"Boy," the officer said pulling her over, "We're looking for this girl, she should be in her twenties. You seen her?" The cop was big, broader and taller than her, he looked more like a goon than an officer, thick, brown muttonchops framing his face. A thick nose sat under keen, sharp gray eyes.
The man held a paper, her picture printed on it. The same one Lord Smith made all his workers take. Her in her maid's uniform, her hair pinned up proper, a smile on her face. Her skin looked darker on the page, her features slightly obscured by the process of capturing the image. If you didn't know who she was, it would be hard to pick her from the photograph. "I think she lives up on the third floor, sir," she said, forcing her voice to sound lower.
"You seen her?" he asked again, "And what's that smell?.
Ruby shook her head, "No sir. I just got home from working at the fist market."
The cop stepped back, waving his hand in front of his face. "Smells like death."
"You lot up there! Come down! She's not here! We'll give it a go tomorrow!"
The officers from upstairs came stomping down, their boots heavy on the old wood. "It's a stupid errand anyway," one complained, "If Lord Smith wasn't rich, we wouldn't even be out here."
"Yeah, yeah, money makes the world go round," the first officer said, pushing the other men out of the building. Ruby watched the three disappear around the corner, their job finished for the night. Sighing she headed upstairs to her room.
She hid the bag with her tools and spoils beneath a floorboard, stuffing it tight before she gathered her clothing and made her way to the washroom, a bundle of fresh clothes in arms. Her neighbors peeked out of their doors at her as she passed.
Inside she locked the door and washed quickly, stripping off the dirty clothes and rinsing them in the hot water. It's just the pants, she thought. A few minutes after she started, someone pounded on the door. "Don't use up all the hot water!" Norman, from across the way shouted.
She growled, "Fuck off!"
She listened as Norman stormed back down the hall.
Even so, she washed quickly, the tank didn't hold much. Clean and changed, she gathered the wet clothes and made her way back to her room.
These still stink, she thought tossing the pants into the far corner. She pulled up the floorboard, the smell, stronger, came from inside of it making her gag. Coughing she retrieved her bag and spread out the goods.
She made a noise in the back of her throat and covered her face as she undid the cloth holding the pieces she had found in the automotin's head. The slime glistened sickly under the lamp light, a deep red, almost black color. "What is this," she frowned as she lifted a sensor to inspect it before sighing. She stood, crossing the room, and retrieved the ruined paints and a pair of scissors. She cut them into strips and began to clean the parts, the damp cloth wiping away the mystery substance easily.
Finished, she tied the rags into a bundle and opening the window, dropped the whole thing out of it and into the growing pile of garbage below. When they finally get us a new garbage automotin, they'll take it, she thought. The last one had been stripped for parts months ago. She left the window open, to air out the room.
She pulled out the box and looked it over for a moment. Stone and simple, there weren't any gems as she first thought. She opened it, the inside held nothing, not even a velvet liner. Just an empty stone box. She replaced the lid. "Why was he holding on to this piece of junk? Whatever, maybe some collector will want it."
She put it to the side and concentrated on the parts. She sorted them quickly, placing them into pockets inside of her bag, ready for quick sell to the right buyers. The job done, she cleaned her tools and stuffed the whole thing back under the floorboard, safe until it was time to go again.
First thing tomorrow, I'll unload them, she thought, shivering from the cold as she stood.
A pounding at the door stopped her.
"Open up!" the voice bellowed on the other side.
She growled and crossed the room, unlocking and pulling the door open.
Gray eyes stared down at her, his silver buttons sparkling in the light. "It's the police," he finished laughing.
"Jack! You'll wake the neighbors!"
"I'll tell them they're interrupting official business. Close the window, you'll catch cold," he said crossing the room to shut it while she locked the door behind him.
"I was trying to get rid of the smell," she explained, "What are you doing here?"
"I hope you got rid of whatever it was on. That was awful," he said turning, unbuttoning his jacket. "You don't sound happy to see me. You should be."
"Oh yeah?" she asked slowly, crossing her arms.
"Yeah, not for me you'd be behind bars right now over a few gears. What were you thinking Ruby?" he dropped his coat over her chair, arms crossed, staring at her.
"They were really nice gears," she answered. "How much do I gotta pay to make the warrant go poof?"
He shook his head. "Nothing. I already paid it."
She mirrored his stance, arms crossed, "What's your angle?"
He shook his head, "Nothing. You go to jail, who's going to keep me company at night?"
"Just tell me what I owe you, I'll settle it. Don't make this something else," she said.
He shook his head, taking off his belt and baton, laying them by his coat, "Aren't you going to say thank you?"
She rolled her eyes, "Thank you. I didn't need your help."
"You think it was luck that I was there tonight? I saw your notice come up and took the call. What's that?" he paused, crossing back across the room and bent, picking the box up from the floor where she had left it.
"It's just a trinket I found," she answered quickly, the hair on the back of her neck rising as her heart beat faster. "It's nothing, give it back."
He looked down at her before turning back to the box, opening the lid, "There's nothing in here."
She reached for it, pulling it out of his hands, expecting him to hold on to it, as the dead body had done. It slid from his fingers easily. "I told you it's just a trinket," she said holding it to her chest for a moment before putting it on her desk.
Behind her, she heard Jack settle on to her bed, the steel frame creaking under his weight. He met her with unbuckled pants. "Come thank me properly," he said.
She slipped off her shirt and pants as she crossed back over the room, bending between his knees to take him in her mouth. He grunted, "That's a good girl," he said as she pleasured him.
"You called me a boy," she teased.
"Those baggy clothes you wear, but I know what's underneath," he crooned pulling her up into his lap. "These beauties," he said caressing her breasts, making her shiver. He laid her on the pillow, covering her mouth with his as he slid between her legs. "What am I going to do with your Ruby?"
Under his weight she wrapped her legs around his waist, pulling him closer as her pleasure mounted, building in her until it exploded and she bit his shoulder to keep Norman from hearing her through the walls. He finished grunting, deep. He sighed and pulled away from her, satisfied.
She covered her nakedness with her blanket as he picked up his pants and crossed to the window. Opening it again, he lit a cigarette and stood smoking.
"You gotta stop doing this," he said slowly.
"Sleeping with you? How else am I going to stay out of prison," she teased.
He shook his head, "I know you're good. I know you can strip and build with the best of them but you keep getting into trouble like this, it just won't be as easy as greasing a few palms to get you back out of it."
"You know what this place is like, Jack," she said, waving him off.
He nodded, "I do. That's why I want you to let me help you. I can get you a better job, no more cleaning houses."
"If you weren't already married I would think you were about to propose," she said.
"Don't brush this off, I'm serious. I can help you get into a proper workshop."
She shook her head, "I don't have the right background."
"I'll get you the papers."
"Because I'm tired of giving all my ill earned extra money to judges so I don't have to explain why my mistress is at work with me," he said as he finished the cigarette and tossed the butt out of the window, shutting it.
"Aren't you worried I'll meet a nice boy and stop being your mistress?" she teased as he crossed the room to the bed.
"Nah, I'm worried you'll rob them," he said kissing her neck. "Say, that little box of yours, make a nice tobacco box. If you don't want it, give it to me."
"Hmm?" she hummed as his mouth moved lower. She turned her eyes to stare at the little box on her desk. It looks odd, doesn't it, she thought but the thought of giving it to him filled her with a low panic she couldn't explain.