Spirits were much higher when we returned to the Redhouse. Granted, they weren’t exactly through the roof, but they were leagues above anything I had sensed before we left for the church.
Everyone filed inside, staying in the main lobby area. There was still work to be done, but the atmosphere was more lax, now, people working at their own pace. Giving back guns, giving back keys, and taking every… newly acquired asset out from the vans and into the middle of the space, setting them down and categorizing them by size and type.
Standing still, stretching so my back cracked and popped, I watched as everyone got everything settled. Boxes labeled, weapons added to the inventory. A few people were walking around with clipboards to keep tabs on stuff. Sarah was one of them.
I found myself inching towards her, closer to one of the stacks, as she jotted notes on a clipboard. From just the side of her face, I could tell she was laser-focused on the task at hand, her eyebrows angled, her lips set in a line. She looked so serious and cool.
My shoulder bumped into hers, and I dropped my bag at my side, by my feet. I tried to make it seem natural, like I hadn’t meant to run into her like that.
“Oops,” I said, my voice a low hum. I shifted my weight a bit, so I wasn’t leaning on her too much. Didn’t want to push too hard. But a small, tiny, miniscule part of me really wanted to.
I managed to break Sarah’s focus, enough for her stop writing and give me a glance. Passing, but I’d take it.
“Yes, ma’am?” Sarah asked, just as soft.
I had already gotten out of my costume, folded and tucked into the sports bag at my feet. My mask, my poncho, it was all in there now, needing to get patched up later. With my glasses on, I was back to being Wendy, which left me feeling… I couldn’t really place it. I didn’t have a mask to obscure my face, and I wasn’t in such a tense situation that I could hide behind violence and destruction. There was still a high ringing in my ears, a thunderous echo, but that had already passed, there wasn’t anything immediate and pressing right here, right now. As things were, it was calm.
And I wasn’t used to calm. It was unsettling.
I reached for anything that could hold me down.
“Just wanted to check on inventory. Got to make sure those numbers add up right.”
Sarah huffed out a small laugh.
“Don’t be so obtuse, Wendy. Just say you wanted to check up on me.”
There was a warmth that hit my body and face, sudden. It hadn’t been that bad before, and I only just stepped inside the Redhouse.
Looking away, I stammered.
“I, I mean, I could do that, too, if you really wanted me to.”
I had no idea what I was getting at.
I heard Sarah snicker. She picked up her clipboard and started writing again.
“Kidding,” she said.
Now I felt dumb. Dumber than usual.
Clicking my tongue, I said, “I hate you, you suck.”
Sarah made a purring noise, saying, “Do I, now?”
“Yeah, you do.”
She chuckled. “What is it going to take, to get back in your good graces?”
I actually gave it some thought. A few things came to mind, but none were any I wanted to say out loud. I wasn’t even sure when I had thought of them in the first place. Stupid, lame. Dumb.
“I don’t want to say.”
“So what? I’ll just be ostracized from the gang, and it’ll get so awkward that I’ll be forced to leave. Is that what you want, Wendy, is that what you really want?”
I made a face.
“Of course… not, don’t be lame.”
“Then you better come up with something, or else I’ll have to put this clipboard down and walk away for good.”
“Now that’s not fair. You’re just messing with me.”
Then, I was graced with a full view of Sarah. She smiled, the corners of her lips turning more upward, almost catlike.
She lifted a brow, ever so slightly. The effect was like a sharp hit of adrenaline. A rush. I’d run or punch something, but there was no immediate danger.
“Oh no, you caught me,” Sarah said, that smile… that smile. “Teasing you is kind of fun, actually. I could make a hobby of this, but, you know, I might not be around for much longer.”
“Oh my god, shut up.”
She bumped into me as she looked back at her clipboard, going back to writing. I wanted to think it wasn’t an accident.
It was funny… in a twisted way. Just an hour ago, I had crawled myself free from being pinned by the Cobras and the cops. Too many risky situations, too many close calls. People got killed, people got seriously injured. Probably more than I would guess, if I had to venture one. An explosion that most likely leveled a building. A lot went wrong tonight, but if I slipped, or if a gunman managed a lucky shot, I wouldn’t be here now, standing, being messed with by… by a friend. The disparity between then and now… it was almost laughable, if one could find humor in death.
Someone found us.
Bumping into my other shoulder, D joined us. She wasn’t as mindful about personal space, however, preferring to stick close and huddle. Her arm wrapped around mine, hugging me. Her other arm was locked around a teddy bear.
