It was either very late or very early. He could never figure out where that line fell. Either way, he should still be sleeping, but the buzzing by his head was loud and insistent. Reaching blindly, he grabbed his phone.
“Good morning, Fry,” a synthetic voice on the other end said.
“Huh? Wha? Who?,” he said groggily.
“Eloquent, as always. Now listen up you ignorant marmot. A friend of yours has a little problem. You see, it seems that she’s been lying to a lot of people for a long time about what she is. It seems that she’s a mutant. Inferior genetic scum. Now, I have that information and you will soon have something that I want. It’s a simple trade, really. Even someone dumb as you can understand it.”
“Who is this?,” Fry asked, now very much awake and getting angry.
“That’s not important, Fry. What is important is that you do exactly as I tell you. I want whatever portion of Planet Express that you’re going to get today when the will is read. You’ll know who to appoint as your trustee. All the cool kids will be doing it, so you just follow along like the good lemming that you are. Once I have control of Planet Express, I’ll make sure the evidence gets back to you. Otherwise, your friend will be on a one-way ticket back to the sewers, and Planet Express will be confiscated by the Central Bureaucracy. From there, it’ll be a simple matter for me to take it over. Either way, I win.”
“You attacked Leela, didn’t you? You faked her suicide, too? You wrote the letter.”
“Of course, I attacked her, but I wrote nothing. It was necessary. You’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelet, Fry. She was in my way, and now, so are you. You know what I‘m capable of doing. Just do as you’re told, and your meaningless life can continue as it was.”
There was a click before he could say anything more. His mind starting to race, Fry stretched quickly and yawned. No more sleep tonight. There was work to be done. Leaving the lounge, he walked into the kitchen. Yelling over the rail for 1-X, he went and put on some coffee.
“Yes, Mr. Fry,” the robot said, floating into the kitchen. “Is there something I can do for you?”
“Do you have those results yet, 1-X?”
“Yes sir. I completed my analysis approximately-.”
“Never mind that, 1-X. What did you find?”
“The paper is squeezably soft paper utilized primarily by the sewer mutants.”
“And the writing?”
“Based off of what I was able to identify from the impressions, there is only a 45.433% chance that it belongs to Captain Turanga. If there was a sample of the writing, I could verify more accurately, though”
“Thank you, 1-X. Very good work.”
“Is there anything else, sir?”
“No that will be…wait. Leela was attacked last night. Try and find what hospital she’s in for me, will you?”
“Of course, sir.”
So, they had two problems to deal with now. Leela’s attacker wasn’t the one who wrote her note. That had to be one of her parents, but why didn’t they call the police? And who was this new mystery man?
Fry heard a noise behind him. Cubert was walking down the stairs from the Professor’s old rooms. He had been staying there since he had come back, and after the Professor died, he had pretty much moved in. “Do you have any idea what time it is, Fry?,” he asked. “Why are you even here? Shouldn’t you be at Leela’s?”
“Leela was attacked in her apartment yesterday,” Fry said fixing his coffee. “The police made me leave after she was taken to the hospital.”
“Why didn’t you go with her?”
“I had something that I needed 1-X to do first, and then I fell asleep. She was attacked by one person and a “suicide” note appears to have been left by someone else. I just got a call from…never mind, it’s not that important.”
“Someone wanting something from me, and promising to hurt someone I love if I don’t do it.”
“It’s about Leela, isn’t it? She is a mutant, isn’t she? He wasn’t lying, was he?”
“Excuse me?,” Fry asked.
“I got called last night. If I didn’t turn control of Planet Express over to a trustee, this person would go public about Leela. I personally don’t give a rip about her, but I don’t want to lose the company and everything that would go along with it if it were to come out that we knowingly employed a mutant.”
“Nice to see you’ve got your priorities in order,” Fry said sarcastically.
“Hey, you see what you want as important, I see what I want as important,” Cubert replied.
“Humph,” Fry snorted, and then told Cubert what 1-X had found. “The thing though, was the note that was left. Obviously done by a mutant, but why would her parents leave a note, but not call an ambulance if Leela was lying in a pool of blood?”
“So certain are you,” Cubert said, smiling. “What makes you think a mutant did it?”
“Who else would or could?”
“Anyone who went down into the sewers and got the paper, for one thing. Did this person say if he wrote it or not?”
“He said no, and 1-X is about 50-50 on whether Leela did or not.”
“That doesn’t mean that he didn’t plant the note, though. Someone else could have written it and he could have placed it there. He wouldn’t have been lying then when he said he didn’t write it.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Fry said after taking a long drink of his coffee. “Good work, Cubert.”
