Update and ArmadilloCon

I was at ArmadilloCon 2018 this past weekend. Didn’t stay for the whole event, but I got in on the critique panel, and got a short story of mine reviewed! Got some really great advice for it all around.

I plan on finishing up another short story this month and then I’m back to revising Spymancer again.

Hope all of you readers are doing well (and I hope this post comes out nice looking because I’m doing this on my phone). I hope remember to post something else before this month is over. Haha!

Sincerely,

Philip Hauser

Austin By Night Got A Review [Link]

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Kind of late news, but it’s cool to know someone is reading! Has some definite, fair criticisms; but overall a decent review that you can read here. Once I finish my novel, I hope to get back to this series again at some point. Although, I’ve recently begun to consider possibly turning it into an audio series….

Maybe. We’ll see! Check out the first twelve chapters of AbN here, and expect another Cashier Confessions short later this week!

Sincerely,

Philip Hauser

Austin By Night – Cassandra [Layer 12]

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Author’s Note: you can catch up on the rest of the series here.

It’s midnight and the water is pitch black, even with the infrared goggles on. I can hear my breathing in the scuba suit as I swim under the waters of Lake Austin towards the yacht floating in the middle of the river. A heavy bass, some kind of techno music is vibrating from the boat hit my body. I take more slow deliberate breathes.

As I surface I try not breathe out give away my position, but the music is so loud that it might not be an issue. As I peek over the side of the boat, I fire my first bullet at a man wearing sunglasses who spots me coming over the side. The gun recoils for a moment as the whisper quiet of the silencer makes my gun sound like muffled whap and his death a soft thud.

I catch the spare shell in my left palm and pocket it. The sky is dark, no lights, no sounds except the bass coming from the main cabin. I kill another man. Whap, thud, catch, pocket.

I see the white container on the bow of the yacht and I open it. Towels, these are what I’ll need. I open my hit kit and I see the lighter fluid. This will do just fine.

“Hey, Tom is that-“

Whap, thud, catch, pocket. I breathe deeply. I allow the let the medication take control. It’s better now. The voices inside me are no longer distracting me, but I still have nightmares. I wonder if there’s a pill that can keep me from dreaming.

I open the cabin. The heavy bass that I have been hearing is getting louder. A woman who I’ve seen before is surprised to find me here. She is the target and she knows it. Her eyes widen. Whap, thud…pocket. She tumbles down the stairs after the bullet exits her. The recoil is easier now. My body is not shaking anymore. More deep breathes.

It’s so bright inside the cabin that I have to remove my goggles. I hear a man screaming as the woman’s body rolls down the stairs and onto the floor. I sleuth down the railing of the narrow, white stair case and land in the cabin. I see a man digging into a drawer for something. His movements are slow and awkward. His face as he looks up at me seems to confirm something for him that I can’t understand. I fire at his chest twice and he falls to the ground.

I look in the drawer and see that he was going to grab a pistol. It looks bored sitting there. I look at the body in front of me as it flops around. I’m getting bored with this. I can’t feel anything anymore.

I watch him struggle. He rolls over and continues to bleed as he takes out his phone, but he drops it twice. He can’t even dial for help. A part of knows I should end him now, but I can’t help but be entranced by him and his struggle. His eyes are green. He has large green eyes. I can’t tell if it’s me or the medication that’s doing this to me. After about a minute of this, he movements start to get slower and slower until he finally stops. I then remember what I have to do. I soak the towel in lighter fluid and I light it on fire using the man’s zippo. I toss the flaming towel on his face and walk up the stairs.

It’s still pitch black outside. The lake is dark, the sky is dark, the coast and trees are dark. The white yacht rocks back and forth as I wait for the fire to spread to other parts of the boat. The light is all there is to see. I can’t help but find it fascinating: the fire growing larger and larger. I then get a phone call from my employer.

“Hello?” I answer.

“I saw your progress, tonight,” she tell me, “very impressive.”

“How were you watching me?” I ask, suddenly paranoid.

