It was the second part of Vivian’s lecture. She had delivered the first part while brushing hair color into Pearl’s hair. She had chastised Pearl for being a “rescuer”. Pearl sat speechless as Vivian accused her of being a “busybody intent on rescuing people from their woes and stray cats from tree limbs.” After the recent events surrounding the job to keep Margaret Dominique safe, Pearl felt her friend had some just points in her lecture. Now, with her hair shampooed and rinsed, Pearl was getting the next dose as Vivian trimmed her hair.
“It’s bad enough that you think you have to save everybody, but you want to change them at the same time. THAT (Vivian emphasized “that” very strongly) is precisely why you are single and all alone. You shouldn’t meddle, Pearl. It has done nothing but get you into trouble.” said Vivian over the furious clicking of a very sharp pair of scissors.
“I don’t meddle, Vivian, unless I’m forced to do so.” protested Pearl.
“Ha! You’re doing it now.” replied Vivian.
“What do you mean? How am I meddling?” Pearl asked. She thought she should try to get to the bottom of what Vivian was going on about.
“You’re trying to make that poor android into a Pearl clone.”
“Nina? That’s not true. I just think that she deserves to live beyond the bedroom and be able to choose things for herself.”
“That’s wrong, Pearl. Nina’s programming is to please you. There’s nothing wrong with that. You need that. Nina doesn’t need to be a modern emancipated woman.”
“What? I need a sex slave to treat like shit while I get off?” quipped Pearl.
“No. You need what old Mrs. Chang and everyone else can see, except you. You need someone who cares for you.”
“Nina care for me? How, by having sex in every position known in the galaxy?”
“That’s precisely what you need, Pearl. Someone you can go home to in the evening and can fuck your brains out.” Vivian said. Pearl made a face, which Vivian saw in the mirror. “I saw that. Look, let Nina follow her programming and I think you will be very surprised at what she can do for you besides sex.”
Pearl’s phone chirped. “Speaking of, there’s my new receptionist calling me now.” announced a smug Pearl.
“Hello, Nina, how is everything at the office?”
“Mistress, I just received a call from a client, Ms. Yolanda Winters. Her apartment has been vandalized.”
“That’s terrible. Has she called the police?”
“Yes, mistress, the police are in route as we speak. And, mistress?”
“Ms. Winters said the vandals left a message for you on the wall.”
“Yes, mistress. It reads ‘Lemay, remember Mudd Street, you worthless whore.'”
“Call Ms. Winters back and tell her I’m on my way.”
Pearl disconnected the call. “Viv, I’ve got to go.”
“Sure, Pearl. What is it?” asked Vivian.
“Someone vandalized a client’s apartment and left a message for me, a message about Mudd Street.”
“Mudd Street? The Mudd Street pimp wars? That was fifteen years ago.”
The police were already on the scene when Pearl arrived at Yolanda Winters’ apartment. It was one of those gated apartment complexes found throughout New Hope City, the kind where it was easy to by pass the gate security simply by following someone who had opened the gate. The police cruiser was one of the new ones with hovering capabilities. The other car was unmarked with the NHCPD license plates. Pearl often wondered what was the purpose of an unmarked car if the license plates advertised that the driver was a cop.
Pearl was stopped at the door of Yolanda’s apartment. “Sorry, ma’am, you can’t come in until we’re through. The apartment is a crime scene at the moment.”
“I understand, officer. I’m Pearl Lemay, Asteria Security Consulting. Ms. Winters is one of my clients.” said Pearl as she handed the officer one of her business cards.
The officer looked at the card and then shifted his gaze back to Pearl. “Are you the ‘Lemay’ on the wall?” He asked.
“I believe so.” Said Pearl.
“Could you step inside, ma’am?” asked the officer as he stepped aside.
“Certainly.” replied Pearl stepping through the doorway.
“Detective Hulce, could I see you for a moment, sir?” asked the officer as he ushered Pearl to where the message was scrawled on the wall.
Detective Hulce was a sour looking man in a rumpled suit. When the man was younger, his hair would have been a chestnut or reddish brown. Now he had a bit of reddish brown hair on top of his head surrounded by wave upon wave of gray. He had crow’s feet and deep wrinkles around his eyes and mouth. Pearl thought he smelled as well, but she couldn’t place the odor.
“Who’s this?” he growled at the officer while glaring at Pearl.
“This is Ms. Lemay. The one mentioned in the message.”
“So you’re Lemay, huhh?” the detective continued to growl. He looked at the message on the wall. “Mudd Street.” he spat in disgust. He turned back to Pearl and studied her from head to toe. “Bet I know which side you were on.” He continued to stare at Pearl in silence as though he expected Pearl to say something. Finally, he growled “Pack it up, boys. We’re through here.”
“Detective Hulce? Detective? Oh, hi Pearl.” said a breathless Yolanda Winters. “Detective, here’s a data strip containing the vids from the security system. You can plainly see who broke into my apartment.”
“Give it to Officer Franks. I’ll look at it later, if I find time.”
“If you find time?” asked Pearl.
“Look, nothing was taken and the only things damaged was the door, which was kicked in, and a message written on a wall. I got plenty of other real crimes. File a claim with your insurance company and be done with it. Let’s go, men.” Detective Hulce left the apartment. Officer Franks took the data strip from Yolanda and looked at his partner. His partner shrugged his shoulders.
