Cover: C.T. McMillan
Model: Megan Crawford (ING: @mleighmoon)
Copyright 2018 by C.T. McMillan
All Rights Reserved
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Also By CT McMillan
Neon Oldie Vol. 1 “The Mark”
I could not have come this far without my family encouraging me to pursue my ambition to be a writer.
To Razor’ and ’19 for providing inspiration.
There was nothing but pain between Kiddo’s tits and toes. She felt her thighs go cold as blood soaked past her crotch. The sidewalk passed under her feet as Monty carried her under one arm, the whole thing a blur of night and neon. Sound came in waves between ringing that drilled into Kiddo’s brain. Something iron pooled in her mouth before she let it drool over her lip as she touched her loose pink hair.
“…Where’s my hat,” she mumbled. Monty slurred back. She turned to look at him, but all she could see was the street and his belt. Kiddo settled back to the sidewalk and hocked a wad of blood. “…Pomogite, papa… Ya ne chuvstvuyu sebya khorosho–” The blood came out like vomit. “Eomma, dowajuseyo!” she cried, tears mixing with the crimson on her cheeks.
Her body jerked back and the lines on the sidewalk turned vertical. Kiddo didn’t look to see what was happening as hands laid her on a stretcher. She saw the night sky letterboxed by skyscrapers with Monty’s towering form in between. The view shifted away as suits lifted her up before it all went black.
The smell of wood and carpet came to her first. Kiddo could tell she was on her back, but it felt like she was floating in a pool. It was a pleasant sensation while it lasted until she realized her arms were gone.
Kiddo’s eyes shot open and tired to sit-up before she groaned back. A sharp ache rippled from her abs that receded once she was down. Whatever supported her head squeaked of cheap leather against the bristles of her shaved hair. She looked down and saw she was wearing underwear that wasn’t hers and bandages from waist to chest. The tight bra was new and she didn’t own one in the first place.
Never saw the point with nothing hanging.
Kiddo’s brain went into high gear real quick. She didn’t feel completely helpless because whoever patched her up was either a friend or someone that needed a favor. Easiest way to get leverage is to save someone’s life.
Kiddo was on a shiny leather couch pocked with buttons. Walls were wood panel with the darkest stain she’d ever seen. The panels only took up a portion of the walls with the rest covered in pink and gold floral wallpaper. On the wallpaper hung sconces with shaded lights. The ceiling was curved outward with smooth drywall like a real house. What broke the façade was a sliding frosted glass door across from the couch.
It wasn’t enough to satisfy her curiosity. She needed to see the whole room, damn the pain. Sliding one foot off she felt a rug tickle her soles, followed by the next. Kiddo walked herself to the edge, sliding her back across the cushion, and dug her heels into the carpet. She clenched her teeth as her thighs got tight. The small of her back went hot and her stomach ached when she bent too far forward. Kiddo’s face grew redder until she stood up straight with heavy breaths.
“Really shouldn’t move, but no one can keep you down, Anya-jun Ivanov.”
Kiddo snapped to the back of the room. Charlie Kurt sat behind a wood desk of anachronistic clutter. With a fancy computer on the side stood a lamp with a green glass shade and a leather desk pad. A modern phone sat on the edge behind a large cigar box at the top left corner. Behind Kurt the windows had shutters bringing in a little dusk. A chair sat before the desk with a smaller couch to the side beside a bookcase filled with tattered cloth-bound tomes.
Kurt himself looked as clean cut as the day he walked past Kiddo in Kyrii’s conference room. This time he wore a waistcoat with his two-piece and the neural ports in the shaved left side of his head were all empty. On his lapel was a TalSec talon pin. He had on a grin as she stared at him with a scowl.
“Haven’t heard that name in years… Where’d you hear it?”
“C’mon, Miss Ivanov. You’re not one for stupid questions. Information comes cheap if you know the right people. Friends of friends in Immigration needed rent and groceries. My name, however, costs nothing.”
“I already know it.”
Kurt laughed. “Drugs must still be in your system if you’re this slow. Jesus.”
“Then talk fast before I sink my teeth into your face.”
He nodded with that grin and gestured the chair in front of the desk. “I mean the one I use for family engagements. Dad named me Clemenza after his favorite character from one of those gangster movies he made us watch,” he said as Kiddo approached the chair like a cautious predator. “One of the longer ones. My sisters couldn’t get through the thing, but I loved it and the sequel. Third one we ignored.”
He waited for her to sit before continuing.
“Funny thing is, I take after Dad so much, but got all my looks from Mom. I’m tall, blond, skinny as a rail, and I have great skin. Wouldn’t ‘ve made it this far if I was short, bug-eyed, paunchy, and looked like a week old banana.”
Clemenza let it come to Kiddo, watching her eyes narrow. “…Cici never talked about his kids.”
