(This is the beginning of a much longer story. Call it very near future. Loosely speaking, it is a spy/underworld/perhaps-alternate-timeline story with all sorts of science fiction bits and pieces thrown in. A casserole of fun stuff. It is definitely gritty, not lacking in violence, and involves characters with questionable ethics. It is also unfinished, unedited and untitled, but I work on it between other things.)
downtown had the usual, dingy, rundown look of every small, northern town I had
ever seen. Patchy attempts to improve
the visual rot only made it worse. The
waterfront was probably the only decent place in the downtown core, though the
rot was seeping into it, as well. The
place was dead and just hadn’t noticed; a zombie town.
strolled to the docks, discovering the harbour area was smaller than it looked
from a distance. Really, it was a
parking lot set next to a walkway along the water, with a restaurant on one
side and a very industrial looking complex on the other. Charming.
autumn had an upside, it was in being cold enough to keep riff-raff from
sleeping outside during the night. I had
seen two distant joggers earlier but the place was otherwise deserted. I continued along the larger of two main
docks, figuring it was as good a place as any to do some thinking while I
waited. A car sped past in the distance,
an ancient hatchback, rotting away like the town, and disappeared into a side
street. As quickly as that, I was alone.
waterfront was on a bay off the great lake.
The water was icy still and dark; the predawn light seemed to cast
shadows on everything, and those shadows seemed to collect in the water. It had a peaceful quality, all the same. I kept my back to the town, enjoying the view
across the bay, a mostly undeveloped area that gave an illusion of purity.
passed and I fell into a deep, thoughtful state, almost a trance, aware of my
surroundings yet deep within my own mind.
There was no ritualistic or spiritual element to it. I had learned to do it as a boy and got into
the habit. The opportunity was sometimes
scarce, though I never lost the knack.
It was like being awake and dreaming at the same time. Thoughts, emotions, memories, and sensations
swirled in a gentle maelstrom; they crossed, merged and sometimes settled with
each other, creating a kaleidoscope vision of my mind. I had found that the longer I was able to
hold myself in this state, the more likely it was for the elements to generate
the semblance of a message, or concept, or something meaningful. It had a dreamlike quality, without the
random, shifting and confusing nonsense.
The maelstrom had inertia, yet I could guide it along with gentle
pressure; I always envisioned it as the same sort of pressure a tugboat exerted
on a large ship. The trick to holding
the state and manipulating the storm was in not putting too much or too little
pressure; too much pressure caused the elements of the maelstrom to weaken and
fade, eventually breaking it; too little pressure made the intensity strong,
but made it more difficult to find guidance from the mess.
distractions were another weak spot. The
solitude and tranquility made it easy to form the whirlwind; the increasing
wakefulness of the town, rotted and sluggish as it was, wore down my
focus. It was difficult to estimate the
passage of time, just like in a dream, so I was unsure of it when the final
straw fell. The light suggested that the
sun had been up for a little while.
morning,” a voice offered, sounding old, attempting to engage me in
conversation. My maelstrom collapsed
into itself and disappeared, a fading memory in an instant. I turned to the old voice, extending my hand
to it. Energy surged through me, nearly
unbidden. An elderly man, looking
shocked at my quick, aggressive motion, stood a few feet away. He had been right behind me. The flicker of rage I felt at his
interruption spiraled away in time for me to collect myself. I had wanted to harm him for his lack of
manners and inconvenient presence but it would do no good; I had my own
business to attend to, and it would not serve to draw attention to myself.
man was a little scared, judging by his reaction. I guessed his age at sixty. He wore tan slacks, a plaid shirt and a
windbreaker. Just an old man with a big
mouth, taking a morning walk because he had nothing better to do. “Whoa,” he said, holding up his hands
defensively. “I didn’t mean to –“
up,” I snapped, venting my ebbing anger at him without attempting to soften my
words. “You shouldn’t sneak around and
surprise people like that. It could go
badly for you.” I lowered my arm and
walked away. The old man simply stood
there, too frightened to speak.
closed around me before I was a block in.
It was a new town but a familiar place.
I had worked the central northern beat for Porter long enough to
recognise the same old thing in a different place. I had studied the map enough to know where I
was going in this new piss hole. My
dawdling was wasted, anyway. The
maelstrom had yielded nothing, even before I lost it. Something was not right in this place, only I
could not place it. Normally, I would
have come away with something.
was in a pissy mood when I arrived, three blocks later, at 119 Foundation
Street. The Pawn Prince was a dismal
sight; it was another relic, only brightened the slightest with a cheery, white
banner proclaiming Cash for Gold in
red letters. The building had a second
floor of apartments that merged with the adjacent buildings. The entrance to the 119 apartments was a
heavily abused wooden door to the right of the pawn shop. The door handle had broken off, probably
years earlier, and been replaced with a small length of rope. It was already open a crack, which made it a
bit more convenient for me. The stairs
were solid but filthy. I turned left at
the top of the stairs and made my way down the hall. The lighting was dim, likely a by-product of
cheap, low wattage bulbs and never-cleaned light fixtures. The smell of stale cigarette, pot and beer
almost masked the undercurrent of stale mop water, garbage and urine. If it had been unexpected, I might have been
it was, I felt my energy flow through me, accumulating like a charge. It was doubtful I would need a lot, but
apartment 2C had to know a visit was coming; and it was tough to say what countermeasures
there would be. The door to 2C was open,
let my energy level build a bit more before I made my move. A hard kick flung the door wide open,
exposing a smoky room within. Two men
jumped up from a moldy couch, knocking over a coffee table in front of them;
they both looked high as kites, one of them made a clumsy move for something
inside his belt. I unleashed a blast of
energy that hit him square in the chest, knocking him through the wall; heavy
bruises, broken ribs and a mild concussion were guaranteed, unless he was
unlucky and I had collapsed his lungs and damaged his spine. It didn’t matter. The second man was the subject of my visit,
and he was already on his knees and in shock.
kept a solid reserve of energy at the ready.
