فصل 08

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فصل 08

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8

I jogged away from the Landvik estate. Without breaking stride, I whipped out my Gizmo and texted Rudy: “Trouble at Landvik estate. Blood on scene. Get there now.” He texted back: “On my way. Stay put until I get there.” “Nope,” I replied. The Gizmo rang as Rudy tried to call me. I ignored it and broke into a full run. “Dammit,” I hissed. “It’s never easy.” I only touched the ground every seven or eight meters. I kicked off the walls when rounding corners so I wouldn’t have to slow down. Alan’s Pantry was an upscale place, considering it sold junk food and kitschy souvenirs. It was less of a convenience store and more of a hotel gift shop–with appropriately jacked-up prices. I didn’t have time to be picky. “Can I help you, madam?” asked the clerk. He wore a three-piece suit. Who the hell wears formal clothes at a convenience store? I shook it off. No time to be judgmental. I grabbed the largest bag I could find–a cloth sack with a picture of the moon on it. Really fucking original. I shoveled junk-food packets into it from every shelf, paying no attention to what I took. I had a vague impression of a bunch of chocolate bars and twenty flavors of dried Gunk. I’d take inventory later. “Madam?” said the clerk. I pulled a jug of water from the cooler, shot over to the counter, and upended the bag. “All this,” I said. “Fast.” The clerk nodded. I had to hand it to him–he went as fast as he could. Didn’t ask questions, didn’t give me shit. Customer’s in a hurry? Okay, then he’s in a hurry too. I give Alan’s Pantry five stars.

Once the items were spread out on the counter so none of them were touching each other, he pressed a button on the register. The computer identified everything and came up with a total. “One thousand four hundred fifty-one slugs, please.” “Jesus,” I said. But no time to argue. Money would be useless to me soon. I waved my Gizmo across the payment pad and okayed the transaction. I shoveled everything into the bag and ran out. I hustled down the corridor and dialed my Gizmo. A confirmation dialog popped up before it connected: YOU ARE CALLING EARTH. THE COST IS 31 PER MINUTE. CONTINUE? I confirmed it and listened for the ringing. “Hello?” said the accented voice on the other end. “Kelvin, it’s Jazz,” I said. I rounded a corner and bounced toward the Bean Connector tunnel. After a four-second delay, Kelvin’s response came. “Jazz? You’re calling directly? What’s wrong?” “I’m in deep shit, Kelvin. I’ll explain later, but I have to make an alias right fucking now. I need your help.” I stormed through the connector, cursing the godawful communication latency. “Okay. What can I do?” “I don’t know who might be after me, so I can’t assume my banking info is private. I need you to set up a KSC account under an alias for me. I’ll pay you back later, of course.” Four infuriating seconds later: “Okay, understood. How about a thousand US dollars? That’ll be around six thousand slugs. And what name do you want it under?” “Six thousand slugs is great, thanks. Put it under…I don’t know…something Indian this time? How about Harpreet Singh?” I shot through Bean Bubble. Bean was mostly a sleepy bedroom community. The corridors were long and straight. Perfect for a gal who’s running like hell. I picked up a huge head of steam. “Okay, I’ll make it happen,” said Kelvin. “It’ll take about fifteen minutes. When you have a chance, drop me a line and explain what’s going on. At least let me know you’re safe.”

