"Four and a half, sir, all our shuttles are L-800s. The fastest planes there are."
"Ok, when and where?"
"Check-in is in one half hour at gate 47. Have a pleasant flight and thank you for flying Casio Air." Ziggy nodded, smiled, and went to buy a magazine.
He thought about his plan and knew he was taking a big chance. "I'll get to the coroner's office, find out the time of death of those five kidnappers, and then check flights to England by women travelling alone in that two or three day period. I should be able to eliminate the ones who have homes or jobs or hard wired file. I may have to find Ruby's apartment in D/W and search that." Ziggy figured this was probably a useless exercise. "I'm no detective. At least I want to try to find her. I didn't try to hold on to her before. I wish I had."
Ziggy boarded the L-800 at 11 a.m. and set down in Vancouver B.C. at 1:15 p.m. London time, 4:15 a.m. Vancouver time. He unrolled his RAM sheet and linked to Detroit/Windsor through the British Columbia Ministry of Tourism and Housing. There he set up an early appointment between the coroner and a freelance feasibility consultant. The subject of the feasibility study was a report called 'Modern Crematoriums and the Reclamation of Graveyard Lands'. Ziggy added that the Ministry was thinking of reclaiming some Indian sites now that certain tribes were no longer represented. Read: extinct. It was easy for Ziggy to burn through the i/o ports. He hardly touched the keypad. When finished, he had a coffee and reboarded the plane for D/W.
3.4 Walk the Planck
At 2:00 in the afternoon Mr. O seated himself at the conference table that the Planck board of directors never seemed to leave. He noticed that they were all linked to some info service through their halos so he didn't bother with greetings. He sat and waited patiently. After a while, a uniform sigh of pleasure rose from the group and they began focusing on the room and its contents, one of which was Mr. O.
"A Mr. Pinter from Data control has found out some important information through the sources that he homed in on using your key phrase tabs. Mr. O, we're very impressed." (Slight bow of the head from O.) "It seems that one of the members of the Flowers Of Evil is also a member of the Prime Mover group. It's the most popular of the Ziggy cults. Anyway, this fellow made contact with Ziggy at a lecture by one Rudolph Kerby at Mandela University in Belfast. Here's the big news, Mr. O; Ziggy was an assistant to Kerby on the lecture tour and he was listed in the program, the details of which we will acquire through agent Keele, as Chris Chappel. We linked to the Planck hub and have found that a Mr. Chappel, besides having a residence here in London, was just in Vancouver and has left for Detroit/Windsor. He has been using a pre-crash passport. "
The board members looked very pleased with themselves. They nodded and looked around at each other as O pondered the news. "This is very good news," he said at last and stood up, "I will send an agent to Vancouver to trace any contacts he may have made there. We will pick him up in Detroit/Windsor. Meanwhile we'll keep a team on the London residence. "
"Don't you think we should just take over his other apartment as we did his Acetate nest?"
asked a young exec.
"No. If we trigger alarms in London, and I'm sure he has them, we may not get him in Detroit/Windsor. If we leave his home untouched and he gets past us in D/W, we can get him when he returns to his supposedly safe and secret home."
The young man didn't look too happy about having his suggestion squelched and added,
"If we didn't have this information you would still be politely interviewing streetmeat
in Soho. I don't see why we don't take over his place and just issue a summons for
deportation to the North American authorities."
O glared at the man, "Piss off, twerp"
The young man began to rise when the director himself raised a hand and spoke, "If this bureaucracy wasn't so afraid of information getting somewhere before we got to tamper with it, Mr. O would probably already have Mr. Chappel in custody. Sit down!"
The young man lowered himself into his seat and disappeared into a betafacial monitor.
"As for you , Mr O," continued the director, "I can sense your
hostility. Understand that since the New Millennium Crash, only small groups
can have first access to mapping software. It must remain a high priority. You
must also understand that this Ziggy project is of small concern in comparison to
other projects that we must dedicate the system to."
"You are very right," O humbly replied.
There were two men waiting for Ziggy at the Detroit/Windsor Airport. When he found out that they were with the Police, he thought that somehow they wanted to assist him in his bogus report to the Ministry. "Have you come to take me to the coroner's office?" he asked.
"Uh, no sir. We are to take you to the main precinct offices and the officials in charge will assist you there." The policemen exchanged humoured glances.
"What is it that you have come to find out?" asked the other officer.
"I'm doing a study on reclaiming graveyards for housing projects. Hey! While I'm here, maybe you can tell me about that really strange murder last month, the one where the five men were found with their brains altered? I'm fascinated with cases like that."
