Sam Nero and the Case of the Disappearing Daddy
Part 2 of 2
by Jane Jago
When Cletus emerged from his faint he found himself bound securely to a high-backed chair, with the ropes sufficiently tight to cause him some discomfort. I had carefully placed a spotlamp so that its bright light shone directly in his eyes. He tried to move his head, but his overlong hair was affixed to the chairback with a row of staples. Predictably, he started to weep noisily.
Katie moved into his line of vision with a sharply pointed kitchen knife held casually in one hand.
“Talk to me,” she whispered. “Talk to me and perhaps I won’t cut your testicles off.”
“I’ll do anything. What do you want to know?”
“Don’t play the innocent with me.”
She moved so the light fell directly on her face, and it must have been the first time that he had looked at her properly.
“Oh,” he said “that. But they said they would kill me if I talked.”
“Then you are in a fix, aren’t t you? Because I’ll kill you if you don’t talk.”
He must have seen something implacable in her eyes.
“Seamus O’Halleran came to me six months ago with an order for two droids. He had pictures. I just built the droids.” He showed a mouthful of yellow teeth in a rodent grimace. “Made a change from making sexbots.”
“Half a mil.”
“Would’ve been worth it,” Daddy Aitch murmured judiciously. “I’m worth about fifty times that. And my businesses. Who knows? Level one’s the limit.”
Katie looked at the droid maker with real loathing in her eyes.
“What about this carrion?”
“Oh,” I said, “we haven’t finished with him yet.”
“Is there more?”
“There’s always more. In this case we want the security camera feeds from his shop, and we want the details of the tracking devices.”
“What tracking devices?” the O’Hallerans spoke in unison.
“The ones he will have put in the droids. You might think your cousin is a snake in the grass but compared to Cletus here, he’s a straight shooter.”
Cletus shut his mouth tightly, and closed his eyes.
He wasn’t expecting what happened next and it rocked him to the foundation of his being. Zig took something out of his inside pocket, something furry and svelte, something with bright black eyes and sharp white teeth, something that looked hungry. Myk shook the prisoner gently, and as his eyes flew open Zig draped the creature on his face. He screamed for quite a while, then when his voice was getting rusty Katy Scarlett sidled up to him and breathed in his ear.
“Are you ready to cooperate?”
Once Cletus had got himself together enough to indicate acquiescence, Myk retrieved his pet. The O’Halleran father and daughter team went at the droid manufacturer like jackhammers, so I had leisure to introduce myself to what turned out to be a polecat. Looked at closely he was a handsome creature, with golden fur tipped in brown and a triangular face dominated by a pair of gleaming black eyes. He seemed to want to climb onto me, and, once he had established that I had no fear, Myk let him.
By the time the Cletus had talked himself dry, I had fed Riki Tiki with some of his special dried meat and he had curled himself around my neck where he fell asleep. Snoring gently. With every outward breath, his whiskers tickled the side of my neck. I found this warm weight a surprisingly comfortable thing.
Then I realised O’Halleran and Katie Scarlett were staring at me open mouthed.
“Well I’ll be damned. First he charms my little girl, then that damned animal cosies up to him like it was actually tame.”
“Nobody,” Katie Scarlett chimed in, “and that’s actually nobody, except Myk, can safely handle Riki Tiki, it even bites Zig.”
I smiled an amiable but not-too-bright smile – the one I keep for awkward occasions. Mister Aitch crooked a thick, black eyebrow but didn’t comment.
I broke the silence. “You want I should go pick up Seamus and his sons?”
O’Halleran grinned his killer’s grin.
“I do indeed. Usual rates do?”
“I reckon. If I can borrow the twins and Riki Tiki.”
“You can. Now what to do with our friend Cletus…” O’Halleran didn’t sound like he was planning a birthday party, and, judging by the sudden appalling stench, the droid manufacturer’s bowels agreed with my assessment of the situation.
Katie Scarlett curled her lip.
“Let him go, Daddy. We know where to find him if we want him again. Let him go and spend the rest of his miserable life praying that Seamus’ family don’t find out how much he told us.”
Cletus passed out again.
“Never fails,” Katie laughed. “If Sam gets the live goods we can send some boys to fetch the droids and the security feed disks. Oh, and they can return the weasel to his pit.”
Her daddy aimed an affectionate swipe in her direction. “All that Katie Scarlett said. Plus back here. Couple hours?”
I nodded. Then I had a thought.
“You want them kicking and screaming, or on their own two feet, convinced their little plan has worked even better than they hoped.”
O’Halleran’s flat, shark eyes sparkled with mordant humour.
“The second option, if it’s achievable…”
I nodded and Katie Scarlett laughed, it was a sound like silver bells but underlain with a wealth of malice.
“Do tell, Sam.”
