CITY OF STEEL: A THIRD EXCERPT

City of Steel Phot2

Well I did it!

City of Steel has been a labour of love for nearly a decade and I’m happy to say that it has been polished to an acceptable enough level to warrant submitting to an agent. I’m under no illusions that more work will be needed, but for now at least I can say with certainty, that this phase of its creation is complete.

In celebration of this personal achievement, I’ve attached a third excerpt, the previous two having already been posted on this site (links below).

CITY OF STEEL: AN EXCERPT

CITY OF STEEL: A SECOND EXCERPT

The following is a short scene but critical to asserting the principle character’s position within the society in which he lives. Hector Dadrian is a private investigator and he often deals with unpleasant and unsavoury people of all backgrounds.

In the attached, Hector makes a deal with a merchant whose motives, while understandable are less than honourable.

As always comments and/or hate-mail are greatly appreciated.

Many thanks and kind regards
Chris O’Connell
October 5th 2017

THE MERCHANT

The client’s name was Pervez Encino. He was a cloth merchant from Level Seven and he arrived with four heavily armed bodyguards. The guards were smart. Disciplined too. When they entered the room they appraised Dadrian with the tense gaze of predators who have encountered something bigger and more ferocious. They noted the casual manner that Dadrian sat with his chair facing the room’s entrance. Noted too, the MJ-10 coil pistols Dadrian held in each hand, the weapons humming at the ready. The guards glanced at one another and a silent consensus was reached. They had entered the territory of a superior killer. Any challenge would be met with swift destruction. Without speaking to Dadrian, they swept the room for bugs then vacated the room as quickly as professional dignity would allow.

They were in the back office of a shoe store on Corridor C of Level Eight’s East Quarter, three blocks from the Central Plaza. The room was one of a dozen meeting places Dadrian used to meet clients. Dadrian didn’t own the store but he paid the owner a monthly stipend for use of the office on a set day each month. Even though there were months when the office wasn’t used, the shopkeeper had the good sense to accept the money and not ask questions. Doing otherwise when Hector Dadrian was concerned was hazardous to one’s life and livelihood.

Encino entered the room last and took a seat opposite the private investigator. Dadrian holstered his pistols. He didn’t think much of the prospective client. Encino was squat, short and had the rotund belly of a man unused to physical labour. His head was square, his thin dark hair plastered to his scalp with enough grease to lubricate every door hinge in New Philadelphia. His clothes were custom-made and expensive: A dark plasti-wool suit, violet plasti-silk shirt open at the neck. Dark chest hair curled over the man’s collar in a way that made Dadrian think of a spider crawling up the outside of the merchant’s throat.

Pleasantries were exchanged and then the business at hand was addressed. As it turned out, Encino’s problem wasn’t uncommon in New Philadelphia.

“I think that Rhea…my wife is cheating on me” Encino said.

“Why you say that?” Dadrian asked.

“She’s been going out more: A lot more. I’ve tried talking to her but she denies anything’s going on. Says its all in my head. And I’ve tried to be lenient, sure. But these days…I just don’t know what to do!”

Dadrian nodded. “She got a bodyguard?”

“Of course!”

“How long’s he looked after her?”

“Jorge? Only a week! Her old bodyguard was Silvio – he was with her four years, same time as we’ve been married. I thought it mighta been him so I fired his ass!”

“He still could be your guy” Dadrian said.

Encino’s eyes gleamed as bright as his hair product. “Naw! Couldn’t be him. I know a guy who knows a guy in the Reclaim and I had Silvio sent down there. The only rocks he’ll be getting off are concrete blocks in Pittsburgh!”

Dadrian kept his expression neutral. The Reclaim was where debtors, prisoners of war and political dissidents were sent to be worked to death. Those sentenced to the Reclaim scavenged plastic, steel and depleted uranium from the ruined cities to the south and west of New Philadelphia. Places, like New Pittsburgh, destroyed by the Armies of the New Light Reborn during the East Cities Wars. The torturers who ran the Reclaim were drawn from a special branch of the Reverend Father’s bodyguard, the Acolytes Corps. The Acolytes and their commander, Hernan Aznar answered to the Reverend Father alone. Therefore having contacts with the Acolytes was tantamount to having the support of the Reverend Father himself. The implied threat wasn’t lost on Dadrian.

