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Authors: Jill Sardegna

Deadrock

DEADROCK

By Jill Sardegna

COPYRIGHT
©
2014 by Jill Sardegna
 

All rights
reserved.

For Debby and Harry,

Deadrock's first friends

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter
1
 

Planetary Earth Date: 09.08.2115

The wind whistled
past Max's ears as he sailed up and up into the blue. Max loved this. He loved
the speed, the rush, the feeling of weightlessness.
The stillness
in his body as he watched the silent prairie drop away from him.
He
loved that one microsecond when he stopped flying up and just lagged in the
air, motionless. He loved it. Too bad you have to be bucked from the back of a
horse to get it, he thought.

Because he
hated the rest of the experience; shooting down, earth-heavy, wind whipping
tears into his eyes, tumbling, flailing, gyrating, clumsy in the effort to meet
the ground on friendly terms. With that last inevitable jerk from gravity, Max
kissed the prairie with his backside and rolled into the corral fence.

"Sunning
your boot heels, boy?" said the old woman leaning on the gate.

Max's tanned
face split into an easy grin. "Right, Grandma." He brushed himself
off and joined her. She was tall and trim and straight. Max thought she looked
regal, like a queen of some lost clan. He liked her leathery face and was glad
she'd turned down the government's free facelifts for seniors.

"I
thought you'd be watching the time capsule opening," said Max.

"That
foolishness? Just another of Mayor Rhoades' campaign stunts," she sniffed.

"Oh, come
on, Grandma, aren't you just a little curious about what your old beau is up
to?"

"All this
hoopla over some old junk locked up in a vault for one hundred years! All they'll
find is dust."

"But Leo's
on duty. I thought we might catch him patrolling the crowd. Come on, Grandma,
can't we watch…just for a second?"

"I swear
I never should have allowed you to be implanted," she said, as he raised
the underside of his wrist toward the barn and projected the newscast from his
thumbnail.

"My, old
Rhoadsie looks all done in," she said.

They watched
as the Mayor moved to the edge of the stage next to an ancient vault.

"Citizens,"
said Mayor Rhoades, "I have the honor of opening the Rhoades Time Capsule
sealed one hundred years ago in 2015 by my great grandfather, Theodore Rhoades,
who, as you know-"

"Get on
with it!" hollered someone in the audience.

"Where's
Leo?" asked Max, scanning the picture.

The camera
panned the crowd and caught two police officers using their stunsticks to break
up a fight. A woman hit a green-robed man over the head with a sign reading, "Mayor
Rhoades – Four More Years."
 

"This won't
help his campaign any," said Grandma. "Poor old Rhoadsie. Good thing
I didn't marry him. I'd probably be sweating up there with him right now."

The Mayor
wiped his brow. He took hold of the wheel on the vault and creaked it one full
turn. The crowd jostled forward.

"And now
without further ado, WELCOME 2015!" he said.

With a
flourish he pulled on the heavy door. It swung open and out spilled a skeleton,
its bony fingers reaching for the front row. Someone screamed; the crowd shoved
away from the stage.

"Oh, Lord!"
said Grandma. "Now don't panic, Rhoadsie!"

"Police!
Police!" screamed Mayor Rhoades.

The crowd
erupted. Police officers rushed the stage. One pudgy officer hauled up a wind
cannon and turned it on full-blast into the crowd. The explosion of air sent
the Mayor rolling into a SceneCorder operator and knocked them both flat.

Max snapped
his fingers and zoomed in for a closer look at the police officer struggling
with the mini-tornado. "Oh, no – Leo, is that you?"

The raging
cannon nearly pulled the plump officer off his feet as he spun out of control,
setting the skeleton dancing and blowing paper money from inside the vault up
into a whirlpool above the stampeding crowd.

"Paper
money!" cried those in the crowd.

"Grab it!
It's real paper money!"

Max and Grandma
watched as the mob flowed onto the stage, snatching at bills and trampling
those who fell underfoot.

"This is
your Mayor! Desist! Return calmly to your homes!" demanded Mayor Rhoades,
struggling to his feet. But nobody heard him over the roar of the police
sirens, the bellow of the mob, and the howl of the mighty wind machine.

With all the
chaos, Max almost didn't see the word, "Contact", flash in the corner
of the screen. "I've
gotta
take this, Grandma,"
he said, holding his index finger to his ear and his pinkie to his mouth.

