|Infinity Hold Series
|Kill All The Lawyers
Kill All The Lawyers
Book 2 of the Infinity Hold Trilogy
by Barry B. Longyear
I looked through the eyes of a little boy. A wet winter night in the hell of South Philly's Free Fire Zone. The boy had watched as they ran the bait and teased the stain into the alley. They beat in the cop's head, ripped open his guts, and took the stain's badge, gun, jacket, gloves, belt, shoes, and wallet.
The cop's eyes were open. He had to know he was dying there in the freezing filth of that alley, his open belly steaming in the cold. The little boy pulled out his penis, pissed on the cop, and laughed at him as he died. . . .
"Hey, pigfuzz. You got a killing."
The voice was strange. High, birdlike, and dripping with contempt. Like a little child I kept my eyes closed and buried my face in Alna's hair. It was hot beneath the desert sheet, Alna's hair stank, and at least a third of the desert's sand was in my mouth gritting between my teeth. Still, it was better than the deal I'd get from the voice that had interrupted my nightmares.
I didn't want to do a trial first thing in the evening. It was too early in the day to do ragtime, and I didn't need to kill anyone else. My cargo of ghosts already had my springs bent.
"You hear me, chili pepper? You got a stiff and a perp out there on the grit. You're the man with the star, the big talk, and the Law. You gonna cop or cop out?" I felt a docker poke me in my arm.
I rolled over, pulled the sheet off my face, and looked up at a young kid about fourteen or fifteen, with pale skin, thin lips, and all the hate in the universe sitting in a pair of gray eyes. He was wearing one of the metallic copper Mihvihtian sun sheets with his cold-time togs bundled and slung on his back. Behind him was the brassy late afternoon sky of Tartaros.
"Who're you?" I asked.
"I'm the one who's bringing the bad news, pigfuzz. You got a killing over in the left flank guard. Are you going to do something?"
I sat up, and shook the sand out of my hair and off my sheet. The sun was almost to the western horizon. The furnace was beginning to turn down. In another couple of hours the night cold would shatter our bones. We'd have to get the column moving soon or freeze to death. I reached out a hand and shook Alna. She groaned and turned her back toward me. True love.
I got to my feet, shook more sand off me, and looked at the kid. "You got a name?"
A real attitude. "You want to tell me what it is?"
"Ratt. Ratt Katz."
Those gray eyes were on me like green on twenties. Go ahead, they said. Just make a crack about my name. I'll rip out your lungs for water wings. "Okay. You seen Nkuma?"
"Your mau buddy with the other rifle?"
Ratt shook his head. A tiny grin parted those thin lips. "I figure one of the yard monsters did him for his piece."
"You got anything to go on, or is that just wishful thinking."
"I haven't seen him, pigfuzz. Not for days. So, what do you do now?"
"Now I wake up." I turned my back on him and picked up my cold night rags that I'd been using for a pillow. My skin was all rashed up from the sweat, grit, and no showers. I was obsessed with getting a bath when I could afford the time and find the water. Right then, however, there was a trial coming up and Nkuma was nowhere near.
Nkuma was a semi-sweetmeat mau in his late twenties. A little taller than me, he had eyes that were one step ahead of the horrors. Being responsible for a lot of deadmeats does that. I figured my eyes were a bit haunted, too. For the same reason. I didn't figure anyone did Nkuma for his weapon. Getting killed so some hunk of meat could grab his rifle would've at least made some sense. Parching out on the dunes trying to save all the new convict-exiles from the desert out of guilt was rank stupe, so that was probably where he was: exactly where I'd told him not to go.
I looked back at the squib. "Who's the perp?"
"A little haystack bit named Tani Aduelo. She thinned one of the sisters for her rations."
"She killed a mau?"
"Pushed a cutter right between her ribs. Whacked out her pump and main ducts. Witnesses, too. I'm one of them."
I'd had to handle more than one trial that was riding the ethnic edge. "Are the natives getting restless?"
