Sticks started by telling me about the man's pain and guilt, I think he was appologizing for the man's behaviour, or at least explaining it. I think he was also fishing for a starting point. I told him to assume I knew nothing. I figured that way I wouldn't miss something he'd be willing to tell me. Truth be told, nothing is about how much I actually knew.

He paused again as he gathered his thoughts, then told me that he'd asked them to write everything down. I couldn't help but smile. For some one who claimed to know very little about investigation, the man had it down pat. He handed the notes so I could review them, then he went and made some calls.

As I took notes on what I'd read and compared the two version, I half listened to his conversations, in the hopes of learning more about the man and what he was about.

"Thomas? Sticks...............Tu Madre, Cabron! He paid you well........As if anyone cares what you look like............Listen Omae, this biz needs some study. Put the word out. I'm scanning buzz on snatches in Tacland......right......creds for data. PAYDATA, clear? Oh, an give Kassie a sniff that creds are available. I'll check back....... Later, mano."

The second call was a lot more cryptic: "A las Diez y media, por favor, Senor."

When he finished with his calls, he waited. I could tell he was anxious to roll into action. Without Mr. Gillian here, I had to ask for the personal informaiton second hand. That isn't really a good thing, too much like playing telephone. At the very least, I'd be able to get his impressions about the situation. At the very least it would give me a glimpse into the way Sticks thought.

As he told me about them, I started taking notes again. He told me that the boy loved soccer, and that he was an artist who loved Donasaurs. According to his version, Darren was 'taken' from his bedroom while his mother was downstairs. He said that she had sent him upstairs. Twenty minutes later, he was gone...

He showed me some of Darren's drawings. They were pretty good, especially for a seven year old. He'd found them 'hidden where a seven year old would think they were safe.' The rest of the run down helped a little.

Money could have been a motive, since according to Sticks, they had money and a Penthouse in Tacoma. He also mentioned that the security man had saved Gillian from 'some past trouble.' That would warrent looking into as well. He hadn't talked to the security man, an Ork, because they were on 'opposing teams.'

What did he mean 'opposing teams?' There should be no crossed purposes here. One team, one goal, of course, the Star had not only dropped the ball on it, I had a feeling they had other things in mind. Incompetence or sinister design, I hadn't decided yet. In my case, we didn't have the bucks for them to care, but again, the Gillians had moeny enough to spare.

'Lone Star should be falling all over them,' I found myself thinking again.

He was mentioning a computer when I once again focused on the matter at hand. He was looking me expectatnly as I thought about what I'd half heard. "I can probably help with the computer," I told him. But when I looked up he was watching me patiently.

"I am not trained in this and much of what our employer does seems foolish to me, but I have taken money and sworn an oath. I must follow this wherever it leads. I have called some people I know. One will start working the street and the other I must meet in a short while to see what he may know. Although you would not think it to look at me, I am the muscle." A hint of a smile played with the corner's of the Escrimador's mouth as he signaled that it was my turn.

I looked at him and nodded, giving him my 'okay, I'll play your game,' smile. I still had quesitons, but he had told me quite a bit about the case, and himself. It was my time to ante up.

"I'm assuming, all you know about me is that I showed up," I told him as I thought about how much to tell him. He had been up front with me in his estimations of himself, but he'd also given me a good insight to who he was and how he thinks.

He had put himself in the child's place. Looked at things from his perspective. And again, the oath, this time he'd said as much. I had seen it in the way he protected and explained Mr. Gillian and I could tell it was very important to him. Another crusader.

"First off," I told him. "Mr. Gillian is only a perspective emoployer to me." I studied his reaction, then phrased my next statement carefully. I wanted him to know it was mostly a question of trust. I pointed out that all the information I had to go on was what Gillian had sent me to begin with . A name and a plea for help. The only other informaiton didn't match up with the reality I'd found at the missing person's desk."

I explained that that was the reason I'd come. I wanted to see for myself exactly what was going on. I told him that I'd gotten burned, but not in so many words. I guess I'm more of a jaded crusader these days. But a crusader none the less.

I wasn't sure how much I wanted to tell Sticks about myself. Its not really part of this, except that it's given me the background I need in searching. I tell him about Fin.

"A friend of mine seems to be acting as go-between on this. He recommended me I can only guess because I do have some experience with missing persons cases. He knows that if I take this assignment, I will do everything I can to get the boy back." I wasn't sure if he understood the last bit. That was my code.

I didn't really care if Gillian hired me. There was a kid out there who was away from where he should be. Away from his family, his home. I traveled cross country on the hope of bringing at least on of my brothers home. Think I'd do anything different for a seven-year old kid?