“You have any proof this Silvio guy did anything?” Dadrian asked.

Encino’s smirk evaporated. “Well…no. More of feeling, you know what I mean?”

Dadrian examined his fingernails. “So you sent the chico off to die because you thought he lied to you?”

The merchant bit his lip. Dadrian rested his hand on the table and arched an eyebrow. “That was pretty stupid dont’cha think?”

Encino flushed pink under his fake-tan. “Excuse me?”

“You said the guy was her bodyguard for how long? Four years? Did it ever enter your head that he might not have been sleeping with her? And that after four years working for her, he mighta known whoever she was sleeping with?”

“He should have told me when it happened!” Encino growled. “I’m his boss!”

“Why? So you could use the Marital Code and get her killed? He wouldn’t have been a very good bodyguard if he’d done that would he, ese?”

“You saying I shoulda let that puto go free?!” Encino roared. “After he lied to me!”

“I’m saying you fucked up big” Dadrian said in voice low with warning. “If he was still around you coulda handled him in house. Maybe gotten him to crack and spill the beans about what your senorita was really up to. As it stands you got nothing except your “feelings”. And feelings don’t matter shit when it comes to getting Writs.”

Encino clenched his teeth. “You got any idea who you’re talking to?”

Dadrian leaned forward and stared right back at the merchant. “Do you?”

Encino tried to hold Dadrian’s gaze but after a moment his shoulders slumped and he seemed to shrink in on himself like a wilting flower. Dadrian said, “Let’s cut the shit and get back to business. You think your wife is cheating. You want me to follow her and find out if she is in case you need to press a Dishonour Charge. Am I right?”

Encino nodded. Dadrian said “I don’t do written reports. Photos only. Any evidence I gather: none of it has my name on it. I don’t testify and I sure as hell don’t get the Writ of Approval for you. That gets handled at your end.”

“Of course” Encino replied.

“You got any pictures of your wife?”

Slowly Encino reached into his jacket pocket and produced a plastic envelope. “Right here” he said and set it down on the table within easy reach of Dadrian. The investigator nodded and left the package where it lay.

“Another thing” he said. “No contact. I get in touch with you when the job is done. I work alone and I’m not wasting time providing you updates if I’ve got nothing to report, y’hear?”

“That’s reasonable” Encino remarked. “But can I ask a question?”

“Sure.”

“How much is this gonna cost me?”

“Three million in church dollars. No merchant creds.”

Encino choked and coughed. “You’re joking!” he croaked.

“Far from it ese.”

“But that’s outrageous!” Encino sputtered.

“It’s my standard fee for any Marital or Honour Case” Dadrian said.

“Pfft! An investigator talks to me about honour?”

“A small price to pay for an honourable man such as you, chico. You’re not exactly starving.”

“You’re loco!” Encino sneered. “I’m not paying you that!”

Dadrian smiled but there was nothing friendly in the expression. “This isn’t a negotiation, ese. You’re paying for the best. And just for that last comment the price’s now four million.”

Encino opened his mouth to protest but Dadrian’s look of warning made him reconsider. He was silent for a moment. Then he bit his lip. “Fine” he said quickly. “But no payment up-front!”

“Now now ese, don’t test me” Dadrian chided. “I only bill for tasks completed. And hurting my feelings wouldn’t be in your best interest.”

He pointed at the exit. “I’ll contact you when the job’s done.”

Encino stood and straightened his suit jacket. “I better get what I need, investigator!”

Dadrian regarded the merchant with a cold smile. “Don’t worry ese. Everyone gets paid their worth.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Encino frowned.

“You’ll see one day” Dadrian replied. “Goodbye Senor Encino. I’ll be in touch.”

*

After the merchant left, Dadrian opened the plastic envelope Encino had left behind. The photograph of Rhea Encino was a full colour portrait. Head and shoulders only. Dark hair, full pouting lips and at least fifteen years Encino’s junior. Defiant eyes glared at him from the photo. He doubted she had married Encino by choice. More likely an arranged marriage in order to combine family fortunes. He slipped the photo back into the envelope and tapped the parcel against the table top. Everyone gets paid their worth he thought. Too bad only the scumbags could afford his services.

(From City of Steel by Chris O’Connell Copyright 2017. The rights of the author have been asserted.)

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