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Friday, July 12, 2013

The Saint-Part Two

      “You really expect me to get on that thing?” Karen scowled at Robert and she gently kicked at the front tire of an ancient motorcycle.
For a quick refresher on what came before read The Saint-Part One -the management

            “Hey!” Robert grunted at her, “Don’t hurt it! This is a Harley. Show some respect for the old lady.”

            Karen sighed and rubbed her brow. They were less than a block away from her apartment, and she wasn’t sure how long it would take her landlord to recover enough to chase her. Even though the sun was hidden behind one of the massive Domes that balanced on spindly legs far above the city, she knew that it was getting close to dusk, when most of the violent types emerged from their hovels in search of more N2. She cleared her throat, “You don’t look like a lawyer.”

            “What was it, the tattoos or the coveralls?”

            She smiled despite herself but quickly hid her amusement with a scowl, “Both.”

            “It isn’t safe to wander around outside of the Domes in a suit.” he gestured up at the one above them, “Up there, it’s like a giant garden party, with the rich pretending that the poor saps that live down here inside the crumbling old city even exist. You can wear nice clothes without being murdered for your boots.” he smiled, “Plus, I’m something of an amateur mechanic, and this suits me better. Now are you getting on or what?”

            An hour later, Robert drove his ancient Harley into an even more ancient garage. Not only was Karen surprised to have ridden there on the back of a vehicle that still ran on fossil fuels, but she was even more surprised at the tiny apartment that he ushered her into.

            The place was practically a museum: huge pieces of machines that Karen had never even heard of loomed around his sparse furniture and nestled into their crevices and natural shelves were relics from a world long ago forgotten.

            Karen simply stared at them dumbfounded as Robert put her things on a small couch near the back of the apartment and dragged the tattered remains of a Japanese screen in front of it. He cleared his throat, “It’s not a whole lot, but this should give you a little privacy while you are here. I’m going to start dinner, feel free to look around.”

            Karen just blinked at him, “What do you mean ‘start dinner?’ Don’t you get our supplements from the factories like the rest of us?”

            Robert laughed and shrugged, “Call me old fashioned, but I like to chew my food.”           

            She looked at if he had just asked her to eat her own ear, “Chew?”

            He shook his head and laughed again, “Sit down. I’ll call you when it is ready.” He hurried over to a strange, squat iron machine that smelled like smoke and some other chemical that she couldn’t name and within a few seconds he had a merry flame blazing on the range. After another few minutes, a delicious smell wafted through the place, and Karen paused in her examination of an ancient CD player to glance over her shoulder at him.

            He gestured to a cracked table with two vinyl chairs that looked as if they’d been hooked to a wall at some point and when she had settled down on the faux leather he set a plate of a shapeless yellow mass with floating red and orange chunks in it in front of her, “Ta da! Scrambled eggs with tomatoes, onions and cheddar cheese! My specialty.”

            Karen lifted a lip in a horrified grimace, but reluctantly set a glob of the eggs in her mouth and, after watching Robert eat a few bites himself, imitated the motion of his jaw up and down. Flavor exploded in her mouth, and her eyes opened wide with surprise and delight.

 “See? No pills and no protein synthesis. Anything worth ingesting is worth ingesting right!” The two virtual strangers shared a guarded smile and Karen began wolfing down the eggs with a vengeance.

Robert broke the silence by fetching them two cracked cups and a strange pitcher-like object brimming with a hot brown liquid.

Karen wrinkled her nose again, “What is that stuff? Is it coffee? I thought it was illegal.”

“Try it.” Karen sipped it and instantly gagged, and Robert laughed, “I meant, try it with a little sugar and milk. Your stomach isn’t used to the bitterness.”

“Sugar, milk, and coffee? How is this possible? I didn’t think these things existed anymore.”

“They do but they have to be smuggled in by brokers who pay off the inspectors. You’d be surprised by how many highly placed officials I know. When the environment degraded there were less and less places to produce food where the toxins in the soil wouldn’t be transferred to the consumer. ”

“It must cost a fortune.”

“Yes. But you’re almost rich.”

“I don’t have the money, yet.”

“I’ve got it covered.” Robert winked. Karen frowned to herself, and for a moment they sipped their coffee in silence.

“So, you find people who have been left money by relatives and then you give it to them?”

            “Sometimes it’s that simple, not always.”

            “What could be simpler? I’m not trying to be a smartass, I just want to know.”

            “Here’s an example. Let’s say that your father specifies in his will that he is leaving three million credits to his first-born son. The other three children split six hundred thousand.”

            “Wait a minute. You said son. What if the first-born child is a girl?”

“Doesn’t matter. Probate law trumps any type of gender or civil rights issues. Wills are one of the last places where an individual can stipulate exactly what they want to happen. So, in the case I’m sharing with you, the will stipulates that the three million goes to the first-born son.”

“Pretty schmucky thing to do.”

            “Agreed, but it happens. More than you’d imagine. So the three children have some suspicions. Maybe the oldest son doesn’t look like their father as much as they do or maybe they’ve heard stories or rumors that mom was known to stray.”

“Is the mom still alive?”

“Yes. This is where the process gets ugly. The three kids hire an attorney. The lawyer petitions the probate court and the judge has no choice but to order a blood test.”

“So the oldest son gets the blood test and the whole thing is put to rest.”

“Not so fast. The oldest son has his own doubts. He knows he isn’t a carbon copy of his father. We’re talking about a big difference between first place and nothing.”

“What do you mean nothing?”

“If he takes the blood test and fails, he gets nothing because he isn’t one of his father’s children.”

“That sucks. So where is the mother while this is all going on?”

“She’s stuck in a lose-lose situation. If she encourages the children to split the credits evenly and to abrogate her husband’s will then she looks like she doesn’t want the paternity test. If she allows her first-born son to take the test and if he is not his father’s son then the family his ruptured, her reputation is ruined, and her infidelity cost him his inheritance.”

“Tough break.”

“For whom?”

“For the son of course. And the mother doesn’t fair well, either.”


“You mean the father set the whole thing up?”

“We’ll never know. But if he did, then he managed to stir things up or at least embarrass his wife. He used his death to settle a score.”

“So what happened?”

“Kind of anticlimactic. The four children split the credits evenly. No one took a paternity test and the mother didn’t have to admit to being unfaithful.” He smiled to himself, “It turned out that the eldest son was actually the old man’s only legitimate child in the end…all the others were his fathered by other men.”

“I guess calmer heads prevailed.”

“Not really. It took me two years to reach that compromise.”


“I think you know why.”


“Greed.” Robert agreed flatly.

“So greed was the reason the family compromised? Everyone thought it was best to get an even share?”

“Yes, but more importantly, the four children realized that only a prick would put his children and his wife through that kind of hell.” Robert took a sip of his coffee. “So why don’t you remember Herbert Comstock? Is it too painful or something?”

“No, that’s not it. I…well, I must have sold the memories.”

“Wait…sold memories?”

 “Yeah…if you are in a bind for credits and don’t feel like hooking, you can go to this place called The Green Serpent. They take any memory you want, and they pay pretty well.”

“What was special about the memories you had of your great uncle?”

“I don’t know exactly. They removed the memory but whenever I think about my childhood my stomach churns and I get migraines. I jotted down a few notes before I went to the Green Serpent. Let’s just say that Uncle Herbert liked to babysit, give me baths, and tuck me in at bedtime.”

“Have more eggs. They’re a much better cure for bad thoughts than having a company suck the memories out of your head.”                       

            Karen smiled at him, and shook her head at the same time, “That is where you are wrong.”

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