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It was 10 o’clock in the evening. Zeezee was at home, sleeping when the phone rang. He reached out and picked up the receiver,
“What?” he asked.
“This is Sergeant Alf Hucker from the station. Am I speaking to ZZ4613 Small Chin?”
“You mean, ‘What do you want?
“What you want?”
“Jeez, chimp, I don’t need to ask if you’re a Nan. The ignorance of you people…”
Zeezee was a Neanderthal. The Homo Sapiens were too lazy to pronounce this in full so Neanderthal becomes Neander – Nander – Nan.
“What you want?” Zeezee repeated.
“To tell the truth, the honest answer would be to rid the planet of you lot. I’d cut all your bollocks off and curse the day you were re-erected.”
“You mean resurrected and I have only two testicles.”
“You said you’d cut all my bollocks off yet I -”
“Shut it, chimp. I’m not going to argue. Let’s keep this teat ah teat short, yeah?”
“You mean tête... never mind. Tell me what you need.”
“Right, chimp, one of your tribe has been killed. Waste of time and taxpayers’ money but you’ve got a week to look into it. The monkey was a meter reader and was slaughtered 4.15 in the pm Thursday last, in postcode area CV31. Do what you have to and it’ll keep you in peanuts for the next six months.”
“Not eat peanuts.”
“That’s all I have to say.”
Zeezee replaced the dead receiver.
he resurrection came about in the late Seventies when the then incumbent DAISNAID (Do As I Say Not As I Do) party, led by Maggie May, attempted to destroy the trade unions. The Neanderthal people were intended to carry out the more menial tasks while the government attempted to starve trade union members and their families into submission. Now Neanderthals were officially classed equal to the Sapiens by European Union Regulations. This appeased the Inter Species rights people and the Saps. But as Neanderthals were not good with letters they were not allowed in the Police Force proper. Zeezee was known as a Primate Inter Species Support Officer. Officially, he had the same powers as a Sap Officer but unofficially he was ignored.
He clutched a fistful of dried insects from a bowl on the coffee table and tipped them into his mouth. He switched off the light, lay down on his carpet of hay and masticated on insect bodies as he thought about his new case. He’d visit the station tomorrow to collect the details.
December, and outside the air was cold, frigid. Zeezee pulled the front door closed on his one bedroom flat but didn’t lock it. Neanderthals cared little for possessions, although they should have done as their homes were frequently entered by the Saps, not to steal, just to wreck. After scraping the frost from the windscreen of his ancient Polski Fiat he positioned himself behind the wheel. The car was ugly but cheap to run and reliable, much like the Neanderthal. He got the usual stares as he drove – twenty-one years after the resurrection a Neanderthal driving a car, even a Polski Fiat, made some Saps jealous and insecure.
He steered the car into Leamington’s Regent Grove, a circular one-way street populated by Victorian structures. The station was a discoloured tooth in a row of pearly whites; a square, modern building of concrete blocks decorated with dried pigeon crap. Zeezee climbed the three steps which led to the entrance and pushed open the glass door. Sergeant Alf Hucker – seated behind the counter, not bothering to rise – was a hefty man in his fifties. The little hair he still had was the same colour as the bird excrement which adorned the station’s exterior. With his strawberry-red nose and rosy apple cheeks his face resembled a bowl of fruit.
“ZZ 4613 reporting,” said Zeezee.
The sergeant looked up from his copy of Sap Slappers, a mild porn magazine for Homo Sapiens – Zeezee found voyeurism a waste of eye-time and masturbation a waste of sperm. Hucker closed the magazine slowly while considering Zeezee. He spoke from one corner of his mouth while the other corner clamped down on a smouldering cigarette. He didn’t bother with preamble when talking to a Neanderthal. “Found him in the gutter. Nothing taken, probably a hate crime, another Nan kill,” he said, one eye squinting against the unravelling spiral of smoke.
‘Nan kill’ had become a cliché, an all-encompassing phrase to describe any prematurely deceased Neanderthal. “Nothing taken, how you know?” Zeezee asked, looking down at the seated sergeant. Zeezee had no idea how tall Hucker was as he’d only ever seen him seated.
