So I'm up on my podium gyrating my bits for the gawpers, when who do I see wriggling his way through the crowd? Mickey the fucking Fish.
Now I ain't seen Mickey for a long spell, not since I used to prowl the docks. Never thought to see a Steader like him this far in, and especially not in a place as roasty toasty as Hell—no, not the one the 'Calypsos keep ranting about on street corners; my Hell's a club down on Five Below; tucked away tight under the ironwalks; crimson lights; 'zik so loud it makes your ears bleed; heat turned up so far you sweat your own piss out; half full of gutter punks loading up on sleaze, half milords from the Towers, down here looking for a roll in the dirt.
—It ain't a two-way street, wee Jezzie.
That's Sally Silklips, my old madam, whispering in my ear from the beyond. Always said it whenever I was going all dewy over some towerboy back in her bawdyhouse.
—It ain't a two-way street. They can come down, but we can never go up.
I get it, Sally. I get it. Still, don't mean I have to fucking like it, savvy?
But it ain't just me that's stropping tonight. From the way his gills are flapping like mad down the sides of his neck, Mickey's got some nettles in his knickers, too.
—Get your fingers in them gills, wee Jezzie, Sally used to say, and you can work a fishboy like a puppet. He'll be squirting his salty load in a blink.
But Mickey sure as fuck don't look like he wants to squirt tonight. I catch his eye, and he slides over to me, red as a smacked arse.
"Hey, Stacey," he shouts over the 'zik.
I crouch down so we can hear each other. "Hey, Mickey. What you doing here?"
"I'm looking for that pretty-boy fuck boss of yours," he says. "Know where I can find him?"
Boss here's a canny-looking bit-o'-rough. Calls himself Diavolo. Looks like a swiver all right, but really, he's frosty as a nun's snatch. Up on that balcony all night long, making sure his dealers aren't slacking on pushing his new stash of mantablast—that designer fizz from the Seasteads what's been flooding the Innards these past few months. Shit's made him 'bout as rich as a fucking penthouser.
—It ain't a two-way street, wee Jezzie.
Fuck—I know, Sally, but who really gives a shit what level you're on if you're up to your dick in bubbly and beluga?
"What you want him for?" I ask Mickey.
"I gotta talk to him about Marlena."
Marlena's one of the girls here. There's a look in Mickey's eyes, real feverish like.
Oh Mickey, I think. You poor fuck. You're in love.
So I say, "Alright, Mickey. I'll take you to him." And as I lead him up the stairs, I'm thinking, Mother Delilah, the things some men will do for love.
When the Boss sees Mickey, he spreads his arms and says, smirking, "Mr Fish, what can I do for you?"
"We had a deal, you piece of shit," Mickey spits, breathing hard now in the heat of it all.
The Boss's goons start to move on him, but the Boss waves them down. "No, no, boys, let the fish speak." Sick fuck is enjoying himself.
So Mickey carries on: "You said if I got you the mantablast—screwed the Sharks—you'd let me and Marlena be together. You'd arrange for her splicing. You'd let us . . . have a life."
The Boss don't answer, just grins even wider than before.
"I did what you asked," Mickey says. "Now keep your promise."
Then the Boss finally pipes up. "Why the fuck," he says through a smile full of teeth, "would I let one of my best girls go and turn herself into a disgusting, slimy fucking fish bitch?"
Mickey's gills start flapping like a flag in a 'phoon. "You lying piece of shit—" he starts.
But the Boss cuts him short. "Chop this stinking water-breather up, boys," he says to his goons. "Then feed him to the fucking alley cats."
The goons rush him, but Mickey's a lionfish splice—more dangerous than he looks.
Out shoot his spines—and the goons are down, blood spewing from where he stuck 'em good and deep in the neck.
In a blink, Mickey's on top of the Boss, venny needles at his throat.
"I'll—kill—you!" he screams, and although I can hardly believe it, I see the Boss is scared. Fact, he's shitting himself. He's a blink away from losing everything he's got, all his fucking riches, all the influence he's bought, his whole carefully constructed world. He's like a newborn babbie, terrified, plastic.
Another blink and I'm up behind Mickey.
I slip my fingers deep into his gills, Sally Silklips style. And I squeeze.
He freezes. A weird sound, like a trapped rat, 'scapes from his throat, but the spike tickling the Boss's jugular don't move an inch.
Now he's got one up on Mickey, the Boss gets to his feet, pulls a knife from his boot, and cuts poor Mickey's throat quick and clean as a fifty credit jerk-and-squirt.
Blood pools about my fingers, warm and thick as cream. I yank 'em out, and Mickey slumps to the floor.
Then I walk away.
Oh, Sally would have been pleased as Punch. I don't say a word. Leave him wanting more like she always told me to. Leave him staring after me while I sway my ass back and forth ever so subtle like.
'Cause I seen it—the look in that cold devil's eyes. Love.
And we all know what men will do for love.
Sally was right, about girls like us never being able to rise out of this shithole.
So I don't plan on going anywhere.
I'm going to rule in Hell.