Syndicate Files: The Doctor - Part 3

((Co-written by Ciarente. Part 2 Here))

There are good neighbourhoods, there are bad neighbourhoods, and then there's the kind of neighbourhood Cariot lived in. Actually, it was a warehouse, that someone whose wallet was healthier than their conscience had rented out to anyone who couldn't afford better. Put together out of scraps of metal, plastic, discarded pieces of shipping containers, even scavenged pieces of ship hulls here and there - whatever could be found, the vertical slum filled the compartment, looking like the nest of one of those exotic insects: the kind that look ugly, smell worse, and have a nasty bite.

The smells that filled the air were a lot less wholesome than cooking or cut flowers, and I wasn't sure if it was them or the tilt to the floor from grav-generators too old to really put much effort into their work that turned my stomach.

As I ducked under strings of washing and stepped over things I didn't want to look too closely at, I comforted myself with the thought that at least Cariot wouldn't rumble my cover with one look at my face.

Cariot's address was up from the door, at least, it was up when you were at the door and it was up most of way there, too, except for those places where gravity was as sideways as Serpentis ethics.

As I knocked at the door I could hear a woman shouting in the first apartment, a kid screaming, someone crying. Happy families, or what passed for it in this part of the universe.

She opened the door just a crack, gave me the once over. I kept my hands in view, one with cash in it, "Need a doc, real bad."

She opened the door all the way, had a syringe of something a nasty green color in her other hand "Fine, come on in. Don't try anything, though."

The picture on her file hadn't shown more than her head and shoulders. Hadn't shown the difference animation made to those almost-pretty features, or the fact that the rest of package was more than worth writing home about - or sending a private detective a thousand syn advance.

Not that she was beautiful, or a patch on Auvy, of course. But she stood in that dingy room like she was a podder standing on her own hangar deck, and I suddenly understood why her husband would be so keen to get her back, drug convictions and all.

It wasn't until she spoke that I realised I'd been staring a little bit too long.

"Cash in advance," she said, keeping that syringe handy.

"We must'a gone to the same business school," I told her, making sure to keep my hands in view. I stepped inside, closed the door behind me. "I have to say, the mugshot didn't do you justice."

She tensed "Think you've got me confused with somebody else. You want to tell me why you need a doc?"

I eyed the needle. "I don't. At least, not yet."

"I've heard it all, sugar, no need to be embarrassed." She smiled slightly, a smile that had no doubt convinced plenty of nervous guys to drop their trousers on her orders. "What, that nice girl at the dockside bar gave you more than a half-hour's affection for your thirty syn?"

There wasn't any reason to keep dancing. "I'm working for your husband."

"You have got me confused with somebody else." Cariot held up her left hand, as bare of a ring as a freighter is bare of weapons. "Footloose and fancy free, me."

Had to wonder why she looked to be wound spring-tight, then. I shook my head. "Don't think that's quite enough proof, Doc. I've got a description. Pictures. And a thousand syn advance. He must care a lot, send that much to a total stanger, just to make sure you're alright. There's a message too."

She looked away, lips tightening, and tossed the syringe on the counter. "Man is a born fool. Look, Mr - "

"Tarva. Rordon Tarva."

"Mr Tarva, I don't have a lot of cash ready to hand. Maybe two hundred, but I can get more. I'll give you all of it to go back out that door, forget you saw me, and ..." She paused, and then said in hard voice. "Keep your message to yourself."

"Sorry lady, not the way it works."

"Occur to you I might have good reasons? Maybe he beat me, you think of that? Maybe I'm running for my life."

"Are you running for your life? That what it's about?"

She sighed. "In a manner of speaking, maybe I am."

"Well, he beat you, you can laugh at him for wasting that thousand syns on the message. Anyway, don't see me slinging you over my shoulder, do you?"

"The night is young," she shot back with a lift of an eyebrow and a curve to her lips that made it an invitation not many would refuse. "Look, Mr Tarva. You don't know what you've gotten yourself into. You tell him where I am, there's no telling where it ends. You ever have podder trouble? Because let me tell you, you don't want it."

She was right, I didn't. I'd had a brush with that kinda trouble before, and once was plenty. I'd taken her husband's money, though.

"Trouble comes with the job, Doc." I studied her, then gave her the message she'd been so keen not hear. "Your husband, he said to tell you - it's okay to come home."

She laughed with absolutely no humor. "Home? I am home, Mr Tarva. Look around. I'm exactly where I belong."

I was about to tell her that this wasn't somewhere anyone belonged when the door burst open.

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