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14 Brainstream

Bolo! What was he doing here? K took him down without a sound and rolled him into the bushes. A light came on in the back of the house.

Shrimpboat had recommended Bolo. In retrospect, C should have hired Sunday Benbow, who pronounced his name funny, so it came out Bimbo.

Kindred noted C's broken nose. He had lost an ear. But the grin was the same. Partners, again. They poured shots and examined the photo.

Haven't heard from you lately, C said, laughing. K winced at the pun.The photo: B&W, Joy Motel in checkered boxes, a balloon by door 211.

'What was in the balloon?' C asked. 'Blood,' Kindred said, flat. 'Whose?' C needed to know. 'Not...?' K shook his head. 'No. Let's go.'

C had questions. A balloon. Why not one of those Russian egg dolls? I don't know what they are called, either. K, reading his mind again.

In a diner. C and K, one in each corner, back to the wall, pincer. Like old times. Four guys, sharp suits, muddy shoes, talking too loud.

Last thing K recalled was sitting in the booth w/ C and the two men. He was missing a week's time in his head, a graviton singularity.

C and K, booth against the wall, mirror. Other two guys mere reflections. K pulled out an envelope. Slid it over to C. Door blew open.

So this is where I was. C, a statement. Yeah, from K, looking tired. Damn weak door hinges. C said he had no memory of the pliers.

Kindred opened an eye. Back in the land of the living. A waterdrop dribbled off an iron balcony and fell like a bomb onto his forehead.

What the hell had happened to Culhane? What turned him? Devious. Kindred slaphappied his jeans to get off the crud from the alley floor.

Hopped a cab. Drove to the airport with the driver facing him in the backseat the whole way, like the swivel headed girl in the Exorcist.

Hit 60 coming over the bridge and when the big car got to the peak of the rise midriver they were airborne, landing hard on the downslope.

fishtailing down greasy city streets through icy canyons carved between hard rock calcified snowpiles five feet high and going nowhere soon

bouncing through the ruts alongside a chain link fence beside the runway. gunning to 100 and sliding to a stop, puffing, at The Terminal

Kindred flipped the cabbie a Cnote and went inside, no luggage. Ticket punched in his private headspace no overhead gear stowed in his cabin

Attendant brought the tray. Sparkling vials of brainjuice, fresh from Tok-city. Kindred perused the list, like choosing a chockie from a box

Tok1212bxb. 'Guaranteed to delight.' Yeah, copywriter lingo did the trick. Kindred forked over the credit and she plugged him in headfirst.

Facial tics perfectly normal. All systems go. Wheels up, Mr. Kindred. It's going to be a long trip. Tok-city is oceans away. Brainstream on.

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