Founder’s Landing, Day Zero, 2210.

Dark side street, taste of rain in the air

“Clever how you handled that redcap, Shamus. Nearly fooled me, with that chauffeur’s cap and all. Or are you back in the Militia now?”

Ahhh, Hell. I knew that voice — and he knew me, more’s the pity. Still, it’s like they say: The jig isn’t up until you’ve stopped dancing. I turned and looked at the man in the shadows.

Lieutenant Tom Carmody’s career had been over years ago, but nobody’d ever told him — not in any way that took. He’d come up through the ranks by main force and occasional sharp wits, unexpected from such a brutal man. He was no cadet.

But then, neither was I. I figured, what the hell; it’s worth a try.

“Oh, can it, Lieutenant. You know exactly why I’m here. What’s more, you want me here just as much as I want to be here. So let’s get right to it, shall we?”

He had me dead to rights on a curfew violation and I knew it. But I was thinking: An old street monster like Carmody wouldn’t be out here unless there was something big going on; that’s what redcaps were for. His feet had done their duty and wanted to be up on his desk. And right now, he couldn’t take the chance that I might know something — at least, that’s what I was counting on.

“All right. Get out of the light, willya?”

I stepped back into the shadow with him and looked around. There were at least six officers concealed on the street, not counting the redcap patrol that had just turned down at the far corner. It was pretty obvious what they were watching; a high-end bordello dominated the short block. It was technically legal; prostitution was licensed, and so long as nobody left the premises they weren’t in violation of curfew either. Hell, the law wanted you tucked up safe in bed, right? Nobody ever specified whose bed.

But this wasn’t quite right. Everyone was a little too obvious, even us — especially us. There weren’t many places for concealment on such a short street, and that patrol wasn’t even pretending interest in the shadows. In fact, they looked like they were heading right for the front door. Hm.

“Which one’s the bolt-hole, Carmody?”

He looked at me, suspicion gleaming in his little pig eyes. “Second on the right,” he said. “Front door is blocked off, but you can get in and out through the basement.”

I nodded. It was clear now. Someone was over there that shouldn’t be, and when the raid came knocking — just a routine inspection, they’d say — then that person or persons unknown would get hustled out, through a tunnel and across the street to the safe house. From there they could watch all they liked with nobody the wiser, and wait in comfort until the heat went away, trusting in secrecy and a blocked-off front door. Unless, of course, the cops knew another way in.

But someone that careful wouldn’t have only one way in and out. Time to make myself useful.

“You’ve got someone at the back exit, right?”

“Back exit? There is no back exit!”

“Wanna bet?” I asked. I grinned at him. This was pure bluff, but what the hell — what did I have to lose?

Carmody scowled at me, then made up his mind. He spoke quietly into the com badge on his wrist, then looked at me again. “Come on, you — and show us this back exit.” Not waiting for a reply, he turned back out onto the main street. Grumbling, I followed at a quick jog.

He could move fast for a fat man. He was halfway down the block and turning into an alley behind the place before I got up to speed. I dug in and went after him.

This was getting interesting. On the other hand, I was gonna be really late for my appointment. Oh, well.

Is there a secret exit or not? And if there is, who’s going to pop out? Tune in next time to find out!

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