The Mark

It was just before midnight on a rain soaked street, hov-cars sitting empty along the curb, and the sidewalks just as desolate. Standing in the distance were spires of glass; monuments of wealth and corporate architecture. The dark sky was lined with traffic carving trails of red against the black.

Kiddo “Pinkerton” Volk walked beneath twitching neon signs advertising rooms, whores, and clinics in English and Japanese. She had a Prohibition crew cut tucked into a grey schoolboy cap, the same color as her eyes. It matched her pea coat of maroon, buttoned all the way to her slender neck, and blue jeans with suspenders that hung like folded wings. The hem of her pants was bloused into black jackboots.

She smoked an E-cig that smelled of ozone with her hands in her coat-pockets and head inclined before she stopped and looked up.

The apartment rose from street like a tombstone to a past reborn. The front door was the only evidence of the present; the directory a tablet of glass with names etched in light and an electronic lock.

Kiddo ascended the stoop and pulled a black book from her pocket. On a recent page was a name and address beneath others that have been crossed out. She looked at the directory and pocketed the book.

She faced the door and pulled from her coat a hack-tool. The device was a tangle of wires, a dial, and a motor connected to a magnet and a trio of needles. Kiddo put the tool on the lock, the needles in the keyhole, and twisted a dial. She watched the sidewalk for witnesses as it ticked. When it stopped she walked in, taking the tool.

The interior was a call back to a century gone by, a disguise shared in Kiddo’s fashion. The floor was wood beneath a beat carpet of an ordinary pattern and the walls were plain with one color like a uniform.

As she walked Kiddo pulled an aluminum case from her coat and slipped the E-cig into its slot. On the other half of the case were lock picks. She took two before putting away the case and walking upstairs.

At the fifth floor her steps went quiet. She counted off the room numbers and fixed her gaze to the left side of the hall as she drew closer. Kiddo stopped when she saw the door already open.

She listened for nothing but silence and drew her razor from the waist of her trousers. The blade came out in sections, each piece locking into a pointed knife of six inches. Kiddo put her back to the wall and stepped to the door. She turned into the threshold, pushing the door open, and stopped halfway.

The room had a single bed, a tub and toilet out in the open, and a table by the window opposite the door. Sitting there was a man, his head and arms limp. He wore suspenders with a wife-beater, his face lined with streams of white blood that flowed from a hole in his forehead.

Kiddo sheathed her blade and walked in, looking around for anyone else inside. At the body she found half-eaten wafer bars on the table. They were white with specs of silver, tucked into a wrapper that said “Bishop Bars” in Korean. She dug through his pockets for a wallet stuffed with bills of holographic pictures of dead presidents. She read the ID and stared at the man that was her Mark.

There came footsteps from the hall. Before they grew louder Kiddo shoved away the table and opened the window, pocketing the ID. She cursed at the lack of a fire escape and pulled off her gloves, her hands plas-ceramic prosthetics that looked like pale doll parts. Blades popped from her fingertips and Kiddo climbed out, the blades dragging through the masonry as she slid down.

Five feet from the ground she hopped off and walked down the alley. Kiddo put on her gloves pulled her phone, a 2×1” tablet of black. Its halves slid open and projected a screen. Kiddo selected the CONTACTS tile and scrolled to the name TAK. She touched the photo, the screen disappeared, and she pressed the phone to her ear.

The dial tone went on as she peered around the corner to flashing lights of red and blue. Her call was answered and Kiddo ducked back into the alley.

Moshi Moshi?’ asked Takashi, the sound of jazz in the background.

‘It’s me,’ she said.

Hey, Pink! How’s it hangin’?’

‘Got a problem. Pigs on my ass. I need to talk to Cici.’

Oh shit. Get down here before they spot you.’

‘Okay. See you in a bit.’

She hung up and pocketed her phone.

* * *

A line of people snaked down the sidewalk, dressed Classic in suits and dresses with some Modern in tight ripped jeans, leather, and dyed hair. There were Artificials with skin too smooth and featureless, their hair a fine plastic that made wigs look authentic. They waited before a large bouncer with prosthetic eyes. Behind him was the club entrance under the street. On the building above a sign read “Le Speak”.

Kiddo walked along the line, past the bouncer, and down the steps. The brass and strings were muffled until the front door slid open with a creak of gears.

