Black Glass

Black Glass by John Shirley

Book: Black Glass by John Shirley Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Shirley
his time in UnMinding. He’d have done time with the assholes. No offense, Nodder. I don’t mean you.”
    “I’ve been there,” Nodder reminded him, “I know who’s there. But you know what? You busted me about six months before you took Danny’s rap—and I got out two years sooner than you!”
    “Yeah—you got out sooner than the cop!” Shortstack crowed.
    The “Aztec” turned, settling his yellowed, baleful gaze on Candle. “You a cop?”
    “Used to be.”
    “You can’t sit here, used-to-be-cop. You go away. Hate cops.”
    “He’s my guest, Paco,” Nodder said.
    “I am sorry to kill your guest then,” the Aztec said, standing, in a wobbly sort of way beside his stool. He reached into his coat.
    Candle grabbed for his own service revolver—and then realized he didn’t have one. “Shit!”
    Then Rina was suddenly behind the Aztec, tapping him on the shoulder. The Aztec spun to face her—a flurry of her small hands and the Aztec’s gun went flying over his shoulder. Candle caught it in mid-air: a charged .32. He reversed it, brought its butt expertly down on the Aztec’s head, and the man started to crumple. Candle caught him in his arms, dragged him to a chair, slumped the unconscious man over the table.
    Maybe I haven’t lost my nerve, Candle thought, straightening up. Anyway my reflexes still work.
    “I should chuck ol’ Aztec Paco there out on the sidewalk,” Nodder said, yawning, scratching his belly.
    “No need.” Candle put the gun in an inside coat pocket. “He was just drunk. But I’ll keep his shooter. I need one.” He looked at Rina who was casually picking up a couple of dirty glasses, as if that’s all she’d come out from behind the bar for. “Rina—thanks.”
    “Yeah, sure, I don’t know why I do nothing nice for you, you so stupid. Could have gone with me, but you rather lose four years. What a dumb bastard.”
    “Could be you’re right.” He turned to Shortstack. “So. We have some kind of business to do or ... what?”
    Shortstack nodded. “Yeah. We got urgent business. Why you think got your testicles out of the goddamn waver? Risk getting our hands burned? Huh? It’s urgent we talk. It’s life-and-death, hode. But first things first—another drink.”


    S panx banged up the rickety stairs into the lowest level of Rooftown.
    Spanx was shaped “like a stick insect,” or so his sister Willow had said. His jeans were so tight on his skinny legs they looked spray-painted on, his boots so covered with duct tape he couldn’t tell anymore—and couldn’t remember—if they were leather or rubber; his Danny Candle T-shirt so long-unwashed and unchanged it had its own pores, he figured, its own epidermis; his frizzed out electric-shock bleached white hair was like an exotic fungus in the process of eating his head. High arching eyebrows, weak chin, hooking nose, hollow cheeks, almost lipless. Big earrings. Spanx. Clambering up, talking to himself.
    “Climbing fucking trash mountain,” he was saying. “Fucking Trash Mountain, hode.”
    The stairs were made out of old plastic milk crates, wired together around scavenged vertical steel support pipes that ran through the hollowed-out building; a circa-1970s building whose interior floors had all collapsed into a pile of rubble below. Above it reared Rooftown. scavenged and cobbled together. Spanx was still underneath most of Rooftown, its foundation a sprawling group of old steel-girder buildings in downtown L.A—former apartment buildings, failed hotels, a ten-story parking garage, a few office buildings. The buildings had been damaged by the 7.8 earthquake of 2020, externally too damaged to retrofit. But their steel frames were still sound enough to support the community that had grown up on top. And every time the real estate industry
got interested in the neighborhood again, the Rooftown community let it be known that once evicted they

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