“Thanks a million, Kelvin. Will do. Jazz out.” I hung up and turned off the Gizmo. I had no idea what was going on, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to walk around with a tracking beacon on my ass. I ran to the main concourse of Bean Ground. The nearest hotel was called the Moonrise Inn. Pretty stupid name, if you think about it. Artemis is the only city in existence that can’t see a moonrise. But whatever. Any inn would do. Just as I had done with Nuha Nejem, I picked up a hotel Gizmo for Harpreet Singh. An Arab looks the same as an Indian to clueless hotel clerks. Okay. Alias taken care of. I’d be Harpreet Singh for the foreseeable future. Tempting though it was to check into the hotel right then, I wasn’t willing to hide in plain sight. I had to go where literally no one would see me. I knew just where to go. DOUBLE HOMICIDE IN ARTEMIS Business magnate Trond Landvik and his bodyguard Irina Vetrov were found dead today at Landvik’s estate in Shepard Bubble. Artemis has only had five other murders in its history and this is the lunar city’s first double homicide. Constable Rudy DuBois, acting on a tip, found the bodies at 10:14 a.m. The door had been forced open and both victims had been stabbed to death. Evidence indicates that Vetrov died attempting to protect her employer and may have inflicted significant damage on the attacker. Landvik’s daughter, Lene, was at school during the time of the murders. The bodies have been transported to the clinic of Dr. Melanie Roussel for pathological examination. Lene Landvik is set to inherit her father’s sizeable fortune when she turns eighteen. Until then, the estate will be managed by the Oslo-based law firm of Jّrgensen, Isaksen & Berg. The heiress was unavailable for comment. The article went on, but I didn’t want to read any more. I put the Gizmo on the

cold metal floor. I huddled in a corner, hugged my knees, and buried my face. I tried to hold back the tears. I really did. My panicked flight had kept me amped with a sense of purpose. But once I was safe, the adrenaline wore off. Trond was a good guy. Maybe a little underhanded and he wore that stupid bathrobe everywhere, but he was a good guy. And a good dad. God, who was going to take care of Lene? Mutilated in a car crash as a kid and then orphaned at age sixteen. Jesus, what a shitty draw. Sure, she had money but…fuck… It didn’t take a degree in criminology to figure out it was revenge for the sabotage. Whoever did it would want me dead too. Maybe they didn’t know I was the one who did the sabotage, but I wasn’t going to bet my life on it. So now I was hiding from a murderer. And, side note, I’d never get that million slugs, even if I trashed the last harvester. It’s not like Trond and I had a written contract. I’d done it all for nothing. I shivered in the freezing confines of the access nook. I’d been there before, long ago when I was homeless. Ten years of struggling to stay afloat and now I was right back where I started. I sobbed into my knees. Quietly. That’s another skill I learned back in the day: how to cry without making too much noise. Wouldn’t want anyone in the hall to hear me. The nook was a tiny triangular space with a removable panel so maintenance workers could get at the inner hull. There wasn’t even room to lie down. My coffin was a palace compared to this. Tears stung my face as they turned ice cold. Bean Down 27 was a great place to hide, but it was frigid. Heat rises, even in lunar gravity. So the lower you go, the colder it gets. And no one puts heaters in maintenance nooks. I wiped my face and picked up my Gizmo again. Well, Harpreet’s Gizmo, but you know what I mean. My own Gizmo sat in the corner of my nook with the battery removed. Administrator Ngugi would only release a Gizmo’s location info if there was a good reason, but “wanted for questioning in a double homicide” was a pretty good reason. I had to make a decision right then. A decision that would affect the rest of my life: Would I go to Rudy? Surely he cared more about murder than my smuggling operation. And I’d be a lot safer if I just came clean. He might be an asshole, but he was a good cop. He’d do everything he could to protect me.

But he’d been looking for a reason to deport me since I was seventeen. He already knew Trond was screwing with Sanchez Aluminum, so it’s not like I’d provide useful information. And I assumed the “amnesty for ratting out Trond” offer was off the table–Trond was dead. So if I went to Rudy, I would: a) Give him all the evidence he needed to get me deported, and b) Not help him solve the murders at all. No, fuck that. Keeping my head down and my mouth shut was the only way to come out of this alive and still living on the moon. I was on my own. I looked over my supplies. Probably a few days’ worth of food and water. I could use the public restrooms down the hall when no one was looking. I wasn’t going to just stay in the nook, but for the moment I didn’t want to be seen. At all. By anyone. I sniffled back the last of my tears and cleared my throat. Then I called Dad’s number through a local proxy service. No one would know that Harpreet Singh called Ammar Bashara. “Hello?” he answered. “Dad, it’s Jazz.” “Oh, hi. Weird, my Gizmo didn’t recognize your number. How’d the project go? Are you done with the equipment?” “Dad, I need you to listen to me. Really listen.” “Okay…” he said. “This doesn’t sound good.” “It’s not.” I wiped my face again. “You have to get out of the house and away from the shop. Stay with a friend. Just for a few days.” “What? Why?” “Dad, I messed up. I messed up bad.” “Come over. We’ll work it out.” “No, you have to get out of there. Did you read about the murders? Trond and Irina?” “Yes, I saw that. Very unfort–” “The killers are after me now. They might go after you for leverage because you’re the only person I care about. So get the hell out of there.”

