Pluribus 1


By DJ Cline

September 12, 2031, 5:00 AM.


Don Jin saw the word everywhere.

It was scrolling across the large computer screen in the old style high-rise apartment. It was written in magic marker several times on every wall. It was scribbled on papers and carved on the desk. It was written in blood on the bathroom wall. The naked old man on the floor had obviously been shot several times.

People were murdered in Shanghai every couple of minutes. It was a big city and that was bound to happen, but not in the gentrified European Quarter. The fact that Tom Taldin, the city detective, called Don at 4:00 AM meant that this particular victim was a person of interest to his bosses at Wakima. An employee. A foreigner, but not a refugee. Somebody.

When expatriates wanted to die in these buildings, they just went to the roof or took pills. To Don, it seemed mean-spirited killing a man so close to death. His grandmother would call it bad karma. His grandfather would say it was just probability.

Taldin stood next to him in the living room of this upscale but squalid crime scene. “The ambulance will have to take the body, but I assume Wakima will take care of everything else?”

“Of course, with our usual gratitude.” Don pointed his cell phone at the detective’s and clicked the cash button. Taldin opened the front door and let the paramedics inside. Within five minutes, Don was alone, looking out the window toward the lightening sky in the east. He did not have much time.

He touched the old computer’s mouse, the pad underneath it moved a little to reveal a coin. He lifted the pad and saw a worn American five-cent piece, a nickel. He had only seen money like this in movies. He leaned down and adjusted the desk lamp to get a better look. Above the picture of a building was the phrase:

E Pluribus Unum.

He typed it into his phone. The translator said it was in Latin, a dead language. He toggled the language to Mandarin and pressed the speaker button. A controlled baritone voice spoke repeatedly in the dark:

Out of many, one.

Copyright 2006 DJ Cline. All rights reserved.

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