Notice anything different around here?
Like a brand new website logo?
That’ll be thanks to my pal Sion Smith who’s not only a damn fine writer, but a dab hand at the ol’ DTP to boot.
So to celebrate a reboot of sorts, let’s have some cyberpunk: KITTY WANTS A HITTY is the almost-new prequel to my sci-fi thriller PLASTIC JESUS (published by Salt) and I’ve parked that bad girl right here in this thread.
PLASTIC JESUS is basically my love letter to Ridley Scott (for Blade Runner) and the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, 2000AD. Its prequel KITTY WANTS A HITTY focuses on two of the book’s main characters, Paul and Kitty McBride, and their bittersweet relationship.
To read KITTY WANTS A HITTY, follow the ‘continue reading’ link below…
KITTY WANTS A HITTY
Vegas, the most happening bar in Lark City.
Tonight the joint was dead…
Ravenous zombies moved across its floor, overturning tables and stools in their wake.
A dark haired young woman stood on the stage. Her name was Dolly Bird and she was tonight’s entertainment. With her appetising mix of song and burlesque, Dolly would usually go down a storm. But tonight she stood in fear, her white blouse stained red, her black skirt ripped. A single high-heeled shoe lay broken on the stage. Her shapely nylon legs weren’t dancing, instead backing away from the closing throng. She screamed as one of the dead managed to curl its fingers around her ankle.
Geordie Mac watched from the other end of the bar. His revolver was smoking. Several cadavers lay wasted at his polished black shoes. He aimed the revolver once more, but it clicked on empty.
“Damn!” he muttered.
“Jesus Christ!” Dolly called to him. “Do something!”
Geordie checked the pockets of his plaid jacket for more ammo. Fresh out. He swore loudly, ran one hand through his hair, frantically looking around the room.
Dolly had grabbed the broken heel and was swinging it valiantly at the approaching dead. There were more of the bastards pouring through the doors.
Geordie needed to act fast.
He spotted the crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling, just between the stage and the bar’s front window.
He took a deep breath, threw the spent gun at the crowd of dead pouring in from the doors.
Geordie loosened his tie, climbed up onto the bar then jumped, hands reaching for the thin metal frame of the chandelier.
The chandelier held, swinging Geordie towards the stage.
He grabbed Dolly, scooping her up with his free arm as they were hurled towards the window.
THE FUCKING DOORBELL!
A menu kicked in, asking Geordie if he wanted to ignore the distraction and continue, but he pulled the wiretap from his head altogether, snapping out of the VR and back to his bedroom.
He threw the wiretap down angrily on the bed next to his cell. Stood up, snatched the towel dressing gown from its peg by the door, pulled it on then grabbed his cell from the bed.
Geordie left the bedroom, syncing the lights with his cell. His eyes narrowed, adjusting to the florescent beam spilling across the apartment.
He entered the living area, finding his slippers parked on the fur carpet, next to the sofa. The Box played in the corner. It was ten thirty. Some rubber-faced crone was reading the news on Channel 3.
Geordie set his cell on the coffee table.
The bell rang again and he bellowed, “Alright, alright I hear you!”
He reached for the snub on the door, opening it on the safety. His heart sank.
“Oh for Christ’s sake… it’s you.”
He closed the door, sighed, then undid the safety, opening it again. He allowed the door to swing behind him as he retreated back into the apartment. He fell into the black leather sofa, stared petulantly at the Box.
A young girl pushed through, coming into the living area. She was a mess. Peroxide hair sprouted from her head. Spindly, tattooed arms dangled from the sleeves of her old NEW YORK DOLLS tee. She wore vinyl drains that made a sound as she walked. Her name was Kitty McBride.
“Kitty, what are you doing here?” Geordie said, still watching the Box.
“I need a fix, Geordie. I_”
But Geordie’s hand was raised.
“Kitty…” he began, voice gentle, fingers rubbing his temples, “I’ve told you before, sweetheart. You’re on rations.”
“But I-I haven’t had any this week.”
