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   Chapter 5 No.5

Dead Man’s Hammer By Christina Engela Characters: 5824

Updated: 2018-06-30 12:02

Bloodless was so dry – so boring. She liked leaving a nice big mess so people would notice and remember her work. And so would the police, the clean-up crew, the coroner, the ambulance staff, the mortician, the undertakers – and probably half a dozen bystanders, camera crews and journalists as well – never mind the people who saw it on TV or the internet or the kids who saw it on the bottom of the birdcage a week later – and of course, all their friends and relatives – and their friends and relatives. People would talk about it for months afterwards, and show their friends at the pub pictures they took of her handiwork. She liked the free advertising the news coverage brought her – it was always a plus and helped bring in more business. It augmented the word-of-mouth side of things as her satisfied customers were hardly inclined to brag about her work over drinks at the bar – or in court for that matter.

Sometimes the politically correct Terran government didn't want to get their nice clean hands dirty and so, occasionally she would be asked nicely to freelance for them. But this wasn't one of those times. Her brief stint working for assorted government agencies had paid off after all. She now had something really special to look forward to. She looked at her long nails again, well pleased with herself. She'd already had a warm-up earlier that morning. Oh yes – this was going to be very satisfying indeed.

* * *

The Plaza was the main shopping mall in the central area of Atro City, and it was a very busy place, especially on a Saturday. The mall was a hub of social life in Atro City, and consequently, Deanna. People of all ages, many of them tourists visiting Deanna from off-world, were drawn to the close to a thousand shops within its five tiered levels arranged round the triangular courtyard and the garden at its center. Among these fine stores were boutiques, café's, manufacturing jewelers, restaurants and all sorts.

Somewhere on the second level, a non-descript looking woman was slowly walking down the household goods aisle of the flagship branch of Halloway's. The Halloway's franchise was an up-market chain store that sold everything from laserized can openers to optical bathroom scales (rather than make witty comments about your weight, the latest model could take one look at you and then scream before you stepped on it). 'It's funny', thought someone who, for the moment, we will name Fred, 'what humans will do when they think nobody's watching them.' It's like the semi-conscious nose-pick when driving, similar to the half-aware ass-scratch while standing in the hallway talking on a mobile. Or pocket billiards. Or in this case – the fully intentional pocketing of a small portable music player without the intention of paying for it.

Who was Fred? Fred was a native from the planet Arboria, which was known for being the only planet where the f

orests migrated with every season change. And yes, Fred was a plant. Arborians came in all shapes and sizes, usually potted, and would use two or more lower branches to wa – sort of move around in a way that would cause jaws to go slack and lamp posts to be walked into. Fred's pot was fairly plain as pots went, but his bore an unusual shiny medal which was riveted to the pot, because – well, he had nothing to pin it to. He didn't place terribly high value on such things, a simple 'thank you' would've sufficed, but the circumstances under which he received it amused him. It was the Solus Gratuiti Award, which (aside from commuting a death sentence) was the highest honor that the Empire could bestow on anyone. How Fred had got that, and very legitimately, was another story altogether ('Black Sunrise', if you really must know).

The shopping mall was Fred's current home, sort of – for as long as he helped the security staff keep an eye on things, they allowed him to stay. Being the only member of his species on Deanna was something of an advantage, which is why this particular shoplifter had thought she was alone in the aisle – when in fact, she wasn't. As she rounded the last of the shelves at the end of the aisle, she brushed past a two meter high pot plant with thick fleshy green leaves and headed for the check-out points. Suddenly she tripped and fell headlong onto the floor.

Turning over from her impromptu imitation of a Spread Eagle, she discovered a vine wrapped around her ankle. Now how did that happen? Had she walked too close to the plant? Was it a creeper? Creepers didn't grow that fast, did they? She tugged at it frantically. It wasn't letting go.

"Special Branch." Said Fred in a husky masculine voice, as he produced a shiny security badge from under some leaves, and wiggled some leaves that might have been eyebrows – if plants could have eyebrows – at her. If he could grin, he would have. "Who's been a naughty girl, then?"

The shoplifter screamed blue murder until well after the security men cuffed her and dragged her away.

* * *

It had been quite a busy Saturday at the office for Sheriff Peggy-Ann Muller. Among other things on her recently very busy itinerary, there was the latest of many frequent meetings at the Mayor's Office to plan for the coming parade to welcome a visiting member of the Imperial household. The irony visible to Peg was that the visit was only due to take place in the next three months – with the actual date for the parade likely to be confirmed about a week before the time. Aside from that, there were the numerous meetings with committees to address public safety issues, Atro City council meetings, and other issues attached to the imminent royal visit. Peg wasn't much of a royalist. In fact, aside from the security aspects dictated by her job and sense of professional pride, she honestly didn't give a crap.

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