He was silent for a while. “All right. Meet me at the shop and we’ll go stay with Imam Faheem. He and his family will take care of us.” “I can’t just hide–I need to find out what’s going on. You go to the imam’s. I’ll contact you when it’s safe.” “Jazz”–his voice quavered–“leave this to Rudy. It’s his job.” “I can’t trust him. Not now. Maybe later.” “You come home right now, Jasmine!” His voice had risen a full octave. “For the love of Allah, don’t tangle with murderers!” “I’m sorry, Dad. I’m so sorry. Just get out of there. I’ll call you when this is over.” “Jasmi–” he started, but I hung up. Another benefit to the proxy service: Dad couldn’t call me back. I cowered in the nook the rest of the evening. I darted out to go to the bathroom twice, but that was it. I spent the rest of the time just fearing for my life and compulsively reading the news. – I woke up the next morning with cramped legs and a sore back. That’s the thing about crying yourself to sleep. When you wake up, the problems are still there. I pushed the access panel aside and rolled out onto the corridor floor. I stretched out my complaining muscles. Bean Down 27 didn’t get many people coming through, especially this early in the morning. I sat on the floor and ate a hearty breakfast of unflavored Gunk and water. I should have stayed hidden in the nook but I just couldn’t take the cramped quarters any longer. Sure, I could just hide out and hope Rudy caught the killer, but it wouldn’t help. Even if he succeeded, the people behind it would send another one. I took another bite of Gunk. It was all about Sanchez Aluminum. Duh. But why? Why were people killing each other over a bygone industry that didn’t even make much money? Money. It’s always about money. So where was the money? Trond Landvik hadn’t become a billionaire by randomly guessing at shit. If he wanted to make aluminum, he had a tangible, solid reason. And whatever it was, it got him killed.

That was the key. Before I worked on who I had to figure out why. And I knew where to start: Jin Chu. He was the guy at Trond’s house the day I delivered the cigars. He was from Hong Kong, he had a box labeled “ZAFO,” and he tried to hide it from me. That’s all I had. I poked around online, but I couldn’t find anything about him. Whoever he was, he kept a low profile. Or he’d come to Artemis under an alias. That cigar delivery felt like forever ago but it had only been four days. Meatships come once a week and there had been no departures in that time. Jin Chu was still in town. He might be dead, but he was still in town. I finished my “breakfast” and put the packaging back in my nook. Then I sealed the nook, straightened my rumpled jumpsuit, and headed out. – I hit a secondhand shop in Conrad and bought a hell of an outfit: a bright-red miniskirt so short you could almost call it a belt, a sequined top that exposed my midriff, and the tallest heels I could find. I topped it off with a large red patentleather handbag. Then off to a hair salon for a quick updo and voilà! I was now a floozy. The girls at the salon rolled their eyes at me as I checked myself out in the mirror. The transformation was disturbingly easy. Sure, I have a nice body, but I wish it had been a little more effort to become so trashy. – Travel’s a bitch. Even when it’s a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. You leak money like a sieve. You’re jet-lagged. You’re exhausted all the time. You’re homesick even though you’re on vacation. But all of those hassles pale in comparison to the food. I see it all the time here. Tourists love to sample our local cuisine. Problem is: Our cuisine sucks. It’s made of algae and artificial flavors. Within a few days the Americans want pizza, the French want wine, and the Japanese want rice. Food makes you comfortable. It’s how you recenter. Jin Chu was from Hong Kong. He’d eventually want proper Cantonese food. The types of people who have one-on-one meetings with Trond are business

