Whispers [Flash Fiction]
Themes: Crime, Urban Fantasy, Sci-fi
Emporium was quiet for a Saturday night, but then, it tended to attract a lot of Espers. Dunno why. Maybe they like the music. Maybe they like that the bar staff don’t ask How’s your day been? as soon as you pull up a stool. Maybe they just like the soft-light ambiance. Emporium wasn’t really my scene, but I didn’t feel as uncomfortable there as most simple, honest folk do.
The beat of synth music pulsed its way out the front door. The bouncer gave me the once-over, but made no move to stop me. Recognised me, probably. This wasn’t my first visit to Emporium, and I doubt it’ll be the last.
My eyes adjusted to the dim, smoky interior, straining for every scrap of soft light they could get. I glanced over couples staring lovingly into each others’ eyes, and scanned the faces of men and women clustered around tables in small groups. It could’ve been a scene from any bar in the city, except for the fact not a damn one of them was making physical contact.
It didn’t take long to spot my target; he had his favourite corner table all to himself. When he saw me approach, his gaze came up from the glass of whatever he was nursing, and what looked like annoyance danced across his grey eyes. Of course, he probably knew why I was here.
“I’ll have a Blackbird,” I called to the man behind the bar. “And a refill for my friend here.”
“We’re friends now, Dowley?” the Esper asked as I slid into the chair opposite his.
“C’mon, Morris, you know I’m naming my first kid after you, right? Girl or boy.”
He looked at me through knowing grey eyes. “I would consider it a great favour to humanity if you promised to forego your right to produce offspring.”
“I’ll consider it.” The bartender brought our drinks. Mine bubbled darkly as, from somewhere behind me, somebody muttered quietly under their breath.
“Gotta wipe it clean, gotta stay safe, gotta wipe them off, crawling all over me, don’t look, don’t look…”
I turned my head and glimpsed a man sitting at the bar, staring at his cocktail as if it’d personally tried to kill him. Morris caught my glance and smiled.
“A germ-phobic. One of those OCD freaks. His therapist told him to conquer his fear by facing it head on.”
“You got all that without touching him?” Colour me impressed. I didn’t know Espers could read thoughts from a distance.
Morris snorted softly. “I got all that from watching him mutter to himself whilst contemplating his drink for the past two hours. It was sparkling, when it arrived.”
“So.” I took a sip of my Blackbird and put the OCD-guy out of mind. The licorice exploded over my tongue. Some people say licorice and alcohol don’t mix well, but then, some people are just savages. “I heard Roy Earlman is getting the injection next week.”
“Good news travels fast. And here I thought you’d come for the pleasure of my company,” Morris said with a faux-smile.
I pushed Morris’ second drink a little closer to his hand, careful not to touch his skin. “You gotta let me have him, Morris.”
“C’mon, pal. He killed eleven people in eleven days. He left toying messages for the CitSec investigators, and made a sport outta staying one step ahead. The guy’s a bona fide, straight-up sociopath. I need him.”
Morris shook his head. I didn’t have to be an Esper to know I wasn’t selling him on the idea. “Some men are just too dangerous.”
“Too dangerous for a regular bounty-hunter, yeah, but this is me we’re talking about.”
He leant forward, ignoring the drink. I could feel his gaze boring into mine, his grey eyes searching for something. Behind the grey were flashes of white, tiny threads of some power only a blessed, cursed few are born with. I forced myself to hold my position. To not move back. Told myself, again, that they can’t read thoughts without contact. Didn’t feel much better about his stare, though.
“How many serial killers do you have inside your head, whispering their insidious thoughts across your mind?” he asked.
My hand clenched to a fist. I forced it open again. Tried to look aside, to pull my gaze away from those damn eyes. Rabbit in the headlights had nothing on me.
“I’ve stopped counting.”
“You have enough.”
“It’s never enough,” I objected. “You know as well as I do that it takes a serial killer to catch a serial killer.” And every night, as I lay down in bed and closed my eyes ready for sleep, the voices grew louder. Morris was wrong. They didn’t whisper: they shouted. So far, it was a contest between them to see who could shout the loudest. So far, I was safe because serial killers are not given to co-operation.
Indecision was written all over Morris’ face. I decided to give him the push he needed.
“I’ll make it worth your while. CitSec just made good on a bounty I collected. I can have fifty-thousand cred transferred to you before I walk out that door.” He teetered. He always teetered. He was an aloof bastard, but a good man. And fifty-thou was a lot of cred. “C’mon, Morris. Earlman’s a scumbag. He’ll die, and free up resources to be wasted on the next scumbag waiting for the injection. If you let me take him, I can put him to use.”
Morris sighed. Nodded. My heart skipped a beat. “Fine. I’ll do the usual mind-to-mind transfer, but this is the last one. It’s not healthy for a man to walk around with murderers inside his head.”
“The last one,” I promised, suppressing my triumphant grin. Besides, I knew other Espers. Morris wasn’t the only one to work as a Prison Pacifier. And what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.
For this week’s Blog Battle I had every intention of continuing with last week’s story of Detective Kitty Salva, but then I had this idea and I liked it better. This is one of those stories I wish I had a few thousand more words to play with, but alas, word limit of 1k. Maybe I’ll come back to it in the future.