Well, the condo is full to the point of over flowing. The cats don’t seem to mind, they like Tal. It’s amazing what can happen in 24 hours, especially when you were planning on sleeping through them.
I guess I need to back track a little. I think I’d gotten about three hours of sleep when Fin called. He actually used the phone instead of leaving me cryptic messages in the fridge, not that this one was any less cryptic mind you, just a lot harder to ignore, which I think was the point.
He said he had a case that was right up my alley and that he’d left information for me on the matrix. All I had to do was roll over and go back to sleep, or -- go and get it.
What can I say, I’m a sucker for a mystery and he knows it.
It was a missing person’s case– a little boy, Darren Gillian. Included in the file was a picture of the boy and his family. I read the scant description of what had happened and that a report had been filed with Lone Star.
I decided that I might as well stop by records and see if Saunders had anything new on the case. He was surprised when I handed him my requests. There was the usual three for the boys, but there was another person on my list today. If he was at all surprised, he hid it well.
He had nothing– nothing on the boys, which I’ve come to expect-- but there was nothing on the kid either... as in nothing: no police report, no file, no nothing.
If a case had been filed with the Star, someone had killed it and killed it good.
This got me worried and suspicious. Not a good combination, especially before breakfast. I ended up copying everything I had and putting it in the safety deposit box just to be on the safe side. I was figuring the jury was out on the case until I talked to the boys father, or the man who was claiming to be his father.
I tried to sleep but was too wound up. Visions of custody battles filled my head, and all the potential problems associated with a case that may or may not be what it seems. I guess after the last few fiascos I was intent on asking as many questions as humanly possible.
I had no idea what I was getting into, but I did as much research as I could before the meeting. It was slated for 8:00 at a place called the Bass Line. It was a nightclub featuring good old fashioned blues music.
I opted to take a cab over to there but of course, I had to walk halfway there before I could get a cab to pick me up. By the time I got there the place was pretty crowded.
I scanned the crowd trying to find a match to the face in the picture I had of Darren. I was looking for his father, Thomas Gillian. He was at the only table without a table cloth. I neared the table and introduced myself and sat down.
A young man was with him and they were waiting– for me and another man. Seems Gillian had read too many thrillers about shadowrunners and figured that was what he needed. Worse, he was trying to make sure that the runners he got were ‘trustworthy’ by rounding them up himself, making a team where there was none.
To each his own I guess, but it was pretty obvious he didn’t know what he was doing. It was also pretty obvious that the was desperate, and that he’d lost someone he cared about very much. Hmmm, obsessed, desperate... clueless... sounds like me six months ago.
When Gillian got up to round up the last member of our ‘team’ I began getting to know his companion, Sticks. He introduced himself as the ‘muscle’ of our team. He’d been with Gillian for most of the day, he had very little in the line of detail from the sound of things. It also seemed he thought that Mr. Gillian had already filled me in on the details, but he hadn’t, even now, staring at the obligatory 3x5 index cards on the wall, I know there’s a lot more going on here than we have written down.
As we talked, Mr. Gillian returned with an elven gentleman whom he introduced as Tal.
Very soon after that I almost walked away when Gillian handed me a credstick across the table. I knew I was to get paid, if I took the job, but there’d been no discussion and he just handed it to me in public. I was tired and I admit short tempered, but you don’t do that– not unless you want someone to get mugged or dead.
After that matter got straightened out, we decided to split up. Sticks, who’d already done a lot of preliminary work on the case had a few things to check out and Tal and I still hadn’t had a chance to look at the ‘crime scene’ if you can call it that.
The kid disappeared from his room while his mother was baking cookies.
We got to the apartment and were ushered to the penthouse, not too shabby.
Tal, being a mage checked the room first. He was looking for magical traces of what had happened. While he checked out the room, I talked with the Gillian’s and tried to get a fix on what was going on. I could tell they’re serious, there’s something that just can’t be faked when its flesh and blood– at least not easily.
When Tal was finished he came down it was my turn. While Sticks had looked for physical clues, and Tal had looked for magical ones, I spend my time working on his computer.
The first thing I did was back up the system.
There was a camera attached to the machine. Playing a hunch I searched for recordings and was rewarded with something very chilling... It showed what had happened... sort of...
There was Darren staring into the camera... talking about going on a spaceship, a grand heroic adventure, and how he hoped to be back by dinner time– then the images took a darker turn, at least to me. He was there excited talking about them coming for him and then he was floating towards the ceiling. His expression was calm, happy even as he told the camera to shut down.