“Babe, I called by your place six days ago. Gave you the usual, and you’re telling me you haven’t had any?!” Geordie threw his arms into the air, laughed. “Come on, doll, I ain’t stupid! I know every single ounce I sell. Every fucking ounce. And you got your dues on Saturday at ten thirty. Six days ago almost,” and here he raised his finger, “to the fucking minute.”
“Yeah, but I lost all that. Tried to quit, jacked it down the can.”
Geordie shook his head. “Tomorrow, Kitty. Ten thirty. Not a second before.”
But Kitty was persistent, moving towards him, her whole body begging. “Come on, Geordie! I just need a little to take the edge off, see me through.”
“I can get the cash, sync it to you.”
“It’s not about the freaking money!” Geordie drew a heavy sigh. “Look, Kitty, I’ll be honest with you. Your pop is Paul Mc Bride, biggest gangster in this whole damn city. If he finds out you’re here talking this shit with me, it’ll be my balls on the line. Don’t you get it? He wants you cutting down, girl, and what Daddykins wants, he gets. Right?!”
“Geordie,” she said, almost sobbing now, “I’ll do anything for that hit. Anything you want.”
She drew closer to him, bent down on her knees, reached her hands under his dressing gown.
But Geordie shuffled away. He grabbed her wrists, held them tight, shaking her as he spoke.
“Are you out of your fucking mind?!”
He pushed Kitty away, stood up, and marched angrily towards the window. He leaned against the glass, blowing out some air, looking across his first floor view of Lark City’s Titanic Quarter. His head was shaking again.
“Get out, Kitty,” he said. She went to talk more but he turned, this time his voice raised, “Get out, get out, get out!”
Kitty slammed her fist against the $900 coffee table beside the sofa. She made a beeline for the door, head held low, swearing under her breath. She banged the door behind her, leaving Geordie standing by the window. He watched through the glass as she left the apartment block, her tiny little body swallowed up by the crowds below.
Titanic Quarter. A place of money. Its stink hung in the air like poisoned gas. Yet, Kitty had nothing. No money. No dope.
She moved through the crowd, mind buzzing, stomach churning, sick with desire. Every part of her was focused on one thing: where to get that hit. Geordie wasn’t the only dealer in Lark. There were others. But they’d want more money and, regardless of how a place like Titanic might lead you to think otherwise, money didn’t come easy.
She thought of what Geordie had said about her dad. Paul McBride had money. He controlled most of Lark’s black market. Everyone, including Geordie, answered to Paul McBride. She could call him up, tell him what was happening, make him talk to Geordie, convince him to give her the dope. But she hadn’t talked to her dad in years. Not properly. And this would involve a proper talk, one where she spoke instead of just nodding or grunting.
Kitty needed other options.
She thought of Charles 7, the tech hack down by the markets in Cathedral Quarter. She thought of thieving something for him, a cell or wiretap or credit card, anything she could trade for cash. She thought of her own cell, of how much she could get for it, even though trading your cell in this day and age was like trading a kidney. She was thinking of trading a kidney when she slammed against someone in the crowd.
“Hey, watch where you’re going, ye little rag!”
An older woman glared at her. She was glamorous to a fault, decked out in leather and real fur. Her dark hair shone in the bright, neon lights of the street. Her face was smooth and polished, like the mannequins that smiled at you from the boutiques down by Cathedral. This was Dolly Bird.
“Hey Dolly,” Kitty said, her eyes looking down, her face blushing.
Dolly’s voice was full of surprise.
“Kitty. You look… terrible.”
Kitty shuffled awkwardly, smiled. She glanced at her fingernails, scratching them with her thumb, then went to move but Dolly placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Hey. Wanna grab something to eat? My shout.”
An idea suddenly dawned on Kitty.
“Yeah, maybe,” she said, smiling at Dolly. “Thing is, I’m kinda in a hurry. If you sync me some cash, though, I could grab something later.”
But Dolly’s head was shaking. “Kitty, do you know how many years I was an addict?”
Kitty didn’t know. She didn’t care.
