The Mayonnaise Murders, Chapter 2, Scene 1

TMM1 Single Cover

 

There’s nothin’ wrong with naked mayonnaise, all right? Before the stuff was made illegal, that Hellgirl brand was the most popular import brand on the planet. Wasn’t nothing better than a thick pork sandwich with some Hellgirl ridin’ on top. Now that’s good eatin’. Matter of fact, used to be if you went to someone’s house and asked for some Hellgirl’s, and that someone didn’t have any? Rude. Very rude.

But just like with most other good things, there’s always someone out there can’t wait to screw it up for everybody else. That’s what happened with the mayonnaise 25 years ago. I was still a young kid at the time.

First thing was nobody knew quite what was goin on. Keystones figured maybe somebody’d found a way to smuggle Earth drugs onto the planet. The kids, they were all of a sudden actin’ nuts. I mean more than usual. One day, junior would be actin’ like junior was supposed to act. The next, he’s flyin’ around the neighborhood like somethin’s bitin through his undergear. Runnin’ into poles with his forehead just for the feeling of it, then laughin’ all loud and crazy.

But the keystones couldn’t find any leaks. Wasn’t any headsqueezers slippin’ in from any Earth transports or any other kinda way that they could find, and that’s when folks really started gettin’ nervous. Critters started wondering if maybe somethin’ from the atmosphere, something we hadn’t identified yet, was comin’ into the sector through one of the sector’s bubble purification valves. Each sector’s built under a bubble, and the valves, big long snake-lookin’ things, manage to keep the atmosphere stable some kinda way I still don’t understand seein’ as how I ain’t nobody’s scientist.

Well, that paranoid atmosphere theory turned out to be halfway right. Like I said, mayonnaise all by itself wasn’t nothin’ but a pork sandwich’s best friend. But you mix it up with some chuladin*9.3, a chemical we use to create a salt substitute, and you’ve got yourself the contents of some Grade A headsqueezer material. Chuladin*9.3 gets an attitude whenever it gets trapped inside the same jar with either vinegar or eggs is how one of my lab buddies ran it down to me. Mayonnaise has both. Leave it to some bored punk with too much time on his hands to figure out how to unlock the combination.

That same lab buddy, Veno, was the one who finally figured out what was wrong with the kids. What he never did figure out was who it was that made the first batch.

Vee.

All the while she’s tellin’ me this, I just keep shakin’ my head.

“You know, I really wish you wouldn’t do that while I’m tryin’ to talk to you, hey?”

I shook my head.

“Just hard for me to believe what I’m hearin’, Vee. You? Doin’ these kinda things?”

I shook my head again.

“All right. So go ahead with your story.”

“You promise to respect me in the morning?”

“I’m a scavenger, doll. When was the last time you heard a scavenger make a promise you felt comfortable with?”

Vee grinned, then shrugged. She squeezed my wrist.

“You know I’m not from here, right? From Vivacious 5, I mean. I’m from another sector over on the other side of the hills. Very Very.”

“You? From Very Very? Vee, you gotta be kiddin’. I didn’t know you had that kind of money…”

“Don’t. My folks did. Daddy’s the one designed the updated version of the Earth transport motor. Hadn’t been for his design, we’d still be waiting months to get supplies from the mother base instead of days. I woulda gone on to follow his career, but I never did have a head for design. I got Daddy’s head for numbers, though.”

“I’ll be damned…But okay, so, I still don’t see what this has to do with you being the one who figured how to make MayoMadd. Whole lotta kids on Very Very, but none of them wasted their time figuring out how to pervert a perfectly good sandwich spread.”

Vee gave me a sad smile, like she was tryin’ to figure out a way to tell me there wasn’t any Santa Claus.

“Vivacious 5 ain’t all that bad, hey? Believe me, there’s worse things out there, Vid. Way worse. They just don’t want nobody here knowin’ about it. They want everybody here to think they’re the scum and everybody else on the planet is so clean they squeak. Haven’t you ever been out there? Talked to some of the critters?”

I shrugged, remembering the few times I’d managed to make my way that far down planet. I’d been on vacation. Mighta been a lotta action on Vivacious 5, but it damned sure wasn’t any place you’d be wanting to spend a holiday. But Very Very? Man. Only sector on the planet with a simulation, climate-controlled beach and ocean. Perfect four-foot waves rollin’ in all day, all night. For an extra fee, you could scuba dive and play with the hologram fish. Until your money ran out, that is. Then the fish kinda faded away. Still, hard to believe it could have ever been any better than that on earth. I smiled.

“Yeah, I’ve been there a few times. Had a ball. I remember once I met this…”

“Vid. Snap out of it, hey? I want you to think. Did you ever notice the kids there?”

“What about the kids?”

“Did they seem like normal kids to you?”

“A little spoiled maybe, but that don’t mean…”

“Vid. Think.”