With her high voice, D admonished me.
“What the heck are you doing? We get back and you immediately run off to do whatever. There’s still work to do, you know.”
Another warmth hit my body. A sharp sensation, like I was about to break out into a sweat.
“Yeah I know,” I said, faster than I intended. It made me sound like I was denying something. “I’m just checking on the inventory and, and how Sarah’s doing.”
“Why would you care about how Sarah’s doing? Reggie’s taking notes, too.”
D was really making it hard for me to stay cool.
“What, I can’t check on my employees? Morale is important when maintaining an operation. Didn’t we talk about that with Lawrence at the museum?”
“I mean, yeah, but there’s more important stuff to look over. And if we can turn this around, this will be able to take care of that.”
“I suppose so,” I said. It was surreal, being told off by someone so young. Or was she taking the chance to mess with me, too?
D tugged on my arm, and I let her pull me in that direction. I was torn between my obligations, torn from Sarah’s side, but there were things we had to do. Responsibilities.
And I do have to see to them.
“Okay, okay,” I said, appeasing D. We went in the other direction, away from Sarah. I turned to look back at her, mouthing something of an apology. Sarah mouthed back, smiling, but it was hard to make out what she was trying to say. I could only hope she had got what I was trying to say.
Darn you, D.
Walking over to the other side of the lobby, D took me to Lawrence. He had gotten straight to work, talking with a few of the Fangs, getting updates and giving orders. Like Sarah, he was so focused on what he was doing that it took a nudge from D to shake him out of it.
D waved at him, eyes closed, wide smile. Lawrence returned with an annoyed expression, but it didn’t come off as rude, and he still raised a hand at her.
I could recall when I first suggested that we all work together. Me, D, and the Ghosts. Lawrence was furious at the idea, and would rather go after us than Benny. And… yeah, given everything I had heard from both sides since, I could see why Lawrence’s initial reaction was so… sour. The girl had crashed a bus on him.
And yet, here we are, I thought. We’re a team, now. Maybe it isn’t perfect, but we are getting somewhere. And that’s… actually pretty cool.
“Hi,” D said.
“How’s it adding up?” I asked. “The guns and stuff.”
Lawrence looked over the guns and stuff before saying, “Pistols, rifles, a few boxes of grenades. High-grade shit.”
“Just guns? No papers or anything?”
“Papers? None that I saw.”
“Oh, never mind then.”
Lawrence looked over everything one more time. He nodded.
“We managed a good score. It’s the only reason why I’m not freaking the fuck out about this going south.”
“This didn’t go south,” I said. “Sure, it didn’t go how we wanted, but, we can think of this as a lateral move.”
“We inched up a teensy bit,” D said. “So maybe we moved like northeast?”
“Better than standing still,” I said.
Lawrence didn’t look very pleased at us making light of things, but he didn’t walk away or turn his attention elsewhere. If there was anything that he had learned, it was how to be patient with us.
“Whatever direction this ends up going, there’s going to be fallout,” he said. “The potential consequences, intended or otherwise. We’ll need to get ahead of that. Like, if the Cobras know that we were behind this, or if we need to start covering our ass.”
“No butts need to be covered!” D said. “I doubt we’re even a passing consideration in their minds, which probably says something about us, but we shouldn’t be on their radar.”
“Right,” I said. “They were after me the whole time, and as far as I know, they didn’t notice you guys slip through the cracks. Even when D, uh, showed up when she did, she was able to cover our tracks pretty definitely.”
“As far as you know,” Lawrence said. “They could go to Styx, and Styx is… unpredictable.”
“That,” I started, but I didn’t really have an answer for that. Lawrence wasn’t wrong about Styx. For a man like that, being unpredictable meant being dangerous. A wildcard we didn’t want in play, but it wasn’t like we had a say in the matter.
“He knows who you are, and we can’t touch him,” Lawrence added. “As if he wasn’t scary enough…”
Lawrence trailed off, but I could fill in the rest for myself. Unpredictable. Very, very dangerous.
“Do you think the Cobras would even go to Styx in the first place?” I questioned, trying to find another angle to this, one that didn’t give me any stress. It was a reach.