“Surveillance drone,” she answers, “the pharmaceutical branch within my company is liking the test data. They can use it to argue the medication’s military applications.”

“But, you wanted me to wipe out the competition here in Austin, right?” I ask her.

“Yes, that too,” she confirms, “as soon as you’re done, meet me back at the Austonian. We have other matters we need to discuss.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I tell her, “is it another competitor?”

“No, a possible employee,” she says, “have you heard of a man by the name of Logan Webb.”

“I’ve heard of him,” the name vaguely registers.

“We’ll need to do a background check on him,”

“Will do,” I answer back, “see you soon.”

I hang up the phone and continue to watch the fire engulf the yacht. I watch it until it sinks into the lake.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser

Austin By Night – Art [Layer 11]

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I wake up in the back seat of a car after having come to a stop. I check my watch and realize it has been nearly twenty four hours since Molly and I went our separate ways and I decided to lay low at a friends house. My clothes are soaking in sweat from being in the car for so long. I remember paying this man and his friend two hundred dollars to drive me back to central Austin, back to a specific address. I don’t remember talking to him much or his friend. Something about last night’s rave at the anime con and a guy who got robbed at gun point in the parking lot for his cash and gundam figurines. My contributions to the conversations were short, monotone phrases of something approaching these sorts responses mostly being: “Wow.” “That’s fucked up.” “Did that really happen?” “It is what it is, dude.” After the first hour of the driving around and hanging out in their apartment throughout the day they stopped talking to me and continued the agonizing, stream-of-consciousness level of conversation with each other. I was tired, not interested in discussing the latest season of Soul Eater, or the most recent post on Sankaku Complex. I closed my eyes and saw the dealer’s rooms, cosplayers and laser light above the dance floor drift in and out of my subconscious. Then I saw the woman kill that man on the live camera feed and I began to feel sick to my stomach.

“So,” The guy lets the word drag on unnecessarily to fill the silence. “This is the spot, right?”

I look over and see my old middle school. Now a long, dark, ominous, single-story, red brick building, with black windows that suggested something terrifying was hidden inside them. I forgot how afraid I was of the dark.

“Hey,” The other guy snapped. “We have to get to San Antonio by midnight. You have the other half of the money?”

I realize, turning to face him; that I didn’t remove the aviator shades from my face and I was seeing everything in a darker tint.

“Sorry,” The word comes out dry, like sandpaper, as I reach into my back pack and pull out the second hundred that I promised for their service. The second guy snatches it from me, happy to receive the money.

“Thank you,” I say in the dry sawdust voice again and step out of the car.

“Hey, man,” The driver rolls down his window and looks at me. He seems genuinely concerned. “We can drive you to your place, man. You don’t need to give us some random address.”

I look at him through my shades, trying to see the angle in what he’s offering. I glance at my reflection from the passenger door mirror and I see a guy in white shorts, white button up, black fingerless biker gloves and lips pursed. I look like a burnout or somebody trying too hard to impress strangers. Either stereotype might fit, since it all adds up to someone dying for attention or a man looking for sympathy by feeling the need to bribe people he doesn’t know for rides. I probably know what the real answer is, but I’m too afraid of going there. It’s a level of introspection not worth the price of facing who I really am. That’s for other people to make assumptions about.

“No, I’ll be okay.” I sling the backpack over my shoulder and start walking.

The car pulls away and heads down the nearest avenue, presumably towards I-35, south, to San Antonio.

I walk in the dark back to my mom’s house, mentally counting up the money that I made. After the hotel room, convention badge, food, the burner phone and transportation, I had made a 2,300 dollar profit. Better than expected, but I probably could’ve roomed with somebody to cut costs. Maybe I can room with a client next time.

I see the porch light on when I reach the house. The rest of the street is dark, which should strike fear in me, but the shades help alleviate that. I am not here, I tell myself. I can see through the large window that the television is on, my sister is home. I walk up to the door and go inside.

My sister glances up at me and returns to her reality TV show, something about housewives.