Ratt shook his head. "Nobody cares about Misi Pihn. She's the croakee. Give the angel cake a slap on the wrist and the maus'll be happy. Tani's got a cockroach. His name is Lewis Grahl."
My evening was complete. A lawyer. I bent over and began wrapping the strips of cloth around my ankles to keep the sand out of the tops of my crowbar dockers. "What's he want?"
"He said he just wants to make sure everything's done according to the Law of the Razai, just the way you read it to them." Ratt gave out with one of those cynical little snickers. "I think he figures on getting her off."
"This Misi Pihn. I take it she wasn't exactly crowbar prom queen."
Finally Ratt's mouth did something beside sneer. He actually looked angry. "Misi Pihn was a snitch. Her mouth hurt a lot of people back on juve block."
"Juve?" That got my attention. "How old was she?"
"A little younger than me. Maybe fifteen. We called her the Black Wire."
"Straight to the warden's ear?"
"A one mouth news net."
I picked up my rifle and kit bag. "So what're you? The local attitude problem?"
"What do you mean by that?"
"I mean a snitch is dead, no one wants the perp in the grinder, and here you are blowholing to the cops."
"Illuminate me, kid. What beam are you riding?"
Those eyes seemed to go wild for a split second, but the face didn't changed expression. Like most sharks in the crowbars, Ratt was half control and half gibber festival. "It's all air, isn't it? You, the Razai Cops, the Law: smoke and mirrors. I'll tell you what I do, pigfuzz. I find lies and I rub people's noses in them. Does that put a turd in your taco, chili pepper?"
Ratt Katz was maybe fifty kilos with a deep breath and his pockets full of sand. For the life of me I couldn't figure out how he'd lived as long as he had. Anyway, I didn't have to give in to the urge to kill him; not right then. And I didn't have to explain or prove anything to any wet-eared diaper rash with a jerk tag like Ratt Katz. There was a thought splinter though that was beginning to peeve my psyche. "This Tani Aduelo. How old is she?"
"Fourteen. She just turned fourteen."
"Fourteen." I began sweating grenades, trying to remember how big kids were at fourteen. How big, and how mean. "Fourteen years old?"
"Yeah. Pretty. Real popular, too. Maybe you can swap your mau bit and make her a deal for her young ass. You let it live, she lets you crawl inside."
As I fought down the desire to burger young Katz on the spot, I looked upon any hope that he'd get within striking distance of his sixteenth year as rank fantasy. I unclenched my fingers and wiggled them to work out the strangle strain.
"Bando," said Alna, her voice thick and sleepy. "What is it?"
looked down at her. My mau bit. Her large brown eyes were still half-closed. I knelt and brushed a couple of grains of sand off her cheek. Her skin was the rich color of sharp chocolate. "There's trouble. I got to go to work."
I reached into my shirt pocket and pulled out the homemade star with the words "Chief -- Razai Police" scratched into the metal. I pinned it on the outside of my dirty white desert sheet, kissed Alna, and got back on my feet.
"Do you want me there?" she asked.
They never call in the RCs unless there's garbage to take out. When I knew it was garbage, I didn't drag it. Slowing down the payback didn't change the smell or make it any easier to collect. Those swift justice moves, though, were hard for Alna to take. All those little splats of blush and bits of bone all over the sand and the spectators were a little tough on a shark's serenity. It'd be better for her if she didn't have to watch her little lump of brown sugar blow away some little white bread bit. Yeah, and Bando Nicos might look a little weak and vulnerable if he asked his lady along to brace his back while he went and made like a pig cop in front of all those hungry sharks. Macho was still the Spanish word for asshole.
I held out my hand. "Yeah," I whispered. "I need you there. This perp's female, fourteen, and already I want to puke."
Alna took my hand and I pulled her to her feet. We held each other and she whispered in my ear, "You're a good man, Bando Nicos. You're going to do just fine."
