The commander throws me into the front seat of an O.R.B. vehicle, gets into the driver’s side and we promptly shoot up into the atmosphere. There is a moment of silence before he speaks, “What the fuck were you doing in there?”

“I was… having a bad dream,” I slur.

“You stupid fuck, tell me why you would put that filth in your body. What would she have said if she knew?”

“Fuck you!” I throw a kick at him but miss, the back of his hand does not.

This knocks me back into reality, a bit, enough to focus on him without my head spinning. Fixing my spectacles, I reach for my cigarette case but it’s gone, so is my coat and my gun. I look up at him, he has them in his lap; he takes out the Pridon powder before tossing me the case. I light a cigarette and offer him one, which he takes.

“How did you find me?” I ask, leaning back and exhaling.

“You walked right into a den my boys were getting ready to bust. When they saw you walk in they thought you were in on it. When you didn’t come out or make contact they thought you were in trouble and busted in early.” His anger is subsiding as we slowly break through the atmosphere.

My vision is fading again; it takes me longer than it should to ask my next question. “Did, did you run the analysis on… the safety glasses?”

“There was only one piece of useful information on them.”

“Which is?”

“None of your concern. I gave it to Detective Darden and he will follow up the lead.”

“Th-that shit won’t know w-what to do with it,” I say heavily, I’m slipping back into the drug. “I need to be given the facts, that way I can slide into my next move.”

“Look at you, fucked up and not making sense. As of now you are off the case Leonardo. Hell, if you don’t clean up I might even take your job.”

“This is my case. I have to find the Master, make myself his equal.” I can’t hold my head up, my cigarette falls under the seat.

“There is no Master, and even if there were he isn’t involved here.” The commander sounds light years away. “Son, you need to get help. Anita’s death really fucked you up.”

“Don’t you dare talk to her… about her.”

The next thing I know I’m inside a white room, alone on a medical exam table. My stomach lurches and I throw up in my mouth. I cough and try to spit it out but I can’t move. There are straps on my wrists, ankles and across my chest. I almost drown before a robotic arm flies out of the side of the exam table and siphons the vomit from my mouth, but leaves the horrible taste behind. This is the chem doctor, a single A.I. room filled with all the necessary tools to clean any mess, in this case me.

I feel numb, I’m going to blame the sedation drugs, but I know it’s my body trying to not feel the well-deserved shame. I want to mentally rant about the hypocrisy of giving an addict sedatives, but a door opens somewhere away from my field of vision. The absence of a greeting can only mean it is a tech entering some information into the computer, another redundancy.

“How long have I been here?” My voice is stronger than I thought it would be.

“Seven hours.” Her voice is curt and professional. “You have three more.”

“Do I have to spend them awake?”

“Not at all.” She hits a few keys and I slowly fade away again.”

I’m sitting in my new room, a psych-ward dorm, in white pajamas, bathrobe and slippers. My knee is bouncing up and down in frustration; I’ve been on hold for the past ten minutes waiting for the commander to take my call. I’ve been stuck in here for a week now, a week in which Darden has nearly fucked up my investigation. Whether or not the Master is behind the car bombing is beside the point now, he is walking around flashing his badge all over town and is being shut out. I need to get out and fix this before they start distrusting me.

“I’m sorry honey, he is still in that meeting.” Delphi pops back onto the holo-screen.

“Fuck. The moment he comes out, you tell him to call me.”

“I will honey. By the way, how are you feeling?” I cut off the connection without answering.

I don’t feel any different in here than I did out there. I bought an orderly early on and he smuggles me in booze and cigarettes. Tonight he is supposed to bring me Pridon from a dealer friend; they have stopped testing me now that the ratio of drug to blood dropped to normal addict levels. Since they’ll be monitoring my credits I’m paying him with a clean record when I get out.

Getting up I walk towards the door, automatically reaching for a cigarette box that isn’t there. I have learned to dislike this place, the rules, schedules, staff and even the food. Every surface is a disinfected medical white, how they expect this not to make patients go crazy I don’t know. Most of the other people here are O.R.B. officers with PTSD, a hand full of us have a problem with some sort of substance, and the rest are proper crazies that passed O.R.B. psych test the first time around.

One of the PTSD patients is Wallace White, after the Landen building incident his mind couldn’t cope. Seeing him brought back more memories then the Pridon, but I like to have him around. Speak of the dribble, “H-hey, Leo. Hi h-how are you?”

“Fine Wallace, h-how about you?” he gets a kick out of me teasing his stutter.

“G-good one. I’m doing f-fine too. D-did you hear w-what happened to, M-m-Murphy?” his eyes widen with sweet wine from the grape vine. “H-he b-bit another n-nurse.”

“Did he say how she tasted?” I walk towards the rec-room and he follows. “If it was the pretty one, she must have tasted sweet.”

“N-no it w-was Helga. I b-bet it was a-awful.” Entering the rec-room he runs over to the Ping-Pong table and grabs a paddle. “W-want to p-p-play?”

I catch sight of my orderly, “Not now Wally, I have things to do.”

“O-okay Leo, s-see y-y-you,” he calls out after me.

The orderly enters the medication room and opens the service window. I let a few patients go ahead of me to ward off any suspicion. When it’s my turn he nods at me and hands me my little cup of pills, at the bottom I can see a small baggie. I knock back the pills and mime tossing the cup in the trash, it never leaves my hand. Walking back to Wallace, I pick up a paddle and play awhile, making sure no one noticed me.

After ten minutes I end the game and walk back to my room. There are no locks on these doors, at least not on the inside, and the bed is bolted down, so I decide to sit on the floor in front of it. Opening the cup all of the Pridon falls to the floor, crushing the cup was a bad idea. I panic and roll onto my belly, using my hands I pull all the powder together into a small pile. Tearing the cup I fashion a straw out of it and quickly vacuum the powder off the floor.

