The Fleet [Scene of the Crime]

I turned the body a bit and got a better look at the boy.

It was a boy. Not old enough to call it a man.

Hair was shaved, and the scalp was tattooed like the kids down the Spine like to do. Complicated swirls, bioluminescent in parts, probably others only revealed under UV or other uncommon light. Tendrils of ink came down to coil around his eyes, and and down his neck where they disappeared beneath his shirt. Clothing was loose, good for grabbing, another hallmark of the Spine.

There were scars running down his forearms. Multiple suicide attempts. Again: common down the Spine.

His pants were stained. Blood and other bodily fluids most recently, but older grease stains spoke of industrial work.

And finally, the knife.

What a knife. Neon green plastic. Fabricated from some jailbroke maker probably. Not easily traceable, though I hoped I’d get lucky. Maybe find the killer had used a public maker and forgot the cameras.

It was in his gut. Multiple stabs.

Facing his attacker?

Why? Mugging?

Unlikely. Nothing a spine-rat could afford would be worth stealing.

If he was a spine-rat. Dressing like one and being one were not the same thing.

Without an ID, it would take a few hours to find out. If the kid had ID, it was broken, since I was close enough to touch him and not picking anything up.

“Nic?” the woman behind me asked. Ana, 42, widowed, 2 kids officially, 2 surrogates. Artist; amatuer drug dealer; hates the smell of Rondôn’s preferred cleaning solution.

“Yeah, yeah, almost done,” I told her.

“I don’t mean to sound callous,” she assured me, guaranteeing whatever she said next sounded callous, “But I’ve got customers coming in soon. Nobody’s gonna come into a place with a body out front.”

“Ok, ok,” I said as I stood, “Rondôn?”

Yes? The ship signaled, What can I do for you officer?

“Let’s get the body out of the street,” I whispered to the ship.

Requesting confirmation from Civil Authority.

Confirmed.

A minute later, the squealing of small rubber wheels announced the arrival of the wagon. Carlos and Samantha were the ones collecting the body.

“Hey Nic,” Carlos said smiling.

“A body,” Samantha said, excited, “Haven’t had one of these in a while.”

“No kidding,” Carlos whirred as his exo helped him lift the body up into the wagon. Samantha began hosing the area down with water and cleaning solution.

Ana wrinkled her nose. Somehow this smell offended her more than blood and shit.

“I’m gonna need to ask you a few questions, Ana,” I told her.

“Can we do it inside?” she asked, looking over at Samantha and Carlos.

“Sure,” I grunted.

Ana’s shop sells hand-made art. Very posh. Expensive. And located in the outer sections. Not the sort of place you’d expect to find a spine-rat. And yet, Sam was washing up the blood of an apparent spine-rat just outside.

“Did you know him?” I asked, setting my mobile to record.

“Of course not,” Ana said, a bit more harshly than she intended I think.

“Seen him around any? Maybe complaints from customers about a rough looking kid?”

“No. Nothing like that. Just the usual sort of thing. Kids with mobiles harassing cats or something. I think the last time we had..someone like that up here was more than a year ago. Security usually keep that sort of crowd away from this section,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Right,” I said as I scanned the shop with my mobile.

“Is that really necessary?” Ana complained, “Some of these pieces are very sensitive.”

“Well there’s been a murder, so I think it’s pretty necessary,” I told her.

“I’ve got rights,” she protested.

“I already know you sell synths, Ana. Everybody knows it. I’ve got a kid stabbed to death on your stoop,” the mobile finished its scan, and I continued questioning, “Any jailbroke makers around here I should be aware of?”

Ana frowned and crossed her arms, but then she sighed and deigned to answer, “Two bulks over. For chems though, not weapons or anything. At least, not since I last checked.”

“Who broke it for you?”

“Some kid. I don’t know his name,” she lied. Probably someone from Fleet Command. A trainee from the Computer Corps maybe. Ana knew that if she gave me a name whoever it was would lose their job for a start, and then probably end up in confinement.

“I assume it wasn’t recently right?” I asked.

“About two years ago,” Ana said nodding.

“Fine,” I nodded, “Anyone else know about it?”

“Most of the neighborhood actually,” she answered smugly, “I’m surprised you didn’t.”

I smiled, “Thanks for your time, ma’am.”

Ana held the door open for me as I left. Once outside I turned, walking a few steps backward over the now spotless walkway. “Don’t leave town or anything.”

She looked confused, “You mean the ship?”

“It’s a joke,” I mumbled, “Forget it.”

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