“Look, kid, I’ll square with you. I’m on a break. Got a bit of time before the next client. So what say I shout you a coffee and a bite to eat. Come on, we can catch up. Hey, you know that new_”
But Kitty was already walking, leaving Dolly mid-sentence. The other woman’s voice trailed off, swallowed by the noise of the crowd as Kitty left the main square at Titanic and moved into Lark’s central throughway. An excited babble greeted her, the same babble she’d hear every weekend as people began their hunt for pleasure, seeking out wine and song and whatever fetish made their lives complete.
Kitty turned onto Tomb Street, Lark’s red light district. It weaved through the city like a spooked snake, filled with peep shows and freak shows and endless parades of painted ladies, dancing like tattooed marionettes. Its main attraction was the Penny Dreadful whorehouse, a Fancy Pants brothel where stuck-up broads like Dolly Bird worked, dames who’d look down on a common street whore like Kitty. But Kitty didn’t care. She had more pressing business to attend to; that burning in her veins calling her, begging her. She needed a hit and she needed it bad.
She found Vegas. This was Tomb’s most popular bar. Converted from an old church, Vegas stood between two strip clubs, name written above its window in red neon lettering. Kitty pushed through the saloon style doors. The joint’s owner-cum-server, known simply as the Bar Man, stood in front of his taps and bottles as if on guard. He was cleaning a glass. Their eyes met as she came in, neither smiling at the other.
“Water,” Kitty said to him, but he was already pouring it. He slid the glass across the bar and she lifted it.
She found her usual spot at the back of the room, a red plastic sofa. Kitty removed the chequered cushions, as always, and sat down. Her tiny body bent over the table in front, hands cradling her drink. She waited, fingers tapping the glass, toes dancing, cold sweat breaking across her skin, eyes alert and searching.
It was the usual crowd in tonight. The alcos, staring at their drinks, talking to themselves. The zoneheads, wiretaps on faces, clear plastic coils running to their cells, lounging back in their seats, bodies shaking as the code flowed through, drowning their brains in whatever VR release was doing the rounds.
Time passed slowly. Kitty could almost hear the grind of each moment, the desperate slowness of each tick of the imaginary clock in her head. Her veins felt like jagged ice now. She was getting desperate, needed that fucking hit. The pain was screwing her up, turning her inside out.
Kitty’s eyes lit up.
Two men made a beeline for the bathrooms. Kitty watched as a third looked around nervously before following. She waited a while before she, too, got up and followed.
The bathrooms were what you’d expect in a hovel like this. Grimy tiles. Sombre line of cubicles facing a yellow-toothed urinal. One of the taps was dripping, its constant rhythm like a countdown, like the beating of Kitty’s heart as her mouth and lips grew dry with anticipation.
She found the three men huddled in the far corner. As she moved towards them, they stopped talking.
“Hey,” she said, her voice echoing. “You guys dealing?”
One of the men stood forward. He was tall, thin with jet black hair greased across his temples. A toothpick rattled against his teeth as he sized her up.
“Get the hell out of here, kid,” he said.
But Kitty didn’t move. “I’m not a kid,” she said, completely deadpan. “I need a hit.”
Toothpick looked to the others, eyes narrowing. One of the men burst into laughter. Toothpick relaxed, a wide grin spreading across his face as he turned back to Kitty.
“What’s your name, kid?” he said, eyes searching every inch of her from toe to head.
He smiled, looking to the other guys. “Kitty wants a hitty!” he said, much to their hilarity.
But Kitty didn’t flinch. Her voice was urgent. “Do you have any?” she said.
“Have any what?” Toothpick said, looking to the others who gingerly started laughing again, as if he’d just cracked another joke.
“Smack,” she said, plainly.
The three men stopped laughing.
Toothpick looked at Kitty, his face suddenly serious. He began to circle her, pacing her like some animal. And then he paused, reaching around her back from behind, grabbing her breasts, squeezing, then relaxing his grip. Satisfied, he moved down towards her crotch. But Kitty still didn’t flinch. She didn’t even blink. This was normal. This was part of the deal when you went to someone other than Geordie. And that was fine.
“Not much here to hold onto,” Toothpick muttered into her ear. “Skinny little bitch, aren’t you?”