“Hey,” She says in between the bites of a sandwich. “How was that anime con, or whatever?”

“It was cool,” I sound a lot clearer, moister returning to my throat.

She looks at me in an odd way and I remember that I’m still wearing my shades.

“Why are you wearing sunglasses?” She asks. “It’s, like, ten at night.”

I laugh and take them off.

“Sorry, it was a joke,” I say, trying to smile.

I hear my mom coming in from the kitchen.

“Hey, Eric! How was your trip to Dallas with Neal?” She seems happy to see me. She’s stirring something in a bowl and wearing a cream colored apron over a green shirt, with matching slippers and black yoga pants.

“It was good, really cool. We just hanged out in the hotel room and helped out moving equipment in the dealer’s room for the sellers.”

My mom looks off to the side and nods her head, I can’t tell if she’s expecting more for me to say or is confused, but accepting my answer.

“Sounds interesting,” She says, her stirring slowing down a fraction. She looks up at me and smiles again “Well, dinner is already prepared, so you can have it now if you want.”

I nod, thanking her, and head to my room.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser

Austin By Night – Logan [Layer 10]

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I arrive at Magnolia’s a few minutes early to find Molly had already shown up. As expected, the place is packed with the usual clientele; it’s mostly populated by tourists that yearn for a taste of authentic Austin cuisine, or something close to it. I made sure to put down a reservation (under Molly’s name) beforehand so that there would be a spot for us when we got there. In what could only be described as a very stiff form of crowd gliding, I finally make it to the booth and was sitting across from her.

Molly, you could say, bared a striking resemblance to a younger Zooey Deschanel, who ran away from home and joined an anarchist biker gang instead of becoming a famous model or actress. Though, in actuality, Molly went to MIT and became one of the most successful black hat hacker’s and I.D fixers of the southwest, which despite their illegalities, are far more marketable than anything that pays over 150,000 dollars in taxable income. Like myself, her kind are rare and in high demand.

“Hi,” I say, perhaps a bit too sheepishly as I sat down across from her. She didn’t look happy.

“I called you on your burner, Logan.” She said, her eyes wide, eyebrows raised, and head nodding in full condescension mode. “Five times.”

“I had to ditch it.” I shrug.

“I’m getting really fucking tired of that excuse,” She says this while looking at the window and refusing to make eye contact with me. She closes her eyes and shakes her head. “Can’t even get you on the DW or crypto-chat.”

“You-know-who monitors that traffic really closely nowadays.”

I’m about to lean in to say something else, but a waitress comes to ask us what we’re ordering, and Molly and I say “coffee” in unison and wait for the waitress to leave. I pick up where I left off.

“I don’t like using the Deep Web,” I whisper, leaning in.

“I got people who can set all of that up for you,” She says with tired patience. “The Snowden files aside, the NSA has little interest in what we’re doing here. It’s the FBI we have to worry about and they don’t bother keeping tabs on our operations. They’re too busy trying to catch Muslims.”

“Well, I’m sorry if I don’t trust your people,”

“Yeah? Well I don’t trust you, either,” For the first time, she actually looks into my eyes and it’s with definite hostility. I know where the conversation is going to go now and I can’t stop it from happening. I was never good at breaking bad news.

“Now,” The word trails off across Molly’s lips with the kind of sardonic, vocal-frying that seemed to be her signature speech pattern when demands or ultimatums were about to be made. “I had a guy disappear on me last week and somebody in your network told me that you were the last person that he talked to. Now where is he? Have you been keeping tabs on him?”

I let the question sit there for over a minute. Every conversational scenario played out in my head, like I had it played out in the car. There was nothing I could say that could make me look better or soften the blow. It wasn’t even worth it to lie outright.

“How important was he to you?”

The waitress returns with our coffee and I slowly pick it up and take a sip. It’s bitter.

“What happened to him?” For the first time I see that she’s actually nervous. For a moment I’m glad that the conversation has shifted in my favor. Her voice is shaking slightly as she speaks.

