In the suburbs of war-torn Wurrick, amongst bots and the bedraggled, detective Urban Der Kaye once again finds himself all too caught up in a case.
You Can Make A Killing With A Bit Of Human Service
By Ted Inver
For the LEMONADE CARBONADE Award
Dead bodies are often frigid. But compared to the seven others logged and filed this shift, this one’s another level of stone cold. The wind funnelled by the street’s high-rises blows frost over the bluing face. There’s no signs of struggle around the late woman, snow-crashed face first by the roadside. Still, it’s Wurrick—there’s always a culprit.
“How long for your magic box’s answers?” I ask Alice, who’s finished sampling.
“Ten minutes, Urban, why?”
“Got questioning to do.” I indicate the lemonade stand across the road.
“Step right up. Come wetchya whistle.” The vendor hails. “Human service, you heard it, a human service!”
“Really?” Alice says “He won’t blab.”
“I’ll do the detective work, ey? You just get those results.”
She’s right, folk never talk, but it’s what they don’t say that provides answers.
“Morning, mister.” The boy’s no older than ten. Not that age matters, kids these days are born adults. “Whadya like?”
His odd-sized glasses contain the same liquid
“Pretty sure there’s no coffee,” I say. I’d kill for caffeine after tonight’s shift—I’m all for the Prohib, but the stimulant ban was too far. “So gimme your bestseller.”
“Good choice!” His big-toothed smile answers that annoying lisp. “Sure’s-a-synner I’d sell hardies, could I get ‘em, but I guarantee you the next best. Lemme tell you bout my Lemon-”
“Yeah yeah, I know what lemonade is, give it here.”
My hand is filled with a jam jar, which I inspect through the grey light of dawn; no floaters, no grubby fingerprints—kid’s clean.
“What’s the purple tinge?” I say
“Magicians never reveal their tricks.” Why lispers persist with difficult words is beyond me. “Lemonshade’s number one, can’t have anyone steal my recipe.”
“Let the drink do the talking, ey?”
I take a sip. The regret is immediate. It’s flat, it’s bitter, it’s probably piss.
“Mmm,” I say, sliding him a coin—street rats don’t take chip. “Say, kid, when d’ya set up stall today?”
“4.30, as usual”
“You gotta when competing with bots—they don’t sleep.”
“What about you, mister? You stared long at that dead lady, you know her?”
“Not a Scooby. You?”
He nods. “She is… was, a regular.”
“A regular?” My second swig tastes better than the first. “You got many?”
“Course. Special ingredient, plus human service, makes a killing.”
Grabbing a jug I refill my jar and park my ass on the table.
“Hey, you gonna pay for that one?” He says.
“Maybe, if you answer more questions.”
“Err, who’d ya think… I got rights, mister.”
“Rights?” I haven’t heard that in a while. “Lemme guess, grandparents taught you that?”
Look, kid, those days are gone.”
Children’s rights; citizen’s rights; they’re all memory. This boy’s lucky he’s providing service to the ailing food industry, otherwise he’d be conscripted. It’s food or the frontline: the bots fill most jobs in between. Even mine’s become arbitrary! Regardless, I’ll continue slamming criminals in their deserved cells, or graves. Problem is, we’re running out of both.
I take another mouthful—stuff’s growing on me. The kid’s voice, however, isn’t. “But-”
“Hey.” Twisting, I reveal the badge inside my coat. “Got a stall-permit?
The boy took a sudden interest in polishing jars.
“Didn’t think so. Now, this regular of yours…” As I turn back, I see lingerers by the body—was only a matter of time before someone would make for her valuables! “Oi, clear off!”
As I get up I start to feel dizzy—it’s been a long night. The scumbags scarper as I head back across the road.
Knuckling Alice’s car window I say, “What’ve we got, Know-it-Al?”
“Nothing till you stop with that name, Urban.”
“Ya ya, Alice, just gimme the deets quickidy.”
“Jo Cibelle; Delta drone pilot; poisoned.” She says. “The thing is, it looks self-inflicted.”
“What?! Impossible. How?”
“It’s a new stim. Not hard to imagine drone workers needing a perk up.”
“But you said poisoned.”
“Yeah, I also said new. Seems bootleggers cooked up something instantly addictive this time, so rushed it out before checking it’s side effects.”
“Not entirely self-inflicted then.” I say. “These street rats have become lab rats. Gotta trace it back to the source.”
“Might not have to go far.”
“Another’s just been reported in Phillips park.”
“Plenty of pill-pushers there.” A buzz has kicked in. The thrill of the chase. I make to leave.
“Urban, it can come in any form. Makes things nought to special in 60 seconds. Maybe you should start with-”
“Hey, I’m the detective, remember.” I pass her my jar and take off jogging.
“Ok.” She shouts after me. “Take it you’ll be back for these results in ten then.”