End of tape– no more clues there. I knew I’d have to show it to the others, but there was still the terminal, and I had a lot more questions in mind.
When I hooked into his system and activated the link, I found a watchdog construct waiting for anyone to access the matrix through Darren’s node. It sped away and I followed it.
I don’t know how I managed to keep up with it and avoid most of the black IC it tried to run me into, but I do know that when it got where it was going– things got very weird very fast. All I can really remember was a blinding light and a pair of eyes, demanding to know what I’d done with Darren.
It didn’t feel like the matrix anymore. It felt more like Raz when she was in my mind... And I couldn’t move... couldn’t hit dump, couldn’t jack out. Just those eyes boring into me, questioning me as it flicked little pieces of Black IC in my direction. This continued until whoever I was dealing with was convinced I didn’t have Darren.
It let out a frustrated sigh, and warned me that if I found Darren... the owner of those eyes would find me– suddenly I was back in Darren’s room, disconnected from the Matrix, sporting a migraine.
By the time I’d finished, Tal was waiting for my report. I started popping aspirin like candy as I told him what I’d seen. He nodded and told me he’d encountered a similar thing on the astral– a watcher spirit he called it.
I played the tape for Tal and again for Sticks when he arrived– I really didn’t think the Gillian’s were ready to see it.
None of us liked what we’d seen, but we knew that only something very big, very powerful had taken the boy– lulled him into a fantasy story and then taken him away.
We were planning our next move when all sorts of warnings went off. Mr. Gillian was called into work, where it turns out Tal had followed the watcher spirit– and before we could deal with that, someone was landing a VTO on the roof.
After that we were officially on the run. Sticks created some diversions for the people on the roof and as we started out the front door, the security man in the lobby informed us that we had visitors coming up the elevator.
That left either the service elevator in the kitchen or the stairs, and of the two the stairs were the best bet. By then, Stick’s diversions had given me an idea. I asked Tal to verify that the service elevator was clean, the pressed the call button.
We didn’t have much time, but I wanted to make it count. When it arrived I locked it into place with a broom handle and pulled out the control panel. With a little creative wiring there was no way of knowing where the elevator would go when you hit a button, and the lights didn’t match the floors. If they thought we’d taken the elevator– it might add to the confusion. I finished up with that as Tal and Sticks led the Gillian’s down the stairs. I told them if we got separated to give me a call at the station’s private number. I figured if I got trapped here, I could just blend in with the Emergency services folks that would be arriving.
As they headed down the stairs I started rigging a few diversions of my own: metal in the microwave and a timer to cook time, chlorine and ammonia on the stairs, greased railings, greased stairs, tacky railings, anything I could think of to slow them down.
By the time I’d made it halfway down I learned we had more trouble coming from the 42nd floor. I don’t know how we got out, but we managed, remaining one step away from trouble all the way.
By the time I caught up with everybody, the building’s security man, a Troll named Dan, was with the others. Who ever had taken the elevator had roughed him up a bit, and anybody that can rough up a Troll, is not someone I want to get close to. He got us out of the building and, with no place else to go, I had him drop us off at the condo.
We’ve been trying to figure out what’s been going on ever since. It looks like we have some plans for the morning. Everybody had different points of view– different experiences and impressions, but we knew it was all part of the bigger picture. That’s when I pulled out my supply of 3x5's and started trying to put together a time line.
So much for sleeping the day away.
Sleep, forget it– I think I’ve learned another important lesson about ‘Shadowrunning’ tonight, today... whatever it is... and that is that sleep and this lifestyle do not mix.
Life has continued its impersonation of a roller coaster to the point I’m not sure if I’m coming or going and I’m beginning to think the answer is both.
We’d no sooner settled in for the night when everything started happening again. Actually, the Gillians, Tal and I had settled in– Sticks had positioned himself outside to stand watch over us. Good thing too.
He brought in a ninja who’d been watching us, or rather the Gillians. When the man came too, the story got a lot more interesting and our plans changed as well.
At least now we knew what was going on. The kid seems to have a lot of magical potential and a lot of people want him, including Ninja boy’s clan. At least he was all for giving the Gillians a choice in the matter. He said something about protecting Darren no matter what– but we’ll worry about that one later. Right now we have a kid to find; a kid who’s probably very very scared by now.
The first order of business was to eliminate or at least flush out some of the competition. There was a group that had tried to buy Sticks off the case. He turned them down– I know they aren’t pleased about that.
