Shorts smartworld

The Slumlord

Where Detective Jon Bakker is recruited by one of the City's powerbrokers to locate the mysterious Slumlord... But aren't they just a myth?

[Sunday | 2 September 2266]

It was now twenty minutes after the murder; just past midnight. Me, Mittens, Mikel, and the guy Mikel was fucking just stood in silence. Trust Mittens to step over the cold, still body and half-coagulated blood in a bid to break the silence.

“Long time, no see, Bobo.”

“I’d say it’s good to see you’re out, but that was a little bloodthirsty,” I said, doing my best to keep a cool(ish) head. I turned to Mikel. “I know the slums play fast and loose with the law, and I know the kid was an outsider. But please tell me you have rules against murder here.

“We do,” Mikel answered with a nod, still rattled by the night’s events. I’m not sure if he felt like elaborating, but the sound of footsteps approaching from the entryway interrupted him.

“Mikel, I thought we were friends,” Mittens said. “I saved all your asses from that kid!”

“Bobo had it, Mittens. Without lethal force,” Mikel growled. “He was questioning the kid, and just lost the chance of gleaning a single thing!”

As two bouncers burst into the bedroom, Mittens turned tail. She bolted toward the penthouse’s window and leapt through it. As the bouncers followed, I rushed to the window and looked down. But Mittens was fucking gone.

Two hours later, it had become abundantly apparent to me that I wasn’t going to get a good night’s sleep. The bouncers cleaned up Mittens’ mess, including removing the body, scrubbing the blood away, and replacing the broken window.

“Jon, meet Paz.” Paz. Paz is the guy Mikel was fucking. “Three years after you left Sector New York, we met, and then Paz introduced me to the Slums. He’s been by my side ever since.”

“Pleased to meet you,” I said as congenially as I could while shaking my replacement’s hand.

“The boy’s name is Nickel McClain,” Paz told us as a holographic image of the kid projected 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.”

Like so many other kids in the City. “You think that was it?”

Paz nodded. “I’m not seeing any other reason for this incursion.”

“Jon, go home and get some sleep; it’s been a hell of a night,” Mikel told me. “But come by the courthouse in the morning, and we’ll put our heads together and think of something.”

I managed to get about four hours of broken sleep before I was jostled awake by someone bouncing on the bed. I opened my eyes, and it was Mittens. Fucking Mittens; of course it was.

“Good morning, Jonny!” Mittens said with a smile.

“‘Good’ is a little extreme. 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.”

“Then talk.”

“So, you’re incommunicado with Her Eminence. That’s fine, but only as long as you two can pass your little love notes through me.”

“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.” I raised my arm and aimed it at Mittens’ head. Maybe I can call her bluff, and she’ll believe I don’t mind if I splatter her brains across the room.

“That’s not happening, Jonny, and let he who is not a murderer cast the first stone, okay?” Ugh. I hate it when people have a point. It’s even worse when they use it against me. “The kid, his name was Nickel, like that ancient coin. He was a regular at my workshop. Definitely a City kid, but the way he was starting to question things? There was hope he wouldn’t grow up to be a totally shitty human being? That’s rare.”

“Does this have a point?”

“Okay, okay, he rocked up last night, when I was in the middle of a transmission with Her Eminence. He heard a little too much for Her Eminence’s comfort, and making matters worse, the kid was totally tripping balls. There was no calming him 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?’” Now I’m considering actually splattering her brains across the room.

“At least someone had to ask me to kill Nickel, rather than me just volunteering to do it,” Mittens told me. Another point she’s fucking well made. “I made a terrible mistake by accepting Her Eminence’s first job, okay?. 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 all-black ensemble, with all the pomp you would expect.

“No.” I hoped Mikel couldn’t still pick my 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 whatsoever, you cannot tell anybody, not even those closest to you. The City will come after anybody seen to strengthen the slums, and the forgotten masses here.”

“You told me who you are, Mikel. Feeding your ex to the City?”

“I know you, Jon. I also know how stoic you can be, so I’d have expected 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.”

“Sounds he hasn’t confessed to being the Slumlord to you yet, then,” I added with a shit-eating grin, in the hope Mikel doesn’t click to why I’m here..

“No,” my dear Magistrate laughed. “He struggles enough in his job, ‘importing’ goods to pass to the less fortunate here.”

Either he fell for my tone and doesn’t know who the Slumlord is, or he’s better than I’d thought.

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