“Are you sure, mistah?”
“Only, you’re payin’ for your time an’ stuff.”
“I know, keep your clothes on. I just wanna talk.”
“Mos’ guys jus’ wanna talk, only they don’t come in sayin’ that. Normally they don’ start runnin’ their moufs until after.”
“Well I’m not looking to run my mouth at all. I’ve got a couple questions to ask.”
“A’right. Ask ‘em. Mind if I climb in the bed though? It’s a bit chilly in here.”
She climbed into the worn out bed, pulling the covers over her mostly bare body. I walked over to the window and pulled it shut. There was a desk in the room. I thought to myself for a moment that it couldn’t have gotten much use, and then thought a little longer and corrected myself. It probably hadn’t gotten much use as a desk. Still, there was a chair. I pulled it over to the bed and sat down. I took out a pen and paper.
“Pen and paper.”
“So I remember what you say.”
“You can record me, if you like. I’m used to it.”
“That’s okay. You knew Oather Simmons?”
“Oathy. Yeah. I heard he got hisself killed. Is that right?”
“Yeah. Who’d you hear that from?”
“Miss Maripole said so. Told me special. He’d always come by to see me specific. She does that. Keeps us girls informed.”
“Did she say how he was killed?”
“Bullets in an alleyway. Couldn’ta been anythin’ else though, if you knew Oathy. He was a fighter. A rage in him I haven’t seen in another man ‘fore. Made for good lovin’.”
“Did she say who did it?”
“Naw. It was probably one scum that was afraid of losin’ to him though. Them fighters don’t got no respec’ for each other. Can’t look bad in front of no one. Win at all costs and such. Hard lives to live, them fighter’s lives. Guess it’s hard for all of us though. Your life hard, mistah?”
“Know of any fights in particular that were coming up? Any fighter come to mind as one who might have gunned Oather?”
“Nah. I only watched a coupla games Oather was in. Fightin’s not my style. I’m more of a lover, you’d say.”
“Not sure I would. No names then?”
“He didn’t talk much about the other people he’d be fighting. Some ‘a the ‘Zens, though. He wouldn’t stop talkin’ ‘bout ‘em. I think he had some kinda kink wif ‘em or somethin’. Always paid for one of the tin girls to watch us. Always a different one, and never let her come near the bed. Just told her to watch.”
“You have enough Citizen women here so that each time it’d be different?”
“More ‘a them than fleshy types like your’s truly.”
“What names do you remember?”
“Uhm… Piecemeal was one. Saddleless another. The Gore and The Gorer were two.”
“Sure they’re two? Sound like the same name.”
“I think they’re a team or something. Baaron Kill, but e’ryone knows that one.”
“When did Oather visit you?”
“Maybe five or six bells ago.”
“Two or three days?”
“Say anything out of the ordinary?”
“Somethin’ ‘bout findin’ a man in a box, or a man with a box, or a box. Said he’d come take me away when he found it. A lot of guys say that, and he’s said it before, but Idunno. Seemed like he meant it this time.”
“Know who his patron was?”
“No, not really. Didn’t talk much on him.”
“Know anything about him? Which district he lives in, what he looks like, anything?”
“No. Couldn’t say I’d ever saw him. Oathy said he was a creep one time when he was particularly mad. Said something about a big black dumb hat? I don’t know. Like I said, he didn’t talk much on him.”
“Big black hat?”
“I don’t know.”
“Alright. Anything else I should know about Oather?”
“Can’t say. Don’t know whatcher after.”
“I wanna find out who killed him.”
She asked that question so honestly it caught me off guard. She asked it as if she couldn't, for the life of her, come up with any reason for why, not only I would be interested in Oather’s death, but why anyone would.
“I mean. He’sa fighter. Was gunna die eventually. Sooner than most. They all die ‘fore they hit 45. Most ‘fore they’re 30. Oathy was 31, I think. Coulda lasted a couple ‘a more years, probably. Had to ‘spect it though. ‘Spect it with mosta the type that come through here, honest. Can’t say why that’s so.”
“Want me now, then, mistah?”
In the ruins that surrounded New Prosity a young blonde woman climbed through and over wrecked buildings. She wore old but warm clothes. She had her hair tied in a tail that fell mostly across the scarf made hood that hung off her head and around her neck. She was well wrapped in clothes, but well wrapped to keep the cold in, not out. When she breathed heavily, she breathed frost.
She had seen cities like this, both in ruins and before. The city was filled with what seemed to be entertainment venues, restaurants, and places for commerce. She knew this place as it was before, but in a vague way. It was as if she dreamt this place, as if the place was entirely in her, or her entirely in this place.
She knew it when there were cars. She knew it when work had to be done. She knew it when the doors were shut and the people were quiet. She also knew it before it was the city that the ruins told of, but in the same intramural manner. She knew it when the archeologists came to dig up the ancient bones. She knew it when the ancient bones were inside bodies and fighting.
She knew this place, but was coming to know it from a different perspective. She tasted the dirt that had been carried in by wind and felt the concrete dust. She breathed and saw the sun falling from the center of the sky. Her thoughts were not racing. Her mind was quiet, though she prayed.
She came to a building, broken, but sturdier than most others. Inside an unkempt Citizen sat silent, a box before him. She climbed the side of the building which was riddled with plenty of holes that served as valuable footholds. She reached what was once the roof, and slide down a rope that was tied to a corner.
“I’ve found a place inside the city,” she said. “There’s a mechanic who I think we can trust. We’ll have to anyway. I’ve sorted out a room above his shop. I think we should go during nightfall though. People would notice you during the day.”
One word came from the Citizen, though it remained still. “Okay,” it said.
“Okay,” she said as she sat.