Then there’s the chip he’d come up with from one of his contacts... it was about a job that sounded an awful lot like the one we were investigating. I figure if we use either the stick or the chip, we’re going to draw attention . The hard part was convincing the others that out of the three, now four of us– I’m the least harmful and therefore the best bait.
The ensuing conversations was priceless. I think I managed to offend the honor of everyone on the team with the idea that I should play clay pigeon. I was warned against doing anything foolish or heroic. I think it was way too late for the foolish part, but that’s me.
The game plan was simple... I go, get as much information as I can, and then I trip as many of the alarms as we figure we can deal with at once. I opted for one at a time. The first stop was Blue’s where I met with PC for some advice, and to take him up on his offer of a ‘beefed up’ real deck.
I promised I’d get it back to him in one piece, but he honestly seemed more concerned about me maintaining that state. Its nice to have friends.
Once I was sure PC was clear and the others were in position, I went to work. First step was to find out what was on the chip Sticks had acquired. We had tried to read it earlier, but the thing required a matrix connection for the full detail.
(Which meant it was probably a trap)
There was no way to fake the connection, so I jacked in and found what we were looking for. It was kidnapping instructions alright, for Darren. The part that required the connection was the one that told whoever where to take him afterwards.
I filed that information away and took my time leaving. If anybody was looking for the person who was supposed to have that chip, I wanted to make good and sure that he was following me.
After about ten minutes I finished my soycaf, and headed out. I adjusted my baseball cap as I left, signaling that I’d activated the disk and everything was fine– so far. Then I headed downtown, following a route that Sticks and Ninja boy... er Ryuko... had picked.
It was late enough at night that most of the traffic had died down. Even if it hadn’t it would have been very hard to miss the limo cruising down the street at about three miles per hour... I could feel my pulse increase as I continued down the sidewalk, pretending not to notice it or the two figures approaching me from the other side of the street.
They were pro, crisp and well honed– fortunately Sticks, Tal and Ryuko were faster.
Faster than I could really keep track of, they’d moved me out of the way and put our ‘competitors’ under wraps. One down, lord knows how many more to go. The next one was going to be trickier. I was to use the credstick that had been used in an attempt to buy off Sticks. Again, Sticks and Ryuko scanned the area and picked the best place for an ambush, and the best place to be to take care of it.
This time Sticks tried to explain how he should be the one to use it, since they were expecting him– which is exactly why it shouldn’t have been him and I told him as much.
If they knew it was him, there would be no need for debate... but someone else using the credit– that would mean a whole new world of things to deal with and enough variables that they couldn’t plan everything out in advance.
“Keeping them off balance, that’s our edge,” I told him.
He nodded but I could see that it bothered him a lot that I was the one they’d be approaching.
We didn’t have long to wait either: I used the stick and they were on me almost immediately.
Those three must really have wanted Sticks. Three women, one rigger, one mage..and one very trippy elf with a serious problem. They weren’t too nice to me for that matter, but all their threats were about Sticks and what would happen if I didn’t turn him over to them.
They didn’t have all that much time to wait either– he was ready for them. The mage tried to hurt him but good and the elf tried to claw my eyes out. Tal concentrated on the Mage while Sticks and Ryuko spent their time trying to deal with her, and the rigger.
A tranq patch rendered the elf harmless, Tal assured me that the mage was merely... asleep and the rigger was suffering from a concussion. Again, they were put on ice and we continued our job of rounding up those people we knew wanted Darren.
There was one more credstick to use: one of the ones Mr. Gillian had used to pay us. If his company was in on this, and he got the sticks through the company bank...
Yeah, one big healthy step into paranoia!
They were a lot more subtle than the last two. After I used the credstick, I headed down the street to the next target area. I was crossing the street when the men in black (black cars, black suits, black ties– black guns– dark shades) showed up.
They had a very unique approach to things as well– sound official, leave no room for argument. They didn’t count on the off duty paramedic who’d been out painting the town.
They went for official, I went for drunk. There was no arguing with me since I had no recollection of anything. I’d been out relaxing, getting ready for the new week. I had my credstick and a key to the condo... who needed anything else?
They kept trying to find out where I’d gotten the stick, I kept telling them the bank... They finally gave up, figuring someone had switched sticks with me.
They faded back into the night, with the offending stick, but not before I placed a tracking device on their car. I found out that Tal had also put a watcher spirit on it– it’s a longshot but who knows?
We didn’t discover that much, but we did find out who didn’t have Darren. The question was– with that much power and money behind them– what chance did we have?
It wasn’t a bad night’s work. We still had no idea where Darren was or what had happened to him, but at least we’d managed to level the playing field if only by a little bit.