So I reached across the table and took a sip of Vee’s crocka, then leaned back against the booth and thought. I pictured the kids I’d seen there in my mind and tried to figure what it was about them that Vee wanted me to see. At first, I couldn’t see much of anything different from the kids on V-5. Hell, kids are kids. They’re all short, bald, their blue eyes shifting over to green. And loud. Really, really loud. Has to do with their gills just startin’ to form, and the way their vocal chords are startin’ to make the adjustment. For about a year, kids can’t even whisper `cause of the…

“Damn.”

Vee put on a weak smile.

“Bet you’re wondering how you didn’t think about it earlier, hey? Bet now you know why they make it a vacation spot, so critters from the outside won’t stop to pay attention.”

“Vee, those kids…those kids wasn’t sayin’ a word…”

“And you wanna know why?”

“Vee…”

“Because their perfect little parents want them that way, that’s why. Don’t want their precious Very Very to have too much noise, not even if it’s comin from their own kids. That would be Very Very bad for tourism. After all, why do most critters go there in the first place? Why did you go there, Vid? To get away from all the noise here on V-5, right? Hey? Isn’t that why you left?”

I was startin’ to feel sick.

“But how…?”

“How do you keep Very Very kids quiet? By gettin’ their gills fixed, Vid, that’s how. Oh it’s a real simple procedure any doctor over there can do, and it’s designed to last just long enough until the vocal chords and the gills are done growing.”

“… Ten months.”

Vee nodded, and I noticed her sad smile was long gone. Girl was mad.

“Ten months? Those folks get their kids fixed so they can’t talk for ten months straight? Don’t they know what that can do to a kid? Geez, I can’t believe at least one of `em didn’t explode from verbal backup.”

“One of `em did. My twin sister Vinia. She used to talk even more than me, so you can imagine the pressure buildup when her pipes died.  The folks kept telling her to hang in there a few more months, but Vinia’d just got worse. She’d be rolling around on the floor, flapping like she couldn’t breathe. One morning? Vinia go ‘boom’.

“Anyway, that’s when I decided to do something, Vid, `cause I knew this couldn’t keep happening. You can’t just let kids explode like that. It’s not a good thing.”

“No shit it ain’t. Cripes. I can’t believe we didn’t hear somethin’ about that over here. Why wasn’t there a piece in the Screamer?”

“Think Vid. Where’s the Screamer publisher live?”

“I’ll be damned. Well then…wait. You still ain’t told me how this all fits into MayoMadd.”

“Simple. It’s what I used to give the kids their voices back. Well, some of `em, anyway. Little dab on the edge of the gills, then wait an hour. Powee. Those of us who got ourselves unfixed had to hightail it out of there, which is how I ended up here. Matter of fact, we all ended up here. Easiest place to get lost without folks asking too many questions.”

“But how’d you know about chuladin*9.3? And the egg thing? And the vinegar? Weren’t you a little young to be playing the mad scientist bit, Vee? C’mon.”

Up until then, Vee had been lookin’ me dead in the eye. Now, all of a sudden, she was drifting away.

“Maybe I wasn’t the one who really figured it all out,” she whispered.

“But you just said…”

“Maybe I had some help.”

“Help…?”

“I told you Daddy designed the updated Earth transport motor?”

I nodded.

“Daddy’s a scientist. Appointed by the Sector Council.”

“Appointed by…holy…”

“So you know he’s good, hey?”

“Wait a minute, are you tellin’ me your father…”

“I’m telling you my father was a very good scientist, Vid. And that’s all I’m telling you. Except that he used to study acting in his younger days, which came in handy when he needed to convince the Sector Council that his morality implant had been properly disconnected. Usually they make you provide written proof, but he pulled off his act so good they couldn’t believe anybody with his morals still intact could say the things he was saying to them.”

“When was the last time you talked to your father? Or your mother?”

“Not since I left Very Very. You know the rules when a kid takes off without the proper approved council procedure, Vid. No contact. If I took that risk, I’d be putting them both in danger, and that wouldn’t be right. Besides, they know I’m OK. They see my stuff in the Screamer. Every once and awhile they’ll write a letter to the editor about something I did just to signal me.”

I could see she was startin’ to tear up so I figured I’d better shift the subject pretty quick, but not before I got some more answers about how the MayoMadd operation got so crazy out of hand.

That’s when the story got thick. As Vee told it, in the process of returning free speech to the young, the young started to notice some rather pleasant side effects from their recovery. A bit too pleasant, maybe.

At first, the good doctor decides to write it off as a natural high kinda thing, kids just bein’ overglad to have their pipes workin’ again. But after a few weeks pass, doc notices the kids still asking for more MayoMadd, even after their voices are back and everything is supposed to be fine – including his little girl, Vee.

So when he makes the decision to cut off the supply, the kids start getting ornery, ringing up late nights making threats against the doc, the wife, stuff like that. The kinda stuff they say only happens on V-5. Then the doc starts getting these calls from the kids’ parents, asking him what he can do about their children who’ve suddenly started talking loud again and are all out of control. As long as it was just a volume thing with a few kids, the folks wrote it off as a fluke and the neighborhood Class-2 Council reps agreed to look the other way. Better than setting off an alarm. But once the behavior started going haywire, they knew something twisted was goin’ on and something had to be done about it.

