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34 - A Chain ‘Bout Nine Miles Long’

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HE HELPED BEAUVOIR carry Jackie out to the stage, where they lay her down in front of a cherry-red acoustic drum kit and covered her with an old black topcoat they found in the checkroom, with a velvet collar and years of dust on the shoulders, it had been hanging there so long. “Map fé jubile mnan,” Beauvoir said, touching the dead girl’s forehead with his thumb. He looked up at Turner. “It is a self-sacrifice,” he translated, and then drew the black coat gently up, covering her face.

“It was fast,” Turner said. He couldn’t think of anything else to say.

Beauvoir took a pack of menthol cigarettes from a pocket in his gray robe and lit one with a gold Dunhill. He offered Turner the pack, but Turner shook his head. “There’s a saying in Creole,” Beauvoir said.

“What’s that?”

‘Evil exists.’

“Hey,” said Bobby Newmark, dully, from where he crouched by the glass doors, eye to the edge of the curtain. “Musta worked, one way or another… The Gothicks are starting to leave, looks like most of the Kasuals are already gone…”

“That’s good,” Beauvoir said, gently. “That’s down to you. Count. You did good. Earned your handle.”

Turner looked at the boy. He was still moving through the fog of Jackie’s death, he decided. He’d come out from under the trodes screaming, and Beauvoir had slapped him three times, hard, across the face, to stop it. But all he’d said to them, about his run, the run that had cost Jackie her life, was that he’d given Turner’s message to Jaylene Slide. Turner watched as Bobby got up stiffly and walked to the bar; he saw the care the boy took not to look at the stage. Had the two been lovers? Partners? Neither seemed likely.

He got up from where he sat, on the edge of the stage, and went back into Jammer’s office, pausing to check on the sleeping Angie, who was curled into his gutted parka on the carpet, beneath a table. Jammer was asleep, too, in his chair, his burned hand still on his lap, loosely enveloped in the striped towel. Tough old mother, Turner thought, an old jockey. The man had plugged his phone back in as soon as Bobby had come off his run, but Conroy had never called back. He wouldn’t now, and Turner knew that that meant that Jammer had been right about the speed with which Jaylene would strike, to revenge Ramirez, and that Conroy was almost certainly dead. And now his hired army of suburban bighairs was decamping, according to Bobby.

Turner went to the phone and punched up the news recap, and settled into a chair to watch. A hydrofoil ferry had collided with a miniature submarine in Macau; the hydrofoil’s life jackets had proven to be substandard, and at least fifteen people were assumed drowned, while the sub, a pleasure craft registered in Dublin, had not yet been located… Someone had apparently used a recoilless rifle to pump a barrage of incendiary shells into two floors of a Park Avenue co-op building, and Fire and Tactical teams were still on the scene; the names of the occupants had not yet been released, and so far no one had taken credit for the act… (Turner punched this item up a second time…) Fission Authority research teams at the site of the alleged nuclear explosion in Arizona were insisting that minor levels of radioactivity detected there were far too low to be the result of any known form of tactical warhead… In Stockholm, the death of Josef Virek, the enormously wealthy art patron had been announced, the announcement surfacing amid a flurry of bizarre rumors that Virek had been ill for decades and that his death was the result of some cataclysmic failure in the life-support systems in a heavily guarded private clinic in a Stockholm suburb… (Turner punched this item past again, and then a third time, frowned, and then shrugged.) For the morning’s human interest note, police in a New Jersey suburb said that-

“Turner…”

He shut the recap off and turned to find Angie in the doorway.

“How you doing, Angie?”

“Okay. I didn’t dream.” She hugged the black sweatshirt around her, peered up at him from beneath limp brown bangs. “Bobby showed me where there’s a shower. Sort of a dressing room I’m going back there soon. My hair’s horrible.”

He went over to her and put his hands on her shoulders. “You’ve handled this all pretty well. You’ll be out of here, soon.”

She shrugged out of his touch. “Out of here? Where to? Japan?”

“Well, maybe not Japan Maybe not Hosaka…”

“She’ll go with us,” Beauvoir said, behind her.

“Why would I want to?”

“Because,” Beauvoir said, “we know who you are. Those dreams of yours are real. You met Bobby in one, and saved his life, cut him loose from black ice. You said, ‘Why are they doing that to you?’..

Angie’s eyes widened, darted to Turner and back to Beauvoir.

“It’s a whole long story,” Beauvoir said, “and it’s open to interpretation. But if you come with me, come back to the Projects, our people can teach you things We can teach you things we don’t understand, but maybe you can…”

“Why?”

“Because of what’s in your head” Beauvoir nodded solemnly, then shoved the plastic eyeglass frames back up his nose. “You don’t have to stay with us, if you don’t want to. In fact, we’re only there to serve you…”

“Serve me?”

“Like I said, it’s a long story… How about it, Mr. Turner?”

Turner shrugged. He couldn’t think where else she might go, and Maas would certainly pay to either have her back or dead, and Hosaka as well. “That might be the best way,” he said.

“I want to stay with you,” she said to Turner. “I like Jackie, but then she…”

“Never mind,” Turner said. “I know.” I don’t know anything, he screamed silently. ‘I’ll keep in touch…” I’ll never see you again. “But there’s something I’d better tell you, now. Your father’s dead.” He killed himself. “The Maas security people killed him; he held them off while you got the ultralight off the mesa.”

“Is that true? That he held them off? I mean, I could feel it, that he was dead, but…”

“Yes,” Turner said He took Conroy’s black wallet from his pocket, hung the loop around her neck. “There’s a biosoft dossier in there For when you’re older It doesn’t tell the whole story. Remember that Nothing ever does…”

Bobby was standing by the bar when the big guy walked out of Jammer’s office. The big guy crossed to where the girl had been sleeping and picked up his grungy army coat, put it on, then walked to the edge of the stage, where Jackie lay - looking so small - beneath the black coat. The man reached into his own coat and drew out the gun, the huge Smith Wesson Tactical. He opened the cylinder and extracted the shells, put the shells into his coat pocket, then lay the gun down beside Jackie’s body, quiet, so it didn’t make a sound at all.

“You did good, Count,” he said, turning to face Bobby, his hands deep in the pockets of his coat

“Thanks, man.” Bobby felt a surge of pride through his numbness.

“So long, Bobby “The man crossed to the door and began to try the various locks.

“You want out?” He hurried to the door. “Here. Jammer showed me. You goin’, dude? Where you gonna go?” And then the door was open and Turner was walking away through the deserted stalls.

“I don’t know,” he called back to Bobby “I’ve got to buy eighty liters of kerosene first, then I’ll think about it…”

Bobby watched until he was gone, down the dead escalator it looked like, then closed the door and re-locked it. Looking away from the stage, he crossed Jammer’s to the office door and looked in. Angie was crying, her face pressed into Beauvoir’s shoulder, and Bobby felt a stab of jealousy that startled him. The phone was cycling, behind Beauvoir, and Bobby saw that it was the news recap.

“Bobby,” Beauvoir said, “Angela’s coming to live with us, up in the Projects, for a while. You want to come, too?”

Behind Beauvoir, on the phone screen, the face of Marsha Newmark appeared, Marsha-momma, his mother “ - ning’s human interest note, police in a New Jersey suburb said that a local woman whose condo was the target of a recent bombing was startled when she returned last night and disco -”

“Yeah,” Bobby said, quickly, “sure, man.”


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