Not used to being questioned by a Neanderthal the officer scowled before explaining in an even monotone. “Money still in the wallet, wrist watch still present; he even had his HHU with him.”
“What is HHU?” said Zeezee, hovering over the sergeant whilst wrinkling his nose, scenting a familiar aroma which seemed out of place.
“Handheld unit. It’s a small computer for in-putting meter readings. Worth a couple of grand I’ve been told. Look, it’s an easy job – don’t make more of it than what it is. You know the situation. A simple ‘slaughter by persons unknown’ will suffice.”
Yes, Zeezee knew the situation: officially they wanted an investigation but unofficially no one was to be arrested or tried for it. “Pictures of crime scene?”
“Pictures?” The sergeant sneered, “It’s a dead Neanderthal. We don’t take pictures of road kill. Now, get you hairy arse out of here and do what you’re paid to do. I’m not Charlton Heston and you ain’t Roddy Mc-bloody-Dowell.”
“Ape shall not kill ape? Oh, sorry. I forgot your lot don’t do films.”
Zeezee did ‘do’ films. Unlike other Neanderthals he would often watch movies. He wanted to understand the Saps. He also listened to their music – in secret. And played guitar. Not even his fellow Neanderthals knew these things.
“I not ape. I do what I paid to do, you will see. You have no pictures, you say. Then can you describe scene of incident?”
“Jeez, what the hell do you care?”
“And I want to see victim’s body.”
“Ha, ha, you’re a right nugget, ain’t you? I’ve got to give you that. You’re different to the others Nans.”
“You don’t know any others, of that I am certain.”
“You’re right, there. Why the hell should I? Anyway, I’ll see if I can get you an address for the finder and someone to show you the… body. That’s if it hasn’t been incinerated already.”
It was against regulations to incinerate a body before an investigation had been carried out but Zeezee decided to save his vocal chords for more important transgressions. “No relatives to collect the body, no next of kin?”
“I don’t know,” replied Hucker, expelling an irritated sigh.
“Has there been a press release?”
“Christ, you ache my head. It hasn’t had time to go to press yet. Here,” he said handing over a scrap of paper. “It’s the address of the finder; another Nan by the looks of it, from the Ape Estate.”
Zeezee knew there never would be a press release, either. He took the scrap of paper and read the address. What the sergeant referred to, what all Saps referred to as the Ape Estate, was Gastown. It had been built some fifteen years ago as a temporary home for the resurrected Neanderthal population. It was the site of a former gas works and the Saps were not allowed to live there as the
soil was said to be contaminated, but deemed acceptable for Nans.
“ZK3223 Long Brow,” Zeezee said, trying the name. Long Brow was very common. In fact Neanderthals have only three surnames: Small Chin and Broad Nose being the others. His own name was ZZ4613 Small Chin. This was good as a small chin denoted a large penis among Neanderthals.
“OK, I see body now.” He wrinkled his nose once more, “Sergeant, you smell bad. Suggest Brut, maybe Hai Karate.”
At last Zeezee got to see the sergeant out of his chair as the five foot five Hucker rounded his desk to confront him.
“Smell bad, do I?” The sergeant snatched the chit of paper from Zeezee’s hand and rolled it into a ball between his palms. “Suggest Brut! Hai Karate! Well, maybe this will help; you ungrateful pongid!” He lifted Zeezee’s broad nose with his middle finger and thumbed the balled-up paper into his left nostril. He turned back to his desk and snatched up the copy of Sap Slappers, rolled it into a tube before brandishing it. “Smell better? Or do you want some of this.”
Zeezee considered his response for a few seconds before informing Hucker: “Neanderthal not wank. You keep, you need.”
Hucker bit down on the magazine and stamped a foot. “Get out of my sight!” came his muffled scream.
Zeezee did as he was ordered, the balled-up chit still embedded in his nostril.
“And I not pongid; I hominid, same as you.”
