Without further ado: Night-Time is Always the Worst. Chapter 5 (Griffing & Newman)
Continued from Chapter 4…
Jonas had never been so far up in all his life. The sidewalks he was used to had no railings because it was only twenty centimetres to the street, not hectametres. He stepped away from the side and walked more carefully, one hand against the reassuring wall. The air was clearer up here, and quieter, and the early morning light was almost blue after thousands of yellow and grey-green mornings below. He looked again at the address as a tungsten-yellow Phœnix Valkyrie roared past, freely sharing depleted uranium (depU) bullets with the DPD at close range. Jonas pulled his coat around himself, thanked the OneTrueGod for a day out of the Patosar plant, and prayed for Clara’s safety. He had the address that the girl had given him: one level higher, but already his legs were sore from the climb. There was a bridge across the streetway here, but it had been hit a few times too many by passing Gravvers and the railing was torn off on one side and the pavement split across. He walked another block to the next, which was serviceable, and crossed to the covered alley opposite and its dark stairs. A trio of young toughs loitered in front of a fried-food and Demonade stand, and he quickened his pace. At the top of the stairs was another stretch of alley, with a pawn shop selling untraceable Kurgers and a Health Salon that sold painted beauty and counterfeit love as well. The alley opened onto the far block, and the fifth door when he turned left, one storefront shy of the corner, was grimier than the rest of the block. Once upon a time it was probably a ground-floor entrance, or within the lower four levels at least. Down there it had been stenciled with Waterfront Transport and Freight, but the letters had been stripped, and the new sign merely read D. Kriever on top of the smog-lines of Transport. There also was no glass to this door, which was unusual at this level. He knocked, then pressed the catch. The door scraped in its track but eventually opened.
Inside the dim lobby the first thing that caught Jonas’ eye was a shining pink anemone in the middle of the room on something knobby and metallic. The light shifted abruptly and he saw the receptionist. Her hair was gloss-pink and her face had at least twenty bits of metal sticking out of it, not including the tongue-posts that showed with her tongue out as she concentrated on her fingernails. Jonas could not tell what she was doing to her hand before the holocast changed again and the room was dimmed. The grinding sound behind him ended with a sharp clunk! that sealed them together in the semi-darkness before the girl spoke.
“Can I help you?”
“I called last night,” Jonas said. “Jonas MacAdam, missing persons case–I need to find my daughter.”
A great sphere of red-violet chicle swelled from the girl’s mouth and exploded. She put her fingernails down and took a moment to poke the remnants back into her mouth. “Your name, please?”
“Jonas MacAdam.” She wrote it down.
“I’m Beatríce,” she said, making all her vowels and diphthongs long. “What’s your business?”
“I need someone to find my daughter— I think DIS has her.” Jonas stuffed his hands into his coverall pockets.
“Why? What makes you think the Allegiance Police have her?” Bee looked something that could have been genuine curiosity. “What do you want us to do about it?”
Jonas shrugged. There was little anyone could do once the Dystopiads In Suits took someone away. The official name of the agency was the Dystopian Allegiance, Patriotism, Obstruction, and Treason Monitoring Policement Agency, but it was usually trimmed in the current Newspeak to Allegiance Police or simply DystAPO. They took people to unheard-of places, and sometimes those people were never even remembered again. Jonas stifled a sniff. There were three more pages to fill out and he signed at the bottom.
The man on the holocast was talking louder now, lecturing on something he seemed to believe religiously. Jonas sat in a chair with the cushion out and thumbed through a magazine. The man on the holocast mentioned the impending wrath of the OneTrueGod and he perked up. This wasn’t just another of the Prosperity Power Preachers: he might be worth a listen-to. Jonas laid the magazine aside while Bee made a couple of videophone calls, one to Kriever, one to someone she called “Sir”, and another to Kriever. A short call from Sir came through, harsh and angry, and another quick call went through to Kriever. Apparently, Sir was not on speaking terms with Kriever.
The man in the glowing holocast rec was denouncing Graven Images, the “graven walking, talking, meeracle-working images of evil,” as he put it, that filled the City with corruption. He seemed to equate them with the Apocalypse and the Image of the Beast. “Show them no mercy!” the preacher cried, “Or you likewise will be bound unclean before The Throne!” At the base of the display was a scrolling commo-net address below the name Manwell Crafthaven. Jonas had heard of Crafthaven, but didn’t know much about him. On the wall behind the pulpit were words in gold:
Chapel of Grace
Children of Men.
Jonas had never heard of the “Children of Men” church, but if they were “Chapel” they must be all right.
“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid Mr. K will not be back before lunch,” said the secretary, with neither sorrow nor fear in her bored voice. “You wanna go get us both somethin’, Mr. MacAdam?” Jonas shook his head. He wanted Clara back.