magnates or, at the very least, highly important people. Those people travel a lot. They learn to stay where the food’s good. So we had an important, travel-savvy guy from Hong Kong who’d want home cooking. One establishment fit the bill perfectly: the Canton Artemis. The Canton, a five-star hotel in Aldrin bubble, catered to the Chinese elite. Owned and operated by Hong Kong business interests, they provided a homelike experience to high-end travelers. And most important, they had a proper Cantonese breakfast buffet. If you’re from Hong Kong and you have unlimited money, the Canton is where you stay. I walked into the plush, well-adorned lobby. It was one of the few hotels in town that had an honest-to-God lobby. I guess when you charge 50,000 a night for a room, you can waste a little space on presentation. I stood out like a sore thumb in my prostitute regalia. A few heads turned in my direction then turned away in disdain (though the male heads took a little longer). An old Asian lady manned the concierge desk. I walked straight up without a hint of shame. Internally, I was embarrassed as all hell–I did my best to hide it. The concierge gave me a look that told me I’d offended her and her great ancestors. “Can I help you?” she asked with a slight Chinese accent. “Yeah,” I said. “I’ve got a meeting here. With a client.” “I see. And do you have this client’s room number?” “Nah.” “Do you have his Gizmo ID?” “Nah.” I pulled a compact out of my handbag and checked my ruby-red lipstick. “I’m sorry, madam”–she looked me up and down–“I’m unable to help you if you don’t have his room number or some other proof that you’ve been invited.” I shot her a bitchy glare (I’m good at that). “Oh, he wants me here all right. For an hour.” I set the compact on her desk and fished around in my handbag. She leaned away from the compact like she might catch a disease from it. I pulled out a piece of paper and read: “Jin Chu. Canton Artemis. Arcade District. Aldrin Bubble.” I put the paper away. “Just call the fuckin’ guy, okay? I got other customers after this.” She pursed her lips. Hotels like the Canton wouldn’t contact a guest just because someone claimed to be meeting them. But rules get bent where sex is involved. She typed a few keystrokes on her computer, then picked up the phone. She listened for a while, then hung up. “I’m sorry, but there’s no answer.”

I rolled my eyes. “You tell him he still has to pay!” “I’ll do no such thing.” “Whatever!” I snatched up the compact and tossed it back in my purse. “If he shows up, tell him I’m in the bar.” I stomped off. So he wasn’t in. I could stake out the lobby–the bar had a great view of the entrance–but that could take all day. I had a different plan. That lipstick adjustment earlier hadn’t just been for show. I’d placed the compact so I could see the concierge’s computer screen in the mirror. When she looked up Jin Chu, it popped up his room number: 124. I reached the bar and hopped up on the stool second from the corner. Habit, I guess. I glanced through the lobby to the elevators. A beefy security guard stood nearby. He wore a suit and nice shoes, but I know muscle when I see it. A guest walked up, waved his Gizmo, and the elevator opened. The guard watched but didn’t seem too interested. A few seconds later, a couple approached. The woman waved her Gizmo and the doors opened. The guard stepped forward and spoke to them briefly. She said something and he returned to his post. No sneaking aboard the elevator. You had to be a guest or with a guest. “What can I get for ya?” said a voice from behind. I turned to face the bartender. “Have you got Bowmore fifteen-year singlemalt?” “Indeed we do, ma’am. But I should warn you it’s seven hundred fifty slugs for a two-ounce pour.” “Not a problem,” I said. “Round it up to a thousand and keep the change. Charge it to my date: Jin Chu, Room 124.” He typed on his register, confirmed the name matched the room number, and smiled. “Right away, ma’am. Thank you.” I stared at the elevators and waited for the guard to take a break or something. The bartender returned with my drink. I took a sip. Oh, man…good stuff. I poured a little out on the floor for Trond. He was a sneaky moneygrubber who would break any laws that got in his way. But he was good to the people in his life and he didn’t deserve to die. All right. How would I get past the goon at the elevator? Distract him? Probably