That over with, I asked Sticks the million dollar questions: Why does every body say 'kidnapping?' Could he have left on his own. (Okay, it was probably two half a million dollar questions, but hey...)

"Possible, yes. Anything is possible. Because he left his precious things behind, because he did not take the small items that a child values with him, because there were no other signs that he planned to leave, and because he disappeared at a time when he would be missed....."

I waited for him to elaborate. As I said, he was good at putting himself in the child's place.

"I am seven and running away," he explained. I pack my treasures. I may even say goodbye or leave an explanation- a picture that says why I have to go. I certainly wait until everyone is asleep before I depart for fear my parents discover I am gone and catch me before I can get away."

I restrained from pointing out that when we, my sibs and I, would run away, we wanted mom and dad to know. Sometimes it was the only way to get them to look beyond their problems and realize what they were doing to us. Odds were, he was a lot closer to what a normal child would do, under normal circumstatnces.

But Sticks was still on a roll. Looking back I think he kept forgetting that I didn't have access to the information he had, except from what he' d thought important enough to tell me.

"It is good to keep an open mind to possibilities but when I was in the child's room I didn't get the sense that he was unhappy or planning to leave. I don't think he could have rascalled the building's security by himself. I think he was taken."

I didn't think it was the time to tell him that I was seven the first time I slipped through building security. Of course, I hadn't done it on purpose. Still, he was probably right. I found myself wishing I could see the room, but I knew that would have to wait until Mr. Gillian decided to hire me or not. I really wasn't looking forward to the idea of having to break in to take a look...

Once again I was pulled from my muings as Sticks nodded towards Gillian. He was talking to a man who seemed to match his description of Tal. Gillian turned slightly and pointed us out to him.

He seemed to take everything in as he walked towards us. At the distance, he could have easily passed for human, and if you covered his ears of course. Still he had an aire of serenity around him. He was kind of good looking in an odd sort of way, and when he spoke, there was a musical quality to it.

"Good evening to you both. I understand we're to be professional associates." His accent threw me off for a minute. It sounded like something between yawn and a druken Irishman trying to whipser; the kind of sound only a Welshman could make. He was Cymri.

"That's a distinct possibility," I responded with a smile. I waited for Sticks to introduce himself, but he didn't say a thing. It was the first time I'd seen him hesitate.

"I'm Jess," I stated as he shook my hand. "And this," I added pointing towards Sticks. "Is Sticks.

He shook our hands, and introduced himself. When we all situated ourselves again, he asked us where things were in the investigation. He was rather propper in his speach patterns, and I noticed how he would lock eyes with us, engaging us both in the coversation.

Then I found out why Sticks had suddenly grown silent...

"Excuse me," he said quietly, "Your accent.....I do not mean to embarrass you, but the security man for our employer's building has the same....rhythm, uh...the same.... I am sorry. I have not the words, but it is the same to my ear and before today I had never heard it before. Where is it from?"

"A long way from here, that's sure," Tal replied with a smile. "I'm from Great Britain--Wales to be exact...or as exact as I'm willing to get at this moment." The smile took the edge off the words.

"Oh." Sticks replied

It was at about that point that Mr. Gillian returned to the table and I lost my cool. He walked back to the table and sat down then slid a credstick across the table saying, "I believe I owe you this and my thanks..."

In public... He just slid the thing over like I was bought and paid for. No talk of expectations, no chance to decline, No specified amount. Just 'here' and I'm supposed to take it... I don't know what he said next. I was too fixated on the stick.

I'd like to say that when I'd calmed myself down enough to speak, I told him that we needed to speak in private, and excused myself, but I know I wasn't quite as calm as all of that. I was pissed, and at the time, I don't think he even understood the implications.

By the time he'd reached the table, I'd realized that he probably hadn't meant anything by it and he hadn't realized the full extend of the position he'd put me in. He'd realized that we hadn't discussed the terms and appologized.

When he sat down, I pointed out that he had singled me out by paying me in public. Anybody who saw it would know a) I had money, b) I'd been hired to do something c) he'd endangered us both. You just don't do it. I tried to put things into terms he could understand, and I think that helped. I want the man to feel some sense of control in this insanity, but it has to be done the right way.

I could see he was still worried about whether I'd take this job or not. so I tried another approach. I told him that tentatively I was on the job, and that we could work out the specifics in private, later.

He agreed and asked if there was anything else I wanted to know, but at that point I could see Tal and Sticks were starting to wonder about us. So I told him that I had plenty of questions, but they should probably be answered when we were back with the others.

Thus ends the 'Jessified Version of the beginnings (Unless I suddenly have more time to re-write everything from her perspective that is)

to see the game in action: Where the game is...

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