“Ma’am,” said Officer Franks to Yolanda, “Here is the incident number. Call the number at the top in two days. Give the incident number to the system and the system will give you the police report number. You will need the police report number when making a claim with your insurance company.” Yolanda took the yellow copy of the incident report from the officer. “Have a nice day, ma’am.” The two officers hurried after Detective Hulce.
“What does it mean, Pearl? Mudd Street… what’s that about?” asked Yolanda.
“It happened when you were probably just a toddler, Yolanda. Technically, it was called the ‘Mudd Street Riots’, but people in the neighborhoods around the star port call it the ‘Mudd Street Pimp Wars.'” said Pearl. Mudd Street was named in honor of Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd from the long running “Star Trek” vid series on Gaea Prime. The series was based on an even older set of stories brought to Gaea Prime by its first colonists. The first city planner for New Hope City was a big fan of the series and had used the names of places and characters from his favorite episodes for the streets around the star port. Of course, the city fathers renamed all of the streets, except for “Mudd Street”, which kept its vid-inspired name. Over time, it became the street most frequented by streetwalkers and illicit drug dealers. Fifteen years ago, a movement began among the “working girls”; a desire for better working and living conditions. It was almost like a union, but the organization was too fluid to really gel.
One night, “Doghead” Smith’s girls rebelled and got the drop on Doghead. The girls roughed him up. Someone got the idea to spread the word to all of the other girls on the street to rebel against the pimps and demand better lives. Someone else got the grand idea that the word could be spread faster through the media, so they called a news outlet. Pearl remembered the news conference. They dragged a disheveled beaten Doghead Smith in front of the cameras. They forced him on his knees. Doghead’s eight girls plus another dozen (including Pearl) stood around him brandishing guns and knives. The news teams appeared shocked in front of the camera, but were filled with glee in anticipation of a juicy story. Ashlynn Cooper, the star reporter, was there. She was an intern completing her last year of university. The girls began making demands, some reasonable, some ludicrous. Suddenly, Jane Kovachek, high on pink pixie dust, screamed “Death to all pimps everywhere!” She pulled Doghead Smith’s head back by his dreadlocks and slit his throat on live television.
Chaos erupted in the neighborhoods. It was open season on pimps and hookers alike. The gangs moved in. Some gangs selling protection to the pimps and other gangs selling protection to the hookers. The police couldn’t restore order even though they filled the jails. The power vacuum created by the disorder presented opportunity to the syndicates. Gradually, the syndicates took over most of the prostitution and drug trafficking in the neighborhoods. That was when Pearl first encountered Azumi. Azumi, like all Xeogs was attracted to the prospect of gaining power, and pimping human flesh was a gateway into the world of the power brokers on New Hope. The riots lasted for three weeks. In the end, very little changed.
“But, Pearl, who would break into my apartment to leave you a message about something that happened so long ago?” asked Yolanda.
“I don’t know. Yolanda, could I get a copy of the surveillance vids? Unlike our police friends, I’m interested in finding who is behind this.” replied Pearl.
“Sure thing, Pearl. Will I be safe here?”
“Once we replace the door, you’ll be as safe as before. You could be safer if we install vertical deadbolts as well as the horizontal one.”
Back at her office, Pearl ran the security vid over and over. She would stop at different points and zoom in on the perpetrators. There were three young men. Judging from their dress they were either gangers or ganger wannabes. They made no attempt to disguise themselves. She couldn’t make a connection. Why did they break into Yolanda Winters’ apartment to leave a message for Pearl about the past? How did they know Yolanda was a client of Pearl’s Asteria Security? Why Mudd Street? None of the young men could have possibly been there. One, who Pearl assumed was the leader, pointed at the security camera as though his hand was a gun. He dropped his thumb as though it was the hammer of a pistol. He mouthed something.
It had been a long day that had finally surrendered to night. Pearl suddenly felt a presence. It wasn’t the presence of someone entering the room, but the presence of someone who had been there all along, someone neglected. Pearl looked up from her computer. Sitting at the desk across from Pearl was Nina. Nina was very still. She gazed at Pearl with unblinking eyes from an impassive face. She could have passed as a department store mannequin. “Nina, are you awake?” Pearl asked.
“Yes, mistress.” she replied.
Pearl had a wild thought. It was an outside chance, but just maybe… “Nina, do you remember when Mrs. Chang had you look at me and scan my thumbprint to determine my identity from the nets?”
“Could you discover the identity of someone by only looking at them and without the thumbprint?”
“I could try, mistress.”
“Come over here and look at the images of these young men.” As Nina rose from her desk, Pearl isolated and zoomed in on the faces of the three men. Nina gazed at the images.
“I have submitted the images for process, mistress, but it may take some time if I can identify them at all.”
“That’s fine, Nina. By the way, can you look at this snippet and tell me what this young man is saying?”
Nina watched the young man point and fire his “finger gun” at the camera. “It is simple, mistress. He said ‘Bang. Time to die, bitch.’ He seemed to derive some pleasure from that remark.”
A new piece to the puzzle, Pearl thought. Not only did these people want her to remember the past, but they wanted to kill her for something that had happened fifteen years ago.
Nina’s gaze quickly jerked to the corner of the monitor. “Mistress, there is an intruder alert at Ms. Trudy Morgan’s apartment. It is a panic alert signal activated by Ms. Morgan, herself. The police have yet to respond.”