wouldn’t work. He was a trained security guard and his whole job was controlling access. He wasn’t likely to fall for bullshit. Maybe I could find someone tall or fat and literally hide behind them? Hmm, that seemed a little too “Buster Keaton” to actually work. I felt a tap on my shoulder. An Asian man in his mid-fifties sat next to me. He wore a three-piece suit and an ugly comb-over. “Purai?” he asked. “Huh?” I said. “Eh…” He pulled out his Gizmo and gestured to it. “Purai?” “English?” I asked. He typed on his Gizmo then turned it to face me. The text read: Price? “Oh,” I said. Well, that’s what I got for dressing like a prostitute and hanging out in a bar. It was nice to know I had an alternate career path if smuggling didn’t work out. I glanced at the elevators and their guardian, then back to my john. “Two thousand slugs,” I said. Seemed reasonable. I was rocking that miniskirt. He nodded and typed up the transaction on his Gizmo. I put my hand over his to stop him. “After,” I said. “Pay after.” He seemed puzzled but agreed. I stood from the bar and downed my Bowmore. I assume everyone in Scotland gasped in psychic pain. My little friend took my arm like a gentleman and we walked through the lobby. We got to the elevators, he waved his Gizmo, and we stepped aboard arm in arm. The guard glanced but said nothing. He saw this sort of thing a hundred times a day. You’re probably imagining a high-rise hotel with twenty-five floors or something, but remember this is Aldrin Bubble. The Canton only had three floors. My customer pressed 1. Excellent, that was the floor I needed. The elevator took us to the first floor and we stepped into the plush hallway. Shit, everything was decorated here. Soft carpet, crown molding, paintings on the walls, the works. Each door boasted its room number in gold relief digits. My date took me down the hall past Room 124. We stopped at 141. He waved his Gizmo by the lock and the door clicked open. I made a show of pulling out my Gizmo and looking at it. I frowned at the blank

screen as if it had an important message. He watched with interest. “Sorry, I have to make a call,” I said. I pointed to the Gizmo for emphasis. Then gestured for him to go into the room. He nodded and walked in. I held the Gizmo up to my ear. “Rocko? Yeah, it’s Candy. I’m with a customer. What? Oh no she didn’t!” I closed Grandpa’s room door so I could talk to my pimp in private. He’d probably wait a good fifteen minutes before he figured out I left. Sure, I was ditching a horny businessman, but I hadn’t taken his money. I was ethically in the clear. I slinked down to Room 124. I looked left and right. No one else in the hall. I pulled a screwdriver from my gaudy purse and jimmied the lock. All right, Jin Chu. Let’s see what you’re up to. I pushed open the door. A grizzled Latino man sat on the bed, his right arm in a sling. He gripped a Bowie knife in his left hand. He shot to his feet. “Tu!” he yelled. “Uh–” I began. He lunged.

Dear Jazz, Glad to hear about the sales of the foam insulant. We’re making a killing! I’ll send another two cases in the next probe. I have a candidate picked out for our “employee.” His name is Jata Masai. He’s a recently hired assistant loader. He’s a friendly man but private. Reclusive. He mentioned he has a wife and two daughters, but that’s about all I know. He never eats lunch with the other loaders in the cafeteria–he brings a lunchbox instead. To me this means he’s short on money. Wife. Two kids. Needs money. Assistant loader. I like that combo. I haven’t approached him about it yet, obviously. I hired a private investigator to learn everything about him. I’ll send you her report as soon as she delivers it. If you like what you see, I’ll recruit him. How are things with Tyler? Dear Kelvin, Make it two cases of foam insulant. Yes, please send the report on Jata when it’s available. Tyler and I are done. I don’t want to talk about it.

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