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Authors: William Shatner

Tek Kill (9 page)

BOOK: Tek Kill
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“C'mon, Lieutenant. She's been dead for at least two hours and you must know, if you queried those toy soldiers at the entrance, that we only arrived here a few minutes ago.”

“Perhaps,” conceded the cop.

Edging around him, Jake stepped out into the sun-bright clearing.

Kacey, looking uneasy and displeased, was standing, arms folded, about where he'd left her. Two uniformed SoCal Police officers were positioned a few yards from her.

As Jake neared her, Kacey asked him, “What's wrong?”

He leaned close. “Somebody killed her,” he answered. “In the back with a lazgun.”

“Just like Grossman.”

“Pretty similar, yeah.”

Kacey stared at the hut. Drexler was in the doorway, summoning the two officers to join him inside. “What did Hermione Earnshaw know that made them kill her?” she said.

“We'll have to find out.”

“How?”

Jake shrugged. “That's one of the things I still have to figure out.”

THERE WERE a couple hundred people in the main ballroom. Two hundred seventeen, to be exact. Two hundred seventeen people and a good many of them young, handsome, beautiful, and extremely influential. The main ballroom was thick with chatter, laughter, music, and noise, and from its curved viewindows one could see all of Greater Los Angeles far below. This was The Chateau, an airborne private club that circled ten thousand feet above SoCal.

Rowland Burdon, a handsome, dark man of thirty-five, was moving slowly and amiably among the guests. Burdon never drank at his parties, but he frequently popped a pill or a capsule. Always one of the mood drugs his NewTown Pharmaceutical Corporation manufactured. Actually the company was owned by Rowland and his twin sister, Rebecca. And he was, in a leisurely manner that allowed him to chat with the more important guests, heading for the small table where she was sitting, alone and angry.

“Radiating gloom, Sis, is bad for business,” Rowland pointed out when he finally reached her and sat opposite.

“Go away, Rollo,” she invited, picking up her glass of water.

“The idea, Sis, is this,” the brother explained, smiling for the benefit of whoever might be watching. “NewTown specializes in remedies for depression and gloom. Yet you persist in parking here, looking like Death on a bad day, sulking and snarling. All our multitude of friends and business associates are going to say, ‘If NewTown's panaceas are so good, how come Becky's in such a sour slump?' We can't—”

“Let me put my request in different terms, Rollo,” she cut in. “Take a flying leap for yourself.” She sipped at the water. “That could be very impressive from this height.”

He put his hand on her wrist and, still smiling, squeezed hard. “Enough of this shit, Sis,” he said in a low voice. “I swear to God that if you don't quit this goddamn sulking, I'll—”

“You'll what, Rollo? Have a couple of thugs shoot me in the back?”

He tightened his grasp, then let go. “What are you hinting at?”

“You killed Dwight Grossman,” she said.

“Don't say things like that here. You know I had nothing to do—”

“He's dead. You'll agree to that much, won't you?”

Rowland took a gold-plated pillbox out of his jacket pocket, popped it open, and selected a bright crimson tablet. After swallowing it, he stood up. “We're partners, Sis, equal partners,” he reminded her, leaning over the table. “And you know what they say about twins. If something bad happens to one of them, why, the other one feels pain, too. I'd hate to have you suffer.”

Rebecca turned away and stared into the blackness outside.

15

BASCOM was back behind his desk. He sat very stiff and still, eyes narrowed, saying nothing.

From her chair Karin Tanoshi said, “It's now nearly twenty minutes past nine P.M.”

“Being an excellent detective myself,” the chief of the Cosmos Detective Agency told her, “I was already able to figure out what time it was entirely on my own.”

“What Karin means,” interpreted Roy Anselmo, “is that you called this special meeting for nine, Walt, and that all the rest of the Grossman case team are here—except, as might be expected, Cardigan and Gomez. So why don't we simply—”

“Whilst I was behind stone walls and iron bars, Roy, you were running things,” Bascom said. “Now that I am, however fleetingly, on the outside once more, I intend to be in charge.”

