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…
It was the work of but a few moments for the father and son to be ready to depart, and the five of us walked to the nearest glide station. I noticed how the O’Hallerans placed themselves in the centre of our phalanx, and mentally applauded their bravery. At the glide station there was something of a crowd of hoodies, all pushing and shoving and generally making themselves an annoyance to anyone wanting to use the glides. We ignored them, and mostly they got the message. But of course there was one. A thin, twitchy youth, with the jittery eyes of the junkie, put a hand on O’Halleran senior’s arm. He went for whatever he was packing, but Zig grabbed his wrist. I picked the junkie up by his scraggy neck and shook him gently.
“Naughty, naughty,” I admonished.
He showed me his teeth, but, aside from noting a distressing lack of dental hygiene I remained unmoved. I gave him another little shake, and one of his buddies grabbed him by the arm.
“Leave it Sisco. That’s Sam Nero. He’ll eat you for breakfast.”
The junkie blinked blearily and a couple of his group dropped him and sat on his chest.
We climbed onto the glide and Zig left hold of Seamus’ wrist.
“Your goon had hold of me,” O’Halleran complained.
“So he did,” I agreed blandly. “ I think he was trying to stop you starting a war we might not have won.”
“But he touched me…”
I turned and gave the complaining man my flattest stare.
His son laid a hand on his arm.
“Mister Nero has a point. We were badly outnumbered.”
Seamus subsided and the rest of our journey was completed in silence.
At Hood’s Bar, Vinny the doorman waved us in although he showed me the whites of his eyes. When the visitors had pushed their arrogant way inside I favoured Vinny with a small wink. He grinned wolfishly. I moved smoothly ahead of the O’Hallerans and led the way to the private office. I tapped respectfully on the door panels.
I opened the door and ushered the two men inside.
I went to stand at Katie Scarlett’s shoulder, and Myk and Zig ranged themselves either side of the door. Katie Scarlett held up a finger and carried on totting up a column of figures. Seamus all but ground his teeth, and his son placed an admonitory hand on his forearm.
Katie looked up and gave them her most ingenuous smile.
“I’m sorry to be so rude. There’s just so much happening.”
Seamus visibly pulled himself together and surged forwards to clasp her outstretched hand.
“How can we help you my dear?”
She manufactured a blush from who knows where and cast down her eyes.
“Well,” she said softly, “with Daddy out of the picture…”
“Out of the picture?” Seamus could barely keep the glee out of his voice.
“Yes,” Katie bit the word off. “Currently.”
“What has happened?” Seamus junior asked with spurious concern.
Katie Scarlett looked him right between the eyes.
“I was rather hoping you would tell me.”
He tried to stare her down, but she wasn’t to be intimidated.
Seamus senior went for his shoulder harness, but found his arms clamped in Myk’s huge hands. Not to be outdone, Zig grasped Junior just as firmly.
“I think the lady asked you a question,” I said mildly.
“I didn’t,” Katie corrected me. “But I will now. Uncle Seamus, will you please tell me what you know about androids with my face?”
Seamus swallowed audibly but said nothing.
“Myk, will you please remind my uncle about the penalties involved in stubbornness.”
Myk must have squeezed, because Seamus made a strange whinnying noise and his face changed colour. Seamus junior looked at his father with deep contempt.
“Zig,” Katie Scarlett spoke softly, and the second twin started applying pressure on the man he had a hold on.
Father and son held out for a couple minutes, and it was the son who broke first.
“What have you been up to father? Cough, or I swear I will kill you.”
“You wanted the girl, and the club. I was just smoothing your way.”
“And how were you proposing to do that?”
Daddy O’Halleran spoke from behind them, and they both jumped as if they had been shot.
I patted Katie Scarlett on the shoulder and left the room. They didn’t need me and I had a fancy for a large shot of bourbon over ice.
I was on my second drink when Katie sashayed up to me wearing a big grin. I signalled to the bar droid and ordered her a large martini. When we were settled with our drinks she regarded me smilingly.
“What do we owe you, Sam?”
“I’ll take a bottle of the good stuff, and we can call it quits.”
She looked at me over the rim of her glass.
“Is there nothing I can do for you?” she purred.
“Behave yourself, Katie Scarlett. You don’t know what you are offering.”
A voice spoke behind me.
“No. You don’t.”
O’Halleran heaved his considerable bulk onto a stool and the bar droid brought him a pint of the black beer he favoured. He drained half the glass in one draught before looking at me with something akin to friendliness.
“She ain’t gonna give up, Sam.”
“I don’t expect her to, but it’ll still get her nowhere.”
Katie looked from one of us to the other, aware that there was an undertone she was missing. She frowned.
“Okay, you two. What is nobody telling me?”
Neither of us spoke.
“Not mine to tell.”
“I’m on my honour not to tell you.”
She pouted, and her father looked at me. “You can tell. If you want. But there’s no obligation.”
I downed my drink and leaned forward to kiss Katie’s porcelain cheek.
“Sorry, babe. But it’s not something I want to talk about.”
Myk and Zig materialised at my back.
“The boys will walk you home,” O’Halleran said, and proffered a hand. We slapped palms and I walked away from pretty Katie Scarlett.
After all, I had Sugar waiting at home and one dame is enough for any man.
You can find the first Sam Nero story in Dust Publishing's anthology The Last City together with other stories about his fellow Citizens...