Chisel & Groove: Chapter Two
Copyright © 2012 by Stuart Wakefield
All rights reserved by the Author
“I fix machinery.” Chisel spoke the words slowly, a warning to Groove not to venture any further into his life. He crossed to the counter and turned the lights back on. The ventilation was siphoning off the last of the gas.
“Sure you do.” Groove pulled off his goggles and blinked tentatively. “I’ve got something that needs your attention but it’s not mechanical.”
“I fix machinery.” The words again; a mantra now. Chisel closed the drawer of the tool chest that held one of his firearms, and then opened it again.
“I could get you arrested just for keeping that night-hound.” Groove’s voice was smooth if not a little cold.
Chisel didn’t even bother to face him, instead busying himself with some minor paperwork. “You’d have to be able to breathe to do it.”
“Are you threatening me?”
Chisel simply grunted in reply and beckoned Drillbit over to him before taking Jigger’s pistol from her jaws. Free of the weapon, she licked the barman’s remaining blood from her mouth. She watched Groove with interest and Chisel looked over his shoulder to see Groove looking right back at her, morbidly fascinated by the sight of her tongue licking her mandibles.
“I’ve never seen a live one before.”
“For most trespassers, she’s the last thing they do see.” The threat was clear in Chisel’s tone.
Groove hadn’t moved any closer to Chisel but he hadn’t moved away, either. He twisted the strap of the goggles between his fingers.
“That’s your cue to leave.” Chisel turned to face him, then. He crossed his arms, planted his feet as wide as his impressive shoulders, and stared the other man down.
Looking briefly back at the door behind him, Groove hesitated. “Aren’t you even a little bit curious why I, and he, came here?”
No response from Chisel. This was a practised look and he was only too aware of its power. The moment between them lingered on, with neither of them willing to back down.
“Aren’t you going to do something about that?” Groove pointed towards Drillbit.
“It’s bleeding. He shot it.”
Chisel hands were a blur after he dropped to his knees beside her and combed the softer spines below her neck, before working his way down to her hindquarters.
Chisel’s hand shot out to keep him at bay. “What would you know?”
“I have a Doctorate in Xenobiology.”
“You’re a DJ.” Chisel scoffed and shook his head.
“Yeah, I’m just a DJ—with a Doctorate in Xenobiology. You’re checking its body and he shot it in the head. That’s not his blood around its mouth, it’s its own.”
Drillbit whimpered as Chisel took her head in his hands. Groove was right. Jigger’s shot had pierced the flap of skin that retracted to fold her left mandible back into her jaw. It bled freely and he smelt the tang of iron in the air. She growled, and Chisel became aware of Groove at his elbow.
Chisel let go of Drillbit’s head and pivoted away to sit next to her, facing Groove. He watched as the other man held his hands out, palms facing upwards, slightly lower than her jaw. A sign that he meant her no harm. She glanced at Chisel for reassurance and he gave her a thin smile. Once she relaxed, Groove cupped her lower jaw and hooked his thumb up and over the right side. Very gently, he eased her mouth open and a thin line of blood and saliva extruded from the other side of her mouth.
“It won’t heal as fast in our atmosphere. You got a puncture repair kit?”
“She’s not a tyre.”
“I need to close this wound, and I’m guessing you’re not a needle and thread kind of guy, so stop being an idiot and get me a kit.”
Chisel pushed out his lower lip as he considered, then rose, and crossed to the rows of plastic tubs stacked behind the counter. Behind him, he heard Groove murmur something comforting to his patient. Groove turned to take the kit from him as he returned, opened it, and twisted the cap off the tube with his teeth.
“What’s its—sorry—her vocabulary like?”
“Better than a dog’s.”
“Good. Okay, girl. This isn’t going to taste good but it’s going to help. Keep your mouth open for me.” Groove smeared some rubber solution onto the tip of the index finger of his left hand, and reached into Drillbit’s mouth. A moment later, he withdrew it, picked up a rubber patch, and reached back in. Chisel noticed Drillbit’s eyes water and she swallowed hard, but without closing her mouth. Groove repeated the same procedure on the outside of Drillbit’s mouth and, when he was finished, she gave him a small lick before resting her head on Chisel’s lap, who stroked her with a tenderness reserved for her, and her alone.
Groove watched the affectionate gesture as he packed the kit away. “Been together long?”
“Ever since—” Chisel stopped himself just in time.
“It’s okay. I know who you are.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because I don’t.” Cradling a sleeping Drillbit’s head in his hands, he moved out from under her and stood, causing Groove to stand as well. “I can’t help you.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
“Take your pick.”
Groove sighed. “Will you please hear me out?”
“I can do one better.” He stepped forwards, forcing Groove back. “I’ll see you out.”
“You owe me.” Groove spluttered the words, his head pivoting to see if he was going to stumble over something behind him as he stepped backwards.
Chisel stopped abruptly. “For what?”
“Yeah. You know the game. I buy you drinks, you do me a favour.”
“I don’t fuck trespassers; I fuck them up.”
Groove’s face blanched. “No, no. I mean, I need your help. Not that I don’t find you attractive, you know. I mean, you have a certain greasy charm and all. I’m sure a lot of guys like me would find it a turn-on to skip the class barrier and get sweaty with a guy like you but—am I babbling?”
“Greasy charm.” Chisel scowled at Groove as the man tottered backwards on the heels of his expensive boots, scuffing the leather on discarded tools.
