Daniel Martin, with the next instalment of his sci-fi tale.
I sat at the bar next to Mr Jackson for a minute, listening to the buzz of muffled conversation. Mr Jackson’s suit was covered in slowly drying mud, the same was true for his shoes and on his left hand, the one nearest to me, had cuts, bruises, and bleeding knuckles. A hat lay on the bar top on his right, its structure slightly misshapen. His left hand was locked round a glass with a bitter, foul tasting liquid filling half the glass. I don’t like the drink, having a preference for a smoother, sweeter tasting one.
I managed to catch the robot bartender, ordering a drink of my liking. Slowly, I drank the first third of my drink, turning to Mr Jackson saying, “That’s the thing!”
The hunched body rose, turning round to face me. His motion was so inhuman it was as if strings were conducting his movements. “Should drink something stronger,” Mr Jackson replied with slow, slurred speech.
”Mr Jackson isn’t it?” I exclaimed pretending to be shocked.
“Please, call me Jack.” He took a long sip from his glass before adding, “How do you know me? We met before?”
“No, I know your wife. Nice woman, a bit concerned about a clocker though.” I watched a robot serving a couple at a table not too far away. I don’t like to eat at Ridgway. A drink is the most I have.
“Oh, that...that piece of junk. I...I came here to try and find it myself. I guess you're some police investigator or something?”
“Private detective. Why come here?”
He looked me in the eye. His, I observed, were blood shot and he muttered to me, “Well I didn’t come here to start with. I heard from the landlord at Its previous place that It had moved back down here.”
“Did you find It?”
“Nah,” he waved his hand dismissively. “I managed to track down Its new apartment though.”
“How did you do that?” I said before drinking half my remaining drink.
“I got...um...got some friends in the landlord business for clockers. Not big on robot protection, you see, so they gave me the address. But when I got there, It had gone. Left a right mess too.”
“You are not too big on robot protection as well, I’m guessing.”
“No I am not!” he snarled, slamming his now empty glass on the bar top, and staring at the bartender.
The bartender approached asking, “Another refreshment, sir?”
“Yes, of course you damn clocker!” Mr Jackson said, being served the drink only moments later. “It’s not far, you know,” he murmured to me, “up on water street. Apartment 72.”
“Hey Jack, if you don’t mind my asking, what happened to your hand?”
He looked at his hand, surprised to find it bleeding. “Oh, don’t know. I think I was jumped in the street, but can’t really remember.”
I finished my drink, ordered another and, saying bye to Mr Jackson, I found myself a table in a corner. I drank my drink in silence, thinking. I ordered another drink of the same, which was placed upon the table with a forceful puff of steam. Nothing was said between the waiter and I. When my notes were written up and my drink was finished, I paid and left.
Illustrated by Megan James