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Authors: William Shatner

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BOOK: Tek Kill
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From the one narrow viewindow you could see part of University of SoCal Campus 26, where either a riot or a rally was in progress in the Glade. “Why, in this instance, do I find myself on the shit list?” Gomez inquired. “Any hints?”

Corky narrowed her left eye and scrutinized the pale pink ceiling above her. “Somebody powerful is annoyed with you.”

“Details?”

“I hear Teklords. One Teklord actually.”

“Who?” He sat on the edge of the armchair opposite her and made a give-me-more-details motion with both yellow-gloved hands.

When Corky shook her head, her silver-blond hair flickered and danced. “I've got no details, Gomez. Don't, if you want the absolute truth, want any more than I got. But it's a very powerful gent.”

“There are any number of Tek industrialists who fit that description. Can you zero in some, Cork?”

“West Coast, probably. As close as I can get, honey.”

“Has it got to do with the Dwight Grossman kill?”

Giving the pink ceiling her attention again, the information dealer answered, “So they say.”

“How the devil was Grossman connected to the Tek trade, Corky?”

“That I have no idea about.” She lowered her husky voice. “Way I hear it, this poor sappo Grossman found out something he
really
wasn't supposed to know.”

“And they want to eradicate me before I find out the same darn thing?”

“It's not certain, sweet, that they want you completely and totally dead,” she informed him. “Might be they just mean to incapacitate you for a good while.”

Gomez stroked his clown nose. “What about the Bascom frame-up?”

“Same bunch is behind that.”

“I'm trying to find out who faked the security camera tapes,” he told her. “But my usual experts at providing that sort of information have been alerted to booby-trap, sabotage, and otherwise futz me up. Who else besides the usual gang can I get what I need from?”

Corky's voice dropped even lower. “You might try a guy who does business as Einstein, Inc. Out in the Woodland Hills Sector of Greater LA.”

“Never heard of the
hombre
.”

“Neither have the Teklords. Yet,” Corky said. “You better talk to him before they get wind.”

Rising, Gomez said, “
Gracias
, dear lady. How much do I owe you?”

“On the house, honey,” she told him.


¿Por que?

“A going-away present.”

“I'm not going away.”

“But you ought to,” Corky advised as he took his leave.

J. J. BRACKEN bounced twice in his high-back black metal chair, jabbed a finger in the direction of the empty chair facing him, and laughed. A lock of his pale blond hair fell down across his smooth forehead. He brushed it back, laughed again. “It appears, appears, cousins, that my Hotseat guest for tonight, yes, tonight's vidnet broadcast of your favorite, and mine, that's for sure,
Facin' Bracken
, is too yellow, yellow and chickenhearted, I'd say, wouldn't you, to show up.” He clapped his hands together several times. “Or could it be, you think maybe, that the old girl came to what senses, senses, she has left and decided, as I've long maintained about her and the nattering nitwits who follow her, that it's time to throw in the towel, right, the towel.”

A faint shimmering commenced in the vicinity of the other black chair.

Bouncing again, Bracken made a chuckling sound and brushed back the lock of unruly hair again. “Hush, cousins, somebody's coming.”

Gradually, with some electrical sputtering and a few flashes of greenish light, the holographic image of a lean, gray-haired woman of seventy-five appeared in the guest chair.

Bracken hunched, watching the newly materialized projection. “It appears, cousins, that she didn't do the smart thing and visit a suicide clinic,” he said. “No, she decided to brazen it out and actually face me on my, popular, as you well know, my popular
Facin' Bracken
broadcast for tonight. Well, this is going to be, if the old darling can survive the heat, an interesting little—”

“Let me point out, Mr. Bracken,” said the image of his guest, “that my delay in arriving was caused entirely by the clumsy and inept technicians you sent to my home to—”

