The next day my head was still buzzing with questions. This Cindy girl, she was obviously in trouble. But who was after her? I’d seen her around before when talking to Johnny, she was one of his favorite girls. She always seemed harmless. In over her head. Another victim of the cannibalistic society of Deck 36 to be sure, but never dangerous. We’re all victims in our own way of this place. Even folks like Johnny who have things under control.
As I walked into the station I saw Sarah. I tossed around in my head whether or not to tell her about Cindy’s visit… Her warning. What troubled me was that I didn’t have anything solid to go on, and down here if someone tells you they’re in trouble you don’t tell anyone without a good reason. I’m not saying I thought Sarah was in on anything, she’s one of the few folks I trusted on the whole deck, but getting people involved gets them killed. I decided to keep Cindy’s midnight visit to myself for the time being.
It started as a pretty normal day at the station. Cases buzzing around, but nothing for me. Nothing for Sarah and I either. I sat around and dozed, still tired after a mostly sleepless night. I had been sitting at my desk without much to do for quite some time, halfway between the world and sleep, when I was shaken awake by Sarah. “Ryan, wake up. There’s been another hit, we’ve got to go check it out.” I stood and wiped the sleep from my eyes. “Where?” I asked. “The body was found in an alley somewhere, some girl. I think it’s by where you live, actually.”
Not unusual. I’d say I lived in a bad area, but all of Deck 36 was a bad area. Sarah had the exact location of the hit downloaded on a map. It was an old decrepit thing that barely worked any more, like most of the maps that were handed out to Security Officers as standard issue. As we neared the location where the body had been found, I realized how close to my quarters this hit actually was. It couldn’t have been more than a block or two away. “Where did you say this was, again?” I asked. “Oh I don’t know,” Sarah responded, only half listening to me, “The 63rd block?”
My stomach lurched. Each Deck was split into 120 “blocks” to make navigation easier. I lived on the 65th block. The murder had been just two blocks adjacent to me the night before. “Did anyone mention a time of death, when they told you about the case, I mean?” That got Sarah to look up at me, questioningly. “No… Why?” I shook my head. “No reason.”
It couldn’t be, I was sure of it. It was all a coincidence. A murder in my area isn’t an uncommon thing. Drugs, money, even looking at someone wrong, these were all things that could get you killed. Not to mention Johnny wouldn’t stand for it… No one would cross Johnny like that, not even the guy who was selling these heat weapons. Johnny wasn’t a complete sociopath, but I wouldn’t put it past him to have someone killed for crossing him like that.
But then we got there. Then we turned the corner into the dark alley. And I looked at the body lying on the ground, with a million thoughts jumping into my head. The wound. The place. The person. All my thoughts condense into one: Cindy. Lying on the dirty ship floor before me was Cindy’s dead broken body. Most of it, at least. To the right side of her chest was a large dark wound. A blackened hole burned straight through her torso, crisping her very heart. I recognized the wound instantly. It was the same wound that killed Dr. Taylor. Whoever was using the heat rifle had struck again, and judging from where the body was, it couldn’t have been more than minutes after Cindy had spoken with me the night before.
Cindy had come to warn me to stop digging into Evan Taylor’s murder, and mere moments later the same man killed her.
Whatever it was I was feeling at that moment, anger, confusion, and perhaps a tinge of fear, it must have shown on my face, because Sarah startled me as she said, “Ryan? What’s wrong?” I don’t look up from the cold body as I respond. “I knew her.” Sarah glances at the body, and says, “You did? Who was she?” I shook my head waking myself slightly from the shock. “She was… Her name was Cindy. One of Johnny’s girls.”
“One of… No… Who would cross Johnny like that? He’ll have them killed!” Sarah said. “Sarah, I think this goes a lot deeper than a new arms dealer. Look at the wound. It’s just like the one that killed Dr. Taylor.” Sarah looked at the wound, and I didn’t wait for her to respond before continuing. “First Dr. Taylor, then Cindy… Sarah, Cindy was the girl who Johnny sent to look into whoever had a heat rifle. I saw Johnny send her to look into this guy, and now she’s dead… And…” I sigh. Sarah picks up on my hesitancy, and says “And what?” more as a demand than a question.
“And she found me last night.” I responded. “What?” Sarah asks. “She found me last night. That’s why she was here. She must’ve been killed just after I spoke to her. She was scared, and she came to my quarters.” “Asking for help?” I shake my head. “No. Warning me.” “Warning you… Wait. You don’t mean…?”
I nod. I don’t need to say any more. We both realize why Cindy came to warn me. Whoever killed her has struck twice now, and all signs point to me being the next target.