As I exited the lift, still trying to puzzle out which Gershwin tune was remixed with what Cole Porter song in that Lounge Cut-Up version playing inside, I saw this gorgeous woman extending her hand, with a big smile on her pretty face.
“Mr Reed, Doctor Bentley is expecting you.”
The broad looked like a fashion model dressed up as a 1950s pin-up. Probably she really was a model before Bentley gave her this job as secretary. Doc sure knows how to pick them! Except for Veronica… Veronica is a baboon!
I greeted her and followed her scent through a maze of exquisitely decorated corridors. The money these people waste on frills could feed all those miserable wretches out there in the bidonvilles. Well, fuck those mutants… I don’t really give a rat’s ass about them anyway.
A couple of turns later, the pin-up lady stopped by a huge double door, beyond which Bentley’s office stood. As she motioned to the entrance someone greeted me from inside.
“Clayton Reed, please come in.”
I went ahead. Bentley was staring at the cityscape though the glass wall on the other side of the room. The office so wide it seemed the man was a mile away. My boss – that’s Aziz Crowe – was sitting by a desk, in the middle of the room, lost in thoughts, with that sombre, absorbed look on his face. I couldn’t see that fucking purpled-assed Veronica anywhere, but I was on the lookout for her. Those bloody baboons give me the creeps.
“Come closer, but beware of that thing beside the desk”.
At first I thought he meant Aziz, they don’t quite like each other, but then I saw there was something on the floor, wrapped in black plastic. A body bag in Bentley’s workplace… What the fuck had those jokers been up to?
“Doctor why, may I ask, is there a body bag in your office?”
Bentley turned around, a grin on his suntanned, square-jawed face. He was wearing a grey three-piece suit, very fashionable, very retro, most likely by Jean-Pierre GivenXXX. Not that I care about such stuff… But he does, the narcissistic prick! Doc’s probably sixty, but looks younger than me.
“Someone died, obviously.”
I waited for him to expound on that. No point rushing him, Bentley is a weird one. Then Aziz jumped in:
“He was a ZoneSec Officer, Mr Reed. Was patrolling this very street, near the building, last night, when someone – more likely something – attacked him. Another mangled body, just like the other three. Well, not quite the same, this one is in a… slightly worse condition.”
I realized shit had hit the fan. Unsurprising, though, they wouldn’t call a troubleshooter like me to deal with trivialities. Anyway, we’re in Takeda Technologies Headquarters, right in the middle of the City of Glass; people just don’t get butchered in a place like this! And the other mangled bodies… I recalled what he meant. Three ZoneSec employees had been torn apart by some unknown perp sometime last month. Brutal affairs, the killer is likely a mutant, no regular human could possibly do that.
“I know what you’re thinking”, Aziz said.
He probably did, the psionic fricking master.
“Not a mutant. We believe the killer is another kind of… fiend.”“
Fiend, interesting word choice. Kind of what you would expect from someone like ZoneSec’s Chief of Operations. More of a guru than a director, if you ask me… I approached the body bag, knelt and unzipped it. Yup, it was worse than the others, alright! Face mauled beyond recognition, throat and torso torn apart… The chest appeared to have been savagely clawed, but not with those fancy biotech augmentations operatives and bodyguards tend to favour. These were probably nasty looking and organic. But, surely, they knew more than I did already. I looked at Aziz, he was staring back at me with piercing icy-blue eyes.
“So, what do you make of it, Clayton? Those slashes form an uncanny pattern on his chest. Unusual wounds, are they not?”
I nodded in agreement. Meanwhile, Bentley had moved closer.
“There is a war going on, Mr Reed” he said, in his deep baritone voice. “I was expecting a conflict to arise, but not this soon. It is troubling, to say the least!”
The mention of war caught me off guard. I had no idea what he was talking about and I don’t like to be played like a sap. Then a hissing sound behind me got my attention. Veronica had silently approached and was now baring her teeth, menacingly. I hate that baboon, but she despises me even more.
“Be still Veronica, Mr Reed is our associate. Perhaps even a friend. Come here, darling.”
The baboon avoided me and jumped straight into Bentley’s arms.
“War, Dr Bentley? And who is the enemy?”
“The Devil himself, quite likely…”
Well, that was unexpected, even from Dr Bentley. I looked back at Aziz Crowe. This time the bitter rivals seemed to be in total agreement. I think this is going to be a rough month…
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