He was not trained in forensics. Indeed, he was not trained in anything, but as he examined the body of the Neanderthal meter reader something did not sit right in his mind. There had been only one blow to the head, which he found strange. It was out of keeping with a hate crime or ‘Nan Kill.’ These were savage beatings and always multiple blows, quite often by more than one attacker. Hate crimes were not called that for nothing, the beating would often continue even after death. This was a well-known fact among the Neanderthal community; but not among the Saps.
This told Zeezee that one: this wasn’t a mugging because nothing had been stolen – even with a hate crime the body was often stripped of valuables. And two: it wasn’t committed by another Neanderthal as ‘ape shall not kill ape’, using the sergeant’s words. Neanderthal would not kill another Neanderthal, neither would they attack nor kill a Sap, unless in self-defence. The Neanderthal weren’t capable of aggression, hate, anger or even revenge. This was not a hate crime but it was committed by a Sap. The big question was why? Tomorrow he would visit the Ape Estate.
Back at his flat in Charlotte Street Zeezee poured a small glass of vodka. It was part of his process of understanding the Saps – or had been. But he found himself enjoying the warm and hazy glow he received from imbibing. He drank vodka because it was odourless and neither Sap nor Nan would detect it. He loosened his tie and removed his trousers – he hated the restriction of clothing and could never completely unwind unless he could feel fresh air circulating freely about his groin. He sat cross-legged in front of the open fire and placed his glass on the coffee table where his Walkman cassette player lay. He picked the Walkman up, flicked it open and checked the tape inside – Never Mind the Blackheads by the Six Pustules. He was unsure what they were singing as there was no lyric sheet but he loved the angry way they sang – and the buzz-saw energy of the electric guitars. It made him want to dance. No, not just dance. He wanted to jump up and down. To spit; break something – even stamp his foot in anger. Anger, at what, he didn’t know but he did know it was unnatural for a Neanderthal to feel this way. He wanted to play the music loud, to let the whole block of flats – the whole street – hear. But instead he slipped the set of headphones over his ears and entered his own reverie.
Even compared to the most deprived Sap council estate Gastown, or the Ape Estate, was run-down. The Sap estates were kept up to certain standard. The streets were cleaned and the properties subject to minimal repair but Gastown did not have such luxuries. Health and Safety were the reasons cited for Sap council workers refusing to go near the estate. The resident population, however, was happy with the state of the streets as rat and roach were delicacies for the Neanderthal.
Zeezee steered his yellow Polski Fiat around upturned wheelie bins, broken fridge carcasses and discarded shopping trolleys as he searched for the inappropriately named Lavender Close. If not for his A to Z it would have been impossible as all the blocks looked identical. He glimpsed other pointless street names: Poplar Close, Primrose Way and Buttercup Fields. He did not understand the concept of humour but the street names seemed to indicate another useless Sapiens trait.
Zeezee reached his destination, stepped from the car and slammed the door. The darkness was complete, save for the semi-shrouded gibbous moon, the stars and the hazy glow from the distant Sap street lights. The Neanderthal seldom used artificial light and usually their heads went down with the sun. However, there was a good chance that ZK3223, the finder of the body, was still awake. The orange glow of a flickering flame seeped through the jamb as he stood before the door and rapped with knuckles the size of walnuts. After a brief wait the door swung open. Zeezee was taken by surprise; it was a lady, a young lady. Her brow was in keeping with her name, long and sloping, which he found very attractive and her hands seemed large enough to take his whole head in their grip. Zeezee had to admit that his heart beat with true lust and thoughts of breeding filled his genitals.
She arched her beautiful long brow in question and he remembered why he’d come. He patted his own brow in apology; the Neanderthal rarely used speech among their own species, preferring facial expression and sign language. He showed her his ID card and said, ‘PISSOFF’ out of habit. She nodded and waved him in.
Flames from a real fire danced their warm welcome against the walls of a sparse yet functional room. The wood burning stove, Zeezee presumed, had been fitted in the stead of central heating which the Neanderthal disdained, much preferring a natural fire. This also had the advantage of appeasing the cockroaches which were loathe to venture into artificial light.