Lawrence spoke. “Look at it from their perspective. The Cobras plan a dummy raid for tonight, they come in with their squads and cops and see that someone had gotten to the goods first. They chase that person down but it’s like a one-man army, or one-girl army, whatever, jumping around and outrunning them, even when they’re on wheels. To the rest of the world, there’s only one person out there who’s capable of shit like that. Don’t you think that’s worth going to Styx over?”
More stress. Exactly what I needed.
“Would he talk?” I asked. I tried to not let the concern creep into my voice. Didn’t work.
Lawrence shrugged, looking at D.
“You know him better than I do, than any of us here.”
D leaned to one side, fixing the teddy bear in her arms.
“You want me to talk to him?”
“Yeah, if you can,” Lawrence said, with a biting tone. “You went to him behind our backs before, at least this time we’ll know.”
D actually looked hurt, hearing that. Her eyes went to her feet, she tugged at her choker, and she shifted her weight between her feet. She held the bear tighter. I only had a view of the top of her head, now.
I turned to Lawrence.
“That’s not fair,” I said. “We’ve been over this already. D did that because she thought it would help us against Granon. Sure, yeah, it threw us for a for a loop-”
“-more than a loop, Wendy.”
“But D knows she made a mistake,” I said. “I know that I made a mistake back then, too. We make them so we can learn from them. We wouldn’t have gotten out of that church if we didn’t have previous experiences to draw from.”
Lawrence reached into a pocket. He coughed and turned, bringing his hand up to his mouth, covering it. When he moved back, his jaw was clenched, the lump in his throat moving up, then down.
“Yes, I’m aware,” he said, dry. “It’s just… I don’t like unintended consequences, they’re hard to prepare for, and if the Cobras get Styx involved in any way, I’d want us to get out in front of that. D, please, just… pay him a visit, see where he’s at right now. I know you said that he wouldn’t do anything with that information, but he was part of the Solace shit a few months back, and that doesn’t include the El Paso shit that also involved Solace. It’s obvious that he isn’t above using that info to indulge in his own, fucked up sense of fun.”
I was starting to hate how much sense Lawrence was making. Twice, now, Styx had tried to get me out of the picture, and in that second instance, he had shared my identity with Remus so he would know who to target. Or, he’d have to, how else would Remus know?
Yet, he helped us, too. Helped us with finding Benny, helped with Granon, knocked Dong-Yul down a peg, if not several. The man was a fucking walking paradox, and that irritated me.
I tapped D on the shoulder, gentle. She lifted her head, staring at us.
“It is better than doing nothing,” I told her.
“I’d rather be paranoid and think the whole world is out to get me, and plan for that, than to not even consider it and have it actually be the case.”
Lawrence drilled the point into our heads. Enough so that D got it, too.
She spread her hands, then dropped them beside her.
“Okay, fine. I’ll swing by to see him.”
“Tonight,” Lawrence said. “Before the Cobras have the sense to report anything to him. Don’t make it so obvious, though, just-”
“I know,” D said, interrupting. “I know how to work him.”
Tucking her teddy bear under an arm, D patted her jacket, then groaned. She raised her hands, palms facing us, palms empty.
“I’ll need another set of keys. Kinda left them in the van that I blew up.”
Lawrence started fishing into his own pockets again.
While he worked, D turned to me, saying, “That was your van, Vivi, it literally just now occurred to me. Sorry about that.”
My van. It literally just now occurred to me, too. It had originally been Thomas Thompson’s van, Hleuco’s. The memories weren’t really there anymore, but brief flashes came to me. Riding around, looking for trouble, trying to stop it. Those days as Blank Face. They were so far away, now.
I definitely remembered having to chase after the van when I tried procure it for myself, then I met D. She had taken it for herself, given it back, only to then leave it behind and let it go up in smoke. At least it went out in a blaze of glory.
“It’s fine,” I said. “It’s not like I ever learned how to drive that thing, anyways. Probably for the best, to not hold on to relics from the past.”
“Sure, but we’re short a van, now.”
Lawrence took out a ring of keys, passing them to D. “Here. Actually bring this back in one piece, and keep me posted.”
“And… stay safe. I don’t know what he is to you, but that doesn’t mean you get to be excluded from his… ugliness. Get what we need out of him, and then get back here, as soon as possible.”
“I will,” D said. It was that I had never seen from D before. Or, to be more precise, it was the lack of something I was used to seeing. She looked defeated.