“Quit whining, dear,” interrupted the host. “Let me introduce you, will you? Cousins, this is none other than the notorious oldster, Dr. Audrey Eisenberg, right, Eisenberg, a, I believe, Jewish name, but that doesn't bother us, cousins, does it? Dr. Eisenberg, who's not a medical doctor, not even one of these quacks who believes in keeping doddering wrecks alive once they've ceased to have any value to us in normal society, she's not a medical person but only a doctor of philosophy. We all are philosophers, aren't we, cousins? You don't need a lot of high-blown schooling for that, high-blown and expensive. Most of you know, cousins, that the doctor here, the nice Jewish doctor, believes that we ought to let oldsters just go on living, year after year, and drain our coffers, instead of climbing into their coffins as they ought or—”

“As I suspected, Mr. Bracken, you intend to indulge in one of your usual windy harangues and not allow me to—”

“Let's start with the Bible, Doc,” he said. “Apparently you don't agree that three score and ten years is all we ought to have. You, as I think you're saying in your various lectures to fellow oldsters …”

Up in the engineer's booth, Kacey Bascom was sitting and watching her boss. She looked up from the copy of his notes for tonight's broadcast and made a signal to him. It was a small gesture that meant she thought he was being too rough too soon with the elderly guest. “Pull back a bit,” she mouthed.

Bracken caught her warning, but gave a quick negative shake of his head.

Both the technicians sharing the booth with the young woman were robots. The chrome-plated one said to her, “What's his stand on old robots?”

“This is a serious issue, Jocko, not something to kid about,” Kacey responded. “The number of useless oldsters in SoCal is increasing at an alarming rate and unless something—”

“Too bad they don't have scrap yards for people,” said Jocko, returning his attention to the control panel.

“I'm here to cooperate and work side by side,” said a voice behind her.

Kacey turned in time to see the rear door easing shut. Jake was in the small room with her and the robots. “How the hell did you get up here? The studio has security people on every entrance to keep out fanatics and people who might have a grudge against J.J.”

“Apparently I don't look like a fanatic.” Jake came over to take the empty chair next to hers. “They let me right on in.”

“No, no one without authorization and proper ID is allowed on this level of the facility, Jake.”

“Most of the security people I encountered were flat on their ass and unconscious,” he explained. “So nobody asked for any identification. If I'm someplace I'm not supposed to be, why, I'll—”

“What did you do, use bullying private-cop tricks to force your way—”

“There's something you may be able to help me on, Kacey.”

She glanced down at J. J. Bracken, who was pointing at Dr. Eisenberg and saying, “But if you people all died at seventy, think of the savings it would mean to …”

Kacey asked Jake, “This is about my father?”

“It's not about my plans for eliminating old age from SoCal,” he answered. “Can we talk somewhere?”

Kacey frowned, then gave Bracken another signal. “Jocko, I'm going out for a bit.”

“Sure, gather rosebuds while you may,” the robot advised.

“I wonder who built all that sort of poetic nonsense into you.”

“Nobody. I do a lot of reading on my own.”

Taking Jake's arm, she led him toward the doorway. “We'll use the staff exit so not too many security people will notice you.”

Jake grinned. “Most of them will be snoozing for a while yet,” he said.

12

GOMEZ thrust a booted foot out and prevented the proprietor of Einstein, Inc., from shutting the door. “
Momentito
,” he requested, shouldering the plastiglass door and forcing the small, balding man back inside the narrow shop. “I'm interested in conversing with you,
señor
.”

“I'm closing,” said the small man as he backed away from the intruder. “In fact, I'm closing down for an indefinite period. I'm going on an extended leave.” He bumped into one of the two large suitcases sitting on the floor and started to fall.

Catching him and uprighting him, Gomez said, “Corky Keep-news suggested that you—”

“Oh, Lord. I'm too late.”

Three of the small, neat shop's walls had wide shelves that contained what was labeled as either A
NTIQUE
S
OFTWARE
or V
INTAGE
C
OMPUTERS
.

“I'm with the Cosmos Detective Agency,” explained Gomez as he placed the nervous man in a straight-backed chair.

“So you say.”

“You're the owner here?”

“Probably.”

“Why do you call the business Einstein, Inc.?”