From there we started checking our sources and I went back to Blue's to talk to my ‘friend’ with the eyes. There wasn’t anything the others could do for me there– except watch over me.
He didn’t look too pleased to see me, but at least this time I had a little more protection than I did the last time. I was also ready for the weirdness, which never happened. Looks like he had things rigged through the kid’s terminal.
He threatened to send me away, but I stayed– tried being reasonable. I needed information and he knew a lot more than I did. He had a lot more of the particulars than Ryuko did. The kid wasn’t just magical... he was techo-magical. He had the potential to be... Okatu.... and a very powerful one at that.
I didn’t know much about the term, but I could tell from the expression on the construct’s face that it was a thing of almost mystical proportions. A decker who could function without a deck... transverse the matrix like a mage transverses the astral.
It’s a neat idea, but something for the trids as far as I’m concerned. Everybody’s talking about the kid like he’s got no choice in the matter– he’s a commodity to be traded, taken... appropriated... I don’t care if the kid’s the next messiah, he’s got the right to be a kid and make his own way in the world.
When I told the figure, he just laughed. “So think people who do not believe in destiny... but you will learn... we cannot argue with fate.”
“Maybe, maybe not, but I’m sure as hell going to try.”
This time I swear I heard laughter.
We went over what we had and tried to figure out where to go from there. Ryuko’s people were already overseeing Mr and Mrs Gillian’s safety– their decision. Ryuko knows how to get in touch with his people, but not where the Gillians are.
I found myself once again wishing I could talk to Case about it– but without Case... there was always Jonathan. We split up again-- everyone checking their contacts.
We reconvened at the condo with no real information to go on.
I think it was about 7:00 last night that I realized we'd overlooked something-- we'd assumed that the people who came after us were looking for Darren. What if one of them already had him and were trying to round up his folks-- like, trying to collect the whole set.
It was a rather disturbing thought but as we discussed it, it became more and more of a possibility.
It was amazing how well we fell into working as a team. Me playing ‘what if' scenarios, Sticks and Ryuko picking them apart from a tactical stance and Tal, keeping things moving on an even keel and adding some rather intriguing what-ifs of his own.
We came up with a lot of possibilities, none of them really good-- but it got us thinking and reviewing what we'd seen. I've found that trying to describe things to someone else sometimes brings things into focus. You're forced to think about things, and sometimes you remember things you didn't remember before.
We didn't really get anywhere, but at least we were working together on it.
I'd managed to doze off when something else came to me-- Darren loved to draw dragons-- I started thinking about it and found I couldn't get back to sleep so I started talking to the others about it.
I don't think the guys were too happy with my interruption, or the turn my thoughts had taken, but as I said - it could have meant something. It was something, but not what I expected.
As I tried to explain the pictures to the others, Tal and Sticks nodded– they'd seen them. Ryuko on the other hand started asking me a lot of questions. Finally he pulled up one of his shirt sleeves and revealed a tatoo. It matched the images the three of us remembered.
Another dead end of sorts, but a sign that Ryuko's clan had indeed been part of Darren's life, even if Darren hadn't understood the meaning. I was about to try and get some sleep when Tal stiffened. His watcher spirit was reporting in on the car.
I checked the tracking device and found it either wasn't functioning or it was being jammed. Whichever, it didn't matter, the spirit had done the job.
In a very brief amount of time, we had what we needed-- a location on the boy. I think we overloaded Tal with questions until we managed to settle down. Sticks was concentrating on the location and positioning of men, me-- Darren's condition.
I'm amazed at how patient he was with the barrage of varied questions and he answered everyone of them.
From what Tal gathered, there were three men watching over Darren. It looked like they'd drugged the kid, which was probably for the best. Hopefully by the time he wakes up, he'll be in his parent's arms.
All's well that ends well I guess. I'll wait until I catch my breath and get some sleep before giving a definitive answer.
Rescuing Darren turned out to be the easiest part of the whole thing– holding onto him was an entirely different matter.
We managed to skirt security in the building. I guess the people holding Darren didn't want to appear on the surveillance cameras either. Sticks, Tal and I made our way down to where they were holding Darren while Ryuko skulked about watching over us.
The plan was simple-- Sticks and Tal would supply the muscle and the magic to get us in and out. I was to get Darren, make sure he was all right and protect him. Ryuko was supposed to be our wild card.
After this I can honestly say that Sticks was our trump card and Tal was the wild one. We'd gone as far as we could and were trying to figure out how to get around one guard when Tal simply stood and walked right up to him as if he’d been on a walk and gotten lost.