Yeah, I thought. I could almost hear my ghosts laughing. We held each other a moment longer, then followed Ratt Katz as he struck out across the sand for the left flank guard camp.
We stopped as the white streak of a descending prison ship's exhaust trail headed toward the east to land in the dark. That load of sharks was getting a break being landed that close to the edge of the desert. Of course it wouldn't do them any good unless they knew what direction to follow. To find that out, they would have to be told.
I glanced at Alna. She was staring back at me, her eyes carrying more than a bit of accusation in them. "We already got more than we can handle, doll. Besides, they're too far away. We can't save 'em all."
"Maybe Nkuma sees them, too." She looked at the kid and asked me, "Who's this?"
I held out my hand, "Alna Moah, this is Ratt Katz, seeker of justice."
"You came to the right man," she said. She sounded like she meant it. The kid looked at her like she was garbage. We headed north and Alna turned her head and watched the sky trail as we walked. It was only because she had watched a similar trail a few nights earlier that Ratt and the other Mihvihtians were even alive.
Alna, Nkuma, and I had met the prison ship from Mihviht to invite that load of sharks to join the Razai. After executing a nasty killer gang-boss perp named Mokk, and otherwise explaining the facts of life on the desert, the Mihvihtian sharks joined. We were bringing in sixteen thousand of them. I didn't know what had happened to Nkuma. I hadn't seen him for three of Tartaros's twenty-seven hour days. My best guess was that he had gone out on the dunes alone to work off his guilts by trying to meet more prison ships to warn them about the desert, and especially about the Green Mountain Mirage. That meant he was probably dead. What Stays called being on a sandbat sabbatical.
As we followed Ratt, I looked down and watched my dockers drag through the gleaming yellow granules of grit as I smoked my wig about Stays, the Law, and about Bando Nicos doing more ragtime. Another trial right then seemed like a bit on the dump side.
Martin Stays used to say the Razai was one big legal therapy group. Therapy groups were things like what they had back on Earth in Williamsburg Rehab where I did some soft moments before I was chucked into the Crotch at Greenville and climbed on the rock clock; before we were all exiled to Tartaros; before we were put on infinity hold.
I think I know what Stays meant about legal therapy groups, though. Nothing much can help any kind of an addict get and stay straight except other addicts of the same stripe on the mend. That's because no one in the universe knows a deadhead like another deadhead. Finding out what that circle of brothers and sisters can see in you can bring the cool down short. You sit down in one of those groups, all prepared to put in some time by putting on the heads, and the next thing you know all of your carefully constructed walls of steel reinforced bull are absolutely invisible to the others sitting in the circle. It could lay the noids on Nessie.
A few hundred thousand million billion miles away from Earth, it's easy to see why it worked. No one in a thrap group can see his own game, but each one of them have been playing the same game for a long time. That's why they can recognize when someone else is flipping those old cards.
We were all sharks, postgraduate convicts working on our P H and Ds. We all knew the cockroach court games designed to do nothing more than make lawyers rich, screw up the system, and make more cockroaches rich in fraudulent attempts at clearing up the mess, which by some strange coincidence was always a bigger mess after the attempt than before. This, of course, required putting more cockroaches on the payroll to make a study of the court and crime problem, which usually resulted in recommendations for hiring more black rags at taller rates, and upping the fees for juicer-supplied lawyers, which the cockroaches in Parliament who make the laws, curiously enough, usually approved.
It's funny to think that no one on Earth, or any other cockroach infested planet, could see the problem. Any bug man in the galaxy could've told them. If you've got a cockroach problem, you don't hire cockroaches to man the spray guns. If you're infested with rats, you don't pay a rat to study the problem and generate recommendations.
Easy? I mean, is that the original one-lobe issue? Something a flatworm could figure out? No one on Earth outside the crowbars could see it, except maybe William Shakespeare; he who wrote: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." A yard guru back in the Crotch, Big Dave Cole, showed me that line in a book. It's from King Henry VI where this rebel leader named Cade is working his blowhole about how great things will be once the revolution comes and he becomes king. One of his gang, named Dick, says, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."