“He’s gone, Mol.” I put the cup down. “I don’t know what else to tell you. I tried to warn him away. You know what I do for a living; do you think those guys are fucking around?”

Her face seems to well up as I tell her this. Her anger has evaporated into something that might amount to grief if this was the first time I saw her have it. She grows pale and looks down at her coffee.

“Do I really know who you are or what you do for a living?” She whispers and looks up at me. “Mr. Logan: the club promoter, the private investigator, the grocery store cashier. How much bullshit do I have to dig up before I know who I’m dealing with?”

“If I’m telling you what happened to your guy after you’ve gotten that far in figuring out who I am, then you know that you need to stop.” I stare at her, waiting for that sentence to sink it in until it sticks. “You just sent some guy to investigate me after I told you not to?”

“You did the same thing with me,” She tries to match my stare, but she shudders and looks down. “Like you said yourself when we first met: it’s nice to know the people that I’m working with.”

“You know enough that we can work as partners as a go between for our current employer.” I pull out a wad of cash and lay down a twenty on the table. “So, does Mr. Westridge want to see me tonight?”

“Yes,” The word sounds bitten off as she takes out a folded piece of paper from her coat pocket and passes it to me.

“So your other guy came through with the dossier I asked for?”

“He’s using an overseas dead drop. Working through a torrent client. Tell West that he’ll only have one chance to download and decrypt the file. If he fucks up both then the dead drop will disappear.” Molly reaches for a cigarette and then puts it back into her pocket. “The paper has the password and the cypher that can get him access.”

I take the slip and pocket it into my suit. I look down, knowing that there’s nothing else I can say, but I try anyway.

“Look, Molly, I’m sorry about what happened,” It comes out a bit shakier than I would’ve liked. “It wasn’t my call to make.”

“Are you?” She asks.

“It was either me or him; and if they decided it was me then you wouldn’t be here right now. You’d be where he is and I wouldn’t be far behind.”

“How am I supposed to believe that?” Her question sounds accusatory.

“You just have to trust me on this.” I can’t think of anything else to say.

“Yeah? Just like you trust me, huh?” She looks away, wiping her cheek.

“Molly, they don’t see things the way you and I do. To them this is just business.”

Molly continues to look out the window. Says nothing.

“Please, Molly, I can’t just–”

“No. Stop talking. We’re done. And take your fucking twenty and my finders fee with you.”

I take a deep breath and get up from the booth and leave her there with the two coffees. The twenty dollar bill folding over into triangles in my right hand. I stop and finish the intricate design until I get a small origami crane out of the small labor. President Jackson’s face looks something out of a Picasso painting. A mess of folds over water marks, over more folds showing the depiction of the white house. Somehow one of Jackson’s eyes ends up at the head of the dollar crane and I become acutely aware of the restaurant’s camera that’s perched at the entrance and I keep moving out the door and into my car. Time to pay Westridge a visit.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser

Austin By Night – Logan [Layer 9]

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After checking my car for the third time for any bugs, I got inside my SUV and slam the door, taking several deep breathes. In the rear-view mirror I see myself in my usual blazer suit with matching tie. I adjust the cufflinks of my button-up and look into the back seat where most of my life has been packed away in a hurry. I see piles of button-up shirts folded and wrapped in machine plastic, along with piles of papers and disks filled with the kind the material that might make a district prosecutor really happy to get their hands on. The empty plastic trays of what was once pre-made sushi wraps from H-E-B are a nice touch to the mess I had created for myself. The trunk is filled with nothing but suitcases.

I take another breath and dial a number from memory and wait. The dial tone is deafening.

“Logan?” it’s Kim again.

“Hi, Kim,” I say, already feeling miserable.

“You’re cutting it pretty close,” says Kim, “five more minutes and you’d be on my shit list with the rest of your family.”

“I’m on a lot of people’s shit lists right now, so it’s a long line,” I say, trying my hand at embracing gallows humor, “the vultures would be gnawing on my bones before you’d get your dig in.”