The man
talking in his ear got right to the point. "Yes, sir," said Max, shaking
his fingers to hang up.

"So, I
guess they want my boy back," said Grandma. She watched the projection
fade as Max waved his wrist.

"Yep,
right away," said Max. He mounted his horse, Silicon.

"Stay and
have some lunch first," smiled Grandma. "Pulled porcini sandwich?"

"Grandma!"

She swung one
leg gracefully over the back of her favorite mare, Gracie. "How much can
they need one fourteen year-old boy? I just get you up here and they're calling
you back!" They broke into a trot and headed for the ranch house.

"Grandma,
I'm a cop. It's my job," said Max.

"Well,
you know how I feel about that. You're just a boy. You've got to learn to play
– to spend some time here at the Broken Heart. To stop and smell the
roses!"

"Impossible!"
he said as he kicked Silicon into a gallop. He laughed over his shoulder at
her, "How can you smell the roses from the back of a galloping bronco?"

 
 
Chapter
2
 

When Max
arrived in New York City, the police squad room was a mess. Officers rummaged
through a mountain of bins filled with toys, books, clothing, appliances and
other relics of the twenty-first century retrieved from the time capsule. Max
ducked as a soft, squishy football whizzed by his head.

"Sorry,
kid," called the detective who caught it and tossed it back to his
partner.

"Coming
through, Deadrock," said the officer leading two forcecuffed green-robed
men through the maze of desks.

"Wollman
now! Before it's too late!" yelled one Green Robe.

Max shook his
head and made his way to the check-in desk, jumping aside nimbly to avoid being
hit by a cop brandishing a fluorescent light tube like a saber.

"Watch it,
Deadrock!" said the cop.

At the desk,
he stood in front of the tall mirror, looked intently into it, and pressed his
rein-callused thumb onto the finger pad.

"Sergeant
Max Livingstone reporting for duty," he said.

"Welcome
back, Max," said EVA. Although EVA (Electronic Voice Activation) was only
an electronic voice programmed to respond to a billion possible human phrases, Max
thought she was remarkably warm and friendly. Motherly, even. But maybe that
was just in comparison to the reaction he got from the humans at work.

"Hey,
stand in front of the screen again," said EVA. "I think you've grown
since you've been away."

Max's blue
eyes lit up. "Do you really think so?" He stood ramrod straight and
lifted his chin.

"You're
exactly a sixteenth – no, make that an eighth-inch taller," said
EVA.

"Oh,"
said Max.

I got Dad's dark
hair, Granddad's instinct, and Grandma's sense of humor, thought Max. Would it
have hurt them to give me a little of their height? All of them six feet or
taller, and here I am, a stubborn five feet, two. I'm a leprechaun spawned by
giants.

"Well,
you've only been gone a week, dear," said EVA. "Grandma still won't
let you get the growth hormone beams, huh?"

"No way,"
said Max. "She says the Livingstone men don't get their height until after
the age of eighteen."

"Well,
that should be a comfort to you!" said EVA. "Only four more years to
go."

"Right,"
sighed Max. Machines have no sense of time.

Max wove his
way through the maze of desks and humanity that made up the squad room. Two
hundred officers, their blue stun-proof suits glinting metallically under the
lights, worked elbow-to-elbow in the close, window-less quarters. Feels like
one of those rooms where the walls slowly move toward one another, thought Max.
But then, he always felt that way after spending time on the prairie.

He pulled at
the neck of the uniform reptilian suit that clung like a second skin under his
shirt. Hot and uncomfortable, it irritated his sunburned neck. He'd have a nasty
rash by the end of the day. Of course, he could have worn just the suit and
left the outer clothes at home, but only sergeants and higher ranks wore street
clothes, so what was a little rash compared to the privilege of rank?

When Max
reached his desk he found it piled high with a box of tiny underwear marked "Huggies",
a carton of sunflower seeds, a canister of something called Play Dough, a box
of plastic (plastic!) bumpy blocks called Legos, two paper movie ticket stubs, a
large flat screen of some type, a bag of coffee beans, a flat square box marked
Of Mice and Men
, chopsticks, a sealed
can of salted peanuts, a pair of green giant inflatable hands, a fishing pole, and
a box marked "Wii". Wheeee?
thought
Max. And
what about that coffee – it's worth a fortune. He picked up the Play
Dough. Some kind of play food, he thought, reading the ingredients. Nope, says
it's not for consumption – then what's the point?