Kitty turned to face him. She tipped her head to one side, looking into his face. Found his hands, pressed them against her breasts again, then reached for the zipper to his slacks. She found his cock, began to caress it, still looking at him with her dead, emotionless eyes. But his cock remained flaccid. His eyes grew wide, his hands moving from her breasts, pushing her away.
He looked to the other men. One of them started to laugh again, but Toothpick was furious. He turned quickly, swinging the back of his hand hard against Kitty’s jaw. It connected and Kitty fell back, slamming her head against the off-white tiles and sliding to the floor.
Toothpick came at her again, punched her in the face, pulled back, punched her again. She took it without making a sound, eyes locked closed, lips curled up against her teeth. Both hands were raised to her face, bending against each blow.
Her nose broke with a crack.
She heard Toothpick step away.
She allowed one eye to open, finding him still towering over her; fist clenched; a half-smile-half-grimace on his face; that fucking pick still rattling between his teeth. His white shirt had blood on it. Her blood.
“Please,” Kitty said.
She wiped her bleeding nose, grimaced against the pain. She was shaking from head to toe, her breathing laboured and heavy.
Toothpick laughed then turned away. The other two were just staring at her, frozen to the spot. Seemed like they hadn’t counted on this. A laugh at her expense. Rape, maybe. But not this.
But Toothpick wasn’t done just yet. He turned to face her again, a slim metal cylinder in his hand.
Kitty tried to pull herself up but failed. Her vinyl drains were sticking to the tiles. She was dizzy, panicking.
She looked to the other men, eyes pleading.
The youngest one looked back, guiltily. He placed his hand tentatively on Toothpick’s shoulder.
“C-come on, man,” he said. “Let’s just leave it, yeah?”
But Toothpick wasn’t listening, his gaze focused entirely on Kitty. He flicked a button on the cylinder, revealing a blade. He smiled, pick still rattling between his teeth, and moved towards her again.
Kitty closed her eyes, raised her arms again…
Kitty waited for the pain to come, but there was nothing.
She allowed one eye to open. Through blurred vision, she found Toothpick standing stalactite still, his face turned towards the door of the bathrooms. Through blurred vision, she could make out someone stood there: broad-shouldered, heavy-set.
“Don’t move a fucking inch,” the newcomer said. His voice was all-too familiar. He walked over, helped Kitty up. “Clean yourself up,” he said quietly, without looking at her.
Kitty did as she was told. Went to the sinks, turned a tap on, looked in the mirror. Blood still leaked from her mangled nose. She pulled some towels from the dispenser, pressing the thin cloth to her face, the pain surging through her.
“You like hitting little girls?” she heard the new voice say to Toothpick
“And yet here you are, hitting little girls.”
Kitty watched in the mirror. Toothpick was looking over at her.
He seemed to think for a second, then said, “With respect, sir, she’s not really a little girl.”
“Well, what is she then?”
“She’s a whore, sir.”
“I can’t hear you, son. You need to speak up.” The newcomer stood forward, his ear bent to listen more intently.
“I s-said, she’s a whore.”
“A whore, you say.”
The newcomer looked to Kitty disdainfully. “A whore,” he repeated, then looked to the other two men, one of whom smiled nervously. “That’s my daughter you’re calling a whore.”
A stain suddenly formed at the front of Toothpick’s slacks, spreading like a shadow across the crotch and down one leg. He still held the flick knife, even though it was very clear to everyone there that he wouldn’t be using it any time soon.
“McBride,” the newcomer said, “but you can call me Paul.” He glanced at the other two men, offering a smile which they both gladly accepted. “Now what say you give that knife…” Toothpick quickly proffered it, but McBride put his hands up, refusing to take it, “No, not to me,” he said, “I want you to give it to one of your friends.”
Toothpick looked at the two men, his eyes darting between them. Neither of them seemed to want the knife but he handed it to the younger of the two, the one not wearing a suit. The younger man looked surprised, glancing over to Paul McBride.
“Go on, take it!” McBride said.
The young man grabbed the knife quickly.
“That’s good,” McBride said and smiled.
