Having twelve brothers has its advantages. Ask Raga. Now, we just call him Rag because that is what he looked like when my brothers finished with him.
I never knew a Believer who wasn’t poor. That is the hard ugly truth, but there is one thing that we don’t ever do to each other.
Raga solicited my services that day, running messages across Sinistral. I knew his business dealings weren’t what you’d call clean, but that wasn’t my concern. All I had to do was take the data chips and deliver them to where he told me. I charged five pieces per location; half my usual fee. But I needed the money bad. He paid me half up front.
Twelve locations across Sinistral, and I did most of the running on foot. Took me until after dark and I was seriously tired. I knocked on his door. Stood there in that dark smelly hallway for maybe twenty minutes waiting for him to answer. If I hadn’t heard scuffling around inside, I might have just left and come back the next morning. I heard him talking too.
Now that I think back on it, I really could have been hurt, but I wasn’t thinking about that. He still owed me thirty-five pieces. I slipped the little leather case from my bag and removed the electric lock pick my oldest brother Zachariah gave me. Force of habit, I counted the seconds to see how long it would take me to jack the lock. I got up to three by the time the door clicked and swung open. A record for me.
Raga was lying on the couch talking to some freak on the vid-phone.
“You heard me knocking, right?”
“Excuse me, Leonora,” said Raga.
Leonora had green hair and horse teeth. “Who’s that girl?” she pouted. Not a good look for Leonora.
“Just a brat. Hold on a sec.” Raga leaned over and pressed the pause button. Leonora’s big head froze into a blurry green streak.
“All those brothers you have and they never taught you not to barge into a man’s home uninvited?” Raga crossed the room and stood in front of me. He was dressed in an iridescent gray silk suit. He looked soshokukei, and this was a first. I almost laughed but the money was on my mind.
“Actually I did learn that lesson, after I learned that you should never cheat someone out of the money they sweated for.”
“You owe me thirty-five pieces.”
Raga palmed my head and pushed me right out of his apartment so hard that I stumbled into the hall and fell on my butt at the head of the steps. I slid halfway down before I could stop myself. He slammed the door. I could hear the locks engage. A few seconds after that, I heard him giggling and cooing Leonora’s name.
I called Zachariah on the vid-phone at the corner. He arrived fifteen minutes later with Jamil, Joseph, Adam, and New. I waited outside while they went up to bring him down.
By the time it was over, I actually felt a little sorry for Raga. Just a little. I don’t know, maybe I have a mean streak in me, but I couldn’t help laughing. My brothers took turns slapping him on one cheek and then the other. I mean, they actually stood in line and one by one slapped him literally stupid. He was stumbling around like a drunk, probably because he couldn’t see out of those swollen eyes. By the time it was over his face looked like he had been in a train crash. I held the vid-phone so that Leonora could watch the whole thing.
Eventually Raga passed out. Or, maybe he was pretending to be passed out. If it were me, that’s what I’d do. I dug a very fat wallet out of his pocket, counted my thirty-five pieces, plus the three it cost me to call for my brothers.