The officers once again exchanged glances. This time there was no sense of humour, "Sure, we can put you in touch with Hardwickii, the officer in charge of that case."
"Well, this is my lucky day," smiled Ziggy.
The rest of the drive downtown was in silence.
The two officers finished their report to Sergeant Hardwickii, Homicide Division with, "We've got him in a waiting room down the hall, Sir. United Networks enforcement is supposed to pick him up in an hour."
"You've done well, men. Go get him. Then you can leave."
"Yes, Sir." The two officers left.
"Well, Ruby," mused Hardwickii, "what's this all about? You lookin' for me or am I lookin' for you?" Ziggy walked into the office." Ah, Mr. Chappel, here, sit down, sit down." Ziggy closed the door and sat down in the chair facing Hardwickii's desk. Hardwickii rose, locked his door, turned and placed his arm around Ziggy's neck, whispering softly: "It seems that you're wanted by the U.N., Mr. Charles or whatever your name is." The sergeant applied more pressure around Ziggy's throat. He pressed his cheek against Ziggy's, a hard stubble of hair scratching his face. Ziggy swooned at the combination of cheap cologne and cigar smoke. "Before I give you to them I want you to tell me where Yablonsky is." Ziggy didn't move. He was too terrified. His mind raced, thinking about how stupid he'd been, how amateurish and self-assured. Hardwickii grabbed Ziggy's hair with his free hand and yanked back his head. "I'll make it clear. You're from England, investigating the Kidnapping? Ruby's afraid someone else might have been in on the deal and wants you to fix it for her. She's got the money to let someone else do her dirty work now. She skipped and left us policemen looking stupid. Especially me. I want her and you can take me to her. Right?"
Ziggy was out of his league, confused and frightened. One thing he knew was that he didn't want the U.N. to get him. "Alright, I can take you to her, but not if those guys from the Network get me. They want me for something else. I figured a favour for Ruby would get me out of town."
"What do they have on you?" Hardwickii glared.
Ziggy thought quickly, "Uh, Crash Fraud."
"You know what they do to people like you? They put you to work on the census. Ha! You want to sit in a dingy room for five years solid inputting that garbage?!" Ziggy shook his head against the vice grip of Hardwickii's forearm. "Where is she?" hissed the policeman.
"She's in a safe spot that only I can access. You know, voice locks and finger-print passes. Take me with you or the Net will get her and you'll look all the worse for it."
Ziggy didn't know how right he was. The sergeant let him go and hit a button on his desk. "Yes sir," a voice answered. Hardwickii spoke calmly into the intercom, "I want a car brought around. Just have the driver leave the keys in it." He released the button and turned to Ziggy who was swallowing to see if he still could, "Keep your mouth shut and we'll catch a mail transport to Jolly-Old-England before you can say 'Hapapoosiesobjibway'." Ziggy laughed uncomfortably.
After they left the office, a scene depicting an incredibly realistic, life size figure
of Hardwickii in an immoral act with a fish, slowly appeared on the wall behind his
3.7 Vanessa at the Pisces
The Pisces was a classy club in 1940's style with a band called the LCD's playing minimalist jazz. Keele wasn't in the mood for a social outing. He was just thinking that he was never in that mood when his 'boss', Reginald Pointsman, escorted his 'date' to the table and said, "I've brought a friend to keep you company in this foreign land, Freddy. This is Vanessa. I just call her 'V'."
"And what does she call you, Reggie?" Keele said with not a little bitterness.
Pointsman laughed, said "Have fun now" and disappeared.
Keele motioned to the chair and said, "Hungry? I've just ordered more food than the two of us can handle. Don't know why. Probably cause they're paying."
"Thanks hon, but don't be surprised if I ask for seconds."
Keele smiled. He liked her up front approach. He figured he would find out just how up front she was. "So did Reggie ask you to fuck me and find out how my investigation's going?"
"My, yes, and it's not 'Reggie', it's Pointsy." Before long the two of them were eating, drinking and laughing loudly.
"I'm not crazy about this kind of music, but at least you can hear yourself speak," she said. "What's the name of this band?"
Keele sipped his Lagavulin and said, "I think they're called the Lowest Common Denominators."
"Oh,' she said, "charming," and they laughed some more.
3.8 Even Keele
Once back to his suite at the Waldorf, Keele mixed two drinks and handed one to Vanessa. "Cheers." She moved in close, pressed up against him and offered her lips while looking him directly in the eyes.
"Let's get this clear, Vanessa. You can have a drink, stay the night if you must to make Pointsy happy, but let's keep the 'in-the-line-of-duty' stuff to a minimum. I like you. I'm actually having fun, so don't go to work on me now."
