Neon Blue (suspense) and This Shoal of Space (SF) by John Argo were the first two e-books ever published online for download, in the history of the world, 1996-7 in innovative weekly serial chapters. More info at the museum pages. If you enjoy this free read, which is offered in the spirit of the Golden Age of the World Wide Web, please consider buying a print or e-book edition as a way of thanking the author. A fine E-book is typically priced at the cost of a latte, yet offers many more hours of enjoyment than a cup of coffee. Thank you (John Argo).

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Chapter 12. San Diego

about Neon Blue or Girl, unlockedJoe Travignan, 30, stepped off the plane feeling muzzy. He'd shot up in the plane's bathroom, slept a while, and now it was wearing off. He took a taxi from the airport to Vincent's hideaway in La Mesa. Under sighing eucalyptus trees, he found the place shuttered and empty. Disappointed, he broke in and made himself comfortable. What had happened? Why had Vincent not showed up as he'd promised. Vincent knew about Joe's problem, had promised to help find a solution. He depended on Vincent now, dammit, where was he? It was getting out of hand again. He craved the stuff. He tried calling Hamilton, but Vincent was not taking calls. Shit.

Oh Lord, he thought doubled on the floor, you have sent this scourge to tax me and test me. How can a guy break your bread and drink your wine and be so fucked up and all alone? Jesus, help me. Vincent did not show up.

Joe took a taxi downtown, past palm-swept streets. In the Mission District, where bums kissed the sidewalk and bag ladies pushed carts, he shambled into a cheap hotel. Before he entered, he took off the ring Joanna had given him and stuck it in his sock. Jesus, he thought, help me carry this cross. A scroungy blond man was waiting in the lobby for deals. Joe said: "I need."

The man rolled his eyes upward, along the stairwell. "Room 301. A guy's got."

Joe hurried up the stairwell, thinking about his money. On the third floor, wall paper sagged. There was a musty smell. The doors looked constricted, dark, and foreboding. Joe felt his way along, touching the crumbling numbers on doors. He was so intent, he didn't notice a door open, a body move out, a blow struck against his head. Vomiting, he lolled about, groggy, until he woke dry-mouthed and felt his pants. His wallet was gone. He spat blood, sitting up. He'd been rolled. God, where was Vincent now? Vincent always had money. Vincent, who wanted the names of elderly ladies. Vincent, who promised to fix things. Who could get money.

Joe staggered down the hallway. Room 301. The door swung on its hinges. He entered. Burst in upon a deal going down. A black man and a white man looked up with bruised faces, murderous eyes. There was a pile of bags on the naked floor. Heroin. At the same moment, a door opened and a spray of gunfire spewed out. Joe had just enough time to see a Tech-10 assault pistol methodically chew up the two men. Then the bullets tore into him, and he started to tumble down a long corridor, toward a bright light, where his sister Joanna stood waiting.

Blue kept her feelings deeply stored apart in separate boxes, and she made sure the padlocks were tightly locked


Copyright © 1996 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.

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