His Sister’s Keeper is a brutal dystopian sci-fi new from Jane Jago
The two female figures were hurrying – as much as was safe on the cracked and buckled asphalt of a street right on the edge of civilisation. They were well wrapped against the frozen rain, but acutely aware of the eyes of scavenger children with their fingers and toes blue from the cold. The smaller of the two stopped in the sickly yellow glow of a dying street lamp. She took a few coins from her pocket and placed them in the circle of comparative light.
Her companion snorted. “They’ll only buy burny.”
They fell silent, and had walked only a little further when a dark-coloured van screeched around the corner. It came at speed, accelerating from the main street, with its cheap bars and whorehouses, into the foetid quiet of the alley. It halted in an area of deepest darkness and the side door opened with an electric whoosh. Something heavy was thrown into the gutter and the vehicle was reversing away almost before the watchers in the darkness had time to compute its presence.
The two women ran to where the contraband had landed. It was as they had feared. The woman was naked, and lay like a discarded doll in the filth. They turned her over and she made a small noise.
“No. Not yet. We taking her in?”
The big woman bent at the knees and lifted the body with ease.
“There’s nothing of her.”
After which the silence fell again, save for the sound of footsteps, and tiny mewing noises from the broken lips of the one being carried. Behind a disused refuse recycler there was a scarred brown door. It opened at their approach and a wide figure stood in the lamplight. He held out his arms and the bulky woman gratefully handed over her burden.
As he turned the light fell on the face of the woman he carried and even the two hardened whores who had picked her up drew in their breath in pity. She had been so severely beaten that her face resembled a lump of offal, and her thin body bore a variety of bruises of various colours – from the red and purple of fresh weals to the green and yellow of healing injuries.
“Yesu. How is she alive?”
“I don’t know. Look at her hands.”
The younger of the two whores looked and felt her stomach rise into her throat. “Why does she have no fingertips?”
“No fingerprints. No identification. Somebody went to a great deal of trouble to make sure she wasn’t recognised.”
“Oh. Yeah. Poor little bitch.”
The big man looked kindly at the two working girls. “You gave her half a chance, before the sewer rats got to her.”
He carried his burden to a small, but well-equipped infirmary, where he laid her on a bed and managed to get an IV line in her arm. Morphine to ease her pain was the first necessity. Once she was as comfortable as he could make her, he gently cleaned and dressed her wounds. She didn’t seem to him to have any broken bones and he elected not to move her to the X-ray machine. Having done all he could he pulled a chair to the side of her bed and sat down to think.
“You pissed off some serious money and power, didn’t you?”
Needless to say she didn’t answer.
It was to be many days before she showed any sign of life at all. One of the older whores was doing a bit of cleaning when she heard a kittenish mewing noise coming from the bed where the unknown woman lay. She went across and looked down to find the girl’s eyes were open although they seemed to be staring without seeing. Acting on instinct, the whore put a gentle hand on the least bruised bit of flesh she could see.
“You’re safe now, luv.” The eyes slowly tracked to her face and she could feel the effort in even that small action. “You just rest. Ain’t nobody here gonna hurt you no more.”
The words seemed to get through, because the broken girl sighed and her eyes closed. The whore went to the red plastic phone that hung drunkenly from the wall. She jiggled a strange, circular dial and waited. When a deep, masculine voice replied she spoke.
“Markus. The kid Bronwen and Sal brung in woke up. Briefly. I told her we wasn’t going to hurt her and she went back to sleep. Only it seems to me like now it’s actual sleep, not being unconscious.”
“Thanks, Ella. I’ll come and see.”
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