“Because I'm Einstein. Milton Einstein.” Leaving the chair, he made a grab for one of his suitcases. “You'll excuse me, but I'm on my way to … well, let's just say elsewhere.”

Gomez booted the suitcase out of his reach. “Corky tells me your specialty is providing information about technically skilled
hombres
who do illicit futzing with vidtapes and—”

“She's behind the times,” put in Einstein, edging toward his other suitcase. “I was
formerly
in that sideline. But I've retired.”

“Do you know who faked the Bascom tapes?”

“I used to know,” admitted Einstein as he bent to take hold of the suitcase handle. “Too bad you didn't get here earlier, before I went out of business.”

“Tell me, Einstein.” He took the suitcase away from him.

“I started hearing some terrible things a few hours ago and I've decided it isn't safe to continue—”

“That's what informants are supposed to do, Einstein, hear terrible things,” reminded Gomez. “Then they pass such stuff on and collect rich rewards and—”

“No, there are Tek people involved, high-up Tek people. The kind who think nothing of having upstart information peddlers terminated.”

“My name is Gomez. Call Corky, would you?” suggested the detective. “She'll, I assure you, point out that I tend to do great harm to folks who don't comply with my search for enlightenment.” He smiled. “Who did the job on those tapes?”

“I'm late for my skyliner. I have to go, Gomez.”

“You'll never go anywhere, Einstein, unless you confide.”

He glanced fretfully from one suitcase to the other. “It's a shame I ever decided to go into this end of the information business,” he lamented.

“After you fill me in, I'll put you in touch with a first-rate crackerjack career counselor.” Gomez got a firm grip on the man's arm. “Give me the fellow's name,
por favor
.”

Einstein swallowed, coughed, swallowed again. “It was Avram Moyech.”

“I thought Moyech was a SoCal Tech professor who worked undercover for the Greater LA branch of the Office of Clandestine Operations.”

“Avram quit that when he retired from SoCal Tech. Went into business for himself about five months ago.”

“Where is he at this moment?”

Einstein coughed again. “Out of town.”

“Where did he go?”

“Texas. All I know is he went to Texas a couple days ago.”

“Texas is
muy grande
. Give me a location.”

“Sweetwater, Texas. Around Sweetwater someplace. That's all I know, really, Gomez.”

Gomez said, “Now, how about the
cabrones
who hired Moyech for the task?”

“I don't know that, don't have details.” Einstein looked uneasily toward the doorway. “It's obviously a big Tek cartel, but I don't know which one.”

“Why'd they kill Dwight Grossman?”

“For good and sufficient reasons, but reasons, Gomez, that are unknown to me. I have to go now.”

“Can I help carry your bags to your skycar?” offered the detective.

“No, no, thanks.” Einstein shook his head. “I'd prefer not to be seen with you out in the open.”


Gracias
, then.” Gomez left the shop.

“FREE,” said Bascom, “more or less.” He was sitting in the passenger seat of a skycar that was speeding through the twilight sky of Greater LA, away from jail and toward home. “I appreciate your efforts, Kay.”

Kay Norwood, a tall blond woman, was in the pilot seat. “They really had you embedded deeply in the lockup, Walt,” she said. “I had to pull considerable strings to extract you. And you're still going to have to stand trial.”

“Nope, they're never going to try me for the Grossman killing.”

“Because you and your Cosmos Detective Agency are going to find the real murderer?”

The chief of Cosmos nodded, smiling thinly. “That's exactly what's going to happen,” he assured her.

“So far nobody thinks those tapes aren't authentic, including your own experts.”

“We
know
the damn things were rigged, so eventually we'll prove it,” he said confidently. “Now, give me some more background on Dwight Grossman.”

“I only went out with him seven or eight times over a stretch of two or three months. But it didn't take much to get the guy fixated, I guess,” the attorney answered.

Below them, as the night closed in, more and more lights were blossoming across Greater Los Angeles.

“What he tried on you, the harassing and the threats, he must've done to other ladies as well.”

BOOK: Tek Kill
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