After Ms. Angst had left the table, Bridge’s gigantic bodyguard Aristotle walked over and sat down with a loud exhalation. “Are you really going to get that diminutive paparazzi wannabe a urine sample from a pop princess? Isn’t that a little scuzzy, even for you?”
Bridge smiled back. “Have you seen Ms. Angst’s numbers? That little half-breed pulls down huge uniques every time she opens her mouth. Hell, even that bit she did when Matt’s place got raided was competitive with the Misogynist Theatre preview vids in the teen/tween demos. She’s a hot property.”
“My word, you sound like a television executive pitching a smoking hot pilot. Mr. Thames would be proud,” Aristotle replied with a devious grin on his face. Bridge’s memories of the slick Chronosoft executive who had forced him into leaking a scandalous video of the former mayor were bitter ones. The comment was without malice however, so Bridge just returned his friend a one-finger salute.
“I hate the gossip mill she works, but I’ll be damned if those kind of numbers might not come in handy some day. It's all about who you know, you know?”
“Oh, indubitably,” Aristotle smiled back. He worked the pad on a PDA. “According to my records, that was your last appointment tonight, boss. Are you ready to retire for the evening?”
Bridge shook his head. “Why do you still use that relic? You need to get jacked, big guy.” Bridge pointed to the interface jack at the base of his skull, the cybernetic hub for all his chipped-in internal software from scheduling to cell phones to his internal clock. Aristotle just shrugged. Some people just didn’t like metal implants. Bridge let it drop. He knew Aristotle would never get with the cyber times. “Nah, I’m gonna hover for a little, see if I scare up any walk-ins. Besides, I like this band. You can split, if you want.”
It was Aristotle’s turn to shake his head. “What bodyguard would allow his charge even a moment unescorted through this calamitous jungle?” His smile wilted into his serious face. “I caught a glimpse of Paulie. Have you figured out how you’re to discharge that particular burden?”
“Not yet, no. I could always call up Arneson or Beach.” Bridge stared into his half-finished drink visualizing the two hired guns, mentally toting up their qualifications for such a task. Arneson was cybered-up enough to be more than a physical match for the ex-footballer. Beach claimed to be a shootist, one of the few assassins who followed some weird sort of Samurai honor by killing their prey with the most impossible displays of trick shooting. Beach’s flair was way too expensive and Arneson was fucking crazy. Come to think of it, Bridge believed they were both two steps over the line from crazy into batshit territory, but they were effective. But worst of all, Bridge really just didn’t want to kill anybody. Paulie was a thug, a son-of-a-bitch and a sadistic cunt, but he’d just been doing a job. Even the threats he’d made to Angela at the end were just how things were done. Once he started whacking guys who crossed him, Bridge became no better than thugs like Paulie or Nicky Sharver. Besides, Bridge HAD cost Paulie a couple of fingers. “I’d rather not get into the assassination game if there’s another out.”
Aristotle nodded knowingly. Though they never spoke much about it, he respected Bridge for the fixer’s hesitance to use violence. Bridge didn’t even let Aristotle fight for him, claiming that he couldn’t afford a real bodyguard. Even so, Bridge was sure that if needed, the man would take a bullet for him. Aristotle was THAT guy. Bridge wasn’t. Aristotle grinned at him and said, “We’re going to have to start calling you the Not So Amoral Bridge if you don’t watch out.”
Both men giggled. “Fuck off. I didn’t make up that nickname!”
“And yet, you use it with such prodigious frequency.” Bridge shrugged.
They sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes, letting the music wash over them. The Ardents were building their set to a crescendo, the music stacking itself in layers upon layers as if independent of the musicians’ actions. Drums fed into guitars into cowbells into bass intertwining with video snippets and found sounds. The tension between the duo was palpable, and only Bridge knew why. The tap Bobby had put on his sister’s life months ago had been discovered, and she was ultra-pissed about it. Rather than tear the band apart though, it actually improved their live performances, their anger and resentment towards each other feeding a fire of creativity that infused the music with an almost heavenly quality. Bridge wished he’d hired a bootlegger to catch this performance, but he had been too busy to think of it. He made a mental note to do just that for their next gig, if there was one. Since the Arsenal had shut down after Twiggs’ death, the Tanz was one of the few clubs that would still book them, even though the vapid celebrity clientele didn’t appreciate this kind of challenging music.
Behind the music, something was building, something at the very edge of hearing/seeing/thinking. At first, Bridge thought it was just a new psychoacoustic effect the siblings had added to the show, but as it began to tickle the interface jack at the base of his skull, he realized it was something else. Like a tide slowing rolling into a wave that fed itself into larger and larger waves until the whole sea bubbled over and buried everything underneath its watery embrace, this something radiated out from the jack through the nerves in his spine, his shoulders and hips and arms and legs and hands and feet and fingers and toes.
Bridge began to scream and he was not alone.
Go to Chapter 2.0
Thursday, February 5, 2009