Page 3 of 8
I was back in my office on Main, listening to the music feed from Earth when the phone rang.
"I’ve finished the autopsy," said Twig. "The guy was killed by a blow to the back of the head. You couldn’t see it under all that hair. Someone killed him, drained his blood, injected him with milk and…"
"Don’t tell me. He was exlactated."
"Why would anyone go to all the trouble of giving someone a milk transfusion after they’d killed them?"
"To throw suspicion on the Droogies?"
Now that was a clever answer. So clever, I should have thought of it. In a few days I’d adjust my memory to make sure I had.
"Thanks, Twig. I owe you one."
I tossed the phone back onto its cradle. Time to visit the Brothers. If it was weird and illegal then nine times out of seven it was down to them.
Main Street was rocking. Glam Town at its finest. None of that minimalist Droogie crap. It was alive, eclectic. Layered in sound and color. Clothes of every texture, design and combination. Spiky-haired dudes with flames for hair and rainbows for clothes. You could feel the bass through the metal walkway, couldn’t help but adjust your stride to match the handclap beat. "John," screamed the Divine One, "I’m only dancing." Man, I thought to myself, we’re all dancing tonight.
I was breaking sweat by the time I reached the stairs on Roxy. Nothing like a good street bop to cleanse the pores. I climbed the stairs one level and pushed through the swing doors at the top.
The Brothers had their club on Dave Clarke and Five, a block and a half away. Which was good - Boot Town was no place to linger. Skinhead haircuts, 'what you looking at?' stares and big ugly boots.
Luckily the streets were deserted. A fact that surprised me until I pushed open the club doors.
It was Stomping Hour.
To my left, a row of seats ran along the entire wall - every seat occupied, every knee rising and falling in unison as though some biological machine had poked out of the wall and captured a line of piston people. All the walls were the same and those that couldn’t find a seat just found a spot on the floor and stomped themselves to a standstill.
"Everybody get your boots on!" screamed the DJ above the pounding music. "Clap your hands and stamp your feet!"
A thousand boots rose and fell as one: black ones, silver ones, big ugly ones. A thousand trouser legs trimmed to mid-calf.
It was infectious.
But I’d been vaccinated as a hatchling.
I found the Brothers in their usual alcove on the mezzanine - plush red carpet, UV lighting, white shirts glowing like Osmond teeth. Frightening.
I’ve never worked out the Boot Town uniform; sometimes it's almost Glam - as Glam as you can get with no hair and trousers trimmed to mid-calf - and sometimes it's drainpipe jeans and suspenders. The Brothers were the perfect example - Vinny in his silver suit and mirrored top hat, and Len in blue denim with paisley suspenders.
Vinny did the speaking - no surprise there, legend had it that Len only spoke during pig fly-pasts. And then only if he was feeling chatty.
"If it’s about the deadhead," said Vinny, "we know nothin’ about it."
"And if it’s not?"
"Then we know less."
Good start. I toyed with my ‘milk vampire’ line but the mental picture of five hundred Boot Boys trying to stomp and giggle at the same time persuaded me otherwise.
I tried another approach.
"Got a problem with the Droogies?"
"Not that ya’d notice."
"That fight on Wardour last week?"
"Takes two to fight. Way I heard it, them Droogies just lay down and swallowed boot."
An appreciative ripple of laughter broke out from an adjoining table, perforating the insistent stomp, stomp, stomp from the floor below. Vinny smiled broadly, Len cracked a smirk. And spoke.
Just the two words but I was stunned. Vinny didn’t look too good either. We both stared at Len. Was this the moment years of pent-up conversation came cascading out of his mouth?
"Who’s Christine Took?" I asked, turning to Vinny.
He shrugged. "You’re the detective."