"Max, you're
back!" said Leo Peterson, his partner, rushing forward to meet him. In his
blue stunsuit, Leo looked like a bloated plum. His arms were full of round
shiny discs marked,
American Idol
. "Did
you hear about the time capsule?"

"Yeah, I
saw it. You had a little trouble with the wind cannon?"

"I don't
want to talk about it," said Leo. He ducked his head and began stuffing
the coffee and peanuts into a Narcotics evidence bag. Max lent a hand. Leo
would talk about it when he was ready. Max felt sure that Leo had taken quite a
ribbing from the others about his performance at the ceremony and he didn't
want to add to his friend's misery.

Leo was a
sensitive soul, and intuitive. That intuition, matched with Max's methodical
approach had served the partnership well. They already had built an impressive
arrest record.

It helped that
Leo didn't look like a cop. His round-shouldered, pudgy, middle-aged body and
innocent puppy face were an excellent disguise that had fooled many a criminal.
He was the average, decent-looking guy; the one you'd ask to save your place in
line or trust to watch your travelcase.

Of course,
appearance was Max's asset, too. People looked at him and saw a short, sturdy
kid. They didn't know the sturdiness came from strength, or that he could
easily lift and sling a fifty-pound saddle onto the back of horse taller than
he was.

On first
glance, they might take notice of his thick brown hair, the smile that dipped
at one corner of his mouth, or his straight, dark eyebrows and the crease
between his eyes that gave him a serious look. They might be struck, as many
were, by some strange mixture in his face, a mingling of child and adult. Those
who looked closer might have seen a trace of something else; a sorrow, or an
old hurt that never quite healed.

But most
people never stopped for a second look. They saw an average, fourteen year-old
kid. A definite advantage for a kid who just happens to be a cop. Max knew
adults tend to overlook kids. So a kid can snoop around and be unseen. A kid
can be invisible.

Unfortunately,
adult cops tend to view kids the same way adult criminals do, so Max often felt
invisible at work. Thank goodness for Leo. He didn't treat Max like a kid.

Max sifted
through the heap of twenty-first century stuff on his desk and uncovered a
face-painting kit, a sack of lawn fertilizer, a rubber ducky, an orange T-shirt
emblazoned with the words "The Gap", rowing oars, an electric
screwdriver, a poster of a big purple dinosaur, a banged-up electric guitar, a
photo of a tall guy in shorts named Jordan, a jigsaw puzzle with a guy in a cap
and striped shirt, a paper book called
The
Runaway Bunny
, a whoopee cushion, two wooden ice cream sticks, and four
tiny figurines of green masked turtles. Max examined the turtles in his palm
and wondered out loud, "How did they know?"

"They all
know because they all watched the newscast," said Leo, thinking the
comment was directed at him. "I feel like such an idiot! But Max, it wasn't
my fault! The cannon switch got stuck on HIGH!"

"Don't
worry about it, Leo. I'm sure nobody even noticed," said Max, patting his
shoulder.

"Hey,
Peterson, I'm thinkin' of cleaning out my apartment. Maybe you could come over
with your wind cannon and help me out!" yelled O'Malley from the doorway.
Faces turned toward Leo.

O'Malley. The
guy never let up, never failed to point out a mistake. Always
there
to transform a minor embarrassing moment into a major
humiliation. Besides, thought Max, the guy smelled like a sour sponge.

"Ignore
him, Leo. Maybe he won't come over," whispered Max.

"Nice
work, Peterson, and on Intergalactic cable, too," said O'Malley, winding
his way to the desk. "They'll be talking about your performance on Alpha
Six!"

"Leave
him alone, O'Malley," said Max, placing himself protectively in front of
Leo.

O'Malley shoved
aside a pile of items and sat himself on the edge of Max's desk. He sized up
the short, determined boy before him. "Well, if it isn't Deadrock. Back
from playing cowboy, eh?" said O'Malley.

"Back
from vacation," said Max. From the corner of his eye, he saw that a crowd
was gathering.

"Again?
Well, I guess they have to give you little tykes lots of time off – for
naps," said O'Malley, playing to the room.

"That's
not true! He only gets twelve weeks!" said Leo. "Just like all the
other sergeants!"

