"Yes. I'll do it. I'll kill him for you."

 

Pete looked down at the dead man he had met two hours before and considered the irony of it.

He had been on his way to the Golden Gate bridge when the sound of a scuffle caught his ears. There, in the burnt out bar across from the Exploratorium, three thugs, nihilists by the look of them, were working over a big man with a shock of thick red hair. Another man was sprawled outside the door, face covered in blood, unmoving, a gun in his hand.

Pete had never liked nihilists much. He sprinted flat out for the doorway.

The nihilists had surrounded the big man, punching and kicking him from all sides. The big man fought back gamely but couldn't ward off blows from three directions at once. They were systematically beating him to death.

As Pete closed in on the bar doorway, one of the nihilists heard his running steps and reacted instantly, reaching behind his back and flinging a nanosteel disc at Pete's face. Pete dived headlong into the doorway, colliding with the dead man's body. His hand found the dead man's gun and he fired once, twice, three times.

The silence seemed to last a very long time. At last the big man said “you learn to shoot like that in the Frisco war?”

SimWarrior” Pete said. “I had high score at SimGameWorld for eight weeks.”

The big man's eyes grew wide in astonishment, then he exploded in laughter, and stuck out his hand. “Cole's the name, friend. Damn shame you got here after they took out Drew.” Cole motioned at the dead man in the doorway. “But come. We need to drink to my fallen comrade, then see to his final rest. The bay is the best we can do for him under the circumstances, I'm afraid.

The owner of this fine establishment was a good friend of mine, the nihilist swine murdered him when they torched the place. I know where he hid his private stock, in the cellar. Looks like I'm in need of a new partner...”

Oh the sickening irony of it. Since Amy had left him, three months ago, without warning or explanation, his life had been spiraling down into darkness. Pete had been on his way to the bridge to end it all. Now his new friend Cole was dead, and Pete was facing his murderers. If they realized he wasn't Drew, they would kill him like they killed Cole. There were five of them, he would have no chance in a shootout. Somehow Pete, who had been intent on suicide two hours before and was now in danger of being murdered, had to find a way to live.  And there was something else.  He had seen Cole's murderer before...

The End

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