Groove’s back connected with the wall. He was out of room. “I’m sorry. You studied after high-school? I wasn’t sure if someone like you even went to school.” His chest rose and fell heavily, and the sweat Chisel had noticed earlier, sprang back to glitter across his temples.
“Someone like me?”
“I know who you are.”
“I fix machinery.”
“I fix people. You—”
Chisel stood toe-to-toe with Groove and leaned down until their foreheads touched. The sweet smell of whatever Groove had been drinking still carried on his breath. In another circumstance, time, or place, Chisel might have kissed him, but circumstances didn’t allow for that. It had been along time since Chisel had kissed a man.
The lump in Groove’s throat bobbed and he snatched a sharp breath.
“You kill them.”
In one swift movement, Chisel snatched Groove from the wall and threw him over a low trolley, pinning him between the legs with his right knee, and on his chest with his left hand. Reaching up, he unhooked a portable power hacksaw from an overhead rack, and switched it on.
Groove’s arms flailed wildly until they connected with Chisel’s left arm and scrabbled at them with impressive, if futile, strength. “What the fuck are you doing?”
“Fucking. You. Up.” Chisel grinned down at him.
“You want to leave?”
Spittle sprayed through Groove’s teeth as he bit back another cry, and he nodded, still pulling uselessly at Chisel’s forearm.
Chisel stood back, and he grasped Groove’s jacket in a fist before wrenching him to his feet.
“Go.” He powered the tool down but held it at waist height to prove he still meant business.
Swaying a little, Groove nodded and smoothed the front of his jacket. “You would have used that?”
“To kill me?”
“What would you have done with my body?”
“Drillbit,” Chisel called softly. “Dinner.”
Drillbit rolled onto her feet and padded over to Jigger’s body. Taking his left ankle in her mouth, she dragged him across the floor and back through the holo-wall.
Groove jumped at the first sound of splintering bone. Chisel felt an unusual pity for the man. Clearly, he believed that Chisel was the help he needed for whatever it was he came here to talk about.
“How does a Xenobiologist wind up as a DJ?”
“Same as you. I’m undercover.”
“I fix machinery.”
“For Christ’s sake. Will you stop with the mechanic bullshit? I know who you are. More importantly, I know what you are.”
“I saw your eyes roll back in the club. I know you were downloading data from their hub.”
“How could you. . .?”
A long moment stretched out between them.
“Because I used to date a guy like you.”
Impossible, Chisel thought. “What happened?”
“They killed him.” Groove’s gaze dropped to the floor but didn’t focus on it. Instead, his focus fixed on something invisible between them.
“I’m not sure but I think the club is a cover. He used to hack into their server and download data the same way you did. They must have realised.”
“What kind of data?”
Groove shrugged. “Just the usual. News. Weather.”
That wasn’t the kind of data Chisel had downloaded. Not at all. “So why kill him?”
“That’s what I need your help for; to find out.”
“What can I do?”
“If I could just get inside your head, I—”
“Not happening.” He took a step back and raised the saw to shoulder level in case Groove tried something stupid.
“It pains me to go all Princess Leia on you, but you really are my only hope.”
“Not happening. Time for you to go.”
“For fuck’s sake. They’re after you, too. You don’t think Jigger—” There was another snap from behind the holo-wall. “—came here because he forgot to give you your change, do you?”
“Don’t be facile. You know what I mean. They’re coming for you. I know it. You know it. So lets’s do something about it.”
“No deal.” Groove turned to go, but stopped at the door. Chisel bristled when he saw Groove reach into his jacket pocket. “Don’t even bother threatening me. You’d be dead before you could pull the trigger.”
A small point of white light winked on somewhere in the back of Chisel’s skull and he felt his scalp begin to tingle. Both the light and the tingling increased until both bloomed into a searing halo of pain around his head.
Groove turned to face him, a small, black device clutched in his hand. “I’m sorry, but you left me no choice. If you don’t help me, I’ll fry every chip in your brain.”
Taking an unsteady step forwards, Chisel tried to raise the saw in front of him but dropped it instead. He reached behind his head and pushed his hands down as if to push the pain down and away but it was no use. When his vision stuttered, and his knees buckled, he cried out in agony.
“You’re killing me.”
“No. I’m killing part of you. You’ll survive, but you’ll never be the same.”
His knees gave way, and Chisel collapsed to the floor. He didn’t even have the strength to call Drillbit to defend him, and hoped she might sense that something was wrong.
The muted crunch of gravel registered somewhere on the periphery of his senses.
Groove heard it, too. “They’re here for you. I have to go.”
“Why should I? You won’t help me.”
Chisel gasped but his throat, tongue, and mouth were unable to form any words so he nodded, and pointed to the rusted Smashsuit in the corner and jerked his right arm like a marionette.
Groove frowned but crossed to the suit and, cupping his hand underneath the massive fingers, lifted the suit’s right arm. There was a thud beneath them and a panel slid away to reveal steps leading down into Chisel’s real living quarters.
“You sly old fox.” Groove smiled, and tucked the device back into his jacket. Immediately, the pain in Chisel’s head abated but the ringing in his ears continued to disorient him. Groove helped him up and bore some of his weight as Chisel staggered towards the opening in the floor.
The sound of booted feet and hurried commands came closer from outside.
As the two men descended the steep steps down into Chisel’s quarters, the main door to the garage exploded inwards.