“Simple. The spy they are bound to have in the club will have told them there is something amiss. Depending on how close to you the spy is, they either think your daddy is missing, or they are wondering what the Sam Hill is going on. Either way, I would have thought a cordial invitation from you, Katie Scarlett, would bring them running.”
O’Halleran looked at me with a sparkle of real humour in his killer’s eyes.
“And when they get here, just think how much enjoyment we will have disabusing them of their false notions.” His laughter was absolutely genuine, but it scraped along my nerve endings like some kid running its fingers down a chalkboard. “You just write them a nice little note, my darling, and we’ll have Sam and the twins deliver it.”
They exchanged a look of pure unadulterated malice and I made eye contact with Zig, who favoured me with the merest hint of a shrug.
It wasn’t until a bit more than an hour later that father and daughter felt they had the groundwork in place. I was presented with a note, written on pink scented notepaper, and me and the twins went for a walk. We had to drop two levels and when we got down to thirty-seven the atmosphere was intimidating to say the least.
“Riot in the air,” I murmured, and Myk gave a soundless laugh.
No matter how proddy the local hoodies might have been feeling, nobody had the courage, or the downright stupidity, to want to tangle with Zig and Myk, so we made our way to our destination unmolested. Which, judging from the screams and bumps in the side streets we passed, was far from being the case for everyone.
Seamus O’Halleran’s home and place of business occupies a whole block, and even has a bit of green space out front. The local hoods leave well enough alone, as Seamus has the reputation of being both humourless and spectacularly vicious.
We ambled along the sidewalk towards the concrete edifice and Myk quirked an eyebrow. Zig went one better, going so far as to ask ‘what business’, with his fingers flying.
“Whorehouse,” I said quietly. “Caters for people with very specific tastes.”
The twins looked down their noses, and I grinned.
Once we set foot on the broad brick pathway to the front door, I could feel the eyes. It wasn’t long before a couple of security droids appeared in from of us.
“Your business, gentlemen?”
They were scrupulously polite, although the bulges in their armpits suggested that things might get less pleasant if we were not possessed of the correct answers.
“Message for Mister O’Halleran from his niece Katy Scarlett.”
Their eyes did that strange skittery thing that indicates that a mid-range droid is processing information, and may even be receiving instructions.
“You may enter Mister Nero, but your companions are unwelcome.”
I turned on my heel.
“Come on boys. We’re leaving.”
One of the droids was stupid enough to get in my way. I picked it up and threw it into a flower bed. It’s compadre stood undecided and just as we reached the sidewalk the front door opened.
“Mister Nero,” the voice was cultured, although not without an element of threat.
“Mister O’Halleran,” I kept my own tones level, but carefully unimpressed.
I turned to face a slimmer, smoother, more urbane version of the shark-cold killer I knew so well. He manufactured a smile.
“Was it necessary to throw security into the herbaceous border?”
I shrugged. “It annoyed me.”
“Fair enough. Now why won’t you come in on your own?”
I looked him up and down a bit.
“I don’t know you. Plus. The streets are getting revved up for a riot, I will not abandon my associates in the face of that.”
He thought that one through.
“Fair enough you can all come inside.”
We entered a lobby as big as most people’s homes and hung a left into a palatial office. Seamus sat and I passed him Katie’s carefully manufactured note. He looked at it without opening it for a long moment.
“What’s it say?”
I lifted one shoulder. “I dunno. I don’t read other people’s mail.”
“A guess then.”
“Probably *help*. Her daddy is missing and she needs a strong right arm.”
Seamus’ smile almost rivalled his cousin’s for wanton viciousness.
“Shall we see…”
He opened the envelope with a shiny paper knife and perused the sheet of pink paper with a curled lip. About halfway through he started to smile.
“Got you, you slimy bastard,” I thought.
I kept my face bland and Seamus squinted up at me.
“Help indeed,” he said as unemphatically as he could manage. “My little cousin wants to see me. Me and Seamus Junior. I’ll just call him.”
He sent a droid to fetch his son, who arrived with a cynical twist to his thin lips. His father passed him the note, which he read carefully. His mouth relaxed as he read, and by the end of the sheet of paper he was as close to smiling as I figured he could get. He turned to look at me and I bore his gaze stoically.
“And what is your function Mister Nero?”
“And your associates?”
It was the work of but a few moments for the father and son to be ready to depart, and the five of us walked to the nearest glide station. I noticed how the O’Hallerans placed themselves in the centre of our phalanx, and mentally applauded their bravery. At the glide station there was something of a crowd of hoodies, all pushing and shoving and generally making themselves an annoyance to anyone wanting to use the glides. We ignored them, and mostly they got the message. But of course there was one. A thin, twitchy youth, with the jittery eyes of the junkie, put a hand on O’Halleran senior’s arm. He went for whatever he was packing, but Zig grabbed his wrist. I picked the junkie up by his scraggy neck and shook him gently.