She kissed him lightly, lingering for a moment and backed off, "Pointsy's gonna be angry," she said, smiling.
"Just tell him Ziggy's not around. I'm not really even looking for him, to tell you the truth," Keele said. "I was supposed to do some interrogations tonight, get some evidence...but I think they're after him for the wrong reasons.."
Vanessa interrupted with "Ziggy? Ziggy Acetate? I know Ziggy. He's having a party
tonight as a matter of fact."
Keele ran his hand through his hair, "I don't believe this," he said "How come you never told anyone?"
They both answered simultaneously, "No one asked!" Then Keele grabbed Vanessa
and they kissed between fits of uncontrollable giggling.
As they played, spontaneously pulling off each others clothes, eyes flitting, then glowing, rooms melted into one another. Everything moved in slow motion. It was like the first moment of freshness and shock one feels when diving into a pool of water on a hot day. Keele struggled to remain alert. It made him self-conscious to feel he was approaching a person, hidden and protected inside an armour of tattoos and body sculpting. He wanted to find the essence of the woman. Somehow he couldn't hold on. He melted into her warmth, timeless instincts taking over. He became confused. Her flesh enveloped him. He thought he felt her knee brush his ear. He wondered what she was thinking and looked into her face. Their eyes locked flipping animal poetry messages back and forth. Heat. There. There she was. They held each other and moved like molten steel as metallic scent and a dark safety like octopus ink slid laughingly under them.
"How long has it been since I was tickled?", the assassin wondered as they regained
consciousness. He looked into Vanessa's catlike eyes and asked, "Want to go to a
Vanessa thought for a moment and answered, "Sure." She stretched and became more animated. "I want to call my friend Qi and tell her to come. She never goes out. She once mentioned that she knew Ziggy from before the Data Crash and I figure a reunion would be great fun." She slowly climbed out of bed. "She's helped me a lot and now I can try to do something for her. Working for Pointhead has kept me on call and out of social circulation for a long time." Keele smirked and Vanessa pushed him back on the bed.
She picked up the phone as Keele asked, "So you've seen Ziggy's work?"
"Sure, but I don't like to look at it too much. Makes me dizzy, you know? Some people say too much reality. It's spooky."
"You might be too much reality for me, Vanessa."
"Spider and Fly syndrome, my dear," she answered, "You never know you're in trouble until you're stuck in the middle of a bunch of old wings and feet." She put her hand behind his head and kissed him hard, breaking off as she heard Qi's voice on the phone. She put her hand over the phone looked hard into Keele's eyes, "I'm trusting you. Hello Qi? It's V. I'm picking you up in an hour."
3.9 Ziggy sheds his skin
Hardwickii kept close to Ziggy to remind him, with frequent jabs, that he had a gun. They entered a taxi at the airport and Ziggy again felt the gun in his side when the driver asked "Where to, chaps?"
"Old Park Lane," Ziggy sputtered. He remembered taking piano lessons there when he was a child. He remembered playing the chorus to "If You Knew Susie" over and over to his teacher's frantic goading, "faster, faster" until he began crying. It stunned him to remember it so suddenly with such clarity.
After forty minutes of driving, Ziggy knew they were coming to the underpass before the Old Park Lane turn. He quickly said, "Take a right on to Grosvenor Place and drop us off. We can walk from there."
"Very good, sir," answered the cabby.
"What's going on?" whispered Hardwickii.
"I gotta take a leak," Ziggy whimpered.
"Too bad. No funny stuff, clown, or you're dead."
"Then you don't get to see Ruby, do you?" Ziggy said flatly.
The taxi turned right onto Grosvenor Place, dropped the two men at the Wellington Arch, and continued around back out to Piccadilly. Ziggy crossed the street with Hardwickii following then he suddenly dove into the bushes boarding the Palace Gardens. He turned as he emerged from the rough hedges and crystallized all the vegetation running along Grosvenor Place. As Hardwickii jumped after Ziggy, his hands and face were ripped by the sudden contact with the ice-like material. Then, as the structure collapsed on him his lungs filled with stinging powder. Bleeding, choking and blinded, Hardwickii screamed "I'll get you, you fuck! You can't hide! I'll kill you, you son of a bitch." But Ziggy didn't hear any of it. He was running through Green Park. He finally stopped crying as he crossed Regent Street. He climbed the fire escape to the top of Regent Palace and let himself into his bedroom window. He could hear the party. "I didn't find her. I'll never find her." He collapsed on the bed, buried his head in his pillow, sobbed "What am I doing here?" and fell asleep.
On to World on a String Part 4
Back to the present.