When the guard stopped him, Tal just smiled and asked for directions. As the man tried to deal with that, Tal simply put him to sleep and signaled us to move in.
It seemed to be going smoothly which means something must have gone wrong, if you believe the trids.
I have to admit it looked really bad. As we entered the room, we learned there were a lot more guards waiting for us than we thought there'd be and they all had guns-- pointing at us.
Tal reacted without thinking casting some sort of spell that was effectively a flash-bang. Several of the men were disoriented and that was all Sticks needed.
I don't know how the man does it. One minute he was standing there, hands in the air then Tal's spell hit the men and Sticks was moving with blinding speed. One step from where he was and his Escrima sticks were in hand.
I know I should have been moving, but I was so surprised and it was the first time I really had a good look at him in action.
I would pay good money to see a sparing match between him and Matt someday. Someday. I think they'd be pretty evenly matched, but it would definitely be an interesting fight.
Once I got over my initial confusion I moved in on Darren, checked him out and then scooped him up. His breathing was a bit shallower than I like, but we had him and dealing with the drugs would wait until we were clear of the room.
Our retreat was less than stealthy. By the time we reached the garage, Ryuko was waiting for us with a van he'd... borrowed.
There wasn't really time to debate, the guards were hot on our tail. Judging by the weapon's they were using, they'd forgotten that they wanted Darren alive.
Armor piercing rounds went through the side of the van as Ryuko pulled away and I could hear a slight gasp from Tal-- he'd been grazed. Without thinking about it, I threw myself over Darren.
Ryuko managed to get us out of the garage with only minor damage to the vehicle, and a lot to the toll booth. Once we were clear I began triage. Darren was drugged and reasonably stable. I was shocked when I found not one, but three tranq patches on the kid-- adult doses. No wonder his breathing was so shallow.
I ripped off the patches and tossed them aside with disgust. Once I was sure he was all right, I checked on the others. Tal had already dealt with the grazing wound and was checking on the others.
It was about then that the first wave of adrenalin had worn off and I noticed something sticky on the back of my jacket-- blood... mine...
I think I made some half hearted joke to get Tal's attention, I'm not sure. I remember him looking rather pale... I was pretty sure it was the blood loss, I just wasn't sure if it was his or mine.
Ryuko had just assured us that we were almost to his people when the rear tires of the van were flattened by a set of road spikes. From there it’s a bit of a haze... all I can remember is carrying Darren and I can remember Tal, Sticks and Ryuko doing their best to keep us out of the hands of our latest attackers.
At least they remembered that they wanted the kid in alive.
It became a game of hide-and-seek with a good dose of capture-the-flag and keep-away thrown in for fun. Ryuko had contacted his people... all we had to do was get Darren to them. Everyone else had other ideas and in the middle of it all-- the kid takes a turn for the worse thanks to all the drugs they'd pumped into his system.
We were already running on empty and now the kid was slipping further and further away. It took everything I had and then some to keep him going long enough for Tal to even the odds and get him stabilized. All the while we're doing that everybody else is closing in on us.
I could hear Sticks and Ryuko fighting-- trying to keep everyone off our backs but it was only a matter of time. I knew they were closing in, knew that Tal knew it too, but neither of us budged. We kept working, praying for a miracle.
We got it. When we didn't make the rendezvous Ryuko's people came looking for us. They 'kidnapped' Daren from us, and as they pulled out every one's attention was on the ninji-- allowing us to fade into the city.
Right now I'm looking at my fellow conquering heroes as we lay sprawled out over the livingroom furniture nursing our wounds. It was a big fight, but I think was all agree it was the good one.
Still-- Darren's safe I guess that's what really matters.
Ryuko showed up at the condo late last night, with the Gillians. They were on their way to a ‘safe place’ if such a thing exists. It was good to see them all together, and to see that Darren was indeed going to be allowed to live as normal a life as possible when everybody wants you like that.
I really don’t envy the kid.
Mr. Gillian - handed Tal and Sticks credsticks - their payment for a job well done. “Ryuko’s people handled the money, so you shouldn’t have any problems from my-- former-- employer.” he assured them.
Then he looked at me and chuckled. “You know Jess– we never really got to discuss your pay for this...”
I had to laugh. Only I could manage to be this involved in a case and never actually be hired. I thought about it a moment and then smiled.
I knew exactly what I wanted and the amount would be up to Mr. Gillian– I have a feeling he’ll be more than fair on the matter. I had him put it into a trust-fund for one Dar Allen. The kid I’d saved in the Barrens.