It's spooky how some things, by just being, seem to vibrate some kind of fundamental chord in the universe. Some pieces of music get me that way. The great pyramids of Egypt, too. That line in Henry VI rang a couple of chimes. See, no matter who I told that line to, it got a laugh. Sharks, stains, even my own cockroach, when they heard it, they laughed. Not a funny laugh. It was always one of those wicked, dark, angry laughs people do to send what they really feel off sideways into nowhere.
To Shakespeare, maybe it was only a joke. The action was dragging a bit and he went for a laugh with the kill the lawyers bit. Up to your nose in the legal sewer back on Earth, however, kill the lawyers sounded like a progressive political platform that wouldn't be found wanting for votes from either the sharks or the straightmeats. Maybe it's racial memory that dates back to the beginning of life. I mean, man, even amoebas hate lawyers.
On Tartaros the sharks got dealt a new hand. The cards sucked like a wind tunnel, but we got to play a few of them our way. The hightowers sat up on that Blue Moon putting the bugger on each other and collecting the corn for letting smugglers bring in drugs, weapons, and other things to make sure Hell never froze over. The universe crawled with games and slime. But when we needed law to keep us out of each other's pockets and off each other's throats, though, there were no games allowed. We still had cockroaches. We were, after all, a planet covered with criminals. But the roach dance was over.
Our laws weren't made by lawyers for lawyers. The Law of the Razai was made by people for the purpose of getting themselves some of that justice thing. Justice was everyone getting exactly what they deserved as fast as possible, and there were no matches called on points. We didn't take prisoners and we weren't allowed to hold them. Payback was what you did plus a little, and the only allowable plea was the truth.
The Law was born in a time and place by men and women who could not spare the time and water to shuck and jive with the cockroaches. We were in the baddest desert on a bad planet with our water getting ripe and low. We were a gang of three thousand sharks with maybe twelve hundred guns gearing up to fight the half million man army east of the desert in the Sunrise Mountains called the Hand. Six weeks to select a jury? The rules of evidence? Attorney-client privilege? Check out some reality, chup.
Black rag times, our trials, were swift, uncomplicated, just, and efficient. They were also sometimes a little messy. But that was okay because we weren't real nice people. Whatever the Law was, it only had one real advantage over every other legal system in the universe: it worked. That confused me a crumb, because I was Bando Nicos, Chief of the Razai Cops. I didn't work very well at all, and maybe a third of the Law was something I made up on the spot, mostly in the middle of trials. Every shark I had to execute left behind a ghost. Every ghost had the same function. It was to crowd the dreams of Bando Nicos and keep asking him the same question: "Who in the hell is Bando Nicos to execute anyone?"
As Ratt lead
the way over a dune, I could hear voices, whistles, laughter. I
tried to work up enough spit to swallow as I held on to Alna and tried
to wrestle my ghosts into the dark corners. It was ragtime.
PIHN V. ADUELO
The column of sharks was strung out over maybe two miles aimed toward the east and the Razai. They were organized Razai style with a main walking column headed by a point guard, flanked by wings, and brought up by a rear guard. Except for my rifle, the only weapons the sharks had were belt buckles, sand saps, and homemade cutters hand crafted back in the crowbars.
By the time we reached the left flank guard area, the sun was half under the desert's edge. The air was cool enough to breathe and everyone should've been packing up for the night's march. Instead the dunes were covered with sharks who wanted to watch another episode of "You Bet Your Life." I left Alna at the sidelines as I moved into the middle of the mob. Ratt walked with me, the muttered comments aimed in his direction drawing obscene gestures and comments in return. He'd save the ripest cracks for the biggest mokkers. Either the kid was real brave, real stupid, or where his brain should've been he was dragging a deathwish the size of the Spider Nebula.
