Friday, November 29, 2013

13. arrival and departure

by jeremy witherington

illustrated by konrad kraus

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here

jody did not want to be taken down to any police station.

no, not by any means.

molligan was occupied with making calls about this person - "abdul" - apparently from one of the basement apartments - who had run off when one of the police tried to question him.

jody was not sure who abdul was. jody did not not pay much attention to the other tenants. maybe if they were hot. but none of them that jody had ever seen were.

actually jody did not pay much attention to anybody unless they were hot.

jody sort of remembered seeing a fat old human going in and out of the basement.

was that abdul?

it seemed that abdul, whoever he might be, had run out on the police.

well, bully for him. well done.

a thought flashed into jody's brain.

the thought of escaping ...

if a fat slob of an old human could do it….

molligan was still talking to a person - or more likely a robot - that he addressed as "connie".

molligan seemed a little bit afraid of "connie" . well, maybe not afraid exactly. but he seemed concerned to placate her/him/it.

jody had already tried coming on to molligan, a little bit.

it hadn't worked. molligan had only seemed a little surprised and amused.

maybe turn up the volume?

molligan looked like he might have been halfway hot. twenty-five years ago.

and he looked like he had seen and done things too terrible to describe.

who knew what someone like that wanted? or if he wanted anything.

it wasn't worth trying again.

jody got up from the table.

molligan did not seem to notice.

the door was open.

there was no one left in the room, or in the apartment, except jody and molligan.


but to where…?

jody tried to think of a person sympathetic enough to open a door… to a poor hunted fugitive… somewhere…

was there such a person?

and would jody be able to tolerate the company of such a person for any length of time?

molligan was still talking….

and the door was open…

not much, but enough to slip through without the sound of the door clicking open…

jody did not want to be taken down to any police station.

no, not by any means…

jody started to walk past molligan to the door.

molligan glanced up. now he was talking more confidently, probably to some other person than " connie".

jody backtracked, and went over to the window and looked down.

a small two-passenger car was pulling up to the curb. by its abrupt movement and sudden stop jody guessed it was an automatic vehicle.

the car door opened. a tall figure emerged and headed quickly for the door of the building without looking around.

in the brief glimpse jody got of it , it appeared to be a robot of the newest model.

probably the dread "connie" . who would be on the way up.

so it was now or never.

molligan was talking more animatedly on his phone. he was not glancing up.

jody was in front of the door.

jody was through the door.

the elevator was at the end of the hall.

as jody approached the elevator door the green light beside it went on, indicating that someone was on the way up.

the stairs were at the other end of the hall.

to get to them it would be necessary to pass the half open door of the apartment again.

but there was nothing else for it.


after connie got on the elevator and it started up, she suddenly decided to visit the basement instead and take a quick look at the room abdul had escaped from.

she hit the stop button and the elevator stopped at the third floor. then she hit the button for the basement.

something about the elevators in these old buildings disconcerted her.

maybe that it was so enclosed.

connie did not like closed things.

she liked everything connected and out in the open.

the door opened. she got off in the basement corridor.

one of the doors was slightly ajar. a dim light shone through it. it was marked number 2. she thought it must be the door she wanted.

she looked through the opening and as she did the light suddenly got stronger. she pushed the door fully open.

dooley, a young old human tech, was turning up the brightness on a lamp beside a big easy chair. there was a table beside the chair with a couple of books on it.

dooley turned and saw connie in the doorway.

he assumed it was connie, although he had never seen her in the body now in front of him. who else would use such a tall body?

"i just got here," he told her. "molligan told me to come down here and just keep an eye on it." there was no need to address connie with any formality or title. she didn't care about such things.

connie just nodded. she took a phone out of her pocket but did not use it right away. she looked around the room.


jody reached the first floor and pushed the front door open and stepped out on to the street.