Speak was small but wide-open with a bar at the left and a corner-stage at the back wall. The band was mostly human as they played real instruments without the aid of speakers. Kiddo took off her hat, revealing her neon-pink hair, and made her way through the crowd, eyeing all the people in Modern. It was not long before she reached Takashi, leaning beside a door.

He had a black high-and-tight, the side of his head cut with scars that snaked to a pupil-less blue eye. He wore a black suit, grey vest, and white shirt as he smoked a cigarette before Kiddo came up.

‘He in there?’ she asked.

‘You bet.’ He opened the door. ‘Were you followed?’

‘Not a chance. And what’s with all the scrubs outta dress?’

‘More covers.’

‘At the cost of making this joint look like any other.’

Kiddo walked in followed by Tak.

The office was Classic with a wood desk and chair in front of it. A brass lamp of Atlas with a green shade lit the room. At the back were bookcases shelved in leather tomes. Sitting in a leather chair behind the desk was Cicero, a cross-eyed man with olive skin. He stood up and smiled when Kiddo walked in.

‘Pink! I’m so glad you’re safe. Tak, make sure Mitt scrubs the cop servers.’

‘Did it the moment she called, boss,’ he said moving to the back as Kiddo and Cicero sat down.

‘So tell me what happened. Did you nab the data?’

She took her time.

‘I owe you a lot, boss. You paid for my gear, I met Enzo, and you gave me this job. I try to control my temper, but when you do some comic-book shit like this, I don’t give a damn how sore I get. The Mark, that snitch for the Date,’ she pulled out the ID and tossed it onto the desk, ‘I found him with a hole in his head just before the pigs marched in.’

Cicero examined the card.

‘Kiddo, the guy was a stoolie; he could have been working all sorts of angles and made all kinds of enemies.’

‘Yeah, that’s usually how it goes. But do you know what I think?’

‘…I got an idea.’

‘I think you pegged me for the fall guy. You clipped the Mark to get me pinched. After that, the Shogun wouldn’t have come after you knowing his man’s killer was in a cube. You tried to fuck me, Cici, and without my permission.’

The boss shook his head.

‘Never in my life would I set you up, Pink. Like you said, I gave your life back when nobody could bother helping a homeless, amputee street rat. You think you’re not worth the time and money I’ve spent getting you back on your feet? I’d rather burn this town before screwing you for the fuckin’ Date.’

Kiddo’s hate waned into guilt.

‘I understand you’re pissed, but you gotta calm down; you make shit up and can’t think like you do when you’re cool… Wanna smoke?’

She paused and reached into her coat for an E-cig.

‘I’m sorry, Cici,’ she turned the switch and took a drag. ‘I just… saw the guy, heard the pigs, and I put it together. Guess I over thought a bit too much. Shouldn’t have snapped at you.’

The boss chuckled.

‘Believe me, you can’t be in this business without this kind of shit.’

‘I should use my brain more than my fists.’

‘Well let’s use it now and save them for later.’ Cicero leaned forward, his fingers interlocked on the desk. ‘Now, the only people who knew the details of this job were you and me. Tak, you didn’t know anything until the night before, right?’

‘Yes, sir.’

Kiddo took a drag and exhaled out her nose.

‘The Date wouldn’t needlessly sacrifice one of their people; it’s either give a finger or suicide with them. On top of that,’ she pulled the cig out and rubbed her eyes, ‘they don’t use gu—‘

The thump of a suppressor made her jump, the cig falling from her lips. As it hit the floor, Cicero laid his head on the desk with a hole behind his ear, Takashi holding a pistol. Kiddo stared at him with wide eyes as he holstered the weapon.

‘Sorry you had to see me do it,’ he said lifting the body onto the floor. ‘Would’ve been easier the other way.’

‘W- wha- what did you do?’

‘I set you up, to set him up. Thought you’d stay pissed to kill him on sight.’ Takashi sighed. ‘Obviously I was wrong.’

‘…The fuck were you thinking?’

‘Clearer than this old schnook. The Date are bigger than us, Pink; hitting ‘em would have started a one sided fight for our people. So I called the Shogun, told him what was going down, and made peace under the condition Cici dies.’

Kiddo could not speak, her hands balling into fists so hard her gloves ripped.

‘It was last minute, but it worked out, all things considered. Had to kill the Mark, but I got a story for that.’ Takashi pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the blood off the desk. ‘We get to keep our territory in exchange for 10 percent. Tomorrow we meet the Shogun to set it all in stone.‘ He sat down, the chair still warm. ‘So how ‘bout it, Kiddo; wanna be my second in command?’

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