My god it burns. The crystals cut into my sinus. It feels like I have a runny nose, with every sniffle more mucus builds. After a bit my nose feels dry, and there is a dripping sensation in the back of my throat. I turn over and lie on my back. I don’t know how long it’s supposed to take this way, could be minutes. I also don’t know how long it lasts, could be hours.

There is a knock on my door and it opens. A pair of legs in black stockings walks in and stops above me. I can see right up the red skirt. It must be hot out to not wear those. Seeing as the owner of these legs won’t move I suppose I should. When I stand a very open blouse greets me. Before I can look at her face the woman turns to close the door. When she turns back to face me any thrilling thought I had is replaced with anger.

“What the fuck are you doing here, Laura?” I don’t know if her going out of focus is the anger or the Pridon.

“Hello big boy.” Her voice is husky and seductive. Her large almond shaped, baby blue eyes stare back at me and mimic the same devil-may-care attitude of her ruby red smile. Her porcelain skin glows almost as much as the room around us. If I didn’t hate her so much she would appear gorgeous.

“Answer my question.” I watch her make her way to my bed, sit and lean back on her hands. She smiles big and points a heel clad foot at my chair. I guess we are having a conversation now.

“Well I heard from a friend that you were locked up,” she says, smiling the whole time. “I wasn’t expecting a place like this, though.”

“How did you get in?”

“I have my ways,” she leans back on her elbows, making her skirt rise up above the ends of her stockings.

“What do you want?”

“Can’t a girl visit an old friend?” she pouts playfully. “I thought we could reminisce on old times, seeing as you were dropped from the bombing case I thought it would be nice to bring you some news about a man we are both looking for.”

My anger is replaced with curiosity. I lean forward in my chair, making my head splash like a cup of water. “You have information on the Master?”

“Boy do I.” she says, sitting up. She looks over at the door and her eyes fall on the discarded roll that was the medication cup. “What have we been up to?”

I scramble for the evidence and take it to the trash bin, but not before checking it for any more Pridon. When I sit back down, she is rummaging through her handbag and pulls out a silver box. She opens it and pulls out gold colored pills, tosses them inter her mouth and says, “Honey don’t worry, we all have vices.”

“Right, so what information do you have?”

“First, let’s talk about you. How are you and that girlfriend of yours doing?”

“She’s dead.”

“I-I’m sorry.” She looks genuinely taken aback. “What happened?”

“That little tip you gave us about Horace happened.”

“Oh my god, he didn’t?”

“With my gun. Then blew her away so I couldn’t bury her.” I have an idea.

“Oh…” She doesn’t look at me, but I know this is an act. My suspicion is confirmed when she takes out a lace handkerchief and dabs at invisible tears. She is as twisted as the day I met her, only looking for cheap thrills with other people’s pain.

“Do you want to know what we were doing before she died?” I hate myself but I need information on the Master.

“Yes, please tell me.” She doesn’t try to hide the anticipation but dabs at her dry face all the same.

“Before you called me,” I say as the Pridon slowly makes me feel lighter, “she and I were having a nice dinner. I took her to our favorite restaurant. She got her favorite dish and I got her second favorite so she could pick off my plate. We talked about a case she just finished for a bit, but the conversation went to what we would do with the time off we were both going to be taking after I found Horace. She wanted to go to Silmoore Major for their annual double moon festival, said it would be romantic. She asked for my opinion on the matter but I knew she already made the reservations, as always.”

Laura puts her knees together; her toes pointing inward, and bites her bottom lip. With a slight moan she says, “The Master really wants you. He is trying to get your attention with any means. I’ve heard he wants you on his side for a project he is working on.”

“What project?” I ask, but she shakes her head with her eyes closed, still biting her lip. I go on, “After I got your call we left the restaurant. I explained how I met you. I told her you were in a Pridon den one of my sources frequented, and after I spoke to him you struck up a conversation. One thing led to another and you agreed to help me get some information. I told her there was nothing between you and me, but I don’t think she believed me. Then when we found you, and she saw you in that little black dressed that hugged your body, she definitely didn’t believe me.

“Aww poor girl was jealous. Little did she know I had filthy thoughts about you.” She gets up off the bed, walks over to me and sits on my lap. “I don’t know what the project is exactly but I know you play an integral part in it. He wants you for your brain. You can get into places he cannot. From what I heard he is looking for a certain type of follower only you could get him.”

I wait to see if there is more, but when there isn’t I continue with her sick game. “I don’t know if you could tell, you probably could, but she wasn’t thrilled at the way you clung onto me, let alone the way I allowed you to. By the time you got to the location of Horace’s mark she was more than happy to leave and call in back up.”

“Oh but when she left we shared a drink of Pridon didn’t we. She should have stayed and had it with us.” Her hands busy themselves on my person.

“I only took that drink to stop myself from killing you.” My hands go to her neck, this only fuels her lust. She doesn’t stop even when I tighten my grip. I would have gladly finished her if the Halo-screen didn’t pop in.

“Leonardo I have some… I’m sorry are you busy?” The commander looks surprised to see me with a woman, whose hands are holding parts I’d rather not mention.

“No, it’s ok. I think I’m done here,” she lets go, kisses me on the lips and gets up to leave. I stand and fix my clothes.

“I’ll be seeing you,” I call out to her as she leaves.

“Is that some sort of new age treatment?” the commander says confused.

“No. Now where in the fuck have you been? Darden is flushing my case down the shitter and you aren’t—”

“Shut it Leo. Darden is dead. There was another bombing at the track.” He looks stern but shaken. “As of now the case is yours again, and you are reinstated to your detective status.”

“What happened?”

“There was a message from the Master.”


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