Value of Nothing

Boom went the door as it came off its hinges.

Bang went the gun as its owner fired at the silhouettes crowding the door frame.

Bink went the Metropolitan stun grenade as it bounced across the floor.

“Bugger,” wheezed the perp.

—–

Detective Jack Palmer always found it amazing how much information could be imparted without the Digisphere.

For example, the incoherent yelling emanating from the flat told him that the stun grenade had successfully detonated.

It also told him that, at this current moment, the man within deeply regretted his life’s direction.

A nudge was all it took to stir his partner, Sam Trent.

“We’re up.”

 

“I’m a Dynacore agent! I’m telling you, you scunners better let me go or it’ll go badly for you!” The man yelled as Constables Toole and Blythe hauled him out, heading past Jack.

A tap was all that was needed to tell Blythe and Toole to stop.

Jack sunk to his haunches and immediately wished he hadn’t as he looked into the man’s face.

To say he was ugly would have been to have lain an insult not only at the doors of the ugly, but also at the hideous, misbegotten and revolting.

It was the sort of face that only a mother could love.

And even then, not without an affidavit for confirmation that.

“Of course you are. I bet you’re also Erracom’s CEO and a High Admiral too.”

Jack pat him on the shoulder then stood up and nodded at the constables who dragged the man away.

“They always try that one. Makes you wonder if it ever worked.” That was Sam, he was grinning as he ducked into the squalid flat.

“I can think of a few constables who might accidentally lose their guy.” Jack said, but Sam had already left him outside. A curse joined Jack as he made his way to the door.

“Bloody Nora, Jack, you’re missing out on a world of olfactory delights.”

Jack stepped inside and coughed, grabbing a cloth from his pocket to cover his nose.

“You weren’t bloody kidding.” He said, eyes roaming over the mouldy flooring, rotten plaster with little else but the dim overhead lighting to aid him.”Has Vattek been informed? I bet they’d pay handsomely for this mould.” He coughed.

“It ain’t that bad, Jack. Singes the nostrils though, doesn’t it?”

 

Jack moved in, meeting Sam at the far end who was crouched over the man’s weapon. The evidence bag was already out along with the tweezers.

“Another All-Hours Special,” Sam said, indicating the gun gripped in the tweezers. “He should be thankful it didn’t explode in his hands.”

Palmer sighed and let pinched the bridge of his nose.

“All because he didn’t pay rent and now the landlord wants him out. Damn fool. We shouldn’t even have to waste our time on crimes this small.” He said, bitterly.

“Well, you know how it is. The big criminals have names that end in “Incorporated” or “LTD”. They pay us to keep the little guy out of it.” Sam Trent shrugged his shoulders, “We investigate, we report up. Could be worse.”

Sam nodded his head in a gesture that encompassed the entire flat.

That seemed to be that.

 

The flat was typical of the Rim, squalid, filthy and a sure indication that if there was any justice in the universe then the landlords of such a structure should have all spontaneously combusted for subjecting people to such conditions.

It took little more than half an hour to sort through the meagre belongings of one Michael Williams, 34. Clothes sat in a sad heap on a ragged bed beside a chem inhaler and an expired discount coupon for new lungs, courtesy of Vattek Corp. Jack looked over at Sam before speaking.

“Find anything?”

“A credit chip in debt, no surprises there. Nothing of interest.”

“Fine. Let’s wrap this up. I can feel myself getting sick just breathing in here.”

 

Although, it wasn’t as if the exterior hallway was much better, Jack thought as he and his partner left the former abode of Michael Williams. All the flats around them were silent with the quiet that came only from people who were intensely listening behind their doors.

Jack’s experience told him that if he returned the next day he’d find almost everything of value gone from Williams’ flat.

Jack’s cynicism said he’d need not wait even before they’d left the building.

In the stairwell he motioned Sam to stop, held a finger to his lips. They stood in silence for a moment.

Then came the faintest click and hiss of a door opening.

People with nothing valued anything.

Published
Categories Short Stories

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