But the poor bastard looked uncomfortable, like he wanted to drop the knife, like it was burning in his hands.
“Now I want you to cut your friend with it,” and here McBride pointed back at Toothpick.
A short whimper came from Toothpick’s mouth. Sweat suddenly broke across his bow.
“C-come on,” he cried. “I’m sorry! I didn’t know it was your little girl. How could I?!”
He fell to his knees, continued to plead, but McBride wasn’t impressed.
“Get up,” he said. “Get up or I’ll have him slit your throat right now.”
Toothpick, still whimpering, stood up and looked to McBride.
The younger man was shaking his head, backing away from his friend, colliding with the other man in the suit, who looked so damn awkward that Kitty wished McBride would just let him go. But McBride didn’t just let him go. He let him stand and wait and sweat. That was Paul McBride’s way.
“Make your move, kid,” he said, nodding towards Toothpick, like a father encouraging his child to throw his first ball. “Go on,” he said. But the younger man just stared at him, knife curled limply in his hand.
Kitty wanted to leave. Nervous bile gathered in the pit of her stomach. Her palms were sweating, cold like ice against her bleach-white skin. It wasn’t that any of this was new to her. She’d grown up around this type of thing. But since moving out of the family home, she’d become less numb. She didn’t want any of it. She just wanted her hit.
Finally, the younger man moved towards Toothpick, brandishing the knife, teeth gritted, eyes wide and damp.
Toothpick was backed into a corner, face pressed against the cold tiles of the wall, knees bended, arms curled up into a fucked-up foetus position. He was whimpering, that damn pick no longer rattling, but still somehow hanging from his lips.
“Go on,” McBride said again.
The younger man looked at him, his hair soaked in sweat, his breathing heavy. Then he gripped the knife and suddenly stabbed Toothpick. Both men screamed in unison.
“Again!” McBride shouted.
And he stabbed again, and then again, finally grabbing the cowering Toothpick by his shirt collar, dragging him across the tiles, mounting him, stabbing him repeatedly until the screams faded and died. He dropped the blade. Straddled across the body of his friend, buried his head in his hands and sobbed hard.
It was too much for Kitty. She went to leave but her father’s booming voice stopped her. The doors suddenly opened, Kitty startling at the noise. A smiling couple staggered into the bathrooms, but one look at McBride’s face, and the carnage on the floor, and they stopped smiling, retreated quickly.
McBride retrieved the knife from the weeping killer, handling it with his handkerchief. He offered it to the third man in the suit.
“Me?” the suited man said, eyebrows raised.
The suited man took the knife, at first trying to accept it in the handkerchief, but McBride shook his head. “Just the blade,” he said.
The suited man did as he was told. He held the knife in an outstretched hand, like it was a dead rat. He looked to McBride, waiting his next command.
“Roll up your left sleeve,” McBride said.
But Kitty couldn’t bear it. She ran to McBride, grabbed his hand and looked up at him.
“No,” she said.
McBride ignored her. “Do it!” he boomed.
Suit was crying now, tears flowing freely down his face. “I can’t!” he sobbed.
“You can and you will,” McBride yelled, his voice echoing, seeming to fill the room.
“FUCKING DO IT!”
Kitty went to speak again. McBride shushed her, but she grabbed his hand, squeezing it. “DADDY!” she cried.
He looked down at her, a quizzical look on his face.
“Please,” she said, “I just want to leave now.”
McBride stared at her intently. There was shock in his face, maybe even anger. For a moment, it looked like he might hit her. It wouldn’t be the first time, of course; Kitty had known the back of McBride’s hand before, the brutal savagery a man like him could unleash was all too familiar. But tonight his face softened.
“Alright,” he said in a low voice. “Okay.”
He turned to the suited man holding the knife.
“Your prints are all over that,” he said. “And so is his blood,” and here McBride pointed to the dead man on the floor, the younger man still straddled across his body, still weeping, hiding his face. “If I ever see any of you two again, I will kill you. You hear?” And while both men no doubt heard him loud and clear, neither seemed able to find the words to answer.
Outside, the music was louder than Kitty remembered. The Bar Man stood by the door. He nodded at McBride then moved through to the bathrooms.
