The door buzzer sounded, jarring him from his morbid reminiscence. Nails Hendrix, sharp as a tack and two minutes early. He liked that.
“Looking good, Homer.” She smiled as he eased his bulk into the passenger seat without too much struggle.
“Thanks, Cor.” He’d shortened her name without thinking.
“Sorry. Brain cloud. I was concentrating so hard on finding out if I’d fit.”
“Looks like you fit just fine. You may be a tad wider than me, but I’m long legged and stick to these big Freedom sedans. They’re not quite as sardine canified as most of the others. Oh, and about that name.”
“Said I was sorry.” His tone was defensive.
“Don’t get your hackles up. It’s a nice, mellow Sunday morning, doncha know? Besides, I kind of like it. Cor, like core, the center of things. Feel free.”
A flush of pleasure rushed through the big cop. A pet name she was allowing, already! For a second he’d have sworn he could sense Nora chuckling her approval from the back seat. At least he hoped it was approval. He hoped it was Nora.
Nails drove expertly without saying another word, which gave him time to study her without turning his head. His peripheral vision bordered on the phenomenal, a good ten degrees farther back to either side than most humans possessed. Eyes in the back of his head, others had observed over the years. They weren’t far from wrong. The lady’s movements on the controls were both fluid and precise. No wasted motion, no wasted energy whatsoever. Impressive.
Suddenly realizing his predicament, he forced his attention away from Miss Hendrix and out toward the street; a full erection under these conditions would be beyond embarrassing.
“Here we are.”
She parked in front of a somewhat shabby little house, its most recent coat of putrid yellow-green paint peeling along the eaves and under the window sills. Frame construction, not plasteel. Easy to break into, being nothing but wood and glass, but then a good two thirds of the dwellings in this neighborhood were of a similar sort. Solidly middle class at one time, no zoning variances approved in the area since. He’d once busted up a doozy of a family feud a couple of blocks to the west but couldn’t recall much happening at this exact location.
The brunette stepped out and headed for the front door, giving him a great view as he followed a couple of steps behind. Not until she turned the key and swung the door open did his cop instincts kick in strongly.
The lock, he observed, worked smoothly and silently. Inside, only a few pieces of furniture remained, abandoned by the previous renter–renters?–on departure. Nothing fancy, yet everything clearly serviceable. A scarred computer desk with cubbies for monitors and keyboards, standard units for hackers unable or unwilling to risk the latest voice recognition and/or holo equipment.
Nails had already produced from her briefcase a handheld recorder…no. Not a recorder. A sniffer. She was moving slowly around the front room, scanning steadily in a perimeter-to-center spiral.
It wouldn’t take her long; there was only one bedroom, a bathroom, and the kitchen / living room combo. In the meantime, curious, he began opening desk drawers one by one. Empty, of course. Each drawer operated as smoothly and surely as had the front door lock.
“Does that key open only the front door?” He asked.
“Dunno.” Without taking her eyes from the little sniffer machine, she fished the key from a side pocket on her long western skirt and tossed it to him. Accurately.
He snagged it out of the air and went to the back door. Yup, keyed alike, just as he’d suspected. Yup, the back door lock operated smoothly and silently. Methodically, he checked the only closet, then each kitchen cabinet, almost forgetting the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.
They finished their separate projects at the same instant and stood in the kitchen regarding one another.
“Results?” He nodded toward the sniffer.
“DNA scanner was used here.”
His eyes widened in surprise. “Scan sniffers are in production? I thought they’d only gotten as far as prototypes.”
“That’s correct. This is one of the prototypes.”
“Wow. I am impressed. Truly impressed. If you can wangle pre-release goodies out of Domix Labs, lady, you’ve got more clout than–what do you need a pissant police ossifer like me for?”
“Insecurity speaking, o’ man in blue?” Her own blue eyes twinkled.
“Not a thread of blue on me today, Cor, and by the way, how come your eyes aren’t green any more?”
She took a deep breath before seating herself on the edge of the computer desk. “Time to get honest?”
“Question mark? You’re going for honesty? Or are you asking me if that would be a good approach?”
All of his old instincts were finally ramping up, not that he could sort out which ones were pure cop and which were mostly fat man widower. He didn’t much like the confusion.
“Both, I guess.” Now she sounded defensive.
“Then go for it. This isn’t just about one visit to a shack in the hood.”
“Okay. Okay. I’ll tell all, and no bull, if you’ll tell me what you found out just now.”
“Sure. I found out whoever lived here liked to keep things in tiptop running order. Function over form. A perfectionist, OCD to the max. That’s about all.”
She nodded. “It fits. Okay, I know you don’t talk out of school. You probably know that much about me as well. If I did, most of my contacts, just like your street informants, would disappear like fog under the noonday sun.”
“Yup. I am. I’m about to take a big chance on you, Sergeant Homer Arbogast, and it scares the holy living hoohah out of me. I’m going to risk it because I think you’re a human. There aren’t many of those out there any more, and if I’m wrong, I could lose…um…I’m putting a lot in jeopardy with what I’m about to tell you. I do have to preface my remarks by saying up front, I just can’t give you everything up front.”
“I’ll be truthful, but–”
“But you’ll have to truthful in installments?”
He considered. It was dangerous to know only half a truth or even less, but cops were used to that. Right now he had a chance to know more, not to mention a chance to get this woman further obligated to him. If worst came to worst, what could he lose? Fame, fortune, honor? Honor would be a booger, but his fame was strictly local and his fortune nonexistent. Besides, he didn’t feel like making decisions with his big head right now, anyway.
“Go for it,” he told her, and the die was cast.
“Thanks. I will.” She took a deep breath, steeling herself. “First, the eyes. They’re usually green for my day job, blue for my night gigs, other colors for special, ah, activities.”
“Which is the natural–”
“Blue. I have no contacts in today. Don’t need them to correct anything; my vision is 20/15. Now, secondly, I lead multiple lives. One is of course as Nails Hendrix, girl reporter. About number two you have a hint already, that being Corolla Hendrix, hater of the Guild and all it stands for and willing to do something about it. Number three might be a surprise: I’m also Edsella, up and coming standup comic.”
Her laughter relieved the tension. “Don’t sound so surprised!”