ZK3223 Long Brow motioned for Zeezee to seat himself on the floor which was littered with recently scattered leaves. Her eyes caught the reflection of flame as she plucked a high-sided dish containing live roach from the coffee table, offering him its contents. Though not hungry he politely gripped one of the struggling creatures between the fingers of his right hand.
“You know why I’m here?” he gestured, tapping his chest, then the leaf-strewn floor.
She pointed at the redundant electric light fitting in the centre of the ceiling and feigned being dead – the dead meter reader.
She went on to tell him what he’d already known. The HHU had not been hidden beneath the body, but had been affixed to his outstretched hand by a Velcro strap. A mugger would have stolen it; a Nan killer would have taken it. Zeezee had the feeling the killer knew its worth and that was why it had been left.
He placed a clenched fist against his heart, “Thank you,” he said. And then, “Are you attached?”
“I am not attached but would like to be,” she mimed.
His skin heat increased in anticipation. “Would you be attached to me for I wish to make family?”
She reached out her wonderfully expansive hand and encompassed his skull within its grip. He reciprocated. They were now engaged.
Sitting naked on the toilet Zeezee leafed through the pages of the Leamington Midweek News. He had time to kill so thought he’d try once more the Sap habit of ‘reading’. He checked the headline: Car Factory Closes. He tore past the sports pages. Games were a mystery to him. The idea is you compete against one another, one side loses, the other side wins then both forget and have to do it all again. He’d rather procreate in his spare time, or sleep, or eat. Defecating, too, was quite pleasant especially when reading, such as now.
He started to skip the vacancies pages too, until the words ‘Meter Reading’ caught his eye.
Franchisees required. Earn £400+ P.W. and be your own boss. This was followed by a contact number. The company name was Meter Us; the same company the dead Neanderthal had worked for. Zeezee alighted from the toilet and flushed away the contents. One of the advantages of a high meat diet meant he did not have to buy toilet tissue. Entering the living room he picked up the telephone receiver and dialled the number. Within seconds of the dial tone ringing in his ear a voice answered.
“Hello, Meter Us recruitment. Do you have a car?”
A little taken aback at the lack of preamble he answered. “Yes.”
“And your postcode please?”
“CV31, but before you continue it’s not a job I’m after--”
“Then I’m sorry I can’t help you, sir. This line is for recruitment only.”
“Well then, yes, I do want job. Sorry, I confused.”
“That’s OK, sir. We do have an unexpected vacancy in your area but we are interviewing at very short notice. Would you be available today at the Job Centre in Leamington at 2pm?”
“That would be very satisfactory.”
“OK, then. You will liaise with a Colonel DeBugger at 2pm in the foyer.”
Zeezee checked his watch; DeBugger was late. There was a thirty-something Sap sat opposite Zeezee in the foyer who wasn’t even trying to disguise his hateful stare.
“Is there problem?” Zeezee asked.
“What are you here for?” His eyes were slitted like buttonholes and his top lip starched into a rigid sneer.
“I suspect the same as you are – a job,” was Zeezee’s reply.
“I know that,” he spat. “I want to know what job!”
Before Zeezee could answer the plate glass door swung open, emitting a stocky, balding man with a boil either side of his fat nose. He thrust out a hand in Zeezee’s direction. “Mr Small Chin?”
Zeezee reached out but before their hands could make contact the angry Sap stood up. “Is he here for my job?” he demanded.
Colonel DeBugger took a step back and frowned. “He is here for an interview, the same as you are. Now if you could wait awhile Mr..?”
The Sap’s sigh was heavy with frustration, “Mann. Mr Meter Mann; it’s not difficult to remember.”
“Ah, yes, who could forget? Could you take a seat while I talk to Mr Small Chin?”
“You remembered his name,” said Mann.
“That’s not difficult seeing as he has a very small chin.”
“They all have small chins Mr Two Boils!”
DeBugger shrugged off this last comment and ushered Zeezee into his office.
he Colonel leaned forward, his elbows on the desk, hands clasped. “As you can see you are not the only candidate. You’ve met the competition,” he said, his eyes shining with mirth.
“Colonel, before we go any further I must say I’m here under false pretences. However, I thought this to be the most expedient way of getting to see you.”