The fucking doorbell again.
Geordie Mac pulled the wiretap from his face, throwing it onto the bed. He rubbed his eyes, lulling himself out of the VR and into the real world, the world of fucking doorbells. He stood up slowly, reached for his dressing gown once more, pulled it on.
He opened the door, finding Kitty McBride again. He was just about to give her some whatfor when Paul McBride stepped into view.
“Hello, Geordie,” McBride said, smiling. “We’re not disturbing you, I hope?”
“N-no! Not at all, come in, come in!”
Geordie stepped back, ushering the two visitors into his apartment. He showed them to the sofa, feverishly picking things up to allow them to sit more comfortably.
“A drink?” he asked, looking to McBride.
“Please,” McBride said. “Glass of whiskey would be nice.”
“Kitty?” Geordie said, forcing a smile.
“Just water,” she muttered.
“Coming right up.”
Geordie went to the kitchen, cursing under his breath. His mind was busy, wondering why Paul McBride was visiting him this late. Just what had that little bitch been saying to him?!
He returned to the living area with a tray full of drinks. Both McBrides were staring at the Box in the corner, playing the latest episode of REALITY EXTREME.
Geordie looked at the Box, smiled.
“Love this show,” he said, laughing. “The things they make those celebrity types do.”
McBride smiled, accepted the drink, took a sip.
He looked quickly to Kitty, then to Geordie. Cleared his throat, set his drink on the coffee table by the sofa.
“Geordie, she needs a hit,” he said.
Geordie sighed, shook his head. He looked to Kitty, found her staring down at her glass, head bowed.
“Paul,” he said softly, “she’s had her rations. Ain’t due nothin’ more until tomorrow. You know I don’t like it when my clients get this dependent, it’s bad for the rep.”
“I know. That’s why I like you, Geordie. That’s why I do business with you. You’re a good man. You know the rules and you follow them.”
Geordie felt his face grow warm, reached for his drink.
“So, can you give her something? Just to take the edge off?”
Geordie sighed. “Paul, it’s just_”
“Please, Geordie. Do it for me. Just this once.”
Geordie looked again at Kitty, noticing the bruises on her face, her bust nose, the tiny little puncture holes between the tattoos on her arms.
He sighed, stood up, moved back into the bedroom, reached under the bed, fumbling in the dark, finally retrieving a small polythene packet. He brought the packet back to the living area, handed it to McBride.
McBride took the package, looked at it, looked at Kitty, then back to Geordie. He smiled.
“Thanks,” he whispered.
He stood up, looking over to Kitty, who sat her glass down and got up. Her head was hanging low. It was like her shoulders were too weak to carry it.
“Come on,” McBride snapped at her.
He nodded at Geordie then moved towards the door. Geordie followed to let them out but McBride lingered for a while, watching Kitty exit, waiting until she was heading down the stairs.
“She called me ‘Daddy,” he said quietly. There was pride in his voice. His eyes remained fixed on Geordie, waiting for a response.
“And so she should,” Geordie said. “You are her pop.” He placed his hand on the other man’s shoulder. “And you look after her.”
McBride shrugged, offered an embarrassed smile. He allowed himself to be human just for that moment. Then it was gone, game face returning.
“I’ll see you later, Geordie,” he said.
And then he left, following Kitty down the stairs.
Geordie closed the door then stood for a while, digesting all that had happened.
He returned to the bedroom, retrieved his wiretap.
Back in the VR, Geordie accessed the menu for the game he was playing. He chose OPTIONS and then CHARACTERS. He removed the avatar that he’d made for Dolly Bird, his chosen damsel in distress. He replaced it with an avatar for Kitty McBride.
Geordie wanted Kitty to play the dame in this next game. She would stand on the stage wearing the ripped skirt and bloodied blouse. She would call out for his help and he would swing on that chandelier and scoop her up in his arms.
And maybe – just maybe – his gameplay would improve when saving someone who needed saving…
PLASTIC JESUS, the sequel to KITTY WANTS A HITTY, is available on paperback and e-book right here.