Murder, My Sweet

Titan Bad Business

“Fiction in any form
has always intended
to be realistic.”
—Raymond Chandler,
The Simple Art of Murder

Carol Lundgren was smooth. Smooth, slim and oily.

He had long sleek blue fingers—everything about him was blue. Most of the Titan android boyz were that way—smooth, slim, oily and blue-complexioned.

Lundgren sat there—grinning at me. His blue hair was greased straight back from his forehead—as he checked me out. He wrinkled his nose—and popped his big knuckles. They were big, gnarly and he liked showing them off. He knew I liked him—most men did.

Android boyz were dime-a-dozen—there in New Titan Town. There were usually third or forth generation androids—pretty sophisticated hustlers.

Lundgren was smooth—sullenly popping each big thick knuckle with an almost obscenely show-off seductive pop. His long bony face—the same sullen blue-orangeish color as Titan’s sky.

He played dumb looking at me—his hands spread out on his knees like a deck of cards. He started with the fuck-fingers first—the middle fingers in each hand. He could flex and pop them—without bending them with his other hand. He was double-jointed and ambidextrous.

You’ve heard maybe that old Earthside common expression—“Pop!!! Goes the Weasel?” That’s how Lundgren looked at me with each pop—letting his face go slack-jawed and spaz with each tight snap.

I smiled politely—a muted telepathic wiggle going off inside my head. Lundgren nurtured each joint that popped telepathically—studying my face to see how I reacted. He knew I liked him—he knew I wanted to pop his touchy Titan weasel real good.

That android wiggle in my head kept wiggling—like a pair of long red crushed velvet curtains in some old Earthside Bijou theater. Each time the kid popped his lewd gnarly knuckles, he closed his eyes—and I felt like it was curtains for me.

Lundgren took the Pluto ju-ju outta his tight blue lips—and carefully placed it on the edge of the ashtray on Amthor’s floating desk. It was curtains for me—sitting there in Amthor’s office. In the Sunset Towers—headquarters of the powerful Rings of Saturn Corporation. Maybe curtains for Lundgren too—he looked pretty available.

I motioned with my raygun for Lundgren to stand up. He started to say something—but then just smirked at me. Nothing changed in his blue-orangeish face—not a flick of fear as he stood up. He was a cool one—one of Amthor’s favorites.

“Go_____yourself,” he said.

I sized him up pretty quick. He was a young killer android—with a limited vocabulary. He’d been working for Amthor a long, long time. There at the Sunset Towers—formerly the Argyle Hotel in West Hollywood. Before they morphed it—up to Titan.

Lundgren had a big price tag—he knew all the angles of Amthor’s business. Especially over there in New Titan Town—in Eddie Mars’ gambling-casino.

I got down on his nine—he gave me a hard time there beneath the pale sick-yellow glow of Saturn’s Rings coming through the skylight. Layers of methane smog oozing and scudding by overhead—his knuckles and chewed-fingernails digging deep into my buzz-cut head.

The next thing I knew we were over in Eddie Mars’ casino—the kid’s usual haunt. A mock rambling frame mansion at the far end of town—once the summer residence of a ROS Corp exec. Later a fancy hotel—now just a shabby hole in a thick grove of wind-twisted Martian cypresses.

I’d seen it earlier on the vidscreen—faded stained-glass trim around pealing picture windows, slinky android-boyz in the ruined stables in back, a crummy air of nostalgic decay everywhere. Eddie Mars pretty much left it the way it was—instead of making it over to look like some fancy RKO set back in LA. He wasn’t that fond of LA art deco kitsch—and Earthside decay and decadence. The rot inside him showed—that was enough.

I could feel Lundgren’s dirty mind inside my head—up the white oak staircase curving majestically into the darkness of the upper floor. Some places are darker than night—more dingy than noir.

Past lots of other slim-faced mutant boyz—smiling bleakly, cruising around the carpeted hallway to the boss’ office. Lundgren sneered at them—and they sneered back. There was no honor, commaraderie or respect—amongst slimy stealthy Titan boy-toys.