“Well, I must say that’s a pity. We find you lot … ahem, I mean …” Zeezee rolled a hand, signifying him to get on with it. “I’m sorry. I find the Neanderthal very reliable and hardworking. In fact, we’ve just lost--”
“Which is the reason I am here,” Zeezee struggled to pull out his ID card, “PISSOFF,” he said before he actually retrieved it.
“Beg your pardon?”
“Police Interspecies Support Officer,” he said brandishing the card. “Can I ask you a few questions about the deceased?”
“You can but he really wasn’t with us more than three months.”
“I’m trying to understand why anyone should want to kill him. Apart from being a Neanderthal there seems to be no motive.”
“I can’t see how I can help you,” said DeBugger, leaning back. “All our franchisees work from home and as long as they reach their percentage of meter reads I rarely see or speak to them. And his percentage was way above our Sapiens readers’. Are you sure I can’t offer you a job. Good readers are hard to come by.”
“Sorry, I have to decline, but the chap outside seemed rather keen, if a little hostile.”
“Yes, I remember him now, I have seen him before. I even promised him the job before your chap came along. Well, to be honest, I wanted someone to start straight away. Mr. Mann outside said he couldn’t start for a month. Until recently he worked at the car factory that just closed down but said he would lose his redundancy money if he left straight away. Besides, he is rather odd.”
“A little irate I would say but other than that he looked normal.”
“You can’t always judge a book by its cover, Mr Small Chin.”
“Oh, I do not read books. I am currently studying advertisements. They are much more to the point. I lose interest soon after defecation.”
“Indeed. What I mean is: you don’t think it a coincidence that his name is Meter Mann?”
“I assumed him to be of foreign parentage, perhaps.”
“Oh, no, he was most upset when I had to go back on my job offer. He had even changed his name. Can you believe that? The only way I could calm him down was to promise him the next vacancy when it arose.”
"Hmm,” Zeezee pondered a while on the Colonel’s words before saying, “Colonel, I have reconsidered. May I now take you up on your job offer?”
December wasn’t a good time for a working Neanderthal. Though they were well-suited to the cold weather they considered darkness time for sleep and fornication. The meter reading work suited Zeezee as he could rise with the sun and go home when it set. It meant working the weekend to make up the hours but he was very happy in his work.
It was getting dark now. The house numbers were getting difficult to read and people don’t like to open their doors after dark, especially to strangers, Neanderthal strangers. One more call then he could go and meet his fiancé for sex and slug sandwiches.
He shone his torch beam on the door’s numerals. Number seventeen. He rapped and waited a few seconds. There was a twitch of the curtains and moments later the door swung inwards. Zeezee recognised Meter Mann from the interview but made no sign of it. He could also tell Mann recognised him.
“Come in, I’ve been expecting you.”
“Good evening, sir. I’m from Meter Us. May I read your gas and electric meters?”
“Sure,” his voice and face were expressionless. “Come on in. They’re under the stairs.”
Mann led Zeezee to the cupboard, indicating the meters’ position with a wave of his hand. He really had been expecting Zeezee. The cupboard was already open and the contents taken out allowing easy access. Some people are tidy beneath the stairs, and some are prepared when the meter reader calls – rarely. But a man living alone, waiting for the meter reader to call was very abnormal. Zeezee pulled out his torch and got to his knees.
“I applied for a meter reading job, you know,” Mann said.
“Oh? How did it go?” Zeezee asked, pretending they’d never met before.
He heard the hollow knock of wood on wood. “Prick said I’d got the job.”
“That is good news,” Zeezee said, shining a beam on the electric meter.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Then the boil-nosed twat went back on his word.”
Zeezee heard the susurration of dry skin moving against polished wood and knew it was time to put aside the HHU and torch. “That is what I’d call inappropriate action,” he said as he edged his way backwards from beneath the stairs. He was blind without the torch but the Neanderthal could hear the thrum of a moth’s wing from six feet. “May I ask; what action did you take?”
