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‘A Night to Remember,’ part four

I am pleased as punch to present part of Simon Petrie‘s live-written serial “A Night to Remember,” featuring reluctant hotel detective Gordon Mamon. The first part of this story was posted on Monday on Simon’s site – go read it, then follow the links to get back here. A list of all parts is available here.

If you like this story, you should get a hold of Simon’s collection of short stories Rare Unsigned Copy.

This free-fiction folderol has been furnished by SpecFicNZ Blogging Week 2012.

A Night to Remember: Part Four (by Simon Petrie)

‘A Night to Remember’ is a seven-part story, written for SpecFicNZ Blogging Week 2012.

Part One of this story can be found here. Part Two is here. Part Three is here. A full listing of links to the story’s instalments, updated daily, is here.

Gordon stared at the remains of Claudia Iyzowt’s doorway. He wasn’t sure what kind of damage would be inflicted on a plastimahogany door by a rampaging villain in a suit of armour, but he was fairly certain he was looking at it. And of the heiress to the Iyzowt fortune herself, there was no sign.

She’d been in the room, though. The cooling mug of the vending machine’s atrocious coffee blend stood undisturbed on an occasional table near the room’s viewing window.

He pulled out his handheld, switched it to ‘Forensic’ mode, and waved it around the room in an attempt to find clues, DNA, fingerprints. The handheld took a minute to announce the detection of traces of five humans: Gordon Mamon himself, Iyzowt, and three long-time members of Skyward’s cleaning detail. Which, regrettably, made a certain kind of sense: suits of armour didn’t have fingerprints. Nor did waxworks. But the assailant’s DNA should still have left traces, assuming there was any kind of struggle …

No extraneous blood, nor skin cells. Not even a length of hair.

A sudden sway in the freight tower’s motion momentarily unnerved Gordon, and he turned to check the doorway behind him: nothing. Probably just turbulence: they weren’t yet clear of Earth’s atmosphere, and the space elevator’s braided filament was not immune to a little atmospheric push-and-shove. But the scene of the crime was never a good place to loiter.

Where was, though? The freight tower was a twenty-storey structure, with multiple access routes—escaladders, rampways, an old-fashioned staircase—connecting the floors. If he picked a good hiding point, he could stay undetected for a good long time … but it would be three days before the tower module completed its ascent to Skytop, and twenty storeys or not, he doubted his ability to stay concealed for that length of time.

Plus, regardless of the death threats he’d received, there was the small matter of Claudia Iyzowt herself. As the staff member on duty for the next three days, he plainly had a duty-of-care towards her. It wouldn’t do to cower meekly in some hidey-hole, while she was in the hands of … who?

He took the escaladder down two flights, and let himself into a dimly-lit storage room with three connecting doorways and a somewhat disconcerting conclave of waxwork pirates in sundry menacing poses. After sweeping the room, and those adjoining, for signs of life and detecting only himself, he applied his mind to the tasks at hand, which were, as he saw it: (1) to not get killed, (2) to locate and rescue Claudia Iyzowt in some manner commensurate with task (1), and (3) to apprehend or otherwise immobilise whoever might be the occupant of the mysterious suit of armour, provided that this could be effected without breach of criterion (1) and, if possible also, (2). Viewed in this way, the problem constituted a puzzle, and Gordon liked puzzles. (Though he generally far preferred them when they didn’t involve all this pain-of-death-or-serious-injury stuff.)

So: how to approach it?

The voice messages he’d received, those foreshadowing his appointment with certain death—quite aside from however paradoxically, unfairly vague was the concept of ‘certain death’ itself—had sounded not merely sinister, but angry. Which took a lot of doing, considering that the recorded death threats had featured a mechanical voice, impersonal and remote. Anger obviously made it personal, very personal. Gordon wondered who might hate him with sufficient intensity to not only wish him dead, but to go to substantial lengths to give effect to said wish.

Try as he might, and discounting for the moment certain ugly incidents involving lost luggage, Gordon could only imagine one class of people who might hold such an aspiration. Murderers. And in particular, one small subset of the set of murderers.

He turned his mind to reviewing—in a totally non-spoilerish fashion—the outcomes of his previous cases.

Formey’s killer was clearly out of the equation. Kurtz’s attacker was, so far as Gordon knew, out of the system, safe in Alpha Centauri’s maximum-security facility, Alphatraz. And Havmurthy’s assailant, Gordon was sure, was still being questioned by the Saturnian police force. It might, in principle, be possible that an accomplice could be acting on behalf of one of these, but Gordon’s gut said otherwise …

Well, it fitted. The apparent modus operandi, the professional’s keen desire to stay in the game, the ruthless drive to settle any scores. Because when the other killers were eliminated from consideration, it left just the hit-man.

“Haier,” Gordon murmured to himself.

“Correct,” said a voice that was unrecognisable as Gunther Haier’s, from the suit of armour now advancing slowly through the room’s doorway. “Though there’s been a name change, along with everything else.”

Gordon retreated through the thicket of life-size pirate figures, backing towards one of the room’s connecting doors. Trying to remember whether the door opened inwards, or outwards. “Is that so?” he asked. “Why?”

The connecting door opened outwards. Good. Gordon pushed through, and started running.

Behind him, Haier—the suit of armour—was lumbering in pursuit. “Business reasons. Marketing. Image, if you will.”

“Didn’t think you hit-men cared about image,” Gordon called back, reaching the hallway and trying to choose between the rampway and the escaladder. Escaladder, he decided quickly. Upwards. Gordon wasn’t good with heights, and the escaladder was all about heights, but Gordon was even less good with impending violent death. And if Gunther Haier in a suit of armour wasn’t all about impending violent death, then Gordon wasn’t as shrewd a judge of homicidal character as he fancied himself to be.

“To a hit-man, image is everything,” Haier proclaimed. “Hence the armour, and all the other augments. So you can call me—”

At the foot of the escaladder, Gordon turned, transfixed by curiosity despite himself. “Call you what?”

“My new name,” Haier bellowed, with evident pride and not a little menace, “is Sir Tin Death.”

Part five is on Beaulah Pragg’s site.

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