Tani Aduelo was easy to spot. Even in the fading heat of the day, this girl was pretty. Lovely. Beautiful. Adorable. Maybe it was part sexual, part little-girl parent protective, part I don't know what. I just wanted to wrap my arms around her, cuddle, and protect her from all the nastiness in the world, which is saying a lot on Tartaros.
She made me think of the wood nymphs and water nymphs I'd read about in the Crotch back when I was killing the clock reading Greek mythology. She was even more than that. She was the kind of deep pretty that made you need to be within sight of her, because to be in sight of her filled your heart with joy, and a crowbar shark needed that joy more than any drug.
Fourteen years old, with blond bobbed hair, bright blue eyes, and cheeks the color of strawberry cream. She looked like one of those antique china dolls. When she spoke, her voice was soft, sweet, and full of fun. When she laughed you could hear bells tinkling all over the galaxy. You just knew that when she came down the chute her parents had just sold themselves into slavery. What heartless bastard could've denied little Tani anything her little heart desired? You could tell that throughout her entire life she had been given the extra slack.
Now, there are people like Bando Nicos who get thumped by the stains even when they don't do anything simply because they look like they ought to get thumped. If I really hadn't done whatever it was, then the thump was still righteous because I had certainly done something in the past, or would do something in the future, that deserved it. If a body dropped dead from old age on the other side of the planet, the first question that would leap into the head of the cops would be "Where's Bando Nicos?" Even with me on infinity hold I was sure the stains on Earth were still asking the same question.
People like Tani, however, get to fly in a friendlier sky. You just knew that if she had been caught standing over a stiff with her feet in a pool of blush and with a smoking piece in her mitt, the first question the stain would ask was "Who handed her that gun?" Then he'd ask, "Where's Bando Nicos?"
There wasn't anything left to do but do it. "Ratt," I called out loud for the benefit of the crowd, "What's the charge?"
There was a noise from the spectators made up of laughter, snickers, rude comments, and a bunch of threats. I fired one of my precious few rounds up into the air to chill down the spectators. They iced to a low mumble and I looked around at the sharks.
"We read you all the Law at least a couple of times," I yelled. "You crowbar blowholes with the big mouths, remember Rule Thirteen, the `You Say It, You Pay It Rule'. A threat is a crime, and it carries as a penalty the performance of the threat upon the threatener." At last, complete silence.
In the quiet, Ratt Katz walked over until he was standing in front of me. It was rag time. "Where's the stiff?"
Ratt looked off to his left and I followed the direction of his gaze until I saw a prone shape covered with a Mihvihtian sun sheet at the foot of the dune to my right. I went over, and as I approached I saw that the copper-colored sheet was dotted with goobers. At least two or three hundred sharks had taken the opportunity to spit on the Pihn remains. The legacy of the snitch. I would've spit on her myself, except my throat was too dry.
I unslung my piece and lifted the sheet with my rifle's front sight blade. There was Misi Pihn, former bigmouth. She was a mau, maybe fourteen or fifteen, skinny with eyes like a snake, still open. Her crowbar jacket was stained with a small amount of blood, and I could see where the cutter had gone through the cloth.
There wasn't any point in asking where the murder weapon was. To make a good cutter and smuggle it all the way to Tartaros under guard takes a lot of work and risk. It was a valuable item, and I had no doubt that Tani Aduelo's cutter was in the possession of pretty little Tani. I glanced up at the dune facing me, and those sharks that weren't looking down at Misi Pihn with narrowed eyes were transmitting high signs to perky little Tani.
It didn't look good. If Tani had any sense at all, she'd go for a jury, which was almost a guarantee she'd get off, given the current selection of potential jurors. If the jury let a guilty perp off the hook, the Bad Call Rules required the execution of every juror who voted for not guilty. We had thirteen jurors per trial, and I only had four rounds of ammunition left. I issued a quick curse at Nkuma for running off on his jerk quest with the other rifle and the rest of the ammo.