Zeezee heard the whoosh of the baseball bat as it sliced through the air and was already twisting on to his back as it descended. His right boot shot into Mann’s groin, bringing the bat’s arc to an end as he released his grip. As he crouched, holding his groin with both hands, Zeezee’s other boot caught him a blow on the side of his head, sending him first into the wall then to the floor. Zeezee stood and pulled out the cuffs. He took the hand that Mann was using to massage his head and the other cupping his balls and cuffed them behind his back.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing, you stupid ape?”
“Arresting you for murder, that’s what the fuck I think I’m doing; and for assaulting a police officer.”
“Murder? Assault? Nobody cares! Nobody cares about your sort!”
Zeezee picked up the bat. “About that you are wrong – I care. Have you heard that we Neanderthal are incapable of revenge?”
“Yeah, that’s why we rule!” he drooled into the carpet.
“And about that you were very wrong.” A whack on the shin wrung out a wail like an air raid siren. “And something else: no one cares about you, Meter Mann.”
A final whack on the cranium silenced the siren.
“Listen to me, you murdering ape, I know you killed him,” blasted Sergeant Hucker, stabbing a nicotine-stained forefinger in Zeezee’s face. “I can’t prove it but you’d better keep looking over your shoulder because I’m watching you.”
It’s almost impossible for a Neanderthal to lie to his own kind because they read each other's facial gestures so easily. The sergeant, being a Sap was incapable of this. But lying, usually an unnatural trait to the Neanderthal was hard yet essential when living alongside people such as Hucker.
“I have no need to look over my shoulder and there will be nothing for you to watch. You forget that we Neanderthal are incapable of murder,” stated Zeezee.
This was true or had been. It seems that Zeezee had set a precedent. It was something he couldn’t explain. Rage was a new emotion to him. He’d killed the person he’d known to be guilty of murdering a fellow Neanderthal, a murderer he knew would never receive justice under the Sap regime. He found rage a strangely pleasurable experience and he’d also experienced the new emotion of guilt. Of the two, rage was by far the least painful.
The sergeant blasted some more, “If someone offered me so much as a bowl of shit sprinkled with Tate & Lyle sugar I’d sack your hairy arse …”
Zeezee raised an eyebrow, difficult due to his sloping forehead and he had to employ a forefinger to assist it. “My bottom is no longer hairy as my fiancée exfoliates it for me but even if this was not true I do not understand why, or how, you would insert it into a sack …”
“SHUT UP! I AM TALKING!” Hucker then fell into a fit of coughing. Zeezee released the finger from his raised eyebrow and waited patiently for the sergeant’s fit to subside and his purple hue to return to its more normal puce. “You… you… infuriating bastard …”
Zeezee opened his mouth to inform the sergeant that he was not born out of wedlock when Hucker raised a hand and shook his head, it seemed, in disgust. “Don’t you dare tell me your parents were married, don’t you very, very, DARE! Now, don’t say a word until I’ve finished talking. I want you NOT to talk until I have ceased talking for a minimum of thirty seconds. You can tell the time? No, do not answer that.”
Zeezee didn’t. He was still wondering how he’d managed to say, let alone understand, a word such as ‘exfoliates’. Neanderthal vocal chords were primitive and the most basic of words were difficult to say.
“Now for some good news, there are to be some cutbacks. Which means your services as a Police Inter Species Support Officer from this time on will only be required on a part-time basis. Vis a vis …”
“I do not speak…”
“Correct! You do NOT speak when I am talking. Therefore … therefore, your duties as a PissOfficer will only be required twenty hours a week. Now, bugger off.”
Hucker lowered the reading glasses which had been perched like an Alice band on his balding scalp and dropped them to his nose. Zeezee had been dismissed.
“Sergeant, I cannot survive on so few hours. My fiancée and I hope to procreate.”
“Get another job then. There’s plenty of manual work out there for you lot. Why else would we resurrect such a primitive sub-species? Now, can you please ‘procreate’ off?”