“I am a genius, Fry. It happens sometimes.”
“Good morning, Mr. Farnsworth,” 1-X said, floating back into the kitchen. “Mr. Fry, Captain Turanga is in Taco Bellevue Hospital, Room 1138. I can connect to the hospital switchboard through the video phone in the lounge, if you like.”
“Thank you, 1-X.” To Cubert he said, “I’m going to see if she can straighten some things out. Thanks for your help.”
“What else is family for?,” he said, a smile on his face. “I’m going back to bed. Try and keep it down, would you.”
It rang five times before she picked up. She looked like hell. Her eye was swollen and bloodshot, like she had been crying. He couldn’t imagine what she was going through.
“What the hell do you want?,” she demanded angrily. “You’ve got a lot of nerve calling me after this letter you left me, you bastard. Emotional cripple? Come see me before you leave town you little weasel and I’ll show you a cripple. Don’t you have anything to say for yourself? Huh? Huh?”
“Leela, what the hell are you talking about?”
“Oh, and now you play ignorant. Just wanted a quickie with the freak. This, you owl bastard,” she said, holding up a crumpled piece of paper. “This is what I’m talking about. This letter you left me. How could you? I actually thought you loved me. And questioning about being Grace’s father? That takes a lot of guts, Fry.”
“Leela, I genuinely have no idea what you’re talking about. But, that’s not the point. You’re in a lot of trouble.”
“What are you talking about, jerkbag?”
“Someone knows about you and they’re using it to blackmail anyone who might get a piece of Planet Express. They want the company in exchange for the information.”
“I don’t believe you, Fry. You’d say anything to get out of this,” she said, shaking the letter at him.
“Believe what you want, Leela, just know that you’re in danger. When are you getting out of there?”
“I don’t know,” she said, still angry with him, but seeming to back off some. “They won’t tell me. But I’ll tell you one thing, Philip J. Fry, as soon as I get out of here, I’m coming to find you and show you a thing or two about being a cripple.”
“I’m just trying to help you, Leela.”
“I don’t want any of your help, Fry,” she said, shutting down the connection on her end.
Shaking his head, he turned off the video phone and started pacing. He had some clues, but no idea who would want to blackmail him. Leela’s parents came to mind, why would they want to blackmail him? Who else knew she was a mutant? Amy, but she would gain nothing from trying to blackmail him. She was a multi-billionaire in waiting. What would Planet Express give her? Hermes? He may be crooked at times, but he wouldn’t stoop to blackmail. He ran Planet Express anyway. If he wanted to skim anything off the top, he could do it easily. Zoidberg? The crab wasn’t smart enough to pull something like this off. Smart enough…
Cubert? No, he wouldn’t. First, Fry had put the fear of God into him yesterday. Then he said he had gotten a call about blackmail. But could the overgrown growth be lying to him? He was the only other person that Fry could think of that would directly gain from controlling Planet Express. Cubert had never really shown an interest in business, though. And if he was blackmailing them, who was he working with? Who had written those letters? He had only one friend, but Fry didn’t really think Dwight Conrad would do it. Like his father, there was nothing in it for him.
He tried to think who would have access to his phone number and might know about Leela. It all came back to one person: Amy. Leela had said that Amy was uneasy with knowing about her being a mutant, but why would Amy try and hurt him like this? Unless… No, that was silly. Why would Amy be jealous of Leela? Amy was younger, richer, and never lacked for companionship. Why would she be jealous of Leela? And no matter what he thought of himself, when it all came down to it, if she wanted to cheat on Kif, Amy could probably do better than him.
What he needed was a fresh perspective on crime. As odd as it seemed, he needed advice from Bender. Going downstairs to the locker room, he started turning the dial on Bender’s locker. Hoping that the robot hadn’t change the combination in seven years, Fry tried the numbers he knew. It opened easily and Fry found the only two things that Bender felt secure enough to keep in there: a nut and the spare key to his apartment.
Turning from the locker, he heard the elevator bing in the lab. I thought that little runt said he was going back to bed, Fry thought. Looking around the lockers, he saw a small figure walking warily through the shadows. The lights were dim, but he thought it might be Susu.
What the hell?, he thought. Why’s Susu doing the walk of shame away from Cubert, other than the obvious reason of it being Cubert? Confused, he carefully followed the girl to the door, but when he looked outside, she was gone.
“Hey baby,” he heard Bender murmur as he stood outside his apartment, “you wanna kill all humans?”
Smiling as he slid the key in, Fry suddenly gagged as Bender’s hands closed around his throat as soon as the door opened. The robot opened his eyes and throttled Fry, shaking him back and forth.
