“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
― Philip K. Dick
The promenade took on a subtle, but detectable, shift in mood as the spectrum of dusk oscillated on the glossy, sullen surface of the Housatonic Seaway. Most of the street vendors tended to pack it in an hour or so before dark owing to infrequent foot patrols following recent budget cutbacks. Quite a few of the first floor shops, cafes, and clubs would be open until midnight, though. The brick and mortar establishments tended to have their own muscle at the door, or at least fairly competent security bots. The more committed buskers remained, serenading tourists in love from pools of lamplight just flickering to life on the cobblestones. As the stars winked into existence, so too did sketchier characters whose various trades have been at home on waterfronts everywhere since the invention of the dock.
The taxis were plenty busy, as well, as night fell. Although pilots were required to register their craft and log their fares, night enforcement had always been lax.The darkness created opportunities for discrete free agents to transport all manner of people and cargo throughout the network of canals that flowed in all directions across the city as far north as Lanesborough and as far East as Dalton.
Marco had his pilot’s license, and a slightly doctored registration that didn’t quite match the taxi he was floating around in at the moment. On cooler nights, a mist would rise off the water to lend a charitable anonymity to himself and his fares. He didn’t work the Seaway, proper, but kept fairly busy just picking people up and dropping them off along the Tyler Street Canal. He wasn’t doing his usual schtick of cajoling men to “give you pretty ladies” a romantic moonlight ride. He was waiting for a regular passenger, a customer Marco rarely addressed by name, indeed usually being careful not to betray their acquaintance. And he was getting impatient. Water gypsies hanging around Deming Landing for extended periods with no fares attracted attention.
He’d been paid in advance, as usual, but he was considering heading into the canal without his passenger when he looked over his shoulder one more time.
“Surprised to see me, Marco?”
“I’m never surprised to see you. That thing you do, though? Getting into the seat behind me without so much as rocking the boat? That surprises the shit out of me every time.” Marco throttled the electric engine just enough to slip the boat along the connector canal and towards Tyler Street Canal. “Usual spot tonight?”
“Not tonight. Drop me off at the corner of Pine. After the day I’ve had, I could use a lemon bar. Maybe an eclair, too.”
“You got it, boss,” Marco replied, opening up the motor a little now that the Seaway, with its nosy harbormaster, was behind them.”
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