“Feeling suicidal?” her question feels more curious than anything approaching concern.

“Maybe…” I let the answer linger, not too sure whether I want Kim to feel sorry for me or probing her to see what she knows so far.

“Wouldn’t have anything to do with the two murders that happened last night?” she asks.

I find my subconscious has opted for the latter.

“What murders?” I ask, feeling nervous.

“One at the Austonian and there was another that happened in a hotel off of Oltorf,” she says, “the FBI has reason to believe that your family was involved.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t know,” I tell her.

“Logan, you need to open up to me,” says Kim, already getting pissed, “you’re dodging me again.”

“No, I can’t,” I tell her.

There’s a pause on the line.

“You were there weren’t you?” Kim says.

I don’t say anything.

“Who was the victim, Logan?” she asks me.

I say nothing.

“Logan, you will not be safe if you do not tell me who they were,” Kim says, she’s slowing her speech now, “if they know that you are talking to me, they will kill you.”

“I’m going to find out for you,” I say.

“You witnessed it?” asks Kim.

“I didn’t know who they were, but I’m going to find out tonight,” I tell her.

“Where are you right now,” asks Kim, “I need to find you right now.”

“I’m sorry Kim,” I tell her, “but I have to go.”

“No!” she screams, “tell me where you are now!”

“I’m sorry Kim,” I whisper, and I hang up the phone.

I slowly placed the keys into the ignition of my care and slowly start the car. It purrs to live in the dark, barely lit parking lot of the hotel and with a sigh of relief, I’m off to the Magnolia Café on South Congress.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser

Austin By Night – Art [Layer 8]

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Molly looks at the phone as it makes long, loud chirps in the parking lot outside of the hotel. The night air becomes hotter as I feel the fear creeping into my body. I look at my laptop and see the brunette woman on the video feed dialing Molly’s phone and looking up at the camera. The woman on the screen looks like she’s pissed as she continues to look up at me. She uses her free hand to shape it into a gun cocking it at the camera and taking aim. She extends her index ad middle fingers and tilts them, symbolizing a shot that condemns us all.

I slam the laptop shut and grab Molly’s phone. I rip the phone’s battery and sim card out of the read deck and toss them into the brush.

“We need to get out of here!” Molly, says.

“Yeah, no shit!” I say as we make a run for my car.

We run to my car and get inside. I step on the gas and within a few minutes we’re on I-35 heading north towards….somewhere. A few minutes pass.

“I need your phone,” says Molly.

“No,” I tell her.

“I need your fucking phone, Arty,” she tells me, “we’re so fucked if you don’t!”

“What did you do!?” I screamed.

“Some asshole just screwed me over,” she says in a fit of anger, as she reaches and grabs my cell phone out of my pocket.

“Nooooo,” I shake my head, “please no. No, no, no, no. I don’t want this.”

Molly looks at me. I can see her face twisting into something that resembles disgust. My eyes begin to well up.

“Believe it, Arty,” she says looking at me, “we’re in on this now. Both of us.”

“No, I never wanted this,” I tell her. I feel my body shaking. I’m crying.

“I just needed the extra money,” I tell her, “please just…I’ll drop you off anywhere you want just leave me out of this.”

I pull the car over on the side of the highway, as I try to catch my breath. Molly rubs my back as I lean into the steering wheel. I look up at her and she’s holding my cellphone in her hand.

“I’m sorry Arty,” she tells me, “you’re already in too deep.”

“What are you going to do?” I ask her.

“I’m going to make a phone call to see if I can call this off,” she says, “and then I’m going to need you to get some info on someone.”

“Who?” I ask.

“Logan Webb,” she tells me, “the fucker I want is Logan Webb.”

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser

 

Nocturnal Musing [1]

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So it’s been three months since started this little adventure and I’ve been loving the outreach and experiences that I’ve gained so far. Going back to my first few posts I remembered what I was feeling back then and how nervous I was when I posted my excerpt of Con Job and my first poetry review of Ghost in the Shell. I was nervous about it because I mostly thought I was giving the world the ammunition it needed to prove that I was a freak all along and that no one would be into that stuff. However, I kept going; I wrote more blog posts, a sort-of essay about how difficult it is to be prescient as a writer, my trepidation over the possibly popularity of the live action Ghost in the Shell, and then later the review that blew all those assumptions out of the water in one fell swoop.