“I’ll show you, stinking human. Trying to break in here and steal all my stuff, huh? I should kill all of you!”
“Bender,” he gagged. “It’s me, Fry.”
“Fry? Fry’s not here,” Bender said, still choking him. “Oh,” he said, suddenly letting go. “Hey Fry, when did you get here?”
On his knees, gasping for breath, Fry said, “Just a few seconds ago.” Standing up and blinking a few times, Fry said, “I need you advice with something, Bender.”
“Sure, buddy. Hey, you didn’t see that human I was just choking, did you? Stinking organ sack was trying to break in here and steal all my stuff. If I catch that grease-ball, I’ll bend him good.” He held his palm out, coughing. When Fry put a $20 into his hand, he put it in his casing and said, “What do you need, sausage link?”
“What do you know about extortion?”
“Nothing! What have you heard? I don’t know nothin’ about nothin’! Uh…me no speak Earthican.”
“Relax, Bender. Just looking for some theory behind it. And, being the only criminal that I know, I came to you for some help.”
“Oh, well in that case come on in, Fry. Wait, you’re not wearing a wire, are you?” When Fry shook his head, Bender motioned him in, looking up and down the hall quickly before he shut and locked the door.
Fry walked into the closet and heard the water running. Susu’s in the shower already, he thought, looking at the time on his phone. The funeral is still hours off. Then again, if what’s going on between her and Cubert is what I think it is, a chemical shower wouldn’t be enough to get her clean.
“So, what do you want to know, Fry?,” Bender asked, pulling out a cigar.
“If someone was blackmailing you, who would you suspect? Hypothetically, of course.”
“Of course. Well, the prime suspect should be the one who has the most to gain.”
“What if you have several people who would be considered prime suspects, but for different reasons?”
“Alright, out with it Fry. What’s going on?”
“Promise not to say anything? If you do, Bender, so help me I’ll download your memory and send it to the Central Bureaucracy and have it filed.”
“I won’t say anything, Fry. What is it?”
“There’s some information about someone that we know, and a person, or people, unknown are blackmailing me with it. They want Planet Express.”
“It’s Leela, isn’t it?”
“What? What do you mean?”
“She’s a mutant. Amy told me.”
Dumbfounded, Fry just stared at Bender.
“She can’t keep a secret, Fry, you should know that. Pretty much everyone at Planet Express knows.”
“And what? She’s a good captain who lets me get away with murder and then will help me dispose of the bodies later. I’m not going to say anything, Fry. She knows too much.”
After telling Bender the story of Leela’s attack, the letters, the phone call, and his meeting with Cubert, Fry asked, “So, who would you suspect?”
“Cubert, for starters. Little runt is the obvious choice. Who else do you suspect?”
“Her parents. But why would they attack her and leave her for dead?”
“They don’t like you?”
“Yeah, but attacking Leela when they’ve always looked after her? Why do that?”
“Red herring? Throw you off the trail?” Thinking about it as he finished his cigar, Bender took a beer out of his chest and said, “Nah, I don’t like it, either. Which brings us back to who?”
Just then, Susu walked out of the bathroom, wearing only a towel around her head. Fry saw her, but quickly turned away, putting his eyeballs back into their sockets. Holy crap, what a body, he thought, instantly feeling sorry for Dwight if what he thought was happening was really happening. She stood there, staring angrily at the back of his head for a few seconds. Then she said, “Hey, Fry. If I knew you were having company Bender, I’d have gotten dressed.”
“My fault, Susu,” Fry said. “I had something I needed to talk to Bender about. It couldn’t wait.” When he heard her walking away, he turned around a looked at her back. She had moved the towel, making it cover her lower body under her arms. Fry spotted fresh-looking scratches on her back starting at her shoulders and ending somewhere below her towel. The plot thickens, he thought. The marks looked a little too close together to be from fingernails, but Cubert's hands were pretty small, so they might be his.
“Bender,” Fry said slowly, “what would you say if I told you I think Susu and Cubert are having an affair?”
Bender fell down he was laughing so hard. He rolled all over the floor, pounding his fist into the floor. He looked up at Fry twice, breaking down laughing each time. After about ten minutes of this, he stood up and said, “You serious? Pop tart and the clone? She’s a little sex machine, just like me, Bender, and Cubert’s, well, Cubert. That nerd couldn’t get a date in a grocery store's produce department.”
“I saw her sneaking out of the Professor’s old rooms at Planet Express about half an hour ago. Cubert’s been staying there since he came back.”
“Could be anything,” the robot said uneasily.
“Could be a conspiracy,” Fry said.
Finishing his beer, Bender said, “Aww, crap. I really liked her.”