“I only meant that—”

“We'll wait for them.”

Kay Norwood, who was seated close to his desk, leaned toward him and said quietly, “Can you modify the gruffness, Walt?”

“No,” he answered, scowling. “Those bastards can't threaten you and not—”

“Has Miss Norwood been threatened?” asked Leo Anson, who was standing near one of the blanked windows.

“We'll get to that,” promised Bascom.

The door at the far end of the large office slid open, admitting Gomez and Jake.

“Welcome back,
jefe.
” Gomez worked his way through the scatter of operatives. “Did you get the bouquet I sent you while you were in the lockup? Consisted of roses, violets, pansies, and—”

“Sit down and dummy up,” advised his boss.

Moving a chair near the holostage, Jake straddled it. “I'd like to explain, Walt, why we're late.”

“No, I want to outline to you all what happened while Kay was ferrying me home from the hoosegow,” countered Bascom. “Then I want prelim reports from each of you as to—”

“Before we get to that,” interrupted Gomez, who was still on his feet, “you better attend to what we have to say.”

“Goddamn it, Sid, don't start talking to me like I'm some rookie operative who just—”

“Whoa, Walt,” Jake cut in, “this really is important and has nothing to do with who's in charge here.”

“You're telling me you've got something more important than the fact that these bastards will kill Kay if I don't drop this investigation, roll over, and let them railroad me for murder?”

“It's more a question of something that has to be dealt with before we get to that. Trust me on this, will you?”

Kay said, “Walt, I appreciate your concern, but don't push so hard. Listen to Jake and Gomez first.”

“All right, okay.” Bascom hunched in his chair and nodded at Jake and then his partner. “What is it that has you two lads so riled up?”

Smiling, Gomez perched on the edge of the chief's desk. “Jake and I were comparing notes on our day's activities awhile ago, sir,” he began. “It struck us—riled us up, in fact—that we'd been anticipated a good deal. In the interest of our continued survival and well-being, we decided to nose around some.”

“You were doing that,” said Karin, annoyed, “while we were sitting here and waiting for you to show up.”


Chiquita
, think of how it hurt me to stay away from you. Nevertheless, stern duty drove me to—”

“Sid,” requested Bascom, “less frills.”

Jake said, “When I went to talk to the folks at Thelwell, where Grossman worked, I found a hairless lout waiting there to assault me.”

“And several of the informants I was planning to call on today,” added Gomez, “had been persuaded to set up debilitating booby traps for me.”

“Obviously the opposition was aware that the agency would be investigating the Grossman murder,” picked up Jake. “But Sid and I concluded that these folks knew our exact itinerary in some instances.”

“Although we're not confiding types,
jefe
, we did share some of our plans for today,” said Gomez, his left foot swinging slowly back and forth as he spoke. “We reported here on some of what we were intending to—”

“Hold it, you son of a bitch,” Anselmo was up out of his chair. “Are you saying, Gomez, that I sold out the—”

“Remain calm,” advised Jake. “You're not the one who passed along news to the other side.”

“Who is the other side?” asked Bascom.

“We don't know all the players yet,” answered Gomez, “but there are definitely Tek
hombres
involved along with—”

“My investigations confirm that,” said Anson, moving away from the window. “When we get to our reports, you'll notice—”

“You won't be giving a report, Leo,” said Jake.

“What the hell are you talking about, Cardigan?”

“For one thing,” said Jake, “we're concerned about how come you deposited $5,000 in that secret account you maintain in the Laguna Sector branch of the Banx system.”

“There's nothing secret about that account. And I won the money in a—”

“No, you got it as a fee for collaborating with representatives of some Teklords,” corrected Gomez. “Believe me,
cabrón
, I found this all out by consulting two very reliable informants and one world-class stoolpigeon.”

“I'm tired of all your wiseass accusations, you greaseball.” Anson, head low, came charging at him.

“Violence doesn't solve anything,” advised Jake, thrusting out his foot and tripping the husky detective.

Anson stumbled, fell, hit the floor flat out.