“Naughty, naughty,” I admonished.
He showed me his teeth, but, aside from noting a distressing lack of dental hygiene I remained unmoved. I gave him another little shake, and one of his buddies grabbed him by the arm.
“Leave it Sisco. That’s Sam Nero. He’ll eat you for breakfast.”
The junkie blinked blearily and a couple of his group dropped him and sat on his chest.
We climbed onto the glide and Zig left hold of Seamus’ wrist.
“Your goon had hold of me,” O’Halleran complained.
“So he did,” I agreed blandly. “ I think he was trying to stop you starting a war we might not have won.”
“But he touched me…”
I turned and gave the complaining man my flattest stare.
His son laid a hand on his arm.
“Mister Nero has a point. We were badly outnumbered.”
Seamus subsided and the rest of our journey was completed in silence.
At Hood’s Bar, Vinny the doorman waved us in although he showed me the whites of his eyes. When the visitors had pushed their arrogant way inside I favoured Vinny with a small wink. He grinned wolfishly. I moved smoothly ahead of the O’Hallerans and led the way to the private office. I tapped respectfully on the door panels.
I opened the door and ushered the two men inside.
I went to stand at Katie Scarlett’s shoulder, and Myk and Zig ranged themselves either side of the door. Katie Scarlett held up a finger and carried on totting up a column of figures. Seamus all but ground his teeth, and his son placed an admonitory hand on his forearm.
Katie looked up and gave them her most ingenuous smile.
“I’m sorry to be so rude. There’s just so much happening.”
Seamus visibly pulled himself together and surged forwards to clasp her outstretched hand.
“How can we help you my dear?”
She manufactured a blush from who knows where and cast down her eyes.
“Well,” she said softly, “with Daddy out of the picture…”
“Out of the picture?” Seamus could barely keep the glee out of his voice.
“Yes,” Katie bit the word off. “Currently.”
“What has happened?” Seamus junior asked with spurious concern.
Katie Scarlett looked him right between the eyes.
“I was rather hoping you would tell me.”
He tried to stare her down, but she wasn’t to be intimidated.
Seamus senior went for his shoulder harness, but found his arms clamped in Myk’s huge hands. Not to be outdone, Zig grasped Junior just as firmly.
“I think the lady asked you a question,” I said mildly.
“I didn’t,” Katie corrected me. “But I will now. Uncle Seamus, will you please tell me what you know about androids with my face?”
Seamus swallowed audibly but said nothing.
“Myk, will you please remind my uncle about the penalties involved in stubbornness.”
Myk must have squeezed, because Seamus made a strange whinnying noise and his face changed colour. Seamus junior looked at his father with deep contempt.
“Zig,” Katie Scarlett spoke softly, and the second twin started applying pressure on the man he had a hold on.
Father and son held out for a couple minutes, and it was the son who broke first.
“What have you been up to father? Cough, or I swear I will kill you.”
“You wanted the girl, and the club. I was just smoothing your way.”
“And how were you proposing to do that?”
Daddy O’Halleran spoke from behind them, and they both jumped as if they had been shot.
I patted Katie Scarlett on the shoulder and left the room. They didn’t need me and I had a fancy for a large shot of bourbon over ice.
I was on my second drink when Katie sashayed up to me wearing a big grin. I signalled to the bar droid and ordered her a large martini. When we were settled with our drinks she regarded me smilingly.
“What do we owe you, Sam?”
“I’ll take a bottle of the good stuff, and we can call it quits.”
She looked at me over the rim of her glass.
“Is there nothing I can do for you?” she purred.
“Behave yourself, Katie Scarlett. You don’t know what you are offering.”
A voice spoke behind me.
“No. You don’t.”
O’Halleran heaved his considerable bulk onto a stool and the bar droid brought him a pint of the black beer he favoured. He drained half the glass in one draught before looking at me with something akin to friendliness.
“She ain’t gonna give up, Sam.”
“I don’t expect her to, but it’ll still get her nowhere.”
Katie looked from one of us to the other, aware that there was an undertone she was missing. She frowned.
“Okay, you two. What is nobody telling me?”
Neither of us spoke.
“Not mine to tell.”
“I’m on my honour not to tell you.”
She pouted, and her father looked at me. “You can tell. If you want. But there’s no obligation.”
I downed my drink and leaned forward to kiss Katie’s porcelain cheek.
“Sorry, babe. But it’s not something I want to talk about.”
Myk and Zig materialised at my back.
“The boys will walk you home,” O’Halleran said, and proffered a hand. We slapped palms and I walked away from pretty Katie Scarlett.
After all, I had Sugar waiting at home and one dame is enough for any man.