“So, what’s in it for her?,” Fry asked.
“Money from whoever finally runs Planet Express? Job security? Two boyfriends? Feeling of a con well done? Any of the above? All of the above? I just don’t know, Fry. One way to find out, though. Fry, how do you feel about interrogation?”
“Who’s doing it?”
“Me, of course,” Bender said, cracking his knuckles. “You don’t have the stomach for it.”
Sighing, Fry checked his phone. Almost 6:30. They were running out of time. “Do it, Bender,” he said at last. Bender was already on his way to her room. When the door opened, though, there was a gusting breeze. The window was open and she was nowhere to be found.
She fell, the wind whipping her wet hair all around. This always was one hell of a rush, but she could never shake that little bit of fear that something would go wrong and she’d end up a stain on the pavement. It must be that part that always made this so exciting: there was no great reward without a great risk. Counting down in her head, she pushed the button on the remote when she reached zero. The tractor beam caught her and pulled her into an apartment far below the one she had been sharing with Bender. Shutting the window quickly, she searched for the heavy robe that she always kept in this room. This was a particularly chilling freefall, since she had just gotten out of the shower and hadn’t gotten dressed before she was forced to flee.
She walked out of the bedroom and into the living room. The robot, Patsy, was deactivated and sitting in the corner. She had belonged to a former boyfriend, and was, just as she was named, a willing patsy. Sitting down at the table with the video phone, she opened the front of her robe, baring her breasts. She knew that this would affect the phone call in a positive way, since he always did like looking at them. She put up with it because of the things he could do for her. Every little advantage helped, her mother always said.
When he picked up, she said, “Fry and Bender are on to me.”
“Are you sure?,” he asked, leering at her naked chest, a smile on his face.
She adjusted herself to give him a better view of her, just to soften the blow she was about to give. “Fry must have seen me leaving Cubert’s rooms. He was at my apartment right after I got there. I had to run.”
“So, if they hadn’t marked you before, they have now. Sometimes you are as stupid as you are beautiful, my dear. Well, it can’t be helped now,” he said, reaching out a hand to caress her image. “They may have marked you, but they still haven’t marked me. Everything can still proceed as we’ve planned. When this is over you’ll still get what you were promised.”
“What are you going to do?,” she asked.
“I’m going to stick to the plan,” he said. “And so will you.”
Twenty minutes later, Fry and Bender were walking into the Planet Express building. They were almost out of options. Susu was in on it, that much was clear, but who was she working with? Cubert was still the obvious person, but Bender thought it was a little too obvious. Without the girl to interrogate, Bender suggested that they question Cubert. Thinking that he just wanted to rough up his nephew, Fry was initially against it, but they were running out of time and options, and Cubert was the only option that either of them could come up with. Entering the building, Fry called out to 1-X.
“Welcome back, Mr. Fry,” he said. “Greetings, Mr. Bender.”
“Cram it, garbage can,” Bender said, blowing smoke in his face.
“Yes sir,” he replied, inhaling the smoke and blowing out a fresh pine scent.
“Where’s Cubert, 1-X,” Fry said.
“Mr. Farnsworth should still be in his rooms, Mr. Fry.”
“Thanks, 1-X. We’re going up to have a chat with him.”
“I’m afraid I can’t allow that, Mr. Fry. Mr. Farnsworth stated explicitly that he was to be left in private before the funeral.”
“It’s important, 1-X,” Fry said, trying to push past him.
“I’m sure you think so, Mr. Fry,” the robot said, sliding back in front of Fry, weapons pods opening and small barrels popping out, “but Mr. Farnsworth was insistent. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to obey his wishes.”
Seeing their way out of this current mess blocked, Fry said, “Fine, 1-X. We’ll go.”
“Thank you, sirs,” he said, putting its weapons away.
“Where stuck now, Fry,” Bender said as they sat on the couch in the lounge. “We’ve got only one lead, and he’s being protected by that flying garbage can. I don’t think we can get past this without going through him.”
“We could always talk to Amy,” Fry said.
“That won’t get us anywhere. I don’t think she’s involved, anyway. I think we’re going to have to wait until the will reading and try and unveil the blackmailer in front of everyone. It does cut it a bit close, though.”
“Why are you doing this, Bender?”
“I actually like Leela, Fry. Like I said, she’s a good captain and when I kill someone, she helps getting rid of the body. I appreciate that. If Planet Express gets taken over, I’m probably going to out of a job. While I find the prospect of not working intriguing, I don’t like having to go out looking for money. Petty robery is so beneath me these days."
“Thanks Bender, I think. I’m sure she appreciates it. I do.”