“The Unsafe House” by Bruce Sterling



The narco pulled three steel thermoses out of his desk. The flasks were the size and shape of mortar rounds. He popped the tops and decanted a taste from each into three fancy Chinese porcelain cups.

“You’re risking your career to buy the best coffee left in this world,” said the narco, blinking his tiny yet acute pig-like eyes. “I can supply this coffee, because running illegal supply chains is my role in this unhappy world. But before I sell you any, I want you to experience three different types of coffee. Let’s see if you can tell me which one is good, which is bad, and which is just weird.”

“You want me to guess about that?” said the cop. The policeman was much younger than the Mexican narcotics lord, but had survived much similar action in similar arenas of violence and corruption. He was almost as intelligent as the ancient criminal….