14. flight

Thursday, November 21, 2013

12. cruising

by jeremy witherington

illustrated by rhoda penmarq and konrad kraus

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here

goldberg found the single squad car parked outside. the other two had gone back to the station.

she had driven the car over so she knew the codes. she opened the door with one code and got in and started the car with another. it felt strange being in the big car by herself.

she pulled away from the curb.

she didn't think it made much sense to just drive around looking for abdul, or that there was much chance of spotting him. but she was in no position to argue with molligan, and she was grateful that he had not been upset at what had happened.

she drove slowly past a couple of alleys. the wide car would not fit down them if she saw anything. she would have to stop, lock the car and go down the alleys on foot.

did this make sense? she didn't want to call molligan again and ask for advice.

she decided to make a wide circle, fast, around two or three blocks . and if she didn't see any sign of abdul, come back and cruise the streets and alley entrances more slowly and methodically.

yes, that was the best plan she could come up with. for now.


dooley had rapped on a couple of doors on the top floor without getting any response. there were a total of seven doors, three on each side of the corridor and one at the end.

he did not see any light or hear any noise from any of the rooms.

like goldberg, he was not thrilled by benson's order to "knock down" the doors he did not get responses from.

he decided to try a couple more. maybe if he got one person, that person could tell him if the others were occupied or empty.

he hesitated in front of the third door. his phone rang.

it was molligan. dooley hit answer. "dooley here."

"any luck?"

"no, but i just got here."

"no problem. listen, benson put three of you checking rooms, right?"

"right. me at the top, morris on the sixth floor working down -"

''that's all i need to know. listen, here's what i want you to do -" molligan explained what had happened to goldberg in the basement and that she was now out in the cruiser.

"so you want me to do what?"

"just go down to the apartment this guy left from and keep an eye on it. the door will be open, just go in."

"that's all?"

"for now."

"i think i can handle that."

molligan clicked off. dooley looked around the dark corridor before heading back to the elevator.

it was still completely quiet.


for molligan, that was the easy part. he thought about calling benson and telling her to turn around, but she and the techs with her were probably back at the station already. he might as well call connie.

he called connie. there was, of course, no question of connie being "up" and available.

connie did not express any annoyance, but she never did.

"so what we have," she said when molligan finished his account, " is one new human disappearance -"

"an apparent new human disappearance. not confirmed as deliberate. "

"right. followed by the discovery of a weapon, and then, in the same building, a second disappearance. of an old human. is this correct?"

"the tech thought the second was almost certainly an old human. but it is not absolutely confirmed."

"all right. just sit tight. i will have the whole area cordoned off and shut down. i will probably have to request outside help to do that."

molligan knew that that calling for outside assistance would annoy connie more than anything else. just as he knew that there would be more than one investigation into the whole night's proceedings.

"will you be coming down here yourself?" he asked connie.

"i most certainly will. don't go anywhere until i do."


connie didn't like disappearances.

it was bad enough that humans still occasionally raped and murdered each other. but that they would deliberately try to escape from surveillance, that they would deliberately try to withhold their information - that struck at the very heart of the system.

she called benson and told her to get back to the crime scene, leaving only enough officers and techs to keep the station open.

she called two more of her stations that were close enough to give quick assistance.

she called central. she gave a low estimate of the backup she needed. if central felt the situation was serious, it would send more. that would be good.

if central did not send more, that would be good too. it meant it did not think it was that serious.

after holding her for a full thirty seconds central said it would send "what was necessary".

good enough. now she would have to download herself and get down to the scene herself.

she decided to use body number 4. she seemed to remember molligan seeming a little uncomfortable with it. and she wanted him to be uncomfortable.


goldberg swung the car around another dark corner. what a waste of time.

when she got to the end of this street she would turn around and head back to the apartment and start again, more carefully.

the street was longer than she thought. what street was it exactly? she flicked on the street map on the dashboard.

she saw a human ahead. with a wide body. he was the right size.

she speeded up.

it was him! it was abdul!

she dimmed the headlights to come up behind him.

mistake. he turned as if he had noticed the dimming.

he started to run.

he wasn't very fast.

then he was gone.

she braked in front an alley.

a really narrow alley.

13. arrival and departure

Thursday, November 7, 2013

11. "this changes everything"

by jeremy witherington

illustrated by eddie el greco and danny delacroix

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here

goldberg looked around abdul's apartment while she waited for him to come out of the bedroom with his i d number.

she did not see anything to change her first impression - it was bare except for the big stuffed chair, and the table beside it with its lamp and two big black books.

a closed door to the right must have led to a kitchen, and the door on the left that abdul had disappeared behind, to a bedroom and bathroom.

that he was taking his time did not surprise goldberg, as he had seemed an absent minded and scatter brained type. common enough in old humans of accumulated years.

goldberg picked up one of the black books. like the book beneath it, it was bound in what she assumed was imitation leather. neither book had a title or other writing or pictures on the front covers.

