APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 5 June, 2001


Bad Day at White Rock

Tom McGrenery

For reasons that don't need exploring at this juncture, I ended up meeting Okavango Benny on top of the water tower in White Rock. The place was crowded with tourists, making the place ideal for whatever it was Benny had in mind, I suppose. I leaned on a safety railing next to a bunch of kids who were spitting over the edge and tried to look cool.

After about twenty minutes I had given up on looking cool in exchange for a rest, and was sitting in a deck chair with a paper "I Love White Rock" cup of Feu-de-Nuit and folded copy of the Canterbury Herald - import edition, a scandalous twelve dinars. I was stuck on the crossword. Seven down - 'Searches for, it would seem to us, most unmethodically (5, 3)'..

The better part of an hour elapsed, and I was no closer to solving the eternal mystery of seven down. Listlessly, I went for a walk round the promenade gallery and bought some assorted snack foods. I also got a pack of postcards. These things are irrelevant, though, next the main point. The point being, of course, that Okavango Benny failed to show up for our appointment. Now, Okavango Benny missing an appointment is not, in the grand scheme of things, altogether a surprise. He had probably been trying to guess the secret ingredient in the local liqueur for some hours now, and had either forgotten or passed out. Normally, I'd chalk the match up as a draw and go home, taking especial care to sound annoyed when he finally phoned.

However, things hadn't been going so well at that time. Benny had hinted at having a job for me and I sort of needed the money, so I went looking for him.

I didn't find a damn thing. Then I remembered that also in White Rock was Okavango Benny's sometime contact and partner in crime, Benny the Choker. He was called Benny the Choker on account of being from Loyang and is not to be confused with the previously mentioned Okavango Benny, who is a totally different, although not unrelated, Benny. In turn, neither of these Bennies are to be confused with Benny the Strangler, who is utterly tangential to this narrative. I mention him only for the sake of completeness.

Now, Benny the Choker was living in White Rock after getting the hell out of Port Aurora maybe a season before. The move that occasioned this was also the reason I knew Benny the Choker would do me a favour and help me to find Okavango Benny, since he still looked on me kindly for the events that took place there and then. I had told Raji Kolson that Benny the Choker was the one who stole his fifty k package that he sent in from Wounded Knee. Every man in Port Aurora and his dog, pretty much, apart from Raji, knew that it was actually Mika Kolson who had grabbed it, but Raji wasn't too bright or, as it turned out, destined to be too much longer for this world. So he believed me.

Staying on track... Raji Kolson went round to Benny the Choker's place to sort him out, and of course I show up just at the right time, kick Raji around a few times and help Benny the Choker with his move out of town. From that day forward, Benny the Choker had treated me like his white knight and was always buying me drinks and saying how great I was and stuff.

All these things being known, I decided to head for Benny the Choker's pad to see if knew the whereabouts of Okavango Benny. He hadn't been in White Rock long, and I knew he was still getting his regular consignment of nose powder from Mikey Manamorro in Valeria. He didn't have any kind of supply in town yet, and didn't want to take the risk of suddenly drying up. I'd seen him go turkey without the stuff in his system once before and it was pretty unpleasant. In pain and moaning and absolutely drenched in sweat. Not nice. I'd say I felt sorry for him, but the fact is that he was only badly off when he wasn't up. Provide him with the white stuff to a sufficient degree and his life was pretty good. Anyway, I called Mikey Manamorro to find out where he lived now.

He was living in a flat on the third floor of a fairly appealing block, and had managed to furnish the place really nicely. I stood on his Bangweuleu rug and explained my situation to him, and he advised me as to that of Okavango Benny.

"Okavango Benny," he said, dusting his coffee table, "Has been involved with some dealings with the SPFI and has decided in view of a recent raid by the cops that he should lie low for a while. However, I am able to put you in contact with him. Go to the Café Maquiller on Godin Street at two. I shall call the other Benny forthwith and tell him to meet you."

The Café Maquiller is a pleasant enough establishment for the vending of food and drink. On a nice summer's day - which this was - you can sit outside, soak in the view and watch the people as they go past in the street. I had my paper with me still but had singularly failed to deduce the meaning of 'Searches for, it would seem to us, most unmethodically (5, 3)'. I was engaged with knitted brow in puzzling out this clue when the people with guns arrived.

Maybe they were Spiffies, maybe they were SRID agents, or something else entirely. They were definitely from the Republic, though, from their accents. I observed this while I dived for cover behind a large shrubbery and the posse of five's leader shouted instructions to surround me.

I really should have been concentrating, but my mind just kept racing around about the fact that I had been set up. Maybe Benny the Choker did it for revenge over the whole Kolson affair. But no one knew about me telling Raji except for Raji and I don't think there was any way for Benny the Choker to find out. More likely he'd just betrayed me for money.

I pulled my Northco nine mil from my coat just as one of the posse came round the corner of my temporary shrub shelter. She made the mistake of making eye contact and hesitated while I shot her in the throat. Of course, that still left four more of these guys, and four against one is still not good odds, so I got up and ran towards the other customers outside the café, jinking left and right, thinking the posse wouldn't risk killing innocent civilians.

I was wrong, which seemed to be pretty typical for the day so far. They kept firing. Most of the shots went wide, but a few hit some people. One of them hit me in the back of my right leg, and this other shot some guy in the chest while he was sitting at the table. As I dived behind his wife's chair he looked at me in shock and slowly fell into his pasta.

So now everyone was screaming and running around, except for those people who were screaming because they'd been shot. Those people weren't running around, they were just staring at the holes in their bodies and being understandably upset about the whole thing. This was both great and not great, because while the carnage and confusion were really bad for innocent people who just came out to eat, it enabled me to slip into the crowd and get away.

A couple of days later I got a plane out of White Rock and I haven't been back since. And that was how I came to be in Newton when the big riots went down. I was tempted to go and make Benny the Choker earn his nickname a bit more literally, but I'm not a man for petty revenge. I like my revenge to be significant. To my mind, revenge should be memorable and make a real difference to the person you're getting your own back on. So I called the post office and got them to intercept Benny the Choker's package from Mikey Manamorro.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 5 June, 2001