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Jeff Somers developed an early taste for crayons.
Yep, that's right. He wasn't even finicky about them being Crayola. Even the freebies that come with restaurant kid menus. Maybe that's why what comes out of him today kicks in serious Technicolor.
These days, Jeff is tinkering with nanobots. In The Digital Plague, New York City is suffering an aggressive disease that runs from contraction to bloody death in days. However, our assassin protagonist remains mysteriously unaffected. It's a potent mix. Even more potent even than Jeff's favorite cocktails. (Not that Jeff has been known to turn away a cocktail.)
Other things to know about Jeff: (1) he voluntarily lives in New Jersey (which we Philadelphians call that-place-you-drive-through-to-get-to-the-shore), (2) he earned his English major in college without ever reading a book, (3) early in his career, the bankruptcy of publishers tended to follow the acceptance of his manuscripts. Thank God number 3 has abated!
Maybe it was the nanobots.
Without further ado, I introduce Jeff's good friend Avery Cates, who's obviously the kind of guy who takes pride in his work. Unfortunately, it's killing people.
“This is my associate,” I said. I gestured at the fat man. “This is Reggie, my contact here.”
They stared at each other for another few seconds. Reggie liked to eat, and every year he had a fat-sucking procedure performed that shed two hundred pounds in an hour, followed by a series of skin-tightening treatments. These were expensive procedures, and in me—or more precisely, my yen—Reg had found salvation. In January he was svelte and tanned, and then slowly expanded over the months until by December he was a goddamn beach ball.
“You're not supposed to bring anyone else with you,” Reggie said slowly, his eyes settling lazily on Glee's chest again. “It's dangerous.” He brightened without looking up at me. “Unless this is for me?”
I flared my nostrils and leaned forward to slap him lightly across the face—not hard enough to hurt. “Eyes on me, Reg,” I said easily, stepping back. “Eyes on me.”
He blinked and gave me a piggy little stare. “Fuck you, Avery. This is a bad time. You're not popular with certain people, you know, and the Optical Facial Scanners seem to be under the impression you've been seen on security cameras in government offices.” He shrugged. “So I have to ask you to leave.”
I ignored this, pushing my hands into my pockets. “I need info on Newark, Reg. I took a little involuntary trip out there recently and I want to know who's got fingers in that trash heap, who's carting shit out there or from there, who's bribing you to let it happen.”
He tried to lean back casually, lacing his hands behind his head, but his girth pushed his belly into his desk and made him grunt in discomfort. I noticed his cigarette was nearly all ash, and watched in fascination, waiting for it to shake off. “I just told you, Avery, this isn't a good time.”
I glanced at Glee, who looked back at me and shrugged. For a second I was aware of how grown-up and poised she'd become, apparently overnight. I looked back at Reg with my grin in place—calibrated to convey amusement. This fat piece of shit thought he was in charge. I realized I could smell him, Reg's brand of sour sweat too much for scrubbers.
“Reggie, let's be friendly. Let's have a conversation, and when we're done you say, Ave, this one's on the house, on account of I was a fucking asshole when you showed up. And then I say, shit, Reggie, I surprised you, so maybe you weren't in top form, and we part friends. Okay?”
He kept trying like hell to look relaxed even though it was obvious he was straining to hold his position. “Get out. What are you going to do, slap me again? You're unarmed, Avery. You didn't get through rooftop security with a gun.” He raised his eyebrows. “You think stories about you scare me. Fuck off.”
He was right, I didn't have a gun. Getting past security in a building containing even a pissant government agency could be done—anything could be done—but it was troublesome, and unnecessary.
“Glee,” I said. She took a half step forward and snapped her arm out stiffly, a handmade bone blade leaping into her hand. I had a similar one in my boot. With practiced ease she whipped it across his face, producing a tiny red wound on the tip of his bulbous nose. She grinned down at him, her blue eyes wide and lit up.
“Ear to ear, fat man,” she said, coughing wetly. “If Avery says so.”
Now for the contest! Here are your questions.
1. Does Jeff prefer to be slapped forehand or backhand?
2. Finish this sentence: "oh yes, thank you very much. You just tapped your cigarette ash into my ____________."
3. What is Jeff's favorite method for getting past security at a Hannah Montana concert?
Let's all give Jeff a