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Authors: Vaughn Heppner
Tags: Science-Fiction
it didn’t work. She wanted to end everything between us. So, she brought me everything I’d ever bought her. After she left my boat, I thought about all our hard words. I ran after her because there were some things I still wanted her to know.”
    The Chief held up a manicured hand. “You refuse to tell me?”
    “I am telling you.”
    “These are absurd lies. You followed her from a distance, trying to stay hidden. This I know.”
    “If you know,” I said, becoming angry, “then why don’t you know what’s in the box?”
    “…you annoy me, Herr Kiel.”
    “Compliments won’t get you to first base.”
    He stood abruptly, took out a money clip and set a ten on the table as a tip. I wondered about that. Had he forgotten that he’d brought the coffee at the counter? Or was this a signal?
    “I give you a word of caution,” he whispered. “Keep out of Long Beach. If you interfere in my investigation, I will disregard my instructions concerning you and put you in a cage where you belong. The world is dangerous enough without monsters running loose.”
    I decided on the direct approach. “Did you kill Kay?” I asked.
    “Bah,” he said. “Preposterous.”
    I watched his reaction: a flicker of annoyance. He turned in a precise way then, and he took his leave just as he had left me long ago in the basement of a bank in Kabul.
    Then I was up, moving inside the café. The thought of Jagiello and his laser…I hurried into the restroom.
    Kay was dead, and the Shop was poking its nose into the affair. I knew then someone had pushed her into the street, had pushed her into traffic to die. Why had they—
    I shook my head, exiting the restroom. It was foolish to hole up in a place. I had to keep moving.
    Several people were entering the café. After a few long strides, I was among them, rudely pushing past. A woman complained. I weaved my head, ducked and sprinted along the sidewalk. People turned and glanced at me. I accelerated into another crowd, and I used them until I reached the entrance to a store, darting inside. If Jagiello was trying to target me, I wanted to make it hard on him.
    As I moved through the store’s aisles, I realized that I was less interested in why someone had killed Kay than in who had killed her.
    With the Shop in this, it would be reckless of me to go to Long Beach and try to find out for myself. I didn’t owe Kay anything. By reentering my life, she had brought me trouble all down the line. She was dead now. My nosing around wouldn’t bring her back.
    I exited the back of the store and made a fist, although I resisted the urge to smash the concrete wall. I’d done that once since the change. It had made my knuckles bleed down to the bone, as I’d struck many times, but it hadn’t broken any bones.
    What did I owe Kay? She had been my friend’s girl, and he had told her to come to me if she was ever in trouble. She had come. She had been in trouble, and now she was dead. It would be too hard getting drunk, I decided. Instead, I would give her the one thing I could: justice.
    Does that sound funny? This was a cruel world, and justice was one of the last things anyone received. Kay had been on the Reservation, but she had been one of the people inflicting tests, not taking them. Then one night she had opened my door to freedom. Therefore, whether it was my conscience or a sense of old-fashioned payback, I was going to find out who killed Kay, and then I was going to do something about it.


    Like some dingy Science Fiction future, the California coast was a dirty smudge of smog to our left.
    Blake and I were on the Alamo , and San Francisco was far behind us to the north. The ocean was a vast expanse of long, rolling swells. They were hypnotic to watch, lulling and peaceful. Billowy clouds hid the sun, although the fiery orb put in an appearance now and again as it journeyed from one cloud-island to another. The wind was brisk and it felt good on my face. I enjoyed the salty tang

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