From Jim Hodgson’s novel Dangerous Dan, available now at Amazon.
Follow Jim on Twitter @jimhodgson.
The guy looked like a runner. All the signs were there. The unconscious bending at the knees, the eyes darting to their corners. His forearms even drew up a bit at the elbows. Definitely a runner. “Dangerous” Dan McNamara did not feel like running. Not after this little twerp. Not after anyone.
“Look, let’s take a minute to relax here,” Dan said, then checked his communicator’s readout for the puke’s name. “Zunder.” Zunder? That’s a name? Nevermind.
Dan went on. “Nothing bad is going to happen, Zunder. Let’s just take it easy, hm?”
“B-but you want to take me in!”
“Not technically true. What I want is to have a couple of beers and go to sleep.”
Zunder looked unsure.
Dan said, “Maybe even have my way with myself first, know what I mean?”
“What is wrong with you?”
“Nothing. Well, plenty, to be completely honest, but let’s get back on track. You are in a bit of trouble with Central, yes?”
Zunder squatted slightly.
“Sometimes I play with my nipples a bit.” Dan said.
Zunder straightened. “This is bizarre.”
“You’re right, it is. No doubt. Just hang with me.” Dan paused to ensure that Zunder was hanging with him. “As I was saying, bit of trouble, no big deal, really. Big stack of unpaid parking tickets.”
“…And you’re going to take me in!”
Dan sighed. This little experiment was in danger of becoming every bit as tiresome as just running the guy down.
“All right, have it your way. I’m gonna take you in.”
Zunder emitted a squeak, coiled his body, and bolted. Dan drew his sidearm and squeezed the trigger at his hip in a single smooth motion. The weapon made a pleasing beep to indicate that it was out of charge and would not be helpfully stunning anyone just now.
Dan thought: “Balls.”
Zunder was gathering speed, and would soon be around a corner in the alleyway. Dan cocked his arm over his head and threw the gun, correcting a few degrees for the turn. Zunder started to round the corner, and the butt of the gun caught him just behind the right ear. He tumbled.
Dan trotted over, holding his belt up with his left hand, and put a knee on the dazed man to hold him down.
“I tried to talk you out of that,” he breathed heavily, winded. Jeez, winded? He’d run, what, ten steps?
“Yeah, with your nipples!” Zunder said, holding his head.
“All right, all right.”
Dan let him sit a minute with his hands to his head. When Zunder had gained a measure of composure, Dan put on the cuffs, which he then scanned with his communicator. That done, he signaled a pickup. Minutes later, a Central meat wagon descended into the alleyway. Two fresh cops got out. They busied themselves scanning the complacent Zunder and loading him into the meat wagon, but their eyes scanned Dan. “Dangerous” Dan, their eyes said. Get a good look, Dan looked back.
He’d gotten the nickname “Dangerous” by accident anyway. He didn’t introduce himself that way, didn’t print up business cards with it on. As far as Dan was concerned his name had become Fuck You.
He’d been an intelligence officer in the Scourge War. As far as anyone knew, an actual Scourge had never set foot on Earth, but they’d employed agents, who had all been controlled via technology. The agents did the usual spy stuff: sought out details on manufacturing, sent maps and photos of key targets on the ground, and generally acted like traitorous dicknecks. According to evidence, many of the human spies attempted to negotiate transfer off Earth before the Scourge exterminated humanity, but the Scourge never engaged them on that topic. They paid via transfer for information, but if a spy asked about how he’d ultimately be handled all he got was silence.
It seemed to Dan that if you wanted to make Earth money selling Earth information to the Scourge, you could, but if you were hoping to be saved from whatever the Scourge would ultimately do to humanity in the event of their victory, you were shit outta luck.
Dan had accepted the intelligence job because he was good on the street and because he wanted to do his part. Humanity was threatened, after all. He had some big successes ferreting out assholes. Some of the less talented guys started sarcastically calling him “Dangerous” Dan, probably to make up for a lack of their own achievements. It stuck, though. The media loved it.
But he hadn’t been so dangerous when it counted, had he? Not when Marinka disappeared, and certainly not now. Fat and hungover, tossing his piece at low-level street punks so he didn’t have to run.
Dan didn’t feel particularly comfortable with achievement. He felt restless and pissed until he found whoever he was looking for, and he had the will to push until he got to the end. Most people just gave up. He didn’t. That was all. But then Marinka disappeared and the light just exited his life.
The light’s gone out, he thought. The corners of his eyes stung.
The fresh cops finished scanning and keying. One of them came over to scan Dan out. The cop was young, smiling. He had a mustache that started out thin under his nose, then became thick at the ends.
“He says you were talking about your nipples,” Weird Mustache The Cop said.
“Sometimes if you say something someone’s not expecting, if they’re on the verge of running they’ll stand still a second and think.”
Why did he say that? Weird Mustache was just going to laugh it off. He was too young to understand this kind of work. To his credit, he didn’t laugh it off, though.
“Huh,” he said. “I’ll remember that.”
The other cop was just about to close the door when Dan noticed, over Weird Mustache’s shoulder, that Zunder was smiling. He very nearly had time to wonder what the puke was smiling about.
Zunder raised his cuffed hands and touched his chest. There was a high-pitched whine, and Dan’s eyes malfunctioned. A blurry smudge formed where Zunder was, then the smudge and Zunder were both gone. The pair of cuffs clattered to the floor in the meat wagon, which Dan heard rather than saw because he was now lying on the street with his arms around Weird Mustache, lying mostly on top of the man.
“What are you doing, McNamara?” said the cop, voice rising. Dan let him go. They both sat up.
Dan felt the need to explain as a hot flush. “Sorry, I uh. Saw the puke activating a device. Thought it might be explosive,” he said.
The cop turned around to see the empty meat wagon and his partner looking in with disbelief. He scrambled to his feet. Dan took a moment, then got to his feet as well, joining the cops at the open rear door and looking at the empty cuffs.
“You ever seen anything like that?” Weird Mustache asked.
“Nope,” Dan said.
“You two wanna hug in the street some more or should we call this in?” asked the other cop.
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