Seattle, day one
It actually feels good to be back in Seattle, despite the first Autumn rain. I hope our next runs are local as I aint too keen to go back to Europe or other parts foreign.
Aurora, Sharif's decker friend has been doing some digging while we were in Germany and has finally turned up something. I follow her e-mailed directions to a hidden datastore. It's just a couple of low-res images of old newspaper clippings but they are about a car accident in Salish territory. A drunk driver crossed the centre line an hit a car coming in the other direction. Although the driver was able to avoid a head on collision, one of the passengers, a young girl was badly hurt and taken to the Seattle General hospital for treatment. I blink back tears as I realise that the girl might be me and that my family might still be alive.
However, the bad news is that Aurora could find no trace of a girl being admitted to the hospital around the time of the accident. That squares with my memory. I don't think I ever did make it there. Even worse, Aurora mentions that there was some code buried deep in the hospital system that was monitoring for queries on my name. She managed to avoid it and found out a couple of other names that it was looking for, all females. She is prepared to trigger it and see where it leads, but that will cost serious nuyen.
I message her to hold off on following up. Maybe I should ask Zero about it, but I don't want to get the team involved. Not yet.
Seattle, day two
Zero is out at her apartment coding, so I decide to try talking to Sharif's pal Lee Chen again. I take the Harley down to Chinatown and head over to the Golden Pagoda to eat. Lee spots me and comes over to serve me. I ask if we can meet up when he gets off and he nods assent. I pick at the spicy duck and leave quickly, heading over to the Blue Lagoon to wait for him there.
When he arrives, he tells me that he can put me in contact with the someone from the eighty-eights, the local triad, but warns me that they are serious dudes and I should be very careful about dealing with them.
But what if they were the guys that kidnapped me in the first place? Asking them if they know of a kidnapping and prostitution ring might not be the smartest of moves. I tell Lee to hold off for now, while I consider other options. Maybe I need to talk to Sharif's other contact, Billy Bear, before getting involved with the triads.
I return to the flat feeling pretty down. The padre is there, but seems to have something on his mind. I offer him a whiskey and he accepts distractedly. We sit silently at either end of the sofa, watching an old flatscreen western, while nursing our drinks and thoughts.
He leaves shortly after, just as Zero gets back home. She tells me that she and Finlay went for dinner at a local mob restaurant where the padre had a meeting with the local capo. Seems he was made an offer he can't refuse. No wonder he was so quiet.
Seattle, day three
Zero wakes me shortly before noon. She has had a call from Finlay and we have a meet at the Ihop for lunch, like right now. I take a quick shower and get dressed, tucking one of the Kimber pistols into my belt as we head out the door.
The contact is a lady who call herself Sandie. She seems to be a bit put out by my cowboy outfit, but hell, I see a lot weirder outfits on the street every day. And she is hardly the one to be giving other people funny looks. While she looks to be a good looking gal herself, when she smiles I see her teeth are metal. I raise an eyebrow at that but catch Finlay shaking his head vigorously, so don't say anything about them.
Turns out she is just a middleman. Job is a B&E with some computer work. We tell her we can handle it and she says the meet proper will happen tonight at a party in the Puyallup Barrens. We all give her a look, and she tells us not to worry. She claims the location is safe and that in any case, she will be driving us there herself.
Then Gabriel curses and says he can't go tonight and that Finlay won't be able to go either. It's full moon night and the boys need to play poker for their little magic club. Sandie says that the deal is off then, but I say that Zero and I can handle the meet ourselves. She thinks about that for a while, then asks where she can pick us up.
The rest of the afternoon is spent getting ready for the party. Zero digs a couple of light pistols out of the stash at her apartment along with a couple of purses big enough to conceal them. Then, while the boys deal out cards, we head out to meet Sandie.
She picks us up a couple of blocks away, you can't be too careful in this game, and drives us out into the barrens. I am feeling all too vulnerable in the figure hugging, silky top and short skirt that Zero picked out for me to wear. I fuss at the skirt until she puts her hand on mine and tells me to relax and that I look great. I smile back but feel anything but calm.
Sandie pulls up outside an old Firehouse that looks long abandoned except for the light show and pumping music coming from inside. She says she will be waiting nearby and that the Johnson will make contact with us. Just mingle and enjoy yourselves till then she laughs. I'm supposed to mingle and enjoy it? Not darn likely.
Two doormen check our guns at the entrance, putting them away next to much more serious ordnance. We head to the bar for drinks, pushing through a crowd of a hundred or so partygoers, most of whom I realise are elves. I order a whisky and some guy next to me says, "That's a serious drink for a pretty lady." I give him a look that could kill and he backs off. Oops, not mingling.
Zero is up dancing, and she is good at it too. While I watch her, a slim elf with short corporate style hair and a datajack comes over to me and introduces himself as Alistair. He says he hasn't seen me here before and asks me how I knew about it. I say a friend of mine Sandie told me about it and I thought it might be fun. He asks me what I do. I shrug and mumble a reply about working out in Salish territory, then ask him what he does. Is he the Johnson?
He tells me he works in computers. I feign interest but most of what he says goes over my head. I tell him I don't really know that much about computers and he offers to introduce me to some of his friends who do some sort of computer training.
Fortunately, just then Zero rescues me. Alistair initially thinks she is Sandie, but she quickly drags me off to the bathroom rather than explaining who she is. In the bathroom, she reapplies my lipstick and tells me to go get him. I protest that I am not interested, but she hussles me back out.
I rejoin Alistair and he introduces me to his friends. He explains that as well as his computer job, he is also working on some project to make the barrens a better place to live, like this club. I don't really get what he is going on about but here I am mingling.
I keep an eye out for Zero and a while later spot her talking to another man. Just as he turns away from her, there is a ruckus at the entrance. The two bouncers are struggling with a scar-faced elf. A troll hustles past with an LMG on a gyro mount. Zero comes over and I tell Alistair that we need to go. He gives me his number so I can contact him about the computer course. Yeah, right.
As we slip past the argument at the door, we get a call from the boys that they have finished their poker game and are on the way over. I tell them not to bother and that it's an elf-only party anyway. We get back into the car with Sandie and she passes an envelope to Zero.