This series started in "As Is"
by P. Orin Zack
Cristall Bellows, dressed more formally that she liked, and cradling a backpack in her lap, signaled the driver, and waited nervously for the bus to stop. She'd never been to this part of Los Angeles before, and the sight of all these unkempt McMansions was making her queasy. She shouldered the pack, and started towards the front.
The driver, who had been watching in his mirror, turned as she approached. "Is that LA Scrip you're carrying?"
She clutched it defensively, pale blue textured paper in a dark brown hand. "Yeah. I just got paid down at City Hall. Don't you take it? I thought all city services --."
"We do, we do," he laughed. "Thanks for helping out. It's not everyone gets paid with Scrip just yet, only the folks working directly for the city. So what do you do for us?"
"Teaching, after a fashion," she said as she stuffed her fare into the slot. "I've been going around explaining this new money to people. I get some of the strangest looks when I tell them the city just prints it up."
"Well, that did used to be illegal, after all. Counterfeiters were offered special treatment by the criminal justice system back when the Federal Reserve had a monopoly on creating money." He opened the door. "Who knew they'd end up getting hired by the city after the economy crapped out? Well, thanks for riding my bus, and good luck."
As the bus pulled away, she glanced up at the street sign to get her bearings, and then wriggled into her backpack. She was headed for one of the houses that were handed out in last month's foreclosure lottery. This particular one interested her because the previous owner had been deeply involved in the financial sleight-of-hand that yanked down the economy around everyone's ears. And like a lot of the people who affect the world in outsize ways, he was a cipher, one of the shadowy villains who thought they were so smart they could run the world from behind a curtain of secrecy and deniability. What she didn't know was whether the man that won the property, a Mr. Ryan Svorlin, had the first clue about what sort of a ghost roamed his halls.
"Gregory Davis?" Svorlin said with an amused grin when she asked. "Sure. He was still hanging around in the kitchen when I got the keys. Buried him by that tree over there."
She turned to look at the mound of dirt and recoiled. "You didn't kill him, did you?"
"Hardly. The creep politely offed himself. Tried not to make too much of a mess at it, too. I gotta say, though, he did leave quite a treasure trove back in the office."
Svorlin shook his head. "Paper trail a mile wide. The guy was flat out apoplectic about trying to atone for what he'd done. He even tried leaving his fortune to help the people whose lives he helped ruin. Not that those securities are worth anything any more. Even his back-up plan --- a safe in the basement --- was a disaster. US currency. All of it. Listen, I get the feeling this chat's going to take a while. Come on in. I'll show you around Davis' old digs. What's your interest in him, if you don't mind a nosy question?"
She stopped to study an incomprehensible collage hanging in the foyer. "He had odd taste in art, didn't he?"
"If you ask me, the man's taste was all in his wallet. While he was still flying high, he prowled the auction circuit, snatching up what he thought of as investment properties. Of course, things like that are only worth what someone's willing to pay for them. All those bucks he poured into his collection is just a pile of washable paper now. So if there's something you like, let me know. Maybe we can work out a trade."
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