“Glad he kept it up to the end. He knew better than to spill too much or the whole enterprise would’ve collapsed. But he liked talking about you. A lot. You were the daughter he wished he had. Can’t say you’d make a good sister, but you’ve been a worthwhile investment.”
Kiddo hesitated to speak, watching Clemenza like she waiting for him to pull a gun.
“This is all very strange, I know,” he said opening the cigar box. “There’s a lot I need to get out of the way,” he pulled out her silver cigarette case, “and you’re probably going to get pissed off real quick.” Clemenza clicked one e-cig and held it out. “All I can say is wait till the end and we’ll both get what we want.”
She didn’t turn from his eyes as Kiddo took the cig.
“Do you know how the Yakuza were so successful in Japan?”
Kiddo blew smoke out her nose. “They worked within the law.”
“Exactly,” he said leaving the case on the desk. “Prostitution illegal; Yaks built host clubs. Gambling banned; they invested in pachinko parlors. Companies that built the machines traded a cut of profits for the Yak’s property to build the parlors. Suddenly company and clan become one; so do their various businesses and rackets, and you get a zaibatsu, a legitimate/illegitimate conglomerate. The law didn’t do a thing because it was all technically legal and was great for Japan’s economy… Then the Chinese started killing each other and prostitution was legalized on the West Coast.”
“So they crossed the pond to get a slice.”
“Perfect frigging timing. I was a junior executive when Kyrii moved his operation and goons under the guise of his company, his zaibatsu. My bosses saw the writing on the wall when the he started buying up property and opening small businesses. No way we were going the way of Canada or, God forbid, Europe. Thing is, we’re more regulated than a social media corporation. Sure, we fund the cops and have contracts with the military, but we couldn’t use our resources to rough up Kyrii because he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Then I got an idea that got me promoted: if Kyrii can keep his own gang under the table, why not we?”
Kiddo clenched her toes and tightened her jaw as he spoke. She was smart to keep herself from going for the neck before Kurt’s phone beeped.
“The technicians are here with Miss Volk’s arms, sir,” said a neutral voice from the phone. “Her clothes were dropped off by the shopper fifteen minutes ago.”
Clemenza held a button down. “Thank you, Rachel. Send them in. And Mister Goichi if he’s awake.”
Kiddo perked up and turned to the door. Two stiffs in dark blue coveralls walked in carrying a strong box by the short ends.
“Set it by the couch, please guys,” said Clemenza. “Thank you. Ask Rachel for your tips.”
The stiffs left just as Monty came into the office, hair and collar disheveled. He stood by the box as the three of them were alone. “You okay?”
“She’s also right pissed with me,” said Clemenza. “Like telling a kid Santa ain’t real.”
Monty made flat frown and started to adjust his collar and tie. “What’d you expect?” He made for the couch close to the desk. “She loved playing gangster–”
“You saved my life,” said Kiddo holding her e-cig to one side of her mouth. “But you,” she turned to Clemenza, “you might’ve patched me up, but I’m going to need a better reason to let you live. I joined the Family because I owed Cici and you spit on his grave treating it like a joke.”
While Monty hid a wide grin under his large mod hand Clemenza put up his palms to Kiddo and looked as though he was about to laugh. “Hey, I only gave him funds and a business plan to start the Family; off the books, obviously. That was the extent of my involvement.” He lowered his hands. “Everything after that was quite genuine. I know it meant a lot and I told you weren’t going to like what I had to say. You needed to know or else nothing was going to make sense.”
Kiddo didn’t realize her heart was racing. She leaned back in the chair and sucked down another drag of flavored vapor that made it slow.
Clemenza adjusted in his seat. “Now, I take it you know who hacked Enzo?”
“I have a hunch.”
“Just a hunch? The holes in your stomach and cracked ribs weren’t enough?”
“It was that cop Speers,” said Monty. “All him.”
“He was a technician during the Second Mexican-American War. Never saw a day of combat, but the man knows his way around very dangerous and expensive equipment, including our Android hijack software we purchased from Kyrii. Guy’s an R’n’D tester on weekends.”
“Apparently, these idiots allowed him to take a copy of the program out of their lab about a year ago,” said Monty.
“A year ago?” repeated Kiddo.
“I’m not in charge of R’n’D,” said Clemenza. “Those eggheads trusted him enough to let him work from home. Who knows what else he’s got.”
“…So, he’s retired military with a small arsenal of prototype weapons,” said Kiddo. “Why’d he come after me in the first place? I just met the bastard a day before he hacked Enzo.”
“Ask him yourself,” said Clemenza before typing a few keys on his keyboard. He turned the monitor to face Kiddo and on the screen was a grid map of a city block. In a colored square was a red dot. “Hasn’t moved since the massacre. After shooting you he put Detective Pierce in a coma and went home. We told Seattle PD we’d handle him–”
“But you prefer the vengeance,” said Kiddo.