Then I started Austin By Night, and that’s when things really took off. I can say that my greatest achievement thus far has been the fact that my visitor counts doubled in not only April, but also in May. Two months of exponential growth! THAT is something.

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I can’t be thankful enough to the people on WordPress along with my subscribers here on this site, as well as the wonderful local community of writers in my city, my home, Austin, Texas. There are many writers on twitter and their openness and willingness to help me make me a better writer have been invaluable. And there are those who are not online, but have also helped in immeasurable ways (and you know who you are and I am eternally grateful).

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I think I’m lucky that I live in a pretty cosmopolitan city that is willing to embrace and support artists like myself. Not an easy thing to be, especially in the American South, but Austin definitely deserves the accolades. Now that I’ve seen what it takes to make it as a writer, I hope to spread the signal further through here and out there.

So, what’s next? Well, I’m working on a novel right now, which I’ve posted an excerpt of over a month ago. That novel has been my off-site project as well as what I do here, along with twitter and youtube. I’ll still be posting videos and continuing the Austin By Night series for the foreseeable future and I hope you’ll still around to see the other projects that I have coming down the artistic pipe-line. Once again, thank you for your support, your subscriptions, and continue to spread the signal. In the end, it’s all up to us! See you soon!

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Austin By Night – Cassandra [Layer 7]

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It takes less than an hour to secure the medical equipment to properly conduct the procedure. I waited in the hotel room for the two other contractors to show up with the rest of the “props” that would finish this task and allow me to get back to my condo before sunrise.

One of my cell phones started to ring and I flip it open to answer.

“Yes?” I ask.

“Did you just order a cleaner to help wrap up your job?” It’s Kimberly, at least that’s what she calls herself.

“Yeah, I have a defector that’s about go into the deep sleep,” I tell her.

“God, I just found some asshole snooping around one of our offices at the Austonian, earlier,” she tells me, “I had to burn the body on the roof earlier. Somebody’s been talking.”

“I’m not paid to speculate, Kimberly,” I tell her.

“No, Cassandra,” Kimberly tells me, “but we are paid to keep our employers happy.”

“Uh-huh,” I say as I take the syringe of dioxin, and plunge the needle into the neck of the defector, while keeping a hand on his pulse, “did your intruder have anything on them?”

“He had his phone on him, the idiot,” says Kimberly, “I traced the only number in the cell’s memory to some parking lot outside a hotel in the downtown area, but they split before I could send a hit team over there. I can pull something off the surveillance cameras, though, if you help me.”

I keep my fingers on the defector’s pulse. I can feel it starting to slow down.

“Possibly,” I tell her, “it’s not exactly my expertise.”

“Do you have another job lined up after this?” asks Kimberly.

“Maybe,” I tell her, “it’s not clear yet.”

The pulse gives a few more slow, thumping beats and stops. The defector is dead.

“Let me know as soon as you find something,” says Kimberly, “I have a feeling this job may start to stop paying as well as it once did.”

“Will do,” I sign off and close my phone shut.

The body is limp as I stay with it inside a dimly lit hotel room that is facing Oltorf Drive in East Austin. I wait until the people I’m expecting open the door, but it is just the woman tonight. She’s dressed in a white pants suit and has blond hair. She looks much older than I do, as if she’s just aged by an extra ten years on this night alone. I can see so many new wrinkles around her cheeks and eyes.

“Sorry, my husband can’t make it,” she tells me, “He’s still trying to negotiate his release from house arrest.”

“You’re late,” I tell her.

“There was an incident at the Austonian and my son was there.” she says, as she sighs and puts her white, leather purse down, “there’s police everywhere right now.”