bibles? goldberg had seen bibles but never actually opened one before.

she flipped open the book in her hand. it was not a bible. the first page read - "planet of the green jaguars by abdul al-jeremiel". so it was a book he had written himself. goldberg had never written a book herself.

goldberg fanned the pages of the book. there were no pictures in it. she preferred books with pictures. she put it down and picked up the other book.

the first page of the second book read: "the life of samuel johnson, ll.d. by james boswell". there were no pictures in it either, and she put it back on the table.

abdul had still not emerged from the bedroom.

goldberg went over and knocked on the bedroom door. no answer.

she knocked a little louder. still no answer.

she pushed on the door and it opened easily.

there was no sign of abdul.

the bathroom door was ajar. she pushed it wide open, he wasn't in there.

in the closet? not likely, but she looked anyway. it was narrow and empty.

there was one window, closed. but it lifted with no squeaking.

it was wide enough to climb out, even a wide body like abdul's. it led to an alley bordered by a short fence.

the reality was there. he was gone.

for half a second goldberg thought of leaving the apartment, not reporting or telling anybody what had happened. who would ever know?

but she knew it would come out some way. things always did.

just the thought of telling benson - oh no. she would rather do almost anything but that.

she decided to tell molligan instead. he was in charge, wasn't he? benson wouldn't like it, but it was worth the try.

looking out into the alley - not that she really expected abdul to magically appear - she took her phone out and hit the button for molligan.


"is that it?" jody asked molligan.

"just one more question."

"go for it."

"it's a hypothetical question."


"a question based on an imaginary situation."

"i know what a hypothetical question is."

"good. so - you are walking down a deserted highway, late at night - "

"i don't walk down deserted highways late at night."

"just suppose you did."

"i wouldn't . if i did, i wouldn't be me."

"all right. let's suppose - let's suppose you and some friends are driving somewhere late at night - somewhere far far away, like grand platte nebraska - "

"why would i be going to grand platte nebraska? and if i wouldn't go in a car. that's stupid. i'd take a plane or a rocket."

"well, let's say you are with your friends and they decide they suddenly decide they want to go to grand platte nebraska."


"oh, because - let's say because they want to go to this great new korean barbecue restaurant."

"korean barbecue! are you shitting me? bleeeah!"

"so you're not a food adventurer."

"not at all."

"forget all this, let's just say for some reason you're driving down a deserted highway at night - "

"first off, i wouldn't drive, i'd get an automatic car. like a sensible person."

"fine. you are riding along in your automatic car - "

"i would have to have some reason to be in it."

molligan laughed. he was not at all put out by jody's responses - he got similar ones all the time, especially from new humans. "all right, let me think here. there has to be some way -"

the phone rang in molligan's pocket. he took it out. the call was from goldberg, one of the techs he had put to checking the other apartments.


goldberg explained to molligan what had happened.

he didn't seem too concerned, but he never did. he always looked like he had seen and done things too terrible to be described.

"i guess i better call benson," goldberg finished up.

"no, i'll call her. you just go outside and see if you can find this character. he might not be able to get very far."

"on foot?"

"no, take the car. there is one left outside. just drive around. use your judgment."

"what about this apartment? should it be secured? searched?"

"um - i'll send dooley or someone down to do it. you go out now, start looking for your buddy abdul."

"all right."

molligan clicked off. "this changes everything," he said to himself.

jody looked at him. "changes what?"

molligan looked across the table as if seeing jody for the first time. "uh - everything."

"any more questions?" jody asked.

"not now."

"what about grand platte nebraska and lonely highways and all that shit?"

"we'll get to that later - maybe."

"so you're through with me for now?"

molligan thought for a couple of seconds. "maybe we better take you down to a station."

"fuck!! you said you wouldn't!"

"i said i'd try not to. now something has come up."

"are you going to put me in a cell?"

"you won't be in the black hole of calcutta. you'll be treated right. like a guest."

"what if i'm hungry?"

"we'll get you something to eat."

"i'm hungry now. i want an anchovy and kale pizza."

"no problem. we'll get you the best anchovy and kale pizza in town."

"and i want something to drink."

"excuse me, i have to make some calls." molligan started to call benson, changed his mind, clicked for dooley instead.

jody stared down at the table. "this sucks. i didn't even do anything."

molligan nodded, and waited for dooley to pick up.

12. cruising