Before he could rise, Jake was crouched beside him. He gave him three flat-handed blows to the neck.

Anson yelped, gagged, and dropped into unconsciousness.

Bascom stood up, peering over his desk at the fallen operative. “I assume you lads can prove all this?”

“Oh,
sí
,” Gomez assured him. “We even have a couple of very handsome photos.”

16

THE Eternity Depot covered nearly an entire block on the outskirts of the Pasadena Sector. The parking/landing area, thick with sky-cars and landcars tonight, covered an additional acre. The whole complex was intensely and profusely illuminated, the lots and the three-story plastiglass-and-neowood building were beacons in the night.

Susan Grossman had left her skycar nearly a half mile from the immense glowing store. By the time she'd reached the Eternity Depot, she was having some difficulty with her breathing. She'd done virtually no walking lately and she really hadn't been eating all that well. She felt somewhat dizzy. She was frightened, too, as well as ashamed of herself.

She'd promised herself she'd never use Tek again. But after the encounter with Juneanne tonight, she had to do something. She had to make herself feel better.

“Bitch,” she said. “Bitch. How can he love that terrible woman?”

There were huge slogans printed across the giant plastiglass front windows of the Eternity Depot in throbbing light tubing: A
LL
Y
OUR
D
EATH
N
EEDS
!, Y
OU
C
AN
'
T
B
UY A
C
HEAPER
C
OFFIN
A
NYWHERE IN
G
REATER
L
A
!, O
N
-S
ITE
C
REMATION AT
L
OW
, L
OW
P
RICES
!, T
OMBSTONES
A
LWAYS AT
L
EAST
20% O
FF!

A robot doorman, painted dead white, wearing a long black robe with a cowl and holding a scythe, greeted Susan as she, breathing shallowly, approached an entrance. “Welcome to the Eternity Depot, young miss,” he said. “You look downcast and depressed. In mourning, are you?”

“Yes,” she replied, “for myself.”

“Suicidal, perhaps? You might want to look around our Suicide Club annex.”

Susan quietly told him, “No, I want to see the second assistant manager.”

“Ah, that's one way to cheer up.” The black-clad bot winked at her, eyelid clicking metallically. “You'll find him in Room 5 on Level 2 this evening.”

Thanking the grim robot, the young woman entered the brightly lit coffin showroom that lay beyond the entryway.

Mournful organ music was being piped in through a scatter of ebony speakers floating up near the deep gray ceiling.

“Something for yourself?” inquired the handsome blond android salesman who came gliding over to her. “Or perhaps for a loved one?”

“I can think of a couple of loved ones I'd like to see in coffins,” she admitted. “But tonight I want the second level.”

The dark-suited andy politely pointed. “You'll find the ramp just to the left of the display of Wormproof Low-Budget Burial Boxes, miss.”

The door to Room 5 was black. It was partially concealed by a stack of neowood crates full of urns.

Susan knocked twice, paused, knocked once.

The door, with a faint creaking, slid aside.

The small room she entered smelled strongly of dead flowers and some kind of pungent incense.

She sneezed.

“Little Susie,” said a voxbox in the ceiling. “Long time no see, sweetie.”

“I've been away.”

“Welcome back. The usual?”

She nodded. “There's maybe a slight problem. I—”

“Can't pay?”

“Not tonight, but I'll be able to—”

“No problem, Susie. You've been a good customer and we know you're good for it.”

“Thanks.”

“Don't mention it. Use Crib 11. That's on the left.”

“I remember.”

A door in the far wall creaked open.

She didn't immediately move.

“Go ahead, sweetie,” urged the voxbox.

“I was going to quit this stuff. I was.”

“Hell, that turned out to be a stupid decision, didn't it?”

“Yes,” she said finally. She crossed and stepped through the doorway.

Crib 11 was warm and cozy, with a small fire crackling in the simulated fireplace. The walls seemed to be made of neatly fitted logs, and out the window was a simulated view of a tranquil woodland scene in the late afternoon.

BOOK: Tek Kill
11.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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