Tunnel,Dark And Musty
I bet she had a pretty smile, but if so she was saving it for someone special and I didn’t qualify. I tried anyway. “The way I see it, you can hide in the tunnel and hope the cops don’t stumble over it, or you can stay in the District until tomorrow and sneak back into the Zone after all this settles down. I know some people–“
“I just bet you do,” she snapped. “I’ll find my own way, thanks!” And then she started walking — the wrong way, back toward the club. I almost let her go, but good sense prevailed.
Good sense is always getting me into trouble.
It took me another ten minutes to talk the girl around. The turning point came when I draped my big coat around her; curiously enough, a lot of her attitude went away along with her too-brief costume. She wouldn’t let me snap off her heels, though, which would be awkward in the tunnel, much less the cobbled streets of the District, but that was a problem for later — and if my luck held, it would solve itself. For now, it was enough to be moving again.
There’s not much ambient light in Founder’s Landing, and the alley we came out in was darker than most — by design. I know for a fact Eddie paid out six bills just to move one streetlight. I whistled, two tones, low, and waited. It didn’t take long; the smell hit us first. “You’re right on time, Lieutenant,” I said, lighting a cigarette. I figured it’d help bury the aroma, and it did. Some.
“Yeah, I am, but you’re fifteen minutes late, shamus. You’re lucky I got your note at all, what with the riots and all.” Carmody grinned, stepping out of the darkness. “So what’s with the girl? Little something for later?”
“Something like that,” I said. I leaned over and whispered to him. “One of Security’s paid snitches; I picked her up in the Zone. We’ll have to keep her out of sight for a little while.”
Carmody grunted. “I know just the place.” He waved, and two cadets materialized out of the murk. “Solicitation, maybe?” I nodded, and she turned to run, only to trip over her own heels. Somehow I’d figured that might solve itself. She had the hips of a waitress but heels are a special art, and she hadn’t taken the time.
The Redcaps hauled her away, struggling and biting, cursing me all the while. She was lucky; I had her cold and she knew it, if she’d only stop to think. She’d been scouting ahead of the raid when Eddie’d caught her in his back room earlier, and getting an overnight in a city cell was better pay than snitches usually get when they’re caught. I wondered what Security had on her to turn her, and then thought better of it. Not my problem.
“Try and get me my coat back, will you?”
Carmody nodded. “All part of the service. Speaking of which…?”
I handed him a small wad of bills — everything I had left after paying Eddie and the kid. “Lead the way, Lieutenant.”
Don’t get the wrong idea about Lt. Carmody. He’s not a crooked cop, not as cops go. If he thinks you’re guilty of a serious crime, there’s no sum big enough buy him off. But this was different. To him, I was a freelancer named Harold Martin who sometimes did some hush-hush work for Intelligence, and he was simply engaging in time-honored tradition of some well-paid moonlighting after hours. I never ask if he claims the income on his tax forms, none of my business — but I do know he lives awfully well for a Lieutenant in the Guard.
As we drove, I could see the leftovers from the riots — scorch marks, plywood on windows, and official roadblocks. Thanks to his official car, however, we got to the right neighborhood in about five minutes. We used the time to fill in some last minute details. “If it all goes right, you won’t see me again for at least a couple of days. And — I know it sounds trite, but… I was never here.”
Carmody grinned at me. “Always a pleasure not doing business with you, Shamus. We’ll be back in half an hour.”
He let me off under a tree, halfway down the block, and I was in over the fence in no time. The old house hadn’t changed; there was still nobody inside. Still off at that country estate of theirs, I guess. I eased my way through the unkempt grounds and over to the window I’d rigged earlier; it was undisturbed — fine. All I needed now was about five minutes and—
“Well, now; as I live and breathe. Dear Martin it is, and no mistake! And how are you this fine evening?”
Queen Molly in person. That was all I needed.
Will this spoil The Operative’s plan? Tune in next time and find out!
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