Something still felt wrong. A
quick check revealed no other guests in 2C.
Bobby O’Mara was on his knees begging me not to kill him. Someone in a neighbouring apartment was
hollering about keeping the noise down.
Christ’s sake, shut the fuck up,” I said, closing the apartment door. “I don’t have much time for this, so pay
fucking attention. You should know
better than to disrespect Porter the way you have. You are way behind this year and you don’t
even bother to call last month when you pay nothing. That’s not cool, Bobby. So this…”
My attention trailed off as I felt something familiar, something
dangerously familiar, from behind me.
Someone was building up their energy and they were damn close. Instinct took over and I formed my energy
into a shield, encasing me in a protective cocoon. A blast zipped past me and struck Bobby O’Mara
squarely in the head, pulping it in one strike.
wheeled around, stirring up energy as fast as I could for a fight. Standing at the back of the room was Mallory
Stelton, an old associate who I thought I was finished with years ago. She had changed her look, but was
recognisable despite the Goth-ish wardrobe and makeup. “What the hell, Mal?” was all I could think
to see you, Peters,” she said with a grin.
I had not dropped the shield.
Mallory was releasing her energy passively as she strolled forward.
are you here?” I asked bluntly. “This
bullshit is going to make things awkward for me back in the city.”
did you get so sloppy?” she asked back.
“I couldn’t have got this close to you before without getting noticed.”
I growled, partly at Mal, partly at the mess in front of me. It would take some explaining to keep Porter
off my ass.
Mal said, getting up and lighting a cigarette, “you are some sort of hit man,
or something like that?”
actually,” I said, realising there would be no easy out. I began a quick search of the place in the
hopes I could find enough cash or dope to mitigate the screw up.
a waste,” Mal said. She was clearly
amused by my frantic search. Her
nonchalant attitude had not changed in the years since I last saw her.
there something you want from me?” I asked, distracted by my search. “This is a long way from Montreal, isn’t it?”
always were a suspicious one,” she said with a smirk, watching me rifle through
a putrid bathroom. “Can’t a girl just
stop by and say hello?”
better you don’t tell me,” I responded, pushing by her and into the
kitchen. All I really wanted was to find
a giant stash of dope, get out before the authorities arrived and ditch
Mallory. The last part would be the
trickiest; she wasn’t here by chance.
tough guy,” she said, still toying with me, “why don’t we have a little
chat? There has got to be a place that
serves coffee around here.”
interested,” I said without a blink. I
had left the world she belonged to, and that had taken some doing. I had been left alone for some time, yet
Mallory was a sign that world wanted me back.
on. What is the rush? One cup of coffee.”
rush is,” I growled as I headed from the fruitless kitchen to the bedroom,
“that I am supposed to have supper with my boss today. If not, I owe him an advance phone call.”
she chuckled, “the collections thing.
You will be delivering from this run.” She paused and finished her cigarette. “Well, the city isn’t more than a couple of
hours and it is morning. That leaves
time for a coffee, or do I have that wrong?”
fellow I had knocked through the wall was breathing. He had a badly broken arm and numerous lesser
injuries. He didn’t look much like hired
muscle. A quick search of him produced a
knife, about five thousand in cash and fifty dollars in weed. It was chump change, in the big picture, but
covered most of what O’Mara owed. It
also suggested he was here to buy, which meant there was another five grand in
product in the apartment. I was willing
to press my luck by extending the search.
An even ten Gs would cover the debt, plus a little for the hassle. Porter wouldn’t be happy; but he would
understand a situation gone wrong. It
happened, from time to time, and life would go on.
is money, Mal,” I said, tearing the room apart.
“So if you have something to say, say it. I am out of here soon.”
was uncharacteristically quiet. I found
a very sturdy little end table; heavy oak, bolted together like it was made to
survive a bomb blast and locked tight. I
drew up a bit of energy, which got Mallory’s attention. Fine work like this was not my forte, and I
was distracted, so my attempt to blow the lock resulted in smashing up the
entire thing. The contents spilled out,
mostly unharmed: bags of pills, powder and a bit of cash. I grabbed it up and stuffed it into my
jacket; big, inside pockets were gold in the collections business.
up,” I said, taking my turn to be funny.
“I got what I…”
was gone. It was hard to sense if she
was still nearby or not. Something was
definitely going on and I didn’t like it in the least. Keeping myself in the moment, I went for the
window. The same neighbour who hollered
about the noise was hollering again, and this was the type of place that
attracted police attention. The window
had a rusting fire escape to a partly overgrown parking area below. I made my way down and got moving. Once I was sure my trail was clear, I only
needed to get back to the car; then I was home free.