I talked to Ratt without looking at him. "Any witnesses?"
"Twenty or thirty. A regular audience to see the Wire get hers. Like I said, I'm one of them. So, what do you do now?"
I turned my head and did a scan for the roach. My orbs picked up a chubby mau standing next to Tani. That would be Grahl. Maybe they were tying up a few loose ends to the Aduelo defense strategy. I figured there were all kinds of ways to waste time. Trying to beat a charge on points was a juicer game from back home. The Law was the law. Home was all done past.
She broke off her conversation with the cockroach and looked at me. I felt a physical pain right beneath my breastbone. This was going to be a lot harder than I figured. "Tani, you've been fingered for killing Misi Pihn to get her rations. According to Ratt, there're witnesses. Under the Law I can handle it, but I suppose you want a jury."
She smiled very warmly at me. Damn her for that smile. "I don't want a jury."
As my lower jaw hung open, she looked at the roach. The lawyer raised his eyebrows and said to me, "I am Lewis Grahl representing Tani. Under the provisions of Rule Fourteen, what you call the Black Rag Rule, the defense moves to have the investigating officer decide this issue."
He was crazy. "Cockroach, are you shuffling dimensions?"
"I beg your pardon?" Grahl had smug oozing out of every pore. My first impulse was to let him go down in flames, but a glance at Tani finished that. I walked over to them and faced Grahl.
"Look, money threads, I don't know what in the hell ambulance you think you're chasing, but if this kid killed Misi Pihn for nothing but her eats, the only chance your pigeon has is a crooked jury."
Eyebrows still up, Grahl's forehead wrinkled in that eternal expression of burdened superiority sported by those princes of the blood reduced by cruel fate to having to treat with dung. "The way I understand your law," he said, "if the officer decides the case, new rules can be made to cover situations not already addressed by the existing rules. However, if a jury decides a case, it must be done under the existing rules. There would be no opportunity to make new rules."
I frowned as I thought about it. It hadn't registered on me before, but he was right. The pain in my chest eased a bit as I felt a gleam of hope. "You have something? Something that isn't covered by the Law?"
He nodded and said, "Trust me."
There it was again: Trust me. Every time a cockroach had ever fed that line to Bando Nicos, the only certain thing was that Bando was headed for the crowbars with a new asshole and a flat wallet. But maybe he knew what he was doing. He'd already seen something in the Law that I hadn't seen. Maybe.
I looked at Tani. It wouldn't be hard to get lost in eyes like hers. Jesus, she was just fourteen! I looked toward the setting sun. "I don't have to trust your cockroach, kid. You don't either." I looked back at those eyes. "You sure you want to do what he says? A jury can vote you not guilty, and you got a lot of friends out there."
"She wants to do what's right," said Grahl. "You'd have to execute a jury that voted wrong, wouldn't you?"
My voice went real low. "I don't have that much ammo."
"Sooner or later you'd have to go after the jury, correct?"
Tani placed her hand on my arm. "Honest, I'll be all right. Lew knows what he's doing." There was almost a gleam of mischief in her eyes.
I looked at the cockroach, and he said again, "Trust me."
Maybe he had something. Hell, Bando Nicos didn't know everything in the world. I wasn't exiled to Tartaros because I was gifted with great smarts. I went back to my place on the sand. "Okay, Grahl. Tani. No jury. How do you answer the charge?"
"First, there are a few things I would like to make clear for the record."
Speaking of the record, I hadn't made any arrangements for one. My old court clerk, Ila Toussant, was back with the Razai. I looked back at Alna, and she smiled as she held her hands over her head. In one hand she had a writing instrument and in the other was some paper. I nodded back and returned to Grahl. "Okay."
"Very well. To begin, the deceased was an informer. Back in prison she and Tani had had several run ins ---"
"Forget that stuff," I said. "Rule Eleven. If it happened before the landing, it's done past. As if it never happened. I thought you knew the Law."
