Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #59

Phyllis LogoTo his credit, Avo is not the type to act without thinking.

Get him?” he asked.

“Yes!” I insisted, pointing. “The bundle in the robot’s arms is actually the pilot. Get him!”

We were parked about twenty yards back from the alley entrance, and we watched as the robot peeked around the corner at the building where we had been going.

Avo didn’t move. “Who is it?”

I felt that his voice lacked the appropriate level of enthusiasm. “It’s Rudolph Henricks!” I shouted. “Or at least Henricks is his name and I called him Rudolph. I’m actually not sure he’s a him, but he knows about the nanobots and he’s a big jerk! Come on!” I said, and started to get out of the truck. “He’s going to get away!”

You…” Avo grabbed me by the collar and pulled me back inside. “Are still high on sponge.”

“Oh come on, I’m fine!” I protested.

“Is he dangerous?”

I considered my past encounters with Henricks and matched him up with Avo. “To you?” I said. “No.”

“Will he be armed?”

“Um… Maybe? The robot seems like it can get in and out of places with portals, but I’m not sure that’s still working, if it has to creep through the alleys like that.”

He reached behind the seat and dug through the clutter before coming up with a shotgun. He placed it in my lap, and I squeaked. The muzzle flashed, and the barrel roared, and blood splattered.

Okay, maybe I had a little more of the sponge in my system than I thought.

I carefully placed the shotgun on the seat next to me.

“You stay here,” Avo said, pointing at the seat like he was training a dog. “Back me up if it looks like I’m in trouble. And Phyllis?”

I took a deep breath and met his gaze. “Yes?”

“If you shoot me, I will squeeze you until you pop like a ketchup packet.”

I swallowed. “That sounds unhygienic.”

He pointed at the seat again, and then got out of the truck, leaving the shotgun with me. I scooted away from it on my seat and watched Avonaco work.

For such a big man, Avo can actually be pretty light on his feet. It helped that Henricks was still focused on the building ahead of us, but Avo just walked up behind him and grabbed the robot by the neck. The robot jerked and struggled, but was hampered by the need to carry such a delicate package in its arms.

I wondered why Henricks didn’t buy a baby sling.

I couldn’t hear anything, but Avo slammed the robot’s head against the wall and held it there, leaning in to say something. The robot stopped struggling.

Soon, Avo and Henricks were walking back toward the truck, Avo’s hand still firmly clutching the robot’s neck.

I rolled down the truck window and leaned out, grinning. “Avo!” I cheered. “I am glad you came along after all!”

When Henricks saw me, the robot stopped walking.

“You!” it said.

All of a sudden, it reached down and pulled something out of a panel on its leg. I guessed what it was just in time to duck.

The only noise came from the sizzling metal, as the laser cut a swath through the door, leaving behind the overpowering smell of burning upholstery. The beam would have cut me in two if Avo hadn’t jerked the robot off of its feet at the last minute.

As it was, the pickup truck now had a slice taken out of it, from midway-up the door, running through to the roof. It looked like someone slamming a meat cleaver into a steak and not quite making it through.

“You stay away from me!” shouted the robot.

Then it jumped into the air, tucking its legs up into a ball. Avo is strong, but he wasn’t prepared to suddenly support the robot’s entire weight, and Henricks slipped out of his grip.

As the torso of the robot hit the ground, the legs lifted, straightening and then bending the other way, the knees hinging backward. The robot lay on its back, the arms and legs folded around the real Henricks. Before Avo could regain a grip on it, the robot’s body hopped upward a couple of inches, wheels extending from hidden panels in the torso.

The next thing we knew, the robot scooted away across the pavement like a go-kart.

Avo looked at me, and then looked at the still-glowing groove in his truck.

I held up a finger. “In my defense, I’ve never seen him do that before.”


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