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Chapter X:

Indelicate

“What do you mean he works for you?”

Keys leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. The smile never left his face. No doubt he was amused by my growing frustration, but how could he have known how stressed I was simply by noticing that one side of my face was glaring really hard while the other just wanted to get some sleep.

“I thought you’d never heard of him.”

Keys shrugged. “Not that name. But worked for me. Helped put credits through the wash.

“And you didn’t know his real name?” I asked incredulously.

“Went by Edward Boston.” Again a shrug, but the smile faded. “Got vouched. I’ll sort it out.”

Ah, yes, the ever perilous underworld employment agency. Any two-bit hood could get a gig that would earn him some quick cash, but in order to get the good jobs you’d have to know someone, and they’d have to know you. Knowing the right people could make you rich. Knowing the wrong people could get you some broken bones or worse. And now I’d put the person who knew Simon in hot water, because they apparently hadn’t known him well enough.

“This going to be a problem?” I asked.

“Nothing need worry about.”

I knew that look on Keys’ face. With a few words, I’d instigated what would probably be a cut-throat restructuring in the organization. Knowing him, that would end up being more literal than I’d like.

“Can I meet him?” I asked.

“Didn’t know it was your birthday. How many gifts you ask for?”

“Goddamnit Keys,” I said, slamming my hand into the desktop, “I don’t have time to play your games. People are dying!”

“Which people?” Keys asked blandly.

I growled involuntarily and then ground my palms into my forehead. There were so many things I wanted to say, but none of them would have been helpful. It was infuriating. I had no idea who was working for who, who was trying to kill who, or how to sort it all out without making the situation worse. I couldn’t tell Keys about Delia incase he decided he could get something out of her. And I couldn’t tell him about Stubbs, because Keys would just use it against me. Choosing to work with the devil you knew still meant you end up working with a devil.

Finally, I grumbled, “What do you want, Keys.”

“Don’t know yet.” Keys shrugged again. “You need a room. Look tired. Get some sleep. I’ll let you know.”

Keys pulled Sammy, who I had completely forgotten was there, aside and they had a hushed conversation. Keys did most of the talking, while Sammy spoke in short sharp phrases. Again, I noticed that she never looked directly at him, yet she was obviously annoyed with what she was being told. Her jaw was clenched, and her stance was rigid. I thought she might actually take a swing at him. But her voice remained restrained; never climbing above an average conversational tone or volume.

The conversation ended, and she walked stiffly past me without stopping. "Follow." she said mid-stride.

I did.

She led me to a modestly furnished apartment with posters for bands covering every patch of wall and ceiling. It was an eclectic mix of groups and genres; several of which I was unfamiliar with. They appeared to have been painstakingly laid out in order to obtain maximum efficiency in the usage of space. It seemed more likely Sammy had engaged in a convoluted geometry puzzle with a specific theme rather than that she was a rabid audiophile.

"What is this place?" I asked, trying to not sound disturbed by her OCD.

"My place." she said.

She pointed at a door. "Bathroom."

She pointed at the kitchenette. "Kitchen."

She pointed at another door. "My room. Stay out."

She pointed at a chair in a corner next to a free standing lamp. "You sleep there."

I pointed at the couch. "What about there?"

She pointed at a chair in a corner next to a free standing lamp. "You sleep there."

"What if I behave myself?"

She pointed at a chair in a corner next to a free standing lamp. "You sleep there."

"Alright." I relented. "I've gotta make a call. Where's the nearest public terminal?"

Sammy's brow furrowed slightly. "Why don't you have a mobile link?"

"I do. It's at the office." And I didn’t want anyone listening.

Sammy stood where she was with her face still scrunched up and blinked once.

"Look, just tell me where the terminal is. It's important."

"Keys wants me to know where you are."

Predictable. "Did he tell you to follow me?"

"No."

"I'm just going to make a call. Then I will come back here."

"And sleep?"

God, I hope so. "Yes." I said hoping that would be enough for Sammy.

She stood still for a few more seconds then turned her head in the other direction; still without appearing to focus on anything. She put a map on her tablet showing the route from her apartment to a public terminal.

"Thanks." I said and reached out to pat her shoulder, but she shied away from my touch. I didn't try again. That just bugged me more than it should have. I didn’t know what it was, but everything about this girl seemed to scream “Save me!”. Maybe it was her youth. Maybe it was Keys. Maybe it was the gang life, or my case, or the port in her arm, but I couldn’t let it go.

“You need to get out of here.” I blurted out.

“Why?” she asked in that near passionless voice.

“Look at yourself. You’re acting like a robot! You’ve got a computer frying your brain. You are working for a scumbag. You--”

“Why does Keys make you angry?”

I hesitated for a moment. “I know what kind of man he is.”

“What kind?”

“He…Look, we’ve got a history.”

“What history?”

“He’s taking advantage of you.”

“How?”

“Just trust me. Okay? I’m trying to help you.”

Now, she actually squinted, her voice became slightly rougher, and she clenched her jaw. However, the rest of her demeanor remained neutral.

“I don’t trust you.” she said. “Keys told me you were in the family, but you left. You and I have no history. Keys and I do. I did not ask for your help.”

She walked into her bedroom and closed the door firmly without slamming it.


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