"You
know, that reminds me," said Max, "the sergeant's exam is coming up,
O'Malley. Are you gonna take it for a fifth time?"

Somebody in
the crowd laughed. O'Malley scowled and stood up. "Yeah, well, some of us
have had to come up the hard way. Not like certain brats with connections and
fancy brain infochips. I have to rely on my mind!"

"I guess
that explains your failure, then," said Max to laughter and applause from
the crowd. Leo beamed at him.

O'Malley
struggled for a clever reply, settled for, "Shrimpfeet!" and stomped
off.

EVA's voice
rang out over the intercom, "Sergeant Livingstone and Detective Peterson!
You've got a slasher in SoHo."

"Let's
roll, Leo," said Max with a smile. "We've got work to do."

 

Outside a SoHo
warehouse, Max and Leo loaded an enraged man into the paddycopter.

"Murder
is my art! Art is my life!" screamed the man.

"I hate
Arts Education Week," said Leo, slamming the door. They ducked under the
jetblades and gave the all-clear sign to the pilot.

"They're
getting crazier and crazier," said Max.

They climbed
the warped barium stairs to the artist's loft and stepped around the coroner
who worked over a body on the floor.

"Be with
you guys in a minute," said the coroner. Max smiled at the young woman
stooped next to the coroner. She returned his smile and bent back to her work.

"Who's
that?" whispered Max as they walked away.

"Her?"
asked Leo.

"Don't point!"
said Max.

"That's
Carrie. The new coroner's assistant. Rosie and I met her at the Police Officer's
Rave. Nice gir-"

"How old
do you think she is?" asked Max.

"I don't
know. Nineteen, twenty."

"Oh. She
looks a lot younger."

"You
know, Max, Rosie's got a niece you'd really like. She-"

"No
thanks, Leo."

Max had tried
meeting some of Rosie's nieces. And cousins. And second cousins twice removed.
They were all nice enough but they had little in common with a working cop.
After all, they were just kids. He preferred finding his own dates. Trouble
was, where to find them? Most girls his age were in school. And the New York City
Police Department didn't have many fourteen year-old female cops.
None, in fact.

Max and Leo
stopped to look at a sculpture of a figure writhing in pain and wrapped in
strands of blinking Christmas tree lights. Max looked at the art and mentally
flipped through the files of his Art of the Twenty-Second Century infochip.

Neo-Catastrophic,
he thought. Just like my love life.

"Max, we need
to talk," said Leo.

"Leo, I
said I'd get my own girls! Gnartz, between you and Grandma pushing me to go to
those Teen Meet and Greet Spiritual Retreats-"

"No, Max,
I mean we've got to talk about work. I'm worried about the Spinelli set-up. I
had this bad dream…"

"Probably
just too much of Rosie's algae lasagna, Leo," said Max. He wandered over
to another sculpture composed of barbed wired with arms outstretched and head
flung back. Leo followed, bouncing his helmet in his hands.

"It was
such a frightening dream, Max. I'm afraid something might go wrong during the
sting."

"I'll be
implanted with a viewer. If anything goes wrong, you'll see it, Leo. Just break
in and arrest him."

"There's
just so much riding on this…"

Max pulled the
moldable helmet from Leo's hands and placed it backwards on his friend's head. "Leo,
we're a great team. You've got to trust in us. You'll get your promotion and I'll
get mine."

Leo muttered, "Easy
for you to say. My grandfather wasn't Chief of Police."

"Thanks a
lot, Leo," snapped Max.

"I'm
sorry, Max, it's just that sometimes I don't feel like I belong."

 
"Out of the way!" said the
stretcher guider, elbowing Leo aside.

"At least
you have a nickname," said Leo.

"Oh,
yeah, a great nickname – Deadrock."

My name's
Livingstone, he thought.
My Granddad's name.
And Dad's.
The name Livingstone had brought honor to the
force by those two men. But Max had been on the force for a less than a year
when his dad was killed during a routine domestic disturbance call and he knew
no one thought he was ready to inherit the family name.

"They
call me
Dead-rock
instead of Living-stone to remind me
I'm not the cop my bloodmen were, Leo," said Max. They stepped over a
chalk outline on the floor. The drawn shape had outstretched arms and the head flung
back. Leo looked at the shape and sighed.

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