Behind the Heart Machine


This was written for the Short Fuse event this month based on the theme of Metropolis. It didn’t quite make the cut; although I will very likely be reading this story at a future event.

On that note, unlike my story, “Three Words” I have no problems publishing it to the Internet prior to the reading. So here enjoy.

The structural basis for this story is the Japanese short story “In a Grove” by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa.

Natasha Roth’s Statement, Bartender at the Heart Machine

Louis was new at the Heart Machine, but he was a good bartender. He was popular with the girls as well.

I was tending the front bar with him last night. Louis had been on a packed front bar for two hours, so I sent him out to get some fresh air when some cover arrived.

That’s the last I saw of him.

He didn’t come back after ten minutes, more than enough time for a fag and a piss, so I sent Simon out to look for him. He found the body. I wasn’t able to leave the bar, because we were swamped with loads of Red Faction last night celebrating the release of some members from jail.

Rock’s Statement, Owner of the Heart Machine

Louis came from an old town out East. One of the few left. It had almost been cleared since everyone is coming to City 23 anyway, so I gave him a job here. He was was good with people. A bit naive maybe. But then he’d gone from being brought up in a town of thirty-thousand to a city of two-hundred-million.

I liked him. I liked him a lot. He kept going on at me about doing a show in the cabaret, but I kept him working at the bar. He was good at it.

The night he was murdered he was meant to be working eight till four. He’d just been working a shift on the top-floor bar, and the records of entry and exit show he left the back door at ten thirty. He came back in at ten thirty-six.

Simon found the body at eleven, in the alleyway behind the club, and he came to me immediately. It was me that called the police. I run a club that’s all above board with no ties to any gangs; unlike some others round here. I give my bouncers strict instructions to stop entry to known gang members. I don’t want any of their kind in here. They scare off customers who spend more and don’t cause trouble.

Simon Ali’s Statement, Bartender at the Heart Machine

I’d started to cover the bar Louis was working before he went on a break. I was meant to be working the other bar, but Louis was on the busiest that night. After ten minutes I was sent outside to look for him because he was taking too long on his break.

When I went outside I found him in the alley behind the club already dead. There was blood everywhere. He’d been stabbed and he was on the ground. I checked his pulse to see if he was still alive; he wasn’t. I padded down his pockets to see if he’d been robbed; which he hadn’t. Then I ran inside to tell Rock what had happened. He was the person that rang the police.

Nikki Cook’s Statement, Assault Victim

I was walking out of the Metro station on 349th Street when I was pushed over by a man covered in blood. He had jumped over the ticket barrier and was running down the escalator without looking where he was going. We both fell down the moving escalator together. When we hit the bottom he got up and kicked me. He called me a “fucking bitch,” and then he ran off into the tunnels towards the platform going towards the Ariel.

He was tall, pale skinned with a shaved head. He had a leather jacket on. Apart from the blood which covered him that’s all I remember. I kept my head down after he’d hit me until I was sure he was gone. A woman came to check if I was alright; which is an unusual thing to happen in this neighborhood.

Sean Moore’s Statement, Louis Walter’s Boyfriend

I don’t really know what to say. Louis has only been living with me in City 23 for a couple of weeks. We come from a town in the east that’s slowly been demolished to make way for greenbelt. He’d stayed behind because he had a job there and a family still. I didn’t have one in the old town when the first government relocation offers came in, so I came here to City 23 to work as a performer at The Heart Machine.

Eventually me and Louis were going to do an act together. We’d been working on a comedy routine. A very old school vaudeville one, with him being funny and me doing magic. But, alas, that won’t happen now, and we’d been talking about this since we met in high school.

I knew about Louis’ act when he was serving. He always was a flirt, but he was gay, so there was nothing in it. Rock even encouraged it because he took a cut of the tips. Like I said, there was nothing in it. He was just doing his job because Rock told him to do that. And because he enjoyed making people smile.

Thing is he always did have a temper. When we were in high school he was very defensive of me and got into fights all the time trying to protect me from idiots. When he came here to the city he started to carry a knife with him always. Someone at the bar had told him that he could get away with it because he was bar staff and needed to open boxes. Which is true, but he didn’t need to carry a Japanese fighting knife. That was stupid.

Sergeant Buxton’s Statement, First Officer on the Scene

I arrived on the scene five minutes after receiving the call via dispatch from a Mr Ali. The victim was lying on the ground with multiple stab wounds. He had been robbed; his pockets had been turned out. I took first scene of crime photographs and taped the area up.

Rock, the manager of the Heart Machine, told me that the victim’s name was Louis Walter and that he worked at the club’s bar.

The victim’s height was five foot nine and he was wearing the uniform of The Heart Machine’s staff which consists of: black trousers, white shirt, black waistcoat and a black bow tie. All of these were covered in blood.

The nightclub is a known front for the Red Faction syndicate in the area. Rock knows what he’s involved in, but takes part in no illegal activity directly. His name is on all the liquor and performance licenses.

I was shown entry and exit data of the club taken from payment card records, and I was also shown security camera footage of the victim working on the bar and then leaving to take his break.

It was reported by Natasha Roth that a Red Faction member had threatened Louis Walter, and that the only reason the bouncers hadn’t kicked them out was that Rock intervened telling them to let him stay.

Sally Li’s Statement, Girlfriend of Karel Cech

I was at the Heart Machine with Karel because I’d just gotten out of jail. We went to the bar. I was served first by the bartender which pissed Karel off. Karel thought he was going to be buying me drinks all night, so he could sleep with me later.

The guy that served me was cute. He flirted with me a bit. This annoyed Karel, but I told him to relax when we got back to our booth. Not long after that Karel said he was leaving and that I should hang out with the other Red Faction members for a while. I didn’t listen to him. The Red Faction aren’t what I thought they’d be. Most of them are like Karel: not political. Most are just drug runners. In it for the money.

I went outside for a smoke, and I saw Karel walking away from the club without me. I chased after him to find out where he was going. We ran down into the Metro. Some shit got in the way, so Karel beat him hard. On the platform we split up going in opposite directions. He told me that he’d be at his mothers in Volgagrad.

I didn’t want him to kill the guy. He was just having a bit of fun with me. I mean that’s why you go to the ritzy places isn’t it? For a bit of fun. However Karel did tell me that he’d had come at him with a knife. So that makes it self defense, doesn’t it?

Karel Cech’s Confession

Yeah I killed him. There’s no point denying it, is there? You caught me with his blood all over me. I’m no fool. If I speak now I’ll get a shorter sentence, won’t I? The knife, well I that tossed in the garbage when I ran.

Sally chased after me when I’d told her to stay inside. Stupid bitch. I told her that I was heading towards her mothers, but I went to another girlfriend’s apartment instead.

That man he disrespected me in front of my girl and my crew, so I had to take action, didn’t I? I met him out back and told him that he’d disrespected me and he should watch himself. He ignored me, so I went after him and grabbed him. We struggled for a bit, and because he wouldn’t stop fighting back I got my knife out and git him before he could cut me.

He deserved it. He disrespected me in front of other Red Faction and in front of Sally. Stupid fucker didn’t know how the rules of the street, and the rules say don’t disrespect a Red Faction soldier.

In a Grove [Wikipedia]
Ryūnosuke Akutagawa [Wikipedia]

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