A Precious Peach

After a bit of moving cash from Manny’s roll to mine, we each put $2k in a pile. We handed over the cash, a mixed pile of all denominations, and Big El held it in his hand for a moment he nodded with satisfaction. Fast Count in action.


“Now that’s out of the way, the favor.”

I nodded, and concentrated my will on offering a favor to Big El.

You are offering a solid favor to “Big El”

In exchange for:

$2000 discount on purchase

Personal referral to Hector Rodriguez

Confirm?

It seemed it was a two way process or the system automatically filled in the details, as I hadn’t tried to do any of that. I’d just concentrated on a solid favor to Big El, and it had done the rest.

I held my intent on the accept in the same way I’d had to with the loan agreement and after a few seconds the screen disappeared. I felt slightly different for a moment, so I brought up my favor screen.

Favors – Frank McLean
Favors – “Mack”
“Mack” OWES a solid favor to “Big El”

Big El pulled out a fat, black leather wallet and carefully extracted a shining card.

“Take this. You’ll need to go in person to make the appointment, and when you do just present the card. His secretary will give you a slot. He’s a busy man, so like me his services as an attorney are referral only these days.”

I nodded, accepting the card he handed me. It was shiny, a thin piece of metal in the shape of a business card. Etched into the surface was the Terminator Fashions logo and the number 22. It seemed far too simple, but it became clear it wasn’t just a piece of metal when I IDed it.

Big El’s Referral #22

Value: ???

“Thanks a lot. I won’t disappoint you,” I promised.

“Yeah, thanks, Big El. This is a load off my mind,” Manny said.

“You’re welcome, guys. Now go, I want my Sunday back. Oh, and don’t forget to keep those glasses charged.”

“I meant to ask you how that worked,” I said.

“Items like this need fuel. The more times it protects you, the more charge it will use.”

“And to charge it costs money? That means every time someone tries to ID us, it cost us money?” I asked.

“If you’re wearing the glasses, and the person trying to ID you is also walking in shadow, yes.”

“Cool. I’d heard of items like that,” Manny said.

“How much per ID?” I asked. “And doesn’t that mean someone can just spam ID at us until they run us out of cash?”

“Spam? The canned meat?” Big El asked, looking confused.

“Sorry. I mean rapidly try over and over until they run us out of money.”

“No. It’s per person per day. An item with such an obvious vulnerability wouldn’t be that useful.”

“Now, I was serious, I need to go. My children are waiting for me. Manny—don’t forget to get rid of your car. The Hip have included it and your license plate in their description.”

“Shit. I can’t afford a new car.” Manny cursed.

Big El was ushering us toward the closest exit door with our wooden boxes in one hand and sunglasses in the other.

“I can’t help you there,” Big El said.

“We’ll go see the LSS guys, Manny.”

At the exit door, Big El stopped. “Good luck and be smart. I expect that favor to be worth a fortune someday, Mack.”

I extended my right hand and shook his, feeling real gratitude towards the man.

“Thank you, Big El. You won’t regret it.”

Big El turned to Manny, and just got a bro hug, instead of the more formal handshake I had offered.

“Thanks, Big El. You the man.”

With that, we put on our sunglasses and pushed through the exit door.

It clunked close behind us, leaving us on the sidewalk beside the strip mall. We walked back out front to our car.

The parking lot was still almost empty, only two other cars there. Tedz’s Citroen, and a battered 70’s Chevette that made Manny’s Regal look like a luxury car.

It was parked quite far away, backed into a spot on the street side of the mall parking lot, and the driver was sitting in the car with the windows down, music playing faintly.

I could only see a little bit of her face behind the glare of glass, but she was a white woman with large glasses and stringy brown hair. I didn’t recognize her, but she stared right at us. I IDed her.

“Precious Peach”

“Check it out, Bro. That chick just tried to ID us. I lost five bucks of charge on the glasses. Shit, what a name. Precious Peach.”

With a thought I got my own glasses panel to appear.

Sunshroud Sunglasses
These luxurious sunglasses will protect your privacy while walking in the shadows by concealing your name.
Charge: $95/$500 Value: $3000

“Yeah, me too. Let’s go, she might have already called them.”

We hurried over to the car and piled in. After Manny started the engine I heard the wheezy noise of the Chevette engine turning over and coming to life.

“Shit, she’s gonna follow us. Don’t worry, Bro, I got this. I can lose her.”

I had a vision of Manny driving the speed limit, maybe five or ten miles an hour over, and trying to lose this chick in the Chevette for the rest of the day. Either that, or he’d drive crazy and we’d crash. A car wreck was not on my agenda for the day.

“Nah, hold on. Drive like we’re leaving, but go that direction, and stop the car right in front of her. Block her in,” I instructed.

Manny pulled out and the Regal’s engine roared as it crossed the short distance and the tires squealed as he slammed to a halt, his driver’s door almost touching the front bumper of the pathetic brown Chevette. I opened the door, drew my pistol and dashed to the Chevette’s driver’s side door. As soon as I was around Manny’s Regal I brought the gun up. If she was armed, I didn’t want her to have a chance to shoot me.

She freaked out as she saw me coming, fumbling with the gearshift before finally stopping when I tapped on the door frame beside her head with the muzzle of my pistol. Shrill, yappy little barks came out of the open window from a tiny dog on the passenger seat. I didn’t recognize the breed, it was some useless little yap dog. She was using her right hand to keep it from leaping to attack me.

I turned my attention back to Precious Peach. “Howdy.”

“What? I’m not doing nothing.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it. Keys, now.”

I extended my left hand, palm up and kept the gun in my right pointed at Peach’s head.

Now that I was close and could see her, it was rather sad. The back of the Chevette was filled with junk—boxes and a bedroll. The interior of the car smelled like both of them were living in it, a heady mix of body odor and dog shit. Trash from fast food places and grocery store ready meals littered the foot well on the passenger side, along with a few empty cans of dog food. It was horrifying.

“What, why?” she sputtered.

“Give them to me. Don’t worry, you’ll get them back. I’ll drop them on the sidewalk two blocks north on Hillcrest.”

With a trembling left hand she awkwardly reached down and turned off the car, pulling the keys free. It was a small collection, the keychain a miniature, ragged teddy bear.

She placed them gingerly into my hand.

“Great. Now, if I see you again, I’m going to shoot you, Peach.”

I backed away, keeping the gun low but ready to bring back up if she went for a gun hidden somewhere in the trash heap that was her car. She didn’t seem in a hurry to do anything aggressive, and a few seconds later I was back in the passenger seat and we were rolling.

“Go north on Hillcrest two blocks, I’ve got to drop these keys. I don’t want her to lose the only keys to what’s basically her house.”

Manny nodded, his jaw tight.

Two blocks up he pulled over and I tossed the keys into the middle of the broad, white concrete of the empty sidewalk. With luck, Peach would get here before some random scavenger came by and scooped them up. There was no one in sight, so I expected she would.

With that done, Manny gunned the engine and we were rolling again.

“Shit, Bro. It seems like your first answer these days is the gun. What’s up with that?”

I thought about it, was it? The gun certainly felt like the best answer a lot of the time. In this case though, that wasn’t the reason.

“Nah, not always. I just wanted to avoid a long drawn out car chase. We’ve got shit to do today.”

“Alright, Bro,” Manny said. He sounded skeptical, and I couldn’t really blame him.