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Category Archives: Rita

No Time, spoke the clocks, no God, rang the bells,
I drew the white sheet over the islands
And the coins on my eyelids sang like shells.

The Cold Man

One day, when he’s ten, before he develops his stutter, the boy who will be the Cold Man walks bravely up to the crazy man in the park. The man’s snapping pictures of families, humming to himself. The boy taps him on the shoulder.

“You always keep the lens cap on,” he says bluntly. “Is that because you’re crazy?”

The man blinks at him and, too slowly, smiles. “No,” he says. “It’s because cameras can capture other things than light.”

The boy sees that the man’s irises are a perfect silver, and that, like coins, their rims are stamped with words.

Rita

“You’re sure there’s nothing else?” asks Rita.

“We checked the rest of the tape through everything we’ve got,” sighs Mary, rubbing her eyes. “Virgin white noise. No encryption, no watermark. Whoever left this wanted us to see only this fifteen seconds of… nothing.”

“Not nothing,” says Tina. “The inside of a security center where every instrument shows nothing.”

Rita watches as they rewind and play it again, until it cuts to static.

“Guys?” she says slowly. “What kind of person doesn’t show up on any instrument?”

“A dead one,” says Sandra.

“Right,” says Rita. “So who do we know that’s dead?”

The Cold Man

“You are human,” says the flat voice. “You’ll give in eventually.”

“But it costs you, doesn’t it?” He gags and spits black, then grins; his teeth are full of blood. “Every minute I hold out costs you.” He doesn’t stutter. Not yet.

Silence, then: “Your price?”

“There’s people that need killing.”

“Name them.”

“No. I’ll do it. I want six bullets, and my life back for long enough to spend them.”

Six things tink on the concrete. One of them is a key.

“I said six.”

“I have no illusions,” says the voice, dry now, “about the target of the last.”

Rita

Rita thumbs back the hammer by way of introduction.

“Your answers are as follows,” says the chubby man behind the desk, without looking up. “We are the Numismata. He was one of us, and chose to leave. When they are finished with him he will die. We will not prevent this. Firing your gun at me would be an empty exercise.”

“What will it cost?” she asks. “To do what he could do?”

He does look up, at that, and he smiles. “All the color in the world,” he says. “All its warmth.”

IN GOD WE TRUST, say his copper eyes.

The Cold Man

“Well?” asks the flat voice.

His empty revolver clatters on the floor.

“The prisoner brings five bodies,” says one of the Ad Hocs ringing the room. “In the van’s cargo compartment.”

“What?”

“Scan indicates no heartbeat or biothermals,” says another.

“You fools! You fools!” The voice isn’t flat anymore.

The five dead men are up and out, guns cold, unblinking. He peels off his jacket and its pocket heat pads; he pulls off his sunglasses.

“G-got g-g-gotcha,” smiles the Cold Man.

Then the Ad Hocs are tumbling away, pulse and crack as the Numismata loose their iron bullets.

Rita

He can’t see her when she opens the door, but he doesn’t need to.

“Y-y-you came,” he says.

“Why not Sandra?” she asks. “Why not Mary, why not–”

“You b-b-bel-beb believed in t-t-t-rust,” he whispers. “In-n s-s-acrif-f-fice. Like I d-did.”

“It costs too much.” She shakes her head. “It costs too much.”

“Then y-you’re sm-m-marter about it-t-t,” he says, “th-th-n I was.”

“Stand up,” she whispers, but he can’t, so she empties the Glock into him there on the floor.

Rita

“Let’s count atheists,” Rita murmurs eventually. “One.”

“T-two,” says the Cold Man, “but it-t’s n-n-not mmmuch of a f-f-fox foxhole.”

It doesn’t have to be. Rita imagined war as tracers and shelling, or tanks painted desert tan, but Chile is quiet. They can’t afford tanks here. Bombs are passé.

“You’re not–” Rita starts, then waits as somebody’s Uzi knockoff chatters nearby. “Not cold. I mean, I can tell you have body heat.”

“It’s ab-b-b-out electromagnet-t-t-tism,” he says. “And-and per-p-perceptions.” He snaps his fingers and produces a four of diamonds. “W-w-watch this,” he grins, and then they fall through the floor.

Rita

“Hey, guys!” Rita knocks on the silver door with her silver hand. “It’s me. Mary? Sandra?” She shivers a little; she’ll get used to that. Surely. “I think I figured out that tape. You’re not gonna believe–”

The blast pillows from under the door so slow that at first, she doesn’t realize she’s already grounded. The concussion rolls out like boulders. She leans back, streams it around, lets the ley take the heat.

Did it kill them? Did they set it? Does it matter? Rita grits into the bomb, eyes streaming, getting colder. Shrapnel falls sharp into orbits around her fists.

Rita

“It’s a-a-a cave,” says the Cold Man.

“How far did hough.” Rita’s still coughing up rock dust. “Did we fall? Jesus faagh.

“Oh,” he says, and pokes his head into the shaft of light. “I forg-g-got you c-can’t–”

She waves him off and tries to stand. Nothing gives yet. She spits.

“No flashlight,” she murmurs.

“I-I can sssee,” he says. “C-can you see m-m-me?” He steps back. She can, though she can’t see anything around him.

“Yes,” she says.

“Y-you shouldn’t,” he smiles. “Bu-b-but that’s g-g-g-good.”

He holds out one gloved hand, and for the second time, she takes it.

The Cold Man

“Lou has withdrawn his protection. Did you understand that she was left to die in Chile?” The Ad Hoc purses out a smile. “She didn’t.”

The Cold Man pours a packet of sugar into his spoon and eats it.

“We’ve been asked to eliminate you, and we need a new hound. Her skills are acceptable. We’d use her to track you. I believe this is called poetic justice, yes?”

“I’ll-ll warn h-her.”

“Her ability to disappear does not approach your expertise. But we’ll forget about her,” it purrs, “if you agree. Your attributes are both unique and essential to the operation.”

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