Zeezee didn’t want to leave his PissOfficer job. Not only did he find the work pleasing but he felt it his duty to defend his fellow Neanderthal. He also felt he was the only one who could. He would not leave this post. He would continue in his job but find additional employment elsewhere. And his first thought was Meter Us, the meter reading company. Colonel Debugger had been very useful in helping him solve his last case and so Zeezee arranged to see the colonel once more.
DeBugger sat opposite, the desk between himself and Zeezee. His entwined fingers rested on the spread of his middle-aged belly as the thumbs span backwards and forwards like a washing machine on tumble dry. His head lazed on his chair’s neck rest as he looked down the sides of his nose. Zeezee was not certain, however, if his view was not obscured by the two boils pregnant either side.
The colonel smiled then spoke. “You’re a strange one.”
“Thank you?” Zeezee said, not sure whether or not he should show gratitude.
“Thank me?” DeBugger chuckled. “Yes, I suppose it should be a compliment. Among your sort – sorry, I meant among the Neanderthal…”
“It is OK Colonel DeBugger, you can call us Nan. I will not be offended, after all the word Neanderthal is unnecessarily long, and it is not a word of ours either.”
“Sorry for repeating myself but you’re different.”
“We are all unique. To us, all Saps look the same but you each have your own personality. Difficult to distinguish but it is there all the same.”
“You killed Meter Mann.”
“I did not kill Meter Mann.”
“That’s what I mean. Neander… Nan cannot lie. But I know you are lying. That’s why you are different.”
“Nan cannot lie.”
“You can, and do.” DeBugger pulled open a drawer and took out a handheld unit, the HHU. “You see, every time you enter a reading on one of these it logs the time against the meter you are reading. I know where you were and when you were at the time of Mann’s death. I have a printout. I can show it you if you don’t believe me. But don’t worry; this is between the two of us.”
Zeezee realised he had been too lucky to get away with the killing of a Sap but was relieved the Colonel would keep quiet. He had been found out. “You have no reason to lie. I thank you for your silence.”
“Don’t. I’m on your side. Now on to other matters, I take it you would like to read some meters for me.”
Zeezee left the Colonel with mixed emotions: the first was one of great relief but the second was why wouldn’t the colonel report him? Zeezee hadn’t wanted to ask at the time but now wished he had. The Colonel owed him nothing but now Zeezee owed the colonel everything. Zeezee closed the door of the Polski Fiat. It popped open again. He lifted the door and slammed it – this time it stayed shut. It was February and darkness came early. The cold didn’t bother him as Neanderthal had lived with the cold for millennia before the resurrection. Darkness was different as they didn’t like artificial light. They used it but were uncomfortable with it. Today he was working in Clemens Street, a street of shops in the Old Town area of Leamington and one of the most deprived areas in the shire of Warwick. Half the shops were shut down and the flats above quite often vacant. It wasn’t a good area for meter reading. As Zeezee neared The Turnip Café he decided these would be his last reads of the day.
This would be what the Saps called a ‘greasy spoon’ and as Zeezee pushed open the door he understood why. The place wasn’t full, half full or even a quarter full. To avoid a lie Zeezee would have to say it was very un-full. He walked to the counter, behind which worked a female Nan. He raised his meter reader’s ID card and she lowered her head in a nod. She was the wife of Randy Turnip, ex-world middle-weight boxer and the first Nan to defeat a Sap in a World Championship fight against Sugary Robson seventeen years earlier. Mrs Turnip motioned Zeezee to follow her to a back room where the meters were.
Her sadness seeped from her and he could smell the scent of it. He wished to lay a placating hand on her shoulder but decorum did not permit that. He read the shop’s meters and turned to her, raising his eyebrows in question and laying a fist over his heart. “How is your husband?” the gesture inquired.
Her mouth turned down in clown-like sadness. “He is not happy.” She took some coins from her apron pocket and sprinkled them from one hand to the other. “He worries about money.” She tapped the fingers of both hands against her chest, shook her head, looked ceiling-ward and smiled. “But I try to keep him happy.”
Zeezee nodded and returned her smile. There was little he could say. He thanked her and left the shop. He held his HHU in his left hand to upload the readings for the day and to log off. The time was 16.23pm and was the exact time he heard the first of two gunshots.