He was more than happy to oblige.
That taken care of, and a round of ‘thank you’s from Mrs. Gillian and Darren they faded back into the night.
We spent some more time just trying to unwind from everything. Tal noticed the guitar case in the corner and asked if I played.
I told him I played a little, and then added, “the guitar needs a little work...”
He gently opened the case and looked at the kindling within. He looked at me with a raised eyebrow. “I see what you mean,” he sighed with a straight face.
I had to laugh at that
“Everybody’s a music critic.”
A few more hours and Sticks bid us farewell. I told him that if he ever needed anything, all he had to do was call. He smiled and gave a slight bow– but somehow I can’t picture him calling me– I don’t know. Still you never know when a street doc can come in handy.
Not too long after that Tal departed as well, saying that he had a lot more country to see.
Suddenly it was just me and the cats.
I drifted off again, and stiffened as I heard someone open the front door. I was reaching for my gun when I heard Case talking softly to the cats.
Somehow I suddenly had a lot more energy than I thought I did. I was in his arms in no time. When we finally disentangled ourselves he smiled at me.
“Good to see you too Jess,” he teased.
“Are you back?” I asked. I swear I must have sounded like a kid.
He smiled and nodded. “Its over– thank God!” I could see the relief in his eyes. It had been bad, whatever it was. “You?”
I grinned and shrugged. “Nothing really– you know– the usual.”
He gave me a very odd, intense look, but it faded quickly enough. Soon we were crashed out, making up for lost time.
I barely made it into work last night and when I did, there was a note from my Physical Therapist– admonishing me for not seeing him. I was to report to him first things this morning.
Mathis and Beauford were laughing at me as I poured myself a third cup of coffee. “Didn’t you get any sleep?” they asked.
I glowered at them a minute and then sighed. “Yeah, it just wasn’t all that restful– I kept dreaming that I was being chased by boy scouts selling subscriptions to the ‘Ninja Chronicles.’ “
They chuckled about that one, but before I knew it I was in the captain’s office. Seems someone had reported to the CEO that I was found drunk and disorderly late Thursday night.
He went on, assuring me that my time is indeed my own, but it didn’t do for Citywide employees to be seen in public in such a state.
You know– I’ve expected my... ‘extra curricular’ activities to get me in trouble at work, but not this way. You have to admit though, it just reeks of my luck. I manage to come through relatively unscathed... we manage to get the kid where he belongs– or at least the closest approximation of where he belongs and then... I get in trouble because I acted drunk when dealing with some rather heavy hitters.
“It won’t happen again,” I assured him. It was hard to keep a straight face, but I think I managed.
Then he dismissed me and ordered me to visit the therapist and to come back with his report.
The therapist was a bit brusque with me– I guess he figures I’m second guessing him. I tried to explain that there were... very extenuating circumstances...but he wasn’t listening.
“You were drunk,” he growled. My how word, especially when it was wrong, gets around.
Then of course he examined my shoulder... and saw the last traces of the bullet that had hit me. At least it got him to shut up about the being drunk part.
He looked at me, made a note in his chart and then moved on. I could see that he wanted to ask about it, but that if he did, he’d have to report it. So he just left it at that.
Once he was satisfied that I was indeed doing better– he handed me his report and a bit of advice. “If you’re going into a dangerous situation– at least wear a vest.”
“I was,” I told him as I took the report, folded it up and tucked it in the inside pocket of my jacket.
Again he gave me that look.
I smiled and winked. “See ya next Thursday,” I promised.
He nodded. At least he didn’t admonish me again.
When I showed the captain the therapist’s report he nodded and grumbled something about if I do it again, my pay will be docked.
You know– I really must be doing something wrong. I’ve been working my butt off and all I get is grief. Okay– a lot of the work is extra curricular and gets in the way of the real job but still...
It was after noon when I got my first call– It was the Star. They wanted more information on the Worthington-Hyde-Smythe case.
This time they were reviewing why I was suspicious about the whole thing.
“Bitter almonds,” I answered with a shrug as I tried to remember the particulars of the case. “He’d keeled over while eating... seemed natural enough... heart attack... some sort of seizure...but that smell,” I shook my head. You smell bitter almonds and all bets are off.
The investigator nodded as he took down the notes. “Anything else peculiar?”
I looked at him. “Aside from you coming back a week after it happened?” I asked, then relented. “The man who answered the door wouldn’t let me come in through the front... made me, and the rest of the team go through the back.”
