Hartog turned to Benjamin who was quietly fuming at being man-handled by Mustard Fingers next to him. A small snort came out of Hartog’s nose, as he enjoyed his guest’s discomfort and his face twisted into a dysfunctional smile, one corner behaving as nature intended it and the other slack, as though struck by Bells Palsy. Hartog could have chosen to have the nerve damage repaired quickly and easily, but he’d chosen not to.
Anything and everything could be repaired. The blood derby girls would be patched up like new after tonight’s bout, ready to skate next week. The trick was to keep the heart pumping. Sometimes the ref’s whistle ending the bout came too late and all the blood had drained away, the heart stuttering to a heroic end. Or the girls were caught out in the Danger Zone.
He’d been out in the Danger Zone long enough and he didn’t want to forget. He didn’t want to be patched up. Didn’t want pretend he was OK. He liked his scar… liked being reminded. It kept him honest and others uncomfortable.
“Never been to the blood derby?”
Benjamin shook his head with a violent movement more emphatic than any words he could have mustered. His pale face stood out amid the red faced sea of fanatics surrounding him.
“I’m a hockey fan. This is barbaric.”
“Only if you go down in the first minute and your team mates can’t or don’t want to defend you before you make it to the Blood Zone.”
Hartog kept smiling and Benjamin looked away, unsettled by the asymmetrical smile.
“You know they can fix that,” Benjamin’s said, his eyes glancing down to the massive electronic bill boards encasing the inner fence of the rink, advertising the two major sponsors – leading biomechanical firms.
“I was going to say the same about our razorblade belles there.” Hartog’s face ached from the effort of smiling. “Just as long as you keep the heart pumping. I hear the fans show their loyalty in the number of pints of blood they donate each week.”
The injured Penetrator inched her way across the rink on her belly, one hand pressed hard against the gash in her thigh, blood leaking from between her fingers and the other fist clenched, as she used her forearm to brace and drag herself towards the inner sanctum of the rink – the Blood Zone – where she would be able to bleed free of the fear of further injury. If she could make it before the pack returned.
Hartog imagined Portia had employed the same manoeuvre, broken and cut up by her attacker, trying to escape. The finger tips on her right hand had been torn – down to the bone on one digit. Soft pink fingers scrambling to make purchase on the coarse grey concrete. Dragging herself away as she bled to a terrified death. Whoever had murdered her had meant it to be a painful and undignified end.
Benjamin shifted in his seat. Hartog was certain Benjamin had the technology and the expertise to find out the exact manner of his sister’s death. Only select details had been gifted to the feedos… crumbs to the pigeons.
Benjamin’s stared down at the rink and the wounded woman’s desperate attempt to remove herself from harm’s way. “She’s haemorraghing.”
There was an unmasked urgency in Benjamin’s voice that heartened Hartog – he could not have scripted the bout any better. And so early on in the bout too. With any luck they’d both be out of there before quarter time. The Penetrator’s movements were slowing as the pack sped towards her, the blood slick behind her growing wider.
“Why don’t her team mates do something? Shit.”
Team mates, regardless of personality clashes and disparity in corporate sponsorships, kept each other safe in the finals . The blood letting always happened in the opening rounds when scores were settled and sponsorships were still in flux. Two Penetrators cut from the pack to run defensive sorties across their injured team mate’s path. There would be no sudden blood in the semi final.
“They just exposed themselves to an unwarranted attack to protect her,” Hartog said, feeling the fifteen minutes of study on the way there in the taxi a fruitful use of time. Benjamin’s eyes were fixed on the bleeding woman crossing into the blood zone.
“You just don’t understand the intricacies BenJin.” Hartog noted with satisfaction his guest flinched at the use of his name.
“It’s Benjamin. I’m not here in a professional capacity.”
“I thought this was the sort of thing you feral feedos got off on.” Hartog put his hand into the inner sanctum of his trademark overcoat and wrapped his fingers around the InfoCap.
“That’s where you braindead coppers don’t understand the different between hype, sensationalism, voyeurism and integrity. Look at any of my news feeds and you’ll know I’m not interested in this -” waving his hands about at the rink “propaganda of the irrelevant. It’s just another fucking Coliseum.”
Hartog seized the moment to make his move. Without shifting his eyes from Benjamin’s, he reached slowly into the inner pocket of his jacket and took the Infocap. Keeping eye contact as Benjamin continued his rant, Hartog lay his hand in the Benjamin’s’s crotch, so only the two of them would see, and allowed his fingers to open just enough for the Info Cap to be visible
“What the … Shit!” Benjamin’s voice softened. Hartog’s fingers closed and he put the INfo Cap back in his pocket. “I told her not to.”
“Will you agree to talk to me now.”
Benjamin nodded and then stood after one last glance down to the rink. “Not here. Meet me tomorrow at 11am at The Eucharist in the 3rd. Don’t be late. I won’t wait for you Hartog.”
Before Hartog could say anything was off forcing his way through the baying crowd.
Image: Blood Splatter by Mr Goh via Photobucket.