”
They were scrupulously polite, although the bulges in their armpits suggested that things might get less pleasant if we were not possessed of the correct answers.
“Message for Mister O’Halleran from his niece Katy Scarlett.”
Their eyes did that strange skittery thing that indicates that a mid-range droid is processing information, and may even be receiving instructions.
“You may enter Mister Nero, but your companions are unwelcome.”
I turned on my heel.
“Come on boys. We’re leaving.”
One of the droids was stupid enough to get in my way. I picked it up and threw it into a flower bed. It’s compadre stood undecided and just as we reached the sidewalk the front door opened.
“Mister Nero,” the voice was cultured, although not without an element of threat.
“Mister O’Halleran,” I kept my own tones level, but carefully unimpressed.
I turned to face a slimmer, smoother, more urbane version of the shark-cold killer I knew so well. He manufactured a smile.
“Was it necessary to throw security into the herbaceous border?”
I shrugged. “It annoyed me.”
“Fair enough. Now why won’t you come in on your own?”
I looked him up and down a bit.
“I don’t know you. Plus. The streets are getting revved up for a riot, I will not abandon my associates in the face of that.”
He thought that one through.
“Fair enough you can all come inside.”
We entered a lobby as big as most people’s homes and hung a left into a palatial office. Seamus sat and I passed him Katie’s carefully manufactured note. He looked at it without opening it for a long moment.
“What’s it say?”
I lifted one shoulder. “I dunno. I don’t read other people’s mail.”
“A guess then.”
“Probably *help*. Her daddy is missing and she needs a strong right arm.”
Seamus’ smile almost rivalled his cousin’s for wanton viciousness.
“Shall we see…”
He opened the envelope with a shiny paper knife and perused the sheet of pink paper with a curled lip. About halfway through he started to smile.
“Got you, you slimy bastard,” I thought.
I kept my face bland and Seamus squinted up at me.
“Help indeed,” he said as unemphatically as he could manage. “My little cousin wants to see me. Me and Seamus Junior. I’ll just call him.”
He sent a droid to fetch his son, who arrived with a cynical twist to his thin lips. His father passed him the note, which he read carefully. His mouth relaxed as he read, and by the end of the sheet of paper he was as close to smiling as I figured he could get. He turned to look at me and I bore his gaze stoically.
“And what is your function Mister Nero?”
“And your associates?”
You can find the first Sam Nero story in Dust Publishing's anthology The Last City together with other stories about his fellow Citizens...