He nodded, ignoring my previous comment. “But that didn’t worry you?”
I shrugged. “People are strange– I’ve had odder things then that happen.”
I loved the look on his face as he looked at me. I nodded, then explained, “sometimes its people’s way of coping... regaining some sense of control... stability...when things are completely out of control.”
He thought about it a minute and then nodded. “And if you were suspicious, whey didn’t you call us?”
I froze and looked at him. “I had the guys call it in– I didn’t want to call in from the site and stir things up. I stayed under the pretense of cleaning up. Nobody ever showed.”
This got his interest in a hurry. He nodded and took a few more notes. “Is there anyway you can prove the call went in?”
I shrugged. “If the guys used the radio– dispatch will have it on file. If they used the phone– its anybody’s guess.”
He nodded, then went off in search of the guys.
So much for a nice quite shift at the station.
Today started with two men in suits demanding to interview me. This after three calls during the night. They tried playing hardball, indicating that they had evidence that made them believe that I had had something to do with the death of one-- wait for it-- Alexander Worthington-Hyde-Smythe.
I gave them my best long suffering sigh, asked them to show me their ID’s.
They told me they didn’t have to show me their ID’s, but that I, on the other hand, had to tell them everything I knew or suffer dire consequences.
Where do these people get this stuff?
After I read them the riot act, in three part harmony, I stood waiting for them to show me their ID’s. When they finally produced them I shook my head: Knight Errant– this keeps getting better all the time.
“You all have reciprocity with the Star... why can’t you just get the report instead of making me re-reiterated everything that’s been filed in triplicate with the Star and Citywide– furthermore– why does everybody wait a week after the incident to start getting interested in the case!?”
I got the nice stern, we’re in control here, “We’ll ask the questions Ma’am.”
As I was about to reply the alarm went of. I looked up at the speaker in the wall and waited for the full report.
“Not right now,” I told them as I reached for my gear.
For once– nobody tried to stop me. They told me they would be here when I got back– and that I had better come back– nice– I’m beginning to wonder if their training was all off of Saturday morning trids.
It took me five minutes by bike with Mathis and Beauford arriving about five minutes after that. I was about to join them in the truck when another call came in. It was less than a mile from us and the nearest ambulance was already on a call.
Mathis nodded to me and I responded saying that I would take the call and wait for an ambulance to arrive from another precinct.
Three hours later, I rolled back into the station, tired, hungry and needing to restock. The suits were on me immediately wanting me back in the briefing room. I shook my head. “I have to check out the bike and restock my kit. You can either do it out here while I work, or wait until I finish.
I think one of them told me something like– “Don’t think we don’t know what you’re trying to do...”
I just nodded and smiled. “Its called my job.”
They nodded and started questioning me as I worked on the bike. It had a definite–‘we know your guilty’ tone to it.
When they went as far as to ask me about my working for the Yakuza, I looked at them in amused surprise.
“Now I would love to know how you came up with that one,” I answered as I topped off the tank and headed for the supply room.
“Ms Miller,” the first suit informed me. “We have been watching you for a long time.”
I kept dumping the supplies I needed into a basket as I answered. “If you’ve been watching me– then you know I work for Citywide– that I take occasional missing persons cases while I look for my brothers.”
“And just a few days ago, you were working for the Yakuza.”
I took a deep breath and let out a sigh. “Just a few days ago I was looking for a little boy who was kidnaped from his parents’ apartment. We found him, but before we could get him back to his parents, he was taken from us.”
It was close enough to the truth, it was the official story at least, and if Ryuko was Yakuza, it was news to me.
“And what about Mr...” There was a brief pause as he reviewed his information. “Tiaka”
I stared at him without any recognition of the name.
“You saved his life...”
“I’m going to need more detail than that,” I told him honestly. I’d finished stocking my kit so we headed back to the briefing room.
He looked at me for a minute and then flipped through his file. “Tiaka... gunshot wounds, fairly severe... You were the first medic on the scene...”
I looked at him with a slightly exasperated sigh. “Do you know how many gunshot wounds I’ve been the first medic on scene for– there are way too many calls like that...”
“Let me guess you’re telling me that a man who’s visited you on the job after something like that– you don’t remember?”
“Look over the period of a year I’ve probably dealt with an average of 500 shootings, and that’s a conservative estimate– although it's been a lot higher since I’ve moved out here. Of my calls maybe one third want to meet the medic that ‘saved’ them. Do you have a picture.”
He tossed in front of me, as if to say ‘Deny that!’