Knowing the way things work on Very Very, Doc figured it was better if he kinda diffused this situation he’d created before letting the High Council dicks start pokin’ all around in it and makin’ stuff worse. That was when he knew he was gonna have to get those kids shipped away to V-5. The worst part was the doc ends up being the only one with a hurtin’ feelin’ behind the whole deal because he was the only one who still had his conscience fully functional. All the other parents, once he’d called them over to explain the situation, had no problem with the solution whatsoever. Far as they were concerned, there was never anything special about any one kid. Hell, you could always make more.

But before they all get shipped out, Vee managed to sneak into Daddy’s lab and find out what it was that made mayonnaise such a special trip. It wasn’t until the folks saw the papers weeks later that they understood why Vee was smilin’ at `em so sweet and wavin’ as the inter-sector shuttle was hustlin’ her away, never to be seen by the folks again. I still remember the headlines: “HELLGIRL’S; IT’S NOT JUST MAYONNAISE ANYMORE.”

No sooner than Vee was off the shuttle before she’d started hittin’ the streets hustlin’ MayoMadd to a bunch of crazy kids and makin’ crazy money. Since the stuff was so easy to make, the keystones could never reach a shop in time, and they never knew who was behind the whole thing. Within a few months, you were startin’ to see dead kids layed out all in the streets like so much garbage, their faces covered in mayonnaise.

“So what was it that made you stop? Your conscience start stickin’ little needles in ya or what?”

Vee shrugged, then gave me a grin.

“Simple. They outlawed mayonnaise. No more mayonnaise, no more MayoMadd. Mixing it up with that chemical is one thing, but manufacturing mayonnaise? I was never that good.”

Well damn.

“So then how would you explain our good friend Johnny Beardy? Before he got snatched, that is.”

“Simple again, Vid. Somebody out there is very good. A whole lot better than I ever was. Unless they did it the easy way and paid off some of the earth transport crew to ship in some Hellgirl’s, then they’re making the stuff here. And that’s serious.”

“But what makes you think they wouldn’t be doing this the easy way, doll?”

“ `Cause of the risk involved. It’s a whole lot easier to sniff out a crooked transport crewmember, even these days, than it is to sniff out a MayoMadd factory, hey? Besides, why go through all that hassle of waiting for the stuff to get up here from Earth? The less angles to worry about, the straighter the road, the better. And believe me, Vid, dealing with those idiots from Earth is never a straight road. They all think they’re so fuckin…`scuse me, I know that don’t sound ladylike. But you gotta know how they are, Vid, hey? They think just `cause they’re the mother base, the ones who created all this crap, that they’re so damned much better than everybody else. Even the drug dealers, can you believe that? Ain’t that the living end? They figure `cause they’re scum from the original host planet, that makes then a higher class of scum.”

“Go figure.”

“Exactly.”

We sat there lookin’ at each other for a bit, then I figured I’d better say somethin’ before somebody started pickin’ his nose.

“So where do we go from here, cakes?”

“You tell me, Vid, hey? You’re the sharp-nose scavenger guy.”

I gotta guess I asked for that one. I gave her a wink, then reached in my top pocket to reach for a smokey. Lot like the cigarettes you see on Earth, only without the tobacco. Can’t grow tobacco on Planet 10, and tobacco smoke screws up the artificial atmosphere somethin’ awful, which means no importin’ the stuff either. So we got smokeys. No fancy brand names or anything, `cause there’s only one approved way to make `em, which means they’re all the same. It ain’t like you get your choice of menthol or regular. Smokey or smokey. Take your pick.

But I digress.

“OK, let’s see what we got then. We got us a dead naked rock star that somebody swiped. A dead rock star with his face stuffed in a mayonnaise sandwich.”

“Right,” says Vee.

“We got the fact that mayonnaise is illegal.”

“Um-hmmmm.”

“And we know you’re the reason MayoMadd damned near wrecked V-5.”

“Hey! That’s not fair, Vid. That’s punching in the gills.”

“Well it’s true, ain’t it?”

“Kindasortamaybe. But listen, I changed my ways! Doesn’t that count for something? Besides, the only way we’re gonna find out what’s goin’ on is we gotta trust each other.”

I started laughin’, and I could see Vee startin’ to frown up.

“What’s so damned funny?” she asked.

“If you can’t see it, then I worry about your investigatin’ skills. Look, a page scratcher and a scavenger? Workin’ together? On V-5? Vee. Doll. The comic potential here is enough to fill a warehouse.”

She grinned, then bummed a smokey off me. After I lit it for her, she grinned some more as she blew circles of purple-colored smoke through the air.

“You just might be right, Missssster. Vid. You just might be right.”

Like what you’ve read so far? Get the book to see how it all ends! Then get Part 2!

 

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kaoblues
Writer and musician.

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