It’s just past midnight when I hear someone banging on the front door of my shop. Usually junkies try the locks in hopes that I forgot to lock up, thinking they’ll make a quick score before I ever notice they were here. Slamming on the door isn’t a good way to go about that. Someone is trying to get my attention.
I peel myself out of bed. It’s not that late for most others in the neighborhood, but getting the shop up and running every morning has turned me into an early riser. One of many sacrifices I’ve made to keep the place running.
I grab something solid. Something that could do some damage in case it’s some punk hoping to rush me the second I crack the door open. I’m not looking to hurt anyone, just scare them away, but I’ll do what I have to.
I walk through the dark lobby. The little bit of light spilling in from the street is enough to help me not trip over anything on my way to the door.
I peek out the window, in between the signs I’ve put up. It’s a woman. Definitely not a junkie. Much too well-kept. She’s wearing clothes that could probably pay a month’s lease on this place. Maybe two. And she’s done up like she’s had a night on the town.
It’s the wrong neighborhood to be dressed up like that. Her get-up makes her an easy target. She’s probably realizing that now and looking for help. Against my better judgment, I open the door.
“Can I help you?”
“Rhys Roberts? You’re the catalog genius, yeah?”
I brush off the compliment. I wouldn’t call myself a genius, but I know my way around a catalog unit enough to make a living. I tread carefully with my unwanted guest. Something doesn’t feel right.
“What do you want?”
“I need your help. I was told you can help me. I saw something tonight,” Her voice cracks as she continues. “Some bad stuff. I’m told you can help with that kind of thing.”
“Sure. During business hours. Call in the morning and I’m sure you can get an appointment soon.”
I try to close the door and she puts her hand in the way, calling out as she does.
The look in her big, blue eyes makes me reconsider for a second, but I’ve seen this scam. Send a looker to your door. It gets you to stop thinking with your head. You let your guard down, open the door and two much less good-looking, much bigger guys follow in behind and take you for everything. I’m not falling for it.
“Look. I’m really sorry, but I can’t help you. You’re going to have to come back in the morning if you want help.”
“I’ll be dead by morning if you don’t help me.”
Her big blues start to well up. She’s either quite the actress or she’s really in trouble. Either way, I’m not interested.
“I don’t need whatever trouble you’re bringing. Just go.”
“I don’t have anywhere else to go. I’m trying to stay out of trouble. I need your help. Please.”
I look past her. I don’t see anyone around. No cars in the street or anyone who seems to be lurking nearby.
I grab her hand and pull her through the door. I give one last look to see if anyone is making their move. No one yet. I close the door and set all the locks.
“Thank you, thank you. You have no idea what this means to me.”
“I haven’t said I’m doing anything yet. I just don’t want to be talking out in the open.”
I turn on the lights and get a real good look at her. She’s dressed to impress, a tight dress and high-heel boots. The kind of thing you’d wear if you’re looking to take someone home, not to get a procedure done. Her make-up is a bit of a mess. She’d been crying well before she got here.
“Look. I don’t know what happened to you. You can wait here while we call the police. They can help you.”
“No!” She grabs a hold of my arm. “No police. Then I’m dead for sure.”
“Look. I’m in no position to help you here. You’ve clearly had a rough night. I don’t know what, or who, brought you to this part of town, but it’s not the kind of place you want to find yourself alone.”
“I know, but I came here to see you. I wouldn’t be caught dead here otherwise.”
I let the insult slide. If I didn’t let her in, she might have done exactly that.
“What is it about me that brought you here at this hour? What could I possibly do for you?”
“I need to forget. I need you to do a wipe.”
I take a step back.
“What happened? What are you trying to forget? Did someone do something to you?”
“No. No one did anything to me.”
“I know it’s hard to deal with if someone did, but the police will need you to remember if they’re ever going to find-”
“No one did anything to me. I swear.”
“Then what is it?”
“I saw something. I saw something I shouldn’t have seen.”
“Like what? Did you recognize someone you weren’t supposed to see?”
“Yeah, something like that,” She says, inspecting the points of her shoes instead of looking my way. “I shouldn’t say anything more. It’s better you don’t know.”
“That sounds like trouble. I have no room for more trouble in my life. Do you have someone who can take you home?”
“I can’t. If I go back, they’re going to want to tie up loose ends. If I forget. If I can prove that I don’t know anything, they’ll leave me alone. I was told you can help with that. I can pay you.”
“I don’t need the money,” An outright lie. I could really use the money, but I want to keep my nose clean. I’m in enough trouble as it is. “You shouldn’t have come here.”
As I say that, she reaches into her purse and pulls out a wad of cash. Now I know she’s in serious trouble. The only people still working in cash are those who have something to hide. Even I begrudgingly work primarily in credits. It’s the way of the world above ground.
The amount she’s flashing in front of me would solve a lot of problems. That’s another month of time to keep the lights on. Another month to keep the creditors away.
She’s definitely bringing trouble with her. There’s no other way about it.
I can be smart. Get the wipe done and get her out of here. I didn’t see anyone with her. No one has tried to burst through the door yet. Maybe it’s just a simple wipe and that’s it.
Though no wipe is simple. Adjusting levels of the brain is one thing. You can always adjust. Undo any mistakes you may have made. Nothing is final.
Not the case when you’re talking about a wipe. You’re subtracting. Removing what once was and disposing of it. Take something out that you shouldn’t have and you have a vegetable on your hands.
But I’m good at this. I know what I’m doing. I really need the cash.
“Fine, but you understand the risks of this? A wipe is not some simple procedure. It’s extremely dangerous.”
“Knowing what I know can be dangerous.”