Eddie Mars was dark, shambling, shameless—out of some Miami Vice movie. He had a Florida suntan—and a Sèvres china tea set in a copper tray beside a samovar. He was sucking on a hookah tube—placing it aside when I came into the room. The door behind me—clicked with a time-lock.

“I’m a pushover for the young android mob around here,” Eddie Mars complained. “Except for one thing—the local hustlers drop in every night and help me open the joint. I have this, well, arrangement with them…”

Lundgren behind me smirked. He didn’t tell Eddie Mars—what I’d done to him over in Amthor’s office. At least his lips didn’t move—and Mars didn’t seem interested.

“I had Lundgren come over to get you,” Mars said cheerfully. “Have a drink and sit down. You in hurry?”

“No hurry at all,” I said. “You and I don’t have anything to talk about—except business.”

He mixed a couple of drinks—we sat down across from each other in a couple of over-stuffed red leather chairs. Lundgren sat on the desk—cross-legged with his eyes closed and his lips turned off.

I rinsed the android spunk down my throat—letting the whiskey flush my toilet tonsils clean. It tasted metallic and jet-black blue—midnight punk high quality stuff. It gave me a buzz—plus his Titan monogrammed boxer shorts.

“I told Amthor I’d send Carol Lundgren over to pick you up,” Eddie said, smiling demurely. “He’s my #1 android-kid. You like him?”

I shrugged. “Did you think I wouldn’t?”

Eddie laughed. “Just kidding.”

I looked over at Lundgren—licking my lips. “I saw his pic on Amthor’s vidscreen. Plus lots of other stuff. Amthor must be jealous. I owe you a fee?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Mars said. “I didn’t send him down there to make a touch. He gets paid for what he does. Not much by your standards though. You being a syndicated space hockey jock—and all that.”

“While we’re on the subject,” I said. “Don’t send me any more android-punks with orders. I might get hysterical and blow him away. My raygun beeped like a cell-phone—I reached in my jacket and turned it off.

Mars smirked, wiping his lips with a lavender handkerchief and nodded at Lundgren to get out. Sullenly the young male android prostitute slunk out of the room—leaving a sulky wake of robotic insouciance behind him.

“He tries to be professional,” Mars apologized.

“Yeah, but he doesn’t give a damn,” I said.

Mars wiped his lips again—looking at his handkerchief again as if he expected to find blood on it. His lips were like my lips—stained with too much jizzy jouissance.

“Amthor thought you were trying to blackmail him,” Eddie Mars said. “The Rings of Saturn Corp would probably let you get rid of him—Amthor figures his days are probably up. He was scared that even ROS Corp was behind it. You showing up—here on Titan, that is.”

“Why?” I asked. I was beginning to like Eddie Mars.

“He probably figured ROS brought you in to get rid of him,” Mars said. “Amthor’s type don’t last that long out here in the sticks—the solar system’s full of old quacks like him. They move on from planet to planet—milking the miners, minions and rubes. Know what I meant?”

“That’s obvious,” I said to Mars. “One look at that guy and he’s got planetary paranoia and badboy blackmail dinge-queening his face really bad. He’s like that quack in the Chandler ur-text—the one with the LA Sunset Towers. Been there—done that.”

“Yeah, I know,” said Eddie Mars, smiling knowingly at me. “Once a finger man for the ROS mob—always a finger man. Been there—down that, too.”

I sized Mars up—he sized me up too.

“It’s disgusting isn’t it,” Mars said shaking his head. “Amthor, Lindsay Marriott and their types. Talk about interplanetary Sodom and Miss G. Guyz like them—contaminating the solar system. You can read them like a book—a literature of android aberration and abominable abhorrence.”

I shrugged lightly. I leaned forward and put my hand on Eddie Mars’ knee. “That’s their racket,” I said to him…

He smiled bleakly—knowing what I was going to say next.

“Now then, Eddie,” I said. “Tell me what your racket is?”

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