“How is your son?” I ask her, not really caring, but trying to feel more human than what the pills have done to me.

“Not good,” she says shaking her head and pulling out an orange bottle of labelled prescription medication, “he had to be sent home. It’s frustrating when your own flesh and blood can’t do the job you trained him for.”

I take the bottle of pills with my gloved hand and look at it.

“This man,” says the woman, “I made sure his medical records were altered to state that he had a history of heart problems.”

“Was he a loner?” I asked.

The woman looks down and raises her eyebrows.

“A loner?” she repeats the question as if it bears repeating at all, “he’s just some punk like the rest of them. Like all those other lefty ingrates who don’t know how to make a real buck in this world.”

I look up at the woman and see that she’s serious and I can’t help but raise my eyebrow at her.

“I suppose you’re right,” I tell her.

Author’s note: you can find the other chapters here at the Austin By Night page.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser

Austin By Night – Art [Layer 6]

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“I have to make a phone call,” says Molly, her voice in a panic as she continues to look at my screen and dial her phone. Her contact had disappeared off the grid right before our eyes and the chances that he might have been black bagged have become pretty real to us. Molly starts to pace in front of me in the parking lot, while I sit here with my laptop. We continue ignoring the cops that are nearly fifty yards away and she’s biting her nails.

“Ohhhh fuck…” she looks down at her phone, now thoroughly pissed off.

“What happened?” I ask.

“I can’t get to my other contact,” she yells at me, “he might be walking into a trap!”

“Where is he? I can pull him up using the IR system,”

“The Austonian,” she tells me.

I look up at the tall, blue and white lit, skyscraper that lords over the rest of the night skyline in its cylindrical brilliance. For a moment I start to wonder just how many more guys she has on call to do these kinds of jobs.

“Give me a sec’,” I tell her, and I make a few quick keystrokes to pull up the IR and CCTV cams within the building.

My laptop freezes for a moment as it processes the command (and reminds me to upgrade the processor) and I’m flooded by nearly a hundred digital windows full of live feeds that are monitoring the Austonian inside and out. The two-month-old backdoor that I had installed within the serves of the private security firm Grande International was starting to pay its dividends.

“Where is he?” I ask Molly.

“He’s inside one of the condos,” says Molly, “He’s trying to pull something from a PC.”

I type another set of keystrokes that organizes the feeds in a horizontal order and start rapidly swiping with my finger. I feels as if I’m flipping through physical files, one folder after another as each feed appears for a moment before folding itself back into the digital pile and moves to the left of the screen as I replace it with another swipe in my search for Molly’s second man.

“Stop!” she shouts.

We end up looking at a feed shoot from a surveillance camera perched on a high corner of a guy in a white and chrome furnished pent house condo with the lights off. He’s wearing all black and a ski mask as he types away trying to break a password on a desktop PC, via some laptop intrusion deck that he has hooked into the desktops tower.

“Holy shit,” Molly breathes out, “We need to get him out of there.”

“The phones not working?” I ask

“No, someone is blocking the signal,” she says, panicking again, “can we get sound on these things?”

“No, the feeds aren’t equipped with microphones,” I tell her, my pulse starting to race. I know that something bad is about to happen.

The man in the ski mask stops typing and looks up from his deck. He takes his hands off the keyboards, raises his hands and turns around. He then jerks back and falls over against the table, red mist exploding and staining the computers with his blood behind him. He gets shot once again, doubles over, and falls on the ground.

“Molly,” I ask, my voice trembling, “what the hell have you gotten us into?”

We watch the screen, stunned into silence as we see a woman walk into view of the camera. She’s a brunette and is wearing business clothes, black leather gloves and is carrying a silenced pistol. She fires one last shot at the guys head and looks at the body for a moment before bending down and looking through his pockets. We see her take out his phone and flip it open as she takes out a cord from her belt and plugs it into the phone: a tracer. We watch her dial a number using the man’s cell and my heart stops.

I look at the phone in Molly’s hand and we both freeze as it starts to ring. Phone number: unknown.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser