Excerpt from The Man From Empire

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I got the impression more time than an hour had passed, and I was right. It had been an hour and ten minutes. I couldn't have done it in less than four hours before. Then I remembered ScOsh was ten minutes overdue. The way he came and went was creepy, but he seemed to have it pretty well under control. Where was he?

He stepped out of the hall closet just then. God alone knows where he found the room, but he did. He wasn't carrying anything that looked like it could hold a million dollars, but I'd reserve judgment on that. He hadn't been carrying the sword I'd seen, or the other weapon, the one that killed the gangbangers, either. "Sorry I'm late," he said, "But exchanging the money turned out to be more complicated than I thought. I found out about your physical libraries last night after you went to bed, so I walked through first your local college library, then the Library of Congress. Then I went to Atlantic City, and went through all the casinos there. Then Las Vegas"

"You cheated the casinos?" I interrupted, incredulous, "You cheated the mob-owned casinos?"

"I did no such thing," he said, "It's not cheating to use skill. If they don't have rules posted that forbid it, it's not cheating. There were rules posted, but absolutely nothing about using any of the skills I employed. I borrowed a chip from someone for a few minutes, and used it to win. Then I gave the original chip back to the owner with interest. I went from casino to casino. Didn't win too much from any of them. When people started to take an interest in my winning, I lost a little, then changed tables and started winning again. I know how not to be noticed. Speaking of which, that applies right now. You're about to have visitors. I'm not here; don't expect them to find me no matter what they do, so act natural. Don't do anything out of the ordinary. Your planet doesn't have the technology or the wizardry to catch me. I want to keep it to a minimum because there's at least one person around who can." Then he simply disappeared right in front of me, just as there was a knock on my door.

I went to the door. The spyhole showed two cops in uniforms, right out of central casting. One Mexican, one Anglo. "Can I help you?" I said, loudly enough to be heard through the door.

"Riverside Police. Ms. Graciela Juarez?" The Mexican's accent was medium strong. Probably didn't grow up around a lot of Anglos, like I had.

"That's me. Can I see your badges?" You don't let cops in without making sure.

"Yes ma'am." First one guy, then the other. Looked normal enough, not that I was sure I'd be able to tell bad ones. I opened the door and stood there.

They looked me over in a way men never had before. I wasn't certain if I liked it right now, but I could tell my earlier surmise about male attention was correct. They were both appreciating the scenery. There was a wedding ring on the lead cop's hand (the Mexican) but not the Anglo's. Neither was too far from my age.

There was one thing they might be there about. They'd also have a pretty good idea I didn't really have a cold already. So I decided to tell some of the truth.

"We found four bodies in the street in front of your office last night. We asked if anyone had seen anything, and Mr. Martinez said you had been working late. Building security logged an exit at 8:38, and the bodies were killed sometime between seven thirty and nine."

"Yes officer, I saw the bodies and I panicked. I came out, started walking to my car, saw them and ran. I'm sorry, I know I should have called, but I was just so scared." All the while doing my best little girl at the horror movie act. "I drove home and just shook a while down there in the parking lot, then I ran up here and ate. I was so hungry, I hadn't eaten since lunch, and then I ate some more because I sometimes do that when I'm upset, and before I knew it I had eaten like 5 sandwiches. Then I went in the bathroom and threw up. Then I sat there for a while, on the bathroom floor. Then I went to bed, and shook until I fell asleep. I don't know what time that was. When the alarm went off this morning, I just couldn't go back yet. Please don't tell my boss I'm not really sick! Please?"

"Mind if we come in and look around?"

This was it, the moment of truth. I decided to take ScOsh at his word. He'd been more than fair with me. Actually, he had already been absurdly generous and was promising more. But solid citizens don't just roll over for the cops. "You got a warrant?"

"No, ma'am." The Anglo. I could tell he'd bought the fear, hook, line and sinker. Maybe a little too well. "Just want to take a quick look around, make sure you're okay here. Never know if their friends tracked you down. Some of these people, they don't care if you had nothing to do with it, didn't see a thing. They want to know who offed their homies and they don't take too well to 'I don't know.' We could probably arrange protective custody if you want." He winked suggestively.

Dios Mio! Someone who's just had a scary experience like that and you're hitting on her! Still, I decided to ignore it. "Okay, take a look around if you want, but no protective custody. I have an exam tonight. I need to finish my degree. I'll make myself be okay by then"

They came in, took their time. I was grateful Mama made me learn good housekeeping. I hadn't cleaned the bathroom last night, but it was clean enough to look like maybe I had. No puke or residue or anything. The bed was made, of course. The kitchen trash backed up my story. No obvious holes, except, "Who is this blanket for?" the still-unused blanket was on the couch.

"I was just about to watch some TV when you knocked. Anything to have some voices around. And it's cold. Maybe ask Mama to come over, or my sister. If they can."

"You sure you don't want protection?" the Mexican asked, "Maybe it's not such a good idea to bring your family into it if the gangs get nasty. We got women we could put you with." So his partner being on the make was at least faintly embarrassing to him.

"No, but thanks." I was pretty certain I had better than they could possibly offer, if I needed it.

"Okay, Ms. Juarez. Thankyouforyourcooperation." It all came out like it was one word. He would have said it many times. They left.

Copyright 2013 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on May 22, 2023 7:00 AM.

First Draft Excerpt from Measure of Adulthood was the previous entry in this blog.

Excerpt from A Guardian From Earth is the next entry in this blog.

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