This series started in "As Is".
by P. Orin Zack
Ryan Svorlin, bleary-eyed from a lack of sleep, had nearly stopped noticing the stench from the corpse in the kitchen. Nearly. The distraction of reading might have been more effective if he'd become engrossed in a good spy thriller instead of the stack of financial records left by the suicide down the hall.
At the sound of footsteps from the front room, he stopped reading a 'white paper' laying out the political strategy of a powerful industrial lobby and cocked his head to listen. Might be a paying customer, he thought. "Come on in!" he shouted over his shoulder.
Knowing that the former owner had been personally responsible for the chaos unleashed when the Ponzi scheme the international banking cartel called a monetary system collapsed was enough reason to try to make sense of it all. Finding both the man and his legacy in the mansion he'd just lucked into made it imperative. At a buck a shot, though, it didn't look like he'd make enough money from people coming in to spit on the bloody hulk to cover the cost of getting rid of him. Ever since the global monetary meltdown, there were no municipal services any more, no police department to investigate the death, or morgue to pick up the body. Well, not that you'd notice, anyway. And there was just so long Ryan was willing to share his kitchen with the guy.
"Gregory Davis, you slimy son-of-a-b*tch!" The voice echoed hollowly, sounding dry, raspy.
Svorlin smiled, and spun around on the expensive office chair. He'd left a donation jar amongst the knives that Davis had laid out beside the kitchen island sink where he'd slit his own wrist. He dropped the paper and rose to meet his guest.
"But why'd you have to go and kill yourself?" the voice lamented. "I'd have gladly saved you the trouble."
By the time Ryan reached the kitchen, his visitor, a middle-aged man in a dirty business suit, was stuffing what looked like a hundred dollar bill into the jar. "Hi," he said. "Sounds like you got here a bit late. Did you have a personal beef with him?"
The man nodded, turning. "You could say that. I'm Horace Lembridge, a member of the last class of Representatives voted into office before the roof fell. And to think I actually believed there was anything I could do to avert the crisis. More fool me."
Ryan introduced himself, explained how he'd won the house in the foreclosure lottery, and then gestured at the jar. "Was that a Ben Franklin you just dropped on me?"
"Yeah. It's blood money as far as I'm concerned, though. You're welcome to it if it'll help put his ass where the sun don't shine." Lembridge looked around for a moment. "Listen, can you spare a bite to eat? It was a long bus trip, and I didn't stop for anything but nature."
"Sure. I didn't want to keep any food in here until I'd had a chance to disinfect. Fortunately, my benefactor had another fridge in the den. Come on back."
They walked past the office where Ryan had found Davis' paper trail, and down two steps into a big room at the rear of the mansion. Ryan had set up a make-do kitchen beside the wet-bar, and used the ornate pool table by the picture window for a pantry. There was a wealth of packaged goods stacked by a corner pocket, and some plates and tableware nearby. They cracked some cans and boxes, opened some drinks, and sat in two of the ugliest chairs Ryan had ever seen.
Once they got settled, Lembridge picked up the conversation. "I was prepared to find that the true face of governance was ravaged with sores before I was sworn in, but I never expected to discover that the people elected to congress were embedded in a 360-degree theater of propaganda so compelling that they didn't doubt it for a minute."
Ryan chuckled humorlessly. "Naive, were you?"