Did you hear? The McLure boy is back. A week ago his mother walked into the shop looking to buy some prime rib to celebrate his return; never seen old Tina happier.
Even though she’s invited a criminal to sleep under her roof?
Not what she said: He always meant to return, according to her.
Then why’s he stuck in that wheelchair? If he meant to return, he would have done his exercises to keep his muscles used to real gravity.
Tina said it was the economy up there. No one was shipping nothing, so he had to sell the company to the Chinese. He’s home to get back on his feet.
My wife thinks he killed someone. He’s a fugitive now, he’s run home to hide.
He won’t be doing much running the next few weeks.
Remember how well he used to skate?
I’ll drink to that.
Boy could he skate.
illustration by Frederic Church
I hope he likes the pie.
He’s been eating moon-grown cheese for fifteen years; anything home-made will be delicious.
Not everyone likes gooseberry.
Didn’t those leg braces look awful?
I hate the way everyone stared at him, like it was a freak show.
You did your fair share of staring, Rache.
It’s just that, well, he’s handsome as ever.
Handsome? The man’s a criminal.
He just had some trouble up there. If he doesn’t want to talk about it, that’s his business.
He’s a Loon, Rache; keep away from him.
When I gave him the pie, he asked if he could take me out next week.
And you said yes?
I do hope he likes gooseberry.
Doesn’t she look marvellous?
A dream in that dress.
Come now, it’s the twenty-second century.
We can all see her bump; all I’m saying is there are other colours.
The twenty-second century.
She does have that glow.
How will he afford a wife and baby?
He still hasn’t found work?
Who would hire him, after what he did?
After what he’s alleged to have done.
He’s got no skills: Fifteen years running a shipping agency on the moon doesn’t really prepare you for life down here.
What does he need a job for anyway? Tina left him her house and all that land; they’ve got everything they need.
Funny how poor Tina died.
Just months after he returned.
Nice to see him off the crutches though.
Is he ever handsome.
You can see how he fooled poor Rachel.
Damn, he can skate. Have you seen him?
Driving by his mother’s place last week, I saw him flying across the rink he built for his daughter.
We could use a man like him on the team.
What we could use is fewer drunks like you.
Why don’t we ask him?
The McLure boy? That wouldn’t do, not after he got away with killing someone.
But he sure can skate.
I mean, if he asked to join we wouldn’t say no, but we couldn’t ask.
Was she easier?
The second child is always easier.
She’s got your eyes.
And his chin. Have a name yet?
I’m thinking Ursuline, after my grandmother.
How’s his business doing?
Okay, I guess. It’s not easy. Did you get that coupon I sent you?
We did, but we had our insulation done years ago and it’s fine.
He’s got lunar tech: They’ve developed insulation so good your body heat is enough to keep the house warm. You’ll never pay for heat again.
Our budget’s a little short, Rache. Maybe next year.
There won’t be a next year: If he doesn’t get some work in the next month, he’ll have to fold.
That bad, eh?
Shush now, Ursa. She’s hungry. Pass me that pump.
So he can feed her when I’m at work.
Did McLure knock on anyone else’s door yesterday?
Sure. He tried to sell me meteorite insurance. Would someone fill my glass?
Meteor insurance? What was he asking for it?
Pennies a month. Also covered satellites, space junk, wayward shipments, anything from orbit.
Did you buy it?
It’s a scam I tell you: The man’s a criminal.
I see him sometimes when we’re both picking up our girls from the yoga-dance studio, but he never says anything.
How can we trust a man who won’t talk to us?
And he expects to sell us insurance.
What a load.
We took the house off the market six weeks ago.
You weren’t meant to leave, Rache.
It crushed him; he thought everything would be better once we left town.
You don’t really believe that, do you?
I don’t know; the girls are having such a hard time making friends. He’s given up looking for work.
What does he do all day?
I come home sometimes and find him chatting with old friends up there, or looking at orbits, transfers between the earth and the moon.
You should leave him.
Don’t say that.
Take the girls and go; you’ll do better without him.
He wants me to take the girls on vacation, but we barely have enough cash to keep the girls in their lessons.
Go on that vacation and never come back: He’s an assassin, Rache.
You know that’s not true.
Then what did he do up there? Why won’t he talk about it?
He’s a private man.
Take that vacation with the girls; get out of town, see what it’s like to be away from him.
A vacation would be nice.
Did you see the ad?
Everyone saw it. Are you going?
Do I look like I care what the McLure boy has to say?
I heard he wants to clear the air, so people stop talking behind his back. After Rachel took the girls and ran out on him, what does he have left to lose?
You think he’s gonna confess?
I hear the police will be there, just in case he does.
Could be interesting.
I for one would like to know who hired him to do all the killings.
We’ll have a drink here first.
As many drinks as you need, lad, and then we’ll all go over to the rink.
Biggest venue in town: guess he thinks he’ll get a good turnout.
He was there?
Everyone was there, Rache. Dear God. I’m alive because I stayed home with the kids. The explosion smashed out our windows.
I’m so sorry. It’s just so hard to wrap my head around.
This isn’t the first lunar shipment to miss its target.
But for one of the containers to hit the rink when half the town was in it ...
Not right now, Ursa. Sorry; I don’t think she understands.
You know what the people left in town are saying, don’t you? The bastard planned it. He brought the container down on the rink.
How many times do I have to say it: He isn’t a killer.
We’ll see about that: They’re doing a proper investigation this time.
Does anyone know what he said?
Anything he said was smashed to pieces, just like all those people.
Please, Mom. Where’s Daddy?
At least you’ll be sitting pretty.
What are you talking about?
He was the only one who had meteorite insurance. Coverage for both life and home. Everyone else is finished, but you’ll be very comfortable.
It doesn’t make any sense.
He’s killed the town. People are already talking about moving away. In twenty years we won’t even be on the maps.
Gone, honey; the moon took him back. Now go outside and skate, Ursa. Skate like Daddy taught you.
Geoff Cole’s short fiction has appeared in such publications as Clarkesworld, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Apex, On Spec, and is forthcoming in Dark Recesses and New Worlds. Geoff has degrees in biology and engineering, and lives with his wonderful wife in Vancouver, British Columbia. Geoff is a member of SF Canada and SFWA.