"I do. I just thought a bit of background might be helpful in making a decision."
"Facts help, cockroach. Background is bullshit."
"Very well. I should mention that, somehow, this Misi Pihn had an over abundance of rations. It has been rumored ---"
"Yeah," I interrupted, "and so what? Are there any charges? Like, is Tani charging that Misi nabbed her eats?" I gave him an out if he wanted to take it, but he had to do it his way.
"No," he said.
"First Rule. What's mine is mine. It's not Misi's job to feed Tani, no matter how much stuff she has." I gave a little sigh of impatience. "Look, you know the Law. So far this has all been smoke. Do you have anything or not?"
Grahl studied me for a second, glanced at Tani, and nodded. "Very well, Nicos. Tani enters a plea of guilty and the defense makes a motion that Tani Aduelo be sentenced as a juvenile. She is only fourteen and has that right." There were a couple of giggles from the dunes.
I stood there with my teeth in my mouth for I don't know how long, waiting for him to give me the rest. After a long time I managed to figure out that's all there was.
"That's it?" I demanded. "That's your big move?" I had counted on the lawyer to have an answer. You'd think by then, standing in the middle of the Forever Sand, I would've god damned learned. "Talk to me, cockroach! Is that your sharp step, your deft play?"
"Think for a second, Nicos! This law of yours doesn't allow any grading of punishments, especially not for taking a life. The Razai cannot hold prisoners, the payback for taking a life is death."
"Yeah?" Again I waited. Again I damned myself for not learning from the time before. "So what's your point?"
He looked exasperated at the low form of intelligence with which he had to contend. "Don't you see? No provisions have been made regarding juveniles. You now have an opportunity to make such a provision. From what I understand, most of this law you're so proud of was made up by you. Now you have an opportunity to correct one of your many oversights." He glanced knowingly at the thousands of surrounding sharks. "It would also be a way to avert further unpleasantness."
I don't know. Maybe in law school you have to get certain neural centers crisped before you're allowed to take the bar exams. The juicer had lots of games, and the juve game was an old favorite. I'd even used it myself to keep down the numbers after almost beating to death that school teacher, which is why I was sent to Lancaster Juve instead of Pen State.
And everyone knew it was a game. Everyone in the crowbars, anyway. That's right. Cut his hair, put him in a suit and short pants, rouge his cheeks, promise the black rag he'll never do it again, and turn that little killer loose on the streets to bust more skulls. What about payback? What about justice?
Juicer law never was much concerned with the victim or with what was just. What was funny, though, was that everything the cockroaches, stains, and black rags did was in the name of justice and for the victim.
I began unslinging my piece. Grahl took a step toward me. "What are you doing?"
God, I was sick. I spat on the sand as I checked the load in my rifle. "You got another motion, cockroach?" I levered in a fresh round.
He walked over until he was next to me and began speaking in a very low voice. "Don't you see, Nicos? I've given you a way around your Payback Rule."
Man, the taste in my mouth was ancient and repulsive like the papers off the bottom of a legal eagle's birdcage. Yeah, I wanted a way around the Payback Rule, but it didn't have anything to do with there being something wrong with the rule. That and the rest of the Law was all that kept us out from under the big fist. It's what protected us.
I didn't want around the rule just because Tani Aduelo was young, pretty, and had an army of bone crushers who would be most unpleasant about this little chili pepper smoking her out of her sox. Why I wanted around the rule was because Bando Nicos didn't want to take out the garbage. I had the memory of the murder I'd committed on Earth sitting alongside the ghosts of all of those I'd had to execute in the name of the Payback Rule. Who was Bando Nicos to take out anyone in the name of the Law? Of course, who was anybody in the RCs to do anything in the name of justice? We were all killers. But then why was I the only one who got sick every time he pulled a perp's plug?I looked at Tani. "You got anything to say, kid? I think your cockroach's run out of air." . . . . .
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