I’d pretty much forgotten about the instance until I saw the picture. It was the Yak, who’d been shot and was waiting for DocWagon.
I shrugged. “He never did tell me his name.”
“So– you didn’t know that he runs this part of town?”
I looked at him. “Out of all the calls I take– I only follow up on about five– and they’re usually kids. I don’t do background checks. The one thing I filed away on this one was that I really didn’t want to end up exchanging ‘favors’ with this man.”
“So you never contacted him again-- didn’t know that Mr. Worthington-Hyde-Smythe was his chief competition in the area?”
I looked at him. “I treat a guy what... four or five months ago and now I get a case where the victim turns out to be this other guy’s competitor and suddenly I’m working for the Yakuza?”
Put that way it did sound rather thin. I think it was the first time they’d heard it stated out loud. Still it was their current theory so they weren’t too anxious to dismiss it.
They gave me the cursory warning that they’d be watching and that I was to speak to no-one of this. I didn’t.
I wrote them, starting with the CEO of Citywide, the Chief of Lone Star, Case, Jonathan, Saunders, Ray– everybody I could think of. I don’t like it when people assume I’m guilty– especially on circumstantial evidence that isn’t enough to prove I’m human let alone guilty of some deep, well planned out conspiracy.
I just don’t have the time for it.
The day started with three calls back to back: a grease fire, an accident and a stabbing. Its odd running the way I’ve been, but you adapt for the environment. We’ve been doing a lot more of me getting there as fast as possible and then letting the crew on the ambulance take over. Mathis and Beauford may be my official partners, but its more like, me and the guys from the nearest three stations working together.
Still, it seems to be working, so I’m not going to argue with it. My shoulder’s only twinging and, like Smiley told me– I’m getting my edge back.
I was on my way back to the station from the third call when I noticed the tails. They were good, I’ll give them that– but when you’ve been followed as much as I have lately...
And here I thought I’d finally rid myself of this cloak and dagger stuff. I have to admit, I’m probably their best suspect, but all that means is that they’ve got nothing and the need to pin it on somebody. Hopefully they’ll check my track record and see what happened the last time somebody suspected me of something.
On a hunch I hit Shadowland for details on the Knight Errant. Man– talk about your ‘we always get our man’ approach to law enforcement.
After that I decided to go for the direct approach-- I went out and offered them coffee. I’m not sure what they thought of that, but they managed to keep that clenched jaw look going for the duration of our contact.
I finished my shift without too much incident, then headed over to the arcade to work out with Ray and the others.
It was good to see him. Working again, even with Fort Lewis’ strenuous schedule was doing him a world of good. He was Ray again and I was glad to see it.
I’m happy to report that I was back in the swing of things as well. Its like everything else– when I’m working, my troubles seem to fade away. There isn’t really time to think about anything other than what’s happening right there and then.
I’d just finished one of the most strenuous runs I’ve ever done– bad traffic, bad weather and just for grins, PC had thrown in an earthquake. It was a trip. As I pulled off the equipment I noticed the gathered Knights Errant. There were five of them there now, all standing there like they were posing for a group picture.
They wanted to see everyone’s ID’s and registration for all and any weapons. That’s when Officer Smiley stood and showed his badge and had a little discussion with them. It got really heated at one point, but it ended with them leaving and him returning shaking his head.
“Yakuza... right!” he sighed. Ray chuckled, I’d told him what was going on, but the others didn’t know.
PC looked at the three of us for a moment and then finally asked.
I took a deep breath and explained. “A few months ago, I treated a Yak boss who’d been shot... Last week one of my calls was to a guy who turns out is the man’s chief competitor. The guy died, and the investigators have decided that means I’m working for the Yakuza.”
Smiley studied me for a minute. “Miller– you got a problem here.”
I nodded. “Tell me something I don’t know.”
“No, you don’t understand. They think you’re guilty... they’ll prove it somehow... “
“True or not?”
“Not quite that bad-- more like they’ll find something you are guilty of and get you for that,” he warned me gently.
“Any other good news?”
He smiled questioningly. “If they think you’re innocent... they’ll go to the canvas for you.”
I sighed. “Too much to ask for that isn’t it.”
He shrugged. “I think the jury is still out.”
We finished out the session and then headed our separate ways, but not before Smiley invited me to go dirt biking. I think it was more than just a keep in shape sort of thing. It was a keep the Knight Errant wondering so that they actually think things out.
I accepted, and asked if I could bring a friend. I think I’ll let him help me out in this– he seems to know what he’s talking about.