I put the shotgun in an Adidas bag and padded it out with four pairs of tennis socks, not my style at all, but that was what I was aiming for: If they think you’re crude, go technical; if they think you’re technical, go crude. I’m a very technical boy. So I decided to get as crude as possible. These days, thought, you have to be pretty technical before you can even aspire to crudeness. I’d had to turn both those twelve-gauge shells from brass stock, on the lathe, and then load then myself; I’d had to dig up an old microfiche with instructions for hand – loading cartidges; I’d had to build a lever-action press to seat the primers – all very tricky. But I knew they’d work.
The meet was set for the Drome at 2300, but I rode the tube three stops past the closest platform and walked back. Immaculate procedure. I checked myself out in the chrome siding of a coffee kiosk, your basic sharp-faced Caucasoid with
a ruff of stiff, dark hair. The girls at Under the Knife were big on Sony Mao, and it was getting harder to keep them from adding the chic suggestion of epicanthic folds. It probably wouldn’t fool Ralfi Face, but it might get me next to his table. The Drome is a single narrow space with a bar down one side and tables along the other, thick with pimps and handlers and a arcame array of dealers. The Magnetic Dog Sisters were on the door that night, and I didn’t relish trying to get out past them if things didn’t work out. They were two meters tall and thin as greyhounds. One was black and the other white, but aside from that they were as nearly identical as cosmetic surgery could make them. They’d been lovers for years and were bad news in the tussle. I was never quite sure which one had originally been male.
Ralfi was sitting at his usual table. Owing me a lot of money. I had hundreds of megabytes stashed in my head on an idiot. savant basis information I had no conscious access to. Ralfi had left it there. He hadn’t, however, came back for it. Only Ralfi could retrieve the data, with a code phrase of his own invention. I’m not cheap to begin with, but my overtime on storage is astronomical. And Ralfi had been very scarce.
Then I’d heard that Ralfi Face wanted to put out a contract on me. So I’d arranged to meet him in the Drome, but I’d arranged it as Edward Bax, clandestine importer, late of Rio and Peking.
The Drome stank of biz, a metallic tang of nervous tension. Muscle-boys scattered through the crowd were flexing stock parts at one another and trying on this, cold grins, some of them so lost under superstructures of muscle graft that their outlines weren’t really human.
Pardon me. Pardon me, friends. Just Eddie Bax here, Fast Eddie the Importer, with his professionally nondescript gym bag, and please ignore this shit, just wide enough to admit his right hand.
Ralfi wasn’t alone. Eighty kilos of blond California beef perched alerty in the chair next to his, martial arts written all over him.
Fast Eddie Bax was in the chair opposite them before the beef’s hands were off the table. ‘You black belt?’ I asked eagerly. He nodded, blue eyes running an automatic scanning pattern between my eyes and my hands. ‘Me too,’ I said. ‘Got mine here in the bag.’ And I shoved my hand through the slit and thumbed the safety off. Click. ‘Double twelve-gauge with the triggers wired together.’
‘That’s a gun’, ‘Ralfi said, putting a plump. restraining hand on his boy’s taut blue nylon chest. ‘Johnny has a antique firearm in his bag.’ So much for Enward Bax.