Flash fic – This Town Is Dead

Yep, Chuck Wendig’s challenging people again …

**

I lit a cigarette beside the smoldering pile of wreckage that used to be Los Angeles, and wondered if this qualified as irony, or just a variation on a theme. It wasn’t like I could actually breathe in more smoke, even if I was smoking the largest cigarette in the known universe.

I stared at it, the huge crater that used to be one of the largest cities in America, and tried to wrap my head around the idea of it. How could a city so large just be erased, like a dirty word on a chalkboard? The Monitors blamed terrorists, but if being a detective had taught me anything, it was you never believe the official story. And there was no way in hell terrorists could’ve gotten a hold of something with so much power, not to mention coincidentally unleash it on the one place the Monitors seemed to hate with such a passion.

It happened before I was born, of course – I’m old, but I’m not that old – but apparently L.A. used to also be called Hollywood, the heart of the entertainment industry. Oh sure, we think it’s Toronto, but all of this happened when Hollywood was an actual place and not just an insult. Also, before America was the fractured, polarized hellscape it is now. Not that I’m bad mouthing it. If it wasn’t such a fucking mess there’s no way I’d make a living, as I had few reputable skills. Then again, who did?

My client wasn’t my usual type, meaning they had lots of money, and had an unusual case for me. They wanted me to find out who or what had really destroyed Los Angeles. Seemed to be a big order for a small time detective like me, but you didn’t say no to anyone who flashed a cash wad that big, especially if they happened to be Corona Blake, daughter of the West Coast Monitor, who didn’t take no for an answer. Maybe she was going through her daddy’s little rich girl rebellious phase, but who was I to turn down a steady income? As long as her daddy didn’t find out, I was golden.

Finding out who destroyed L.A. wasn’t easy. In fact, it was damn near impossible. The official records were all that existed, and I didn’t trust them at all. It didn’t help that just about all the records from that time had been redacted or classified. There were supposedly multiple accounts of the incident, but they all told the same story. If you looked through enough files, they began to blur together into copies of a copy of a copy. What I didn’t get was why.

I heard the low pitched hum of surveillance drone, lost somewhere above the billowing smoke, and I started walking away, back towards the safety barrier. Unsurprisingly, I was met there by a couple of the Morality Police, with their slicked back hair and button down suits. They looked like Jehova’s Witness insurance salesmen. “Yeah, I know, I wandered away from the tour,” I said, pretending to be impatient.

The taller cop held his hand up, and said, “Mr. Savage, you’re to come with us.”

God police knowing your name was never a good thing. “Why? I just wanted a smoke.”

The God cop gave me an empty, professional smile, all teeth and coldness. “Mr. Blake wants to see you.”

Oh fuck. No way was this good.

I considered making a run for it, but there were more godheads than these two, so I just went along, assuming I could get out of it at some point. Then I sensed one of these uptight goons behind me, and felt a sudden, sharp pain in my head.

I came to in a chair in a dimly lit office, where the familiar figure of Monitor Jeffrian Blake was waiting for me, hands folded on the surface of his pristine metal desk. “You know, I didn’t think anyone was quite so stupid to look into the L.A. bombing. Congrats.”

My head throbbed like an infected cyst. I wondered which of those buttoned down apes hit me. “You know your daughter hired me, right?”

He gave me a small smile that was nothing but evil. “She takes after her mother. Which means she’s even dumber than you.”

I would have nodded, but I hurt too much. “So you gonna tell me why she wanted to expose your role in the bombing? That’s a bit more than teen rebellion.”

Blake sat back, his chair adapting to his new posture. “You think I’m a terrorist? May I remind you, I wasn’t even twenty yet.”

“But your family’s been involved with the corporations for a long time. And this was their work, wasn’t it? The perfect heathen crime to cement the Evangeline hegemony and enact all that laws that we enjoy now. Hallelujah.”

His evil smile didn’t waver one iota. “That’s a neat little story. Can you prove a single bit of it?”

“Yeah, I -”

“No you can’t,” he interrupted, sitting forward and glaring at me with cold, dead eyes. “Because the official story is the truth. There will never be another kind of truth. You’re going to stop taking money from my daughter, and leave the state before nightfall. Otherwise, you’re going to jail, and I seriously doubt a sinner of your caliber will ever get out. Are we clear?”

I was sure I was dead the moment I realized Blake had sent the god cops. If I left here alive under any circumstances, I’d be surprised. “Crystal. But the truth can’t be hidden forever.”

He gave me a smile so cold I could feel my balls retract inside me. “Are you a betting man, Mr. Savage?”

No I wasn’t, but I didn’t know if it really mattered to him or not.

Wow – Los Angeles didn’t even exist anymore, and yet, I was pretty sure it was just about to kill me.

 

**

 

Random.Org pull – Noir/dystopia

 

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