Continuing my series “Stories from Cal Metro,” I wanted to explore a little more about the city’s criminal element and its impact on technology and street culture.
In the Eyes of Almighty Rah, by Alexander Paul Willging
Word Count: 1,354
When you entered the presence of Moses McGill, you followed protocol. Drop to one knee if you were one of his suppliers and runners, but if you came from outside the family, you had to bend both knees to get his respect.
Unless you were Dom Harker. In which case, you’d screwed up big time.
They dragged him into McGill’s parlor late on a Thursday night. Covered in bruises and his ripped-up blazer, Dom was dropped face first onto the white tile floor. He stayed low as the two musclemen flanked him on either side. One false move and they’d crush his windpipe before any hint of an insult—or an apology—could be uttered.
From behind the porcelain bar, McGill dropped a pair of ice cubes into his glass. Dom stayed on the floor and shivered. He listened to the whiskey being poured out, imagining its taste. Of course, it’d be a good label. Rah’s Boys always found the best products on the market, no matter their price.
Or their original owner, for that matter.
“I’d offer you a drink,” McGill said. His voice had a rheumy, gargling edge; a little soft-spoken, but it never failed to draw the whole room’s attention. “But I get the feeling you’ve had a few already. It’s the only way I figure how you’ve done something so stupid.”
Dom said nothing. He closed his eyes and pushed himself onto his knees.
“Easy,” one of the musclemen behind him rumbled. “Don’t try nothin’ now.”
Opening his eyes, Dom looked over at McGill. Old Kingman had seated himself on a stool in front of the bar, giving his longtime associate on the floor a contemplative smile. That saintly image of the old man with ebony skin and a cloud-white beard was the one true icon that every one of Rah’s Boys knew by heart. Their raison d’etre.
Why believe in a God who may or may not exist when good old Rah himself was available? And had easy money, no less?
After a sip of his whiskey, McGill nodded to himself. “Brother Tommy went and told me the whole story about that action in Donetsk. Mighty shameful, that is. And that accounts for poor old Brett”—he stopped and lifted his glass in salute—“may he rest in peace.”
“May he rest in peace,” the musclemen chanted in response.
McGill swirled around the ice in his glass with one finger, lazily regarding Dom. “But that doesn’t let you off the hook, my good Dominic. Now suppose you tell us what went down.”
Dom stayed perfectly still. He kept his hands on the lap, palms up, so his two guards could see them perfectly. When he looked up at McGill, he forgot all the bruises and scrapes he’d taken from Donetsk to Fairview. The pain subsided long enough for him to pull himself together.
“The deal went south,” he said in a clear, calm voice. “Brett told me our contact Tymoshenko would be waiting for us at the hotel. We scoped out the place, made all the arrangements with security and staff, and then…” He shrugged. “Well, then it all went to shit.”
“And how do you figure that happened?” McGill took another drink, slow and certain.
That was the clincher. One false move, one inaccuracy in the story, and Dom would be breathing his last very shortly.
But he’d prepared. He’d made a promise to get it right.
“Tymoshenko was acting strange when we met him. Like he was being watched. Brett thought it was just his own boss keeping tabs, but my instinct told me it was the heat coming down on us.” Dom licked at his lips, trying to remember the last drink he’d had since before his beating and his summons to Rah’s court. “When I saw the sirens outside, I pulled Brett away. Our guy starts cursing at us, saying we’re doomed no matter what, and then—”
He fell silent. In his mind, he saw the scene perfectly. Tymoshenko grabbing his comm and punching in a code to his boss, ready to call in the hit. And then the explosion ripped apart the hotel bar, spraying glass and blood in all directions. Brett screamed, Dom tripped, and poor Tymoshenko became a pile of raw meat on their table.
“Yeah, yeah,” said McGill. He waved off the story with his free hand. “Local left-wing nutjobs bomb the hotel. Hundreds wounded, very sad. But that don’t explain why you couldn’t make the trade. I lost money on the deal and Poltorak’s raising Cain about his missing flash fuel.”
Again, Dom replayed the scene from the hotel over in his head. It would’ve been easier if he was wearing his Scout visor, with instant playback guaranteed. But even in his head, he could make a few judicious edits.
Blink. There was Tymoshenko again, but instead of grabbing his comm, he took out a datapad. Instead of screaming about his boss, he was punching in a different code altogether. That sinister grin on his face, as the bomb went off, was too good to be true—or so Dom hoped.
“Except Poltorak didn’t know what his guy was proposing,” he told McGill. “Tymoshenko was ambitious. He tells me and Brett he wants a bigger cut. Offers to get us more flash fuel to bring into the States without his boss even knowing about it.”
“Yeah? What then?”
“I tell him I need a moment to think it over. Let Brett sit and hear out the rest of his story. But as soon as I get into the men’s room…” Dom grimaced. “Well, you know the rest, Kingman.”
If all had gone according to plan, the surviving security footage from the Donbass Hotel would prove that story out. A simple financial transaction to a code boy in Minsk ensured that someone who strongly resembled Dom Harker had left at the time that he specified, so only Brett and Tymoshenko were seen sitting together when the bomb went off.
A risky game, but he had no other recourse except to play it through.
“So you’re saying you all fucked up, that right?” McGill frowned and finished the rest of his drink. When he set the glass down on the bar, he shook his head. “Unbelievable. And I thought you and Brett were my best runners. Abso-fucking-lutely disgraceful.”
Dom bowed his head, still following protocol. “You’re right, Rah. I accept whatever judgment you prescribe.”
Two months and a few broken ribs later, Dom Harker sat inside a virtual café on Mission Street. He pulled off his earphones, still swaying his shoulders to the soft, electronic jazz of DJ Bricolage and Harmony Xena. Something about the melody was supposed to be good for his recovery, but he never gave those clinic techs much heed. If he had, he wouldn’t have ordered another round of drinks and fries for the evening.
On the touchscreen at his table, a soft chime rang, followed by a glowing message notification. Dom looked from one side to the other. When he saw no one else was watching, he hit the notice with his finger.
New message from AmicusCuriae771:
Yo, we’re cool now.
Here’s your cut.
Pleasure doing business with you.
Dom swallowed. When he opened a fresh tab on his screen and checked his bank account, he nearly did a double-take.
The transfer was still pending, but he’d be set for life.
With a smile, he tapped at the first screen and drafted a short message back.
Reply from Venator47-A:
You still owe me for the facelift, B.
Yeah, we’re cool.
Don’t ever contact me again.
As he hit “Send” and watched the message disappear into the Net, Dom leaned back in his chair with a grin. He almost expected his good moment to fall apart, complete with flashing sirens or an ambush by some of Rah’s Boys.
When the trouble didn’t occur after a few minutes, he waved over the waitress and ordered a white wine. The buzz would play hell on his nanomeds, but that was fine.
He could afford it, at least.