By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
The broad-shouldered young man turned to face the tall and slender black man who had called his name.“ ”Yeah?“
They were standing at the railing of the Crystal Plaza Bar that hovered on invisible gasses above the East River at South Street Seaport.
”My name is Johnson, Folio Johnson.“ Folio extended his hand.
”Do I know you?“ Black was instantly on guard.
”No, no you don’t. I‘m a security expert for Macso but I want to get into real estate. I’ve been studying the brothers in that field and you, Mingus Black, are at the top of my list.“
The black Seeker ran his tongue under his lower lip and wondered.
”Can I get you a drink, M?“ a young, naked white girl asked Folio from the outward side of the railing.
Folio looked at the girl through the clear Glassone bar. She was shaven from head to toe and perfectly proportioned. He wondered what his hero, Humphrey Bogart, would have said in that situation.
”Real rum,“ he said. ”And, honey, do me a favor.“
”Put in an ice cube and stir it with your finger.“
”You‘re somethin’ else, mister.“
The young woman, who was unashamed to walk around naked in the bright sun of downtown New York, blushed under the detective‘s intense blue eye. She moved away to get his drink.
”Macso, huh?“ the real estate genius asked. ”What division?“
Folio was still watching the barmaid, enchanted by the words that had passed between them.
”Home,“ he said.
”You shittin’,“ Mingus said with a Backgrounder twang.
”No. I worked as Kismet‘s main bodyguard. Nine years I was with him.“
”Seven years ago Home was hit by a Peruvian kick squad. They wanted to wipe out Kismet before MacroCode could annex their country. They got pretty close.“ Folio ran a finger above his blue eye.
”You get that then?“
”A cinder broke loose from a wild shot. It ruined my eye and part of my brain.“
”Damn. That’s why I never work for nobody full out,“ Mingus said. ”They pay you to die for ‘em, that’s all, they pay you to die.“
”You right about that, brother,“ Folio said. ”You right about that, but still that cinder was the best thing ever happened to me.“
”How you figure?“
”I saved Kismet‘s life by puttin’ mine on the block. Motherfucker‘s crazy to the bone but he’s loyal. Had his surgeons save me and then give me this synthetic eye to make up for what I lost. Between the fight and this new eye I see the world in a whole new light.“
”And in that light you see real estate?“ Mingus Black asked.
”Sure do. I wanna move a half a million Kenyans to downtown Tokyo and spend my life lookin‘ at cute girls at Crystal’s.“
”You‘re here right now.“ The black Seeker was getting comfortable.
”I’m working, though.“
”Here‘s your drink, mister,“ the bald girl said.
When Folio reached for the glass she dipped her finger into the amber liquid and stirred it around. Folio took her hand and put the finger into his mouth, sucking hard enough to get all the rum off. The girl’s eyes widened and she forgot to withdraw her hand when he let it go.
”Working on what,“ Mingus asked, ”a hard-on?“
Folio laughed, looking deeply into the starstruck girl‘s eyes. ”I sure am workin’ on that one.“ Then he turned back to his target. ”But today I‘m here representin’ a new world Nazi boy named Charles Spellman.“
Mingus leaned back on his translucent barstool. For a moment Folio was afraid that he might bolt.
”What‘s up with Chas?“ Mingus asked.
”He’s drinkin‘ synth and worryin’ about death.“
”He is?“ Mingus looked down at his wristcom.
”If you wanna know the time, I can tell ya -- it‘s almost up,“ Folio said.
”What’s that supposed to mean?“
Mingus looked around to see if there was someone with Johnson, then he looked the detective in the eye.
”What’s Charles to you?“
”A piece ‘a shit,“ Folio said. ”But a piece ’a shit who laid out hard creds for me to save his ass.“
”You think that‘s it?“ Mingus asked. ”That it’s because they‘re in the I.S. [International Socialists].“
”We should be so lucky to live in a world where they kill the fascists and spare the lambs.“
”Maybe it’s coincidence?“
”Is that the kinda thinkin‘ bought you downtown Tokyo?“
”So what do you think?“
”Nothin’ yet. I‘d like to know who’s killing you boys. And in order to know that I have to know why.“
”I have no idea.“
”What were you guys discussing at your last meeting? Other than the 10-million-mile pool cue.“
”Education and labor and their relation to citizenship. Azuma was thinking that Elite Education Group had the right idea, that everyone should be tested as to their abilities and that their scores should be the basis of the degree of their citizenship.“