Brains were raining on the street, splattering against the asphalt with wet smacks. Some of their transparent membranes burst open on impact, others ruptured beneath the tires of passing traffic, leaving behind streaks of slippery grey matter and blood. A few managed to crawl on their tentacles into the storm sewers; the next generation, who would grow and survive, to spawn again in a few summers, perpetuating the cycle.
The street smelled off spoiling fat and rotten eggs. I was glad I'd decided on the rubber overshoes before I left this morning. Damn shame about the coat.
Samedi's Set was a wanga club that used to be a speakeasy, back when blood was off the menu. The front still looked like a butcher's, but now a trio of shrunken heads hung out in the window as a sign. Duma was at the bar, and looked like he'd been freshly embalmed, the skin on his brown dome shiny and stretched tight. He didn't even nod as he started making my gimlet, and set it at my usual stoop on the bar.
I was just sucking down the gin when an old story started playing itself out in the corner. A young blade, a fish-lipped underboss in a booth, harsh words you could hear over a quiet afternoon rain. The glass didn't even hit the counter; it slapped into Duma's dry pink palm, and he handed me another one.
"You don't want none of this trouble, Mr. Cherry." he intoned.
"A girl?" I said. Bringing the drink up for a sip while the soda still had some fizz.
Duma shook his head. The voices reached a new pitch. "One of Zooey's boy-toys. Had them working last night."
"In this weather?" I said.
Duma nodded sadly. There was the flash of a knife, and one of the mooks in an adjoining booth stood up. I handed the glass back to Duma.
"Run me a tab?"
"Always, Mr. Cherry."
The smell of the street preceded me as I walked toward the back booth. By the time I got there, the mook had the lovestruck lad in hand, the knife was on the ground, and was helping the kid scratch parts of his back he didn't know he could reach.
The fishlips in the booth was a wavy-haired, pomaded prick with light dusting of fur on top of his lip. A white zombie, or one that was light enough to pass - but how many of them would do that, even if they could? I flashed my star, and watched the light die in his eyes for a moment.
"None of your business," he said.
"I decide what is an isn't my business." I said. "You running for Zooey now?"
"Ladies need a roof. My house is warm." he said. I grunted.
"Must be you're new at this. Your boy-whores shouldn't be working the streets in this weather. Bad for their health. Bad for business."
He smiled, like a big-mouthed bass trying to be a Cheshire cat. That was his first and last mistake. I might have talked him out of it, except for that smile. My left hand grabbed his cheek, the thumb digging in at the edge of his mouth in a fishhook, and I bounced his head off the edge of the table once, twice, three times - and there was an audible crunch as something inside gave. I let what was left of his head slip off my hand, and the rest of his body decided to follow suit and crumple to the floor.
I eyeballed the mook. He'd already dropped the kid's arm, but made no move for a weapon.
"Sorry," I said. He shrugged great shoulders; quarterbacks had nightmares about those peaks and valleys.
"Guy was an asshole anyway," he said.
"You need work, I hear the Boa Mambo down at the Skell is looking for muscle."
"Yeah? Thanks for the tip."
He smiled; we shook hands. It was nice dealing with professionals.
The kid had the presence of mind to pick up his knife, but didn't seem to know what to do with it, so he stuck it in his pocket.
"What's you name?" I asked.
"Jimmy. I'm Cherry. Let me buy you a drink, and give you some advice about falling in love with whores..."