The view from the window is fantastic. Far below me, the streets were green lines of trees, and, if you looked hard enough, you could see people
walking around down there. There were only a few buildings as tall as the one I'm sitting on top of and the closest one is lost in the haze toward
city center...a gleaming spike of glass and steel shaped like a knife edge. It was just to the left of that blade where my old office used to be. in
an old brownstone full of cockroaches and rats...the human variety and the animal ones. The memories of that hole makes me shiver.
I think I'm gonna pour myself a bourbon before I get into this. I don't know why I'm writing this down, but, I'm doing it for you, Bollywood,
because you asked and I can't refuse. This is my third attempt, you know...regurgitating a this bit of personal history like this doesn't come easy
to an old gumshoe like me, but what happened did get me this view.
For the record, my name's Sydney...Sydney Duthers and I'm a private detective and this story I'm gonna tell goes back two years, back in the fall
of 2048...in the days when I was still in that dump downtown. I'd just wrapped a case of a cheating 'sig-other' (which ended badly, by the
way...murder one...some just can't abide competition) and was sitting in that shabby office when the phone rang.
"Hello, Duthers Detective Agency here."
"Mr Duthers?" (A dame...young, by the sound of her voice.)
"Speaking, please go on..."
"Mr Duthers, I'm looking for assistance in finding somebody who doesn't want to be found. Can you help me?"
She had that London drawl and I knew she was a local right away. There was a bit of snootyness in her manner too. That high and mighty nuance always
got me perked...I was adding onto my fee already.
"That's what I get paid to do, miss. Are you aware of my rates? I don't come cheap for my time, you know, and the fees are likely to change,
depending on the circumstances..."
I was fishing, hoping it wasn't too obvious, but things had been rough lately, and the guy in jail for murder one wasn't going to be paying anytime
soon after offing his partner in such a colourful way.
"I'll pay whatever you ask, Mr Duthers..."
"Call me Syd."
"I've got 2000 credits for a retainer...will that be enough?"
"What's your name, miss...?"
"My name's Lucy...Lucy Anacron, Syd."
(Damned if I didn't catch a flirt in the way she said that)
" Miss Anacron, can you meet me somewhere so we can talk business? How about the pub on the corner of Clarence and York? We could have a sandwich
while we go over your case..."
"Please call me Lucy...I know the place, the York Tavern. That'll be fine for me...is one in the afternoon too early?"
"I'll see you there, Lucy...bring the retainer."
She said 'OK' and hung up. I checked the time and I had about 2 hours to kill getting down there. I figured a shave and a haircut wouldn't be a bad
idea as I rubbed the stubble on my cheeks and grabbed my coat heading out the door.
I have to admit, there's nothing like a visit to the barber to make you feel better. After listening to her ramble on about the war in Antarctica and
how the New Republic got its ass handed to it by the African Alliance in the latest battle, I was close to falling asleep. Coming out of my brown
funk, I saw she had knotted my hair into five bundles in a circle at the yop of my skull, leaving enough free to make little tassles which she had
coloured green. I liked it a lot, since the green matched the snake tattoo I had coiled around my neck and up my right cheek. Green always looked good
with the red mouth and needle fangs of the snake head just below my eye. feeling much lighter, I went outside and punched the taxi standard outside
for a cab. Within a minute, an old crate was whining itself down to the pad in front of me. Getting in, I stated my destination and slapped my hand
onto the IDCHEK pad.
With a quick retinal, the cab lifted off and zipped into the traffic lanes. Looking across the city in the fall always reminded me of why I liked
London. They never lost that Forest City ideal and the old buildings disappeared quickly into the gold and red hues of a million maple trees just
turning into their fall draperies. Lovely.
This hack,however, had seen better days. Scarred and puckered metal hinted at the violence it had seen in its day. The greasy perspex windows and
plastic couch had me keeping my hands in my coat pockets. It didn't take 2 minutes, though, before I was coming down in front of the York Tavern. The
tinny voice from the speaker told me that my account was debted point eight five three credits and I exited thankfully as the door slid open.