Clemenza cracked a smile he made sure didn’t stay long. “Oh, we’d deal with it personally… if Speers weren’t a cop and one of our employees. Funding the police was always a slippery slope for the company. Hard to spin a story about a cop using TalSec equipment to wreak havoc on innocent minorities like your boy-toy–”
“He wasn’t a toy, you prick!”
The suit paused then went on. “You’re off the books and you have a newfound reputation for dispatching criminals by the bushel.” Kiddo felt her stomach knot. “Given the circumstances of the Enzo’s death, we can make it all justified. ‘Loose-cannon cop killed by would-be victim’ sounds agreeable. And given what he did to Pierce, the PD won’t miss him anytime soon.”
“Nice neat bow,” said Monty.
“And your samurai friend insisted on making sure you didn’t go it alone.”
Kiddo looked over her shoulder at him nodding back. “Everyone wins.” She turned back to Clemenza, “but my vengeance comes with interest. My money the cops impounded–“
“Yours,” he said.
“The investigation for what I’ve done–“
“I’ll set you up once Speers is in pieces. I suppose we shake on it?”
Kiddo let out a mild groan as she stood and walked to the strong box. Monty met her there and pulled out her right arm. Both mods were like new with a shiny finish in place of all the wear and tear she’d accumulated since putting them on. The arm linked to her anchor joint with a prang and the clamps twitched as he helped align. The pain of connection that made her shiver didn’t hurt as much; the last few days helped build up quite the tolerance.
About the time the fingers stopped twitching Clemenza was there with his hand out. “Dad would be proud.”
She shook it and fought the urge to crush his tiny bones. “Mmm.”
They let go. “My secretary has new clothes at her desk. Same old Pinkerton uniform with boots, blades, and fast-acting painkillers. I recommend putting on something a little less conspicuous so Speers doesn’t’ see you two coming.”
Kiddo shivered as the left arm connected then made a pair of fists. “He won’t.”
The hall outside was sterile with muted paint, paneled ceiling, and a thin carpet floor. By the sliding door was a desk where Rachel sat, an Android. She wasn’t soul’d like Andys you find in public. They’re grown to serve as computers with feet for whoever can afford them for five years. Legally you can’t keep an Android in a reactive state past five years because they’re considered people. Afterward they’re given self-awareness to go their own way: they gain a soul.
Rachel sat completely straight in her chair toward a computer, eyes unblinking, and chest still. Once Kiddo and Monty came out she turned and reached for a large shopping bag at her feet. Her blank expression met Kiddo’s as Rachel waited for her to take the bag.
Kiddo threw on the clothes right there. Monty was modest enough put his back to her, but she didn’t seem to care if anyone watched. She got a fresh crimson pea coat, grey flat cap, jeans, jackboots, sleeveless shirt, and a sword and knife with the hooks to carry them on a belt. Before they left Rachel, Kiddo asked for a rubber band to tie her hair back.
TalSec was set up in one of the glass towers downtown, so tall and narrow it was more of a crystalline spire. When they got into the elevator the sun was going down and Kiddo and Monty could see Seattle painted gold. She faced the cylindrical window while he leaned by the control panel, hand resting on his katana.
The city rose as they descended, Kiddo popping a pill from a blue bottle and chewing it with her back teeth. “What’d you say to the Shogun to make him stop?”
Monty took his time. “Made a deal.”
“Of what variety?”
“The kind that no matter how this ends, I’m dead. Either Speers kills me or you take my head with this,” he said before tapping the pommel.
Kiddo looked over her shoulder. “You’re either really dumb or really brave.”
She turned back and lit an e-cig. “I have to live with knowing I got more people killed than I thought possible because I was thinking with my sword. My friends, your friends, a couple cops, even those degenerates that pulled the trigger. All because I stole a laptop and phones that led me nowhere. I’m going to live with that until I’m ash. Only one more has to die,” she blew smoke through her mouth, “not a second.”
“You should know better. Made my bed… have to sleep in it.”
Kiddo turned to Monty and they shared a silence in each other’s eyes. “In case I don’t get the chance,” she extended her hand with a smirk, “it’s been a ball, dirty Jap.”
Monty smiled and they shook. “Likewise, Korean dog.”
Blade Runner, Directed by Ridley Scott
13 Assassins, Directed by Takashi Miike
Old Boy, Directed by Chan-wook Park
Ghost in the Shell, Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Metropolis, Directed by Rintaro
Yojimbo, Directed by Akira Kurosawa
A Touch of Evil, Directed by Orson Welles
Battle Angel Alita, By Yukito Kishiro
On the Waterfront, Directed by Elia Kazan
About the Author
C.T. is a Florida native and proud gun owner. He is a fan of all things military, comic books, and a self-proclaimed movie buff. In his off-time C.T. reviews movies on a blog no one reads and writes screenplays that will never get made, but enjoys it nonetheless. He hopes this book thing will actually pay off so he can do it forever.