D took the keys, spinning them around her finger. She nodded, then turned, heading out to go to Styx. Big, black beads stared back at us, and I could project a look of longing in the teddy bear’s eyes. Even with the chatter and noise from all the work going on around us, I could hear her footsteps ringing in my head, an ominous note. Or was I just imagining it?
“Maybe I should go with her,” I said, watching D leave, getting smaller and smaller. And she was already so small to begin with.
“No, you stay here,” Lawrence said. “Not that I think you can’t help her, but you do have a particular talent in… inviting violence. Christ, Wendy, I saw the body. We had to step around him when we were talking shit out of the armory. That’s, I’ve seen a lot of shit in the relatively short time I’ve been doing this, and, fuck, shit like that still gets to me.”
His voice sounded shaky at the end, there.
“It could have been someone important, too,” Lawrence added. “Someone important to the Cobras.”
“That wasn’t me,” I refuted. “I didn’t, I didn’t kill that man. It all happened so fast, and yeah, I had to rely on my gun a few times, but that… that wasn’t me.”
“Fine, for all it’s worth, I believe you. But I need you here, not standing in front of Styx.”
“Are you saying that I’d make it worse?”
“What I’m saying is, Styx as a person is unpredictable, and unpredictable things happen to you. Not exactly what I need right now, especially when I want to diffuse this situation before we can do anything else. D can handle this part by herself.”
I breathed, letting it go. No need to fight him on this. Working together, being a team, that meant putting trust in one another, too. Lawrence trusted D in going to Styx, and coming from Lawrence, that meant a lot. If this was going to work, if this gang was going to continue, I’d have to put forth that trust in Lawrence, as well.
“She can, and she will,” I said. “At least the Cobras don’t know about us, Los Colmillos.”
“They’ll know that they actually did get raided tonight, when they go back to check on the church. If they haven’t already. Shit. We have put out all the smoke we can, or it’s going to come back and burn us in the future. Doesn’t help that D had to blow up a van and a building.”
“That-” I started-
“I know,” Lawrence interrupted. “I ain’t tripping. I’m done.”
“We can plan our next move while D does her thing. Like she said, buffer zones get targeted all the time, that’s why they’re there, it’s by design. The Cobras don’t know we were behind what happened tonight, so that buys us some time to do something else. Doesn’t have to be the Cobras, but we do have some room to make a move. Tonight was not a loss.”
Lawrence nodded, then crossed his arms.
“I’m with you on that. I don’t want our visit with Onmon to go to waste, either. And like Onmon, there’s an expiration date on that value.”
“So we’ll try again?” I asked. “Another buffer zone?”
“It’s not off the table. But, it’s not the only way we can make progress.”
“You have something in mind?”
There was a subtle shift in Lawrence’s expression. A slight turn up in the corner of his mouth, a more slight squint in his eye. A twitch that suggested he was holding back from either saying, or showing something on his face. As though he wanted to laugh, but couldn’t. Wouldn’t.
Then, the mask cracked. Somewhat. Lawrence’s grin was restrained.
“Maybe. If we’re doing this my way, you’re going to need a date, but it’s for sure as hell not going to be me.”
I had been shot at, pursued and cornered by cops and mobsters alike, and even had dogs sicced on me, trying to tear me apart. I’d survived getting shot, being stabbed, walked away from death itself. This body had been subjected to things that would be fatal to all, and it could still walk away from them, intact. Time and time again, I had my back up against the wall and I’d have to claw my way free. Nerves did play a factor then, but I was able to shore myself up and work against that, rise above it, even.
Now, those nerves had me frozen, my back was against a wall and I couldn’t budge.
Wrapped in a strange sense of déjà vu.
I was where I was, unable to even sway back and forth to the music. There were so many people here, if I was able to move I’d bump into someone. Everything was loud, from the rumbling bass to the people cheering or singing along. I couldn’t hear my own thoughts, as I tried to come up with some way to calm myself. Nothing, in that venture. The lights were low, the volume was clipped, and the smell of a specific sort of substance swirled in the air.
In other words, I had never felt so out of place.
I tried turning in the direction of that voice, but there were so many others competing for space that it immediately got drowned out. I checked in every direction available, seeing only faces, the sides of faces, arms, and cups.
I didn’t have to look for long, though, the owner of the voice approached, and I immediately felt more at ease.
“Sarah,” I said.
She sidled more than she did walk, the amount of room to maneuver being so narrow. Dressed in a light fit that was conducive for dancing, she looked as comfortable as I did not. A short, black top with long sleeves