As usual, there wasn't many people walking around and the trees in the street were noisy with sparrows. High above, the high pitched whine of the
traffic was barely discernable. The doorway was set in the corner of the building, and I knew it hadn't changed for well over 120 years. I took off
my coat, checked my cronometer, saw I was early, and walked into the gloom of the old bar.
The white terrazzo floor looked shiny and clean and only a few tables held customers. Par for the course at this time of day. Taking a seat near the
window, I looked over to the bar and caught Frenchie's eye. The young fellow knew me well, and, as usual, came sliding up on his roller skates.
"Hey, Syd," He smiled, with a knowing glint in his eyes..."Nice day, eh? What's your pleasure, gumshoe?"
"Pour me a Wellington, Frenchie, and clean this table off, will ya? I got a client due in fifteen."
"Sure, One Wellie coming up", he said as he wiped the table with the cloth he always carried around his left forearm. As he left, He pulled the
third chair away and pushed the nearest table back a bit.
Frenchie is good, I'll give him that. He always knew how to work me for a good tip. As he bent over to push that extra chair under the table, I saw
the butt end of the needle gun poke out from behind his apron. I smiled and remembered why I liked this pub so much.
Sitting, sipping on the beer and looking out the window, I was listening to the Nihilist Spasm Band tune that was being played and let my mind slip
into a trance, remembering those crazy days when I was young and stupid. That's when a figure stepped into the bright doorway and stood trying to
pierce the gloom. She was tall and well dressed. Had to be my Lucy and I raised my arm to catch her eye.
"Lucy?" I asked as she walked over. I stood to pull out her chair.
She had the kind of walk that had me thinking she'd had training. Head up, shoulders back, and her right hand clutching the strap to her bag all said
'ready for action'. Lucy was no Timbit, she was all business.
Her eyes sized me up as she sat down. Dressed in a tight light green blouse buttoned to her chin and black pantalooons, she certainly looked classy to
me. But then, I've always been a sucker for women like this, the type that exude a natural danger in aa easy manner.
"Syd", she said, "Nice little spot. You come here often?"
Frenchie slid over with a raised eyebrow and nondescript grin on his face, holding two menus.
"I'll have the chili, Frenchie...Lucy, how about a sandwich and a beer?
"A Rhueben, please, and a double Rye and Cola, easy on the ice, please."
Alone again, Lucy reached into her purse and took out her notepad. She activated and punched a few keys.
"2000 credits, Syd...your retainer."
Her green eyes fixed on mine as if asking a question...
I asked her for the name of the person she wanted found, getting my own notebook out.
"It's a William S. Ryerson, Syd. He lives in a small village north of here called Auburn, but disappeared about 2 years ago. He's single, doesn't
work anywhere, but his accounts are all still active."
I choked that back...how did she know that his accounts were active? Accessing banking service accounts is not easy anymore and hacking damn near
impossible. There was more to Lucy than was meeting the proverbial eye, and she was already high in my estimation.
"What are you wanting with Mr. Ryerson, Lucy, if I may ask?"
"I need to talk to him about an object that came into my possesion, Syd. It's a mysterious small metal cube. Ryerson wrote an article about it back
in 2006, over 30 years ago and I need to find out what he might know now.
I was tapping the name out...387 possibles...then I added Auburn as a 'last known residence'...and out came the address.
"He still supposedly lives at 16 Wyndham Crescent, eh?"
"That's him", she smiled, "and that was 2 years ago. I was at the house half a dozen times over the last year, but there's never anyone home"
The food came and we smoozed for a bit longer about the weather, the war, the old Siegels building across the street where the concerts happen, etc.
As I was wrapping up, I told her my rates and she said 'fine'. We shook hands and I watched her walk out the same way she walked in...and I thought
'military. It had to be...no-one walks like that normally.
"I hope you're gonna behave yourself with her, Syd...she might just kick your ass otherwise."
Frenchie had picked up on it too.
Auburn was, like, 20 minutes flying time in a cab, and I was standing in front of the house by 3 that afternoon. A neat little sidesplit with a
manicured lawn, trimmed bushes and flowerbeds. In the warm afternoon sun, the place looked idyllic. Two old maples threw an ochre light across the
yellow siding and the drawn white sheer curtains behind the picture window glowed. My guess is the place was about 60 years old, but in perfect
repair. Somebody was looking after it. After a futile attempt at the front door, I tried the neighbour to the right first.
She answered after just a knock...no doubt watched me as soon as the cab landed.
"G'day, ma'am," trying to look innocent "Would you happen to know if Mr Ryerson is in town? I tried the door, but got no answer"
"No-o-o", she said, "I haven't seen Bill for some time...he must be travelling again."
She was a dear lady, and was sitting in her kitchen over a cup of coffee within 15 minutes. By a half hour I found out Ryerson had been home for a few
days last winter, that Betty and Barney Millar looked after the place and they lived in the old brick place across the street and that I looked young
for my age.
I swear she was flirting with me, the dear...I was 102 and she had to be at least 135, but these days, who knew? Medicaid paid off in spades these
days...and 135 is middle aged now. I guess I was flirting right back and left her home with a full belly and a head full of information. Time for me
to take in the sights of Auburn, go for a walk along the Maitland River which ran through the town, and take a dinner in at the local eatery. By the
time I was done, it was past 9 and the sun was sinking into the western skies. Sitting on the deck of a pub, I took in the colourful display of the
sunset as it added a blazing touch to the trees. By 10:30, I was into the back of Bills house via the key which Barney Millar had supplied to me with
little persuasion. I told him I was checking Bills security devices as a rountine inspection. I always had plenty of credentials to make my case
The place smelled a bit musty as I walked in. I accessed the security keypad, disabling it quickly, and went directly into the basement. There were
books lining all four walls of the den...all about archeology, by the looks of the titles. To the right of the den was a small cubicle with a chair, a
desk and a large 3D monitor set...one of the newer types. I fired it up and the holographic keypad morphed onto the desktop in front of a lovely 3D
alien head. I'd seen about a million pics of these little grays with the black almond eyes, slits for a nose and a mouth which looked forever
petulant. It stared at me with those dumb eyes as if waiting for me to speak.
I shut it down instead.
The desk drawers were all locked, so I unlocked them. In the middle were the usual pens and erasers, notepads, jiffy notes...brickabrack. The deep
side drawers were filled with files. I lifted out the 'R' files, hoping they might contain a clue to the mysterious Ryerson. There was a fair bit, I
got a file on his career with NASA, the NSA, the DIA and a whole bunch of other alphabet soup I sorta recognized. Furthermore, it seems he was an
off-worlder now and then, having been to Lunar Bases 1 and 2, the Martian Colony and a couple of places I had never heard of. The Zeta Reticuli
system? Geez...I was getting cold feet.
I put the files neatly back, my mind racing on what the hell I'd gotten myself into. Opening the drawer on the other side, I saw a collection of
strange items I couldn't understand at all. Everything looked like handheld tools, flat black in colour...short pointy things, stubby things...one
that looked like it fit right over my hand. I pulled it out and slipped it onto my right hand. Lighter than a glove, it began to warm as soon as my
fingers wrapped around a central grip. With a barely audible 'chirp' the upper surface lit up with a screen showing the desk I was pointing at as if
it was a schematic diagram. I could see the files, the tools, the pencils outlined in green lines on a black background. Swinging it around, I saw
that the walls became transparent and that I could see the bookshelves in the den behind all etched in fine green lines. Even the individual books
showed through distinctly.
Handy, I thought...and swung it up into the ceiling above. Everything showed through the ceiling...furniture, appliances, light fixtures...this device
was like nothing I'd ever seen before. Arching it around, I saw the roof beams and the branches of the maples outside. That's when I noticed a flash
of orange in the bottom corner of the screen. Moving it down I saw a man's body like a mist of orange dots. His right hand was extended, and in it a
red object was outlined. I know a needle gun when I see one and I was soon moving upstairs for the back door, slipping the device into my coat as I
did. I almost got through the door when I heard 'freeze'.
I froze. No sense running...I'd have to wait for a cab anyways.
"Turn around, lemmie see your face"
I turned and looked the young man in his eyes, recognizing him instantly from the file photos.
"Yes...who are you and what are you doing here?
"The names Syd Duthers. I'm a private detective hired to find you. I guess I just did."
Bill chewed on that for a second and the slim barrel of the gun dropped a millimeter or two.
"Who's looking for me?" His eyes were defiant again, as if he was expecting a problem with that question and the gun centered on my chest again.
"Easy with the gat, Bill...those things can ruin a day real fast. It's a woman by the name of Lucy Anacron. She's been wanting to talk to you about
a cube or something"
The gun dropped to his side and I breathed easier.
"Lucy...well, shoot, there's a name I know well... A cube, eh?
Bill moved into the kitchen and opened a cabinet, pulling out two glasses amnd a bottle of rye whiskey. He set the gun and glasses down and poured a
healthy shot for both of us.
"Syd..." he said, sitting down, " how did you get into my house?"
"Uh...Barney. I gave him a story about security system and he offered me the key for the back door."
Bill smirked and lifted his glass to me. "Here's to small towns..."
I sat down and lifted my glass to his, chuckling. We both took a good shot to calm our nerves a bit.
"Nice timing, Bill...you don't show for months and the minute I'm here...boom, there you are.
"Who said I ever left?" He arched his eyebrow and smirked again. "Tell me, how's Lucy and what's up with the cube thing?"
"That's what she wants to know, but she's looking good, by the way. You wrote something about a cube, didn't you? At least, that's what she told
He took another drink, draining the glass and poured another load.
"Syd...did she show you that cube?"
"Nope", I took a sip, eyeing the bottle. As Bill filled my glass, I said it was a small and light object and supposedly mysterious, that Lucy had
paid cold cash to locate him to ask him about it and that it hadn't been half a day getting that done.
"Don't you find that a bit curious, Syd?" Bill looked at me, still wearing that grin. "I mean, Lucy's no slouch, you might have noticed...why do
you figure it was so easy for you and next to impossible for her?"
Danged if he wasn't right about that. Her face swam into my memory...those eyes were all about appraisal and calculation. Something wasn't adding up
"Syd...how do you like your job? Is it satisfying?"
I just grunted, remembering that last job with the same-sex couple. One dead and the other one not paying from the slammer.
"It's not a bad go," I lied. "Could be better, though" I drained my glass and looked over at Bill.
"Lucy is a recruiter, Syd. Would you like to see the cube?" He stood up and walked into the living room with the sheers and not much else. I
followed him in, getting a slight dizzy on from the quadruple whiskey.
On the coffee table was a small dull grey cube. As Bill picked it up, I noticed it began to glow green in little curlique lines all around its
surfaces. On one corner was a bright orange spot. Bill looked at me and pushed his index finger on it.
Next thing I knew, the house was gone and we were standing on a sandy plain. There was an orange sky and two distinct suns overhead.
"Cool, eh?" Bill laughed at my stunned face. "Welcome to Serpo, Syd. You're here to help us get this place and Earth to know each other better.
You're in the 'Service, now, Syd Duthers, and there'll be no going back.
Well, rude gyall...now you know the story and why I've retired from my old job and today seem to be living high off the hog in my fancy new digs. I
could tell you more, but I'd have to tell you lies, you know. The rules are simple, I can tell you 4 truths if I tell you 1 lie.
Its all about deniabilty.