[Silence is Golden | Sunday, 2 September 2266]
It had been twenty minutes.
Now past midnight, Jon, Mikel, and Mikel’s partner stood in silence. They looked down at the boy, then to Mittens, and then back at the boy’s ice-cold body, lying still in the pool of blood left by Mittens’ wounds.
Mittens moved to step forward, but was met by Bakker’s arm aimed directly at her head.
“Long time, no see, Bobo.”
“I’d say it’s good to see you’re out, but that was a little bloodthirsty.” The detective turned to Mikel. “I know the slums play fast and loose with the law, and I know the kid was an outsider. Please tell me you have rules against murder here.
“We do,” Mikel answered with a nod. He still felt rattled by the night’s events.
The group could hear footsteps approaching from the penthouse’s entry.
“Mikel, I thought we were friends,” Mittens said. “I saved all your asses from that kid.”
“Bobo had it, Mittens. Without lethal force, and he was questioning this kid. Just go quietly, okay?” Mikel said.
As two bouncers burst into the bedroom, Mittens turned tail. She bolted toward the penthouse’s window and leapt through it. Bakker rushed to the window and looked down. Mittens was gone.
Two hours later, Bakker was unable to contain his yawn. The teenager’s body had been removed, the blood washed from the tile floor, the broken window replaced.
“Jon, meet Paz. Three years after you left Sector New York, we met, Paz introduced me to the slums and has been by my side ever since.”
“Pleased to meet you.” Bakker shakes his replacement’s hand.
“The boy’s name is Nickel McClain,” Paz says as a holographic image of Nickel appears from his wrist. Seventeen years old, never had an issue with the law. By all accounts, he had a successful future ahead of him. But he also had a taste for experimental synthetics.”
“You think that was it?” Bakker asked.
Paz nodded his head. “I’m not seeing any other reason for this incursion.”
“Jon, go home and get some sleep, it’s been a rough night,” Mikel said. “But come by the courthouse in the morning, and we’ll put our heads together and think of something.”
After roughly four hours of broken sleep, Bakker was jostled awake by bouncing on his bed. Slowly opening his eyes, the detective soon realised he wasn’t alone. He had company, and that company was Mittens.
“Good morning, Jonny,” Mittens said with a smile.
“I wouldn’t call it ‘good,’” Bakker said. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“I came to explain, and to give you a message. And what do you know, they’re both the same thing.”
“So, you’re incommunicado with Her Eminence. That’s fine, but only as long as she has me to pass messages through.”
Bakker smirked. “That’s going to be a little difficult with you having just committed murder and all.”
“Yeah, I’m going to need to lie low for a while.”
“You can do that in your cell.” Bakker moves toward Mittens.
“That’s not happening, Jonny, and let he who is not a murderer cast the first stone, okay?” Mittens said. “The kid, his name was Nickel, like that ancient coin. He was a regular at my workshop. Definitely a City kid, but he was starting to question things — there was hope that he wouldn’t grow up to be a totally shitty human being, you know? That’s rare. So anyway, he rocked up last night, when I was on a transmission with Her Eminence. He heard a little too much for Her Eminence’s comfort, and was totally tripping balls. There was no calming the kid down.”
“What did he hear?”
“Her Eminence believes she has a lead on the Slumlord. She identified Paz, real name Piotr Antos; the City lost track of him twenty-five years ago. They’ve known he’s been here for the last three years, but she’s recently received intel suggesting he might be the Slumlord.”
The detective nodded his head.
“Her Eminence ordered me to kill the kid, Jonny.”
“So, somebody asks you to kill someone and you figure ‘sure, why not?’” Bakker’s frown intensified at the thought.
“At least someone had to ask me to kill Nickel, rather than me just volunteering to do it,” Mittens answered. “I made a terrible mistake by accepting Her Eminence’s first job. Now she has her hooks in me, with shinobi stationed around my family. Please don’t be so naïve to think she doesn’t control you, too.”
“Have you seen Mittens?” The Magistrate sat behind his desk, dressed in his ball-lack regalia.
“No,” Bakker lied. He really hoped the Magistrate didn’t have a handle on his tells. “Look, I need to ask if you know who the Slumlord is.”
The Magistrate shook his head. “No. If you have any power in the slums, you can’t tell anybody, not even those closest to you. The City will come after anybody seen to strengthen the slums.”
“You told me who you are, Mikel.”
“I know you, Jon. I also know how stoic you can be, so I’d expect you to rot in the prison before answering the Magistrate’s questions.”
“Does Paz know about the job?”
Mikel scoffed before shaking his head. “Oh, hell no. He couldn’t deal with the pressure.”
“So, I assume he hasn’t confessed to being the Slumlord to you yet, then?” Bakker added a smile to his statement. Hopefully, it would throw Mikel off enough that he could read his response without realising Bakker seemed particularly interested in the Slumlord.
“No,” the Magistrate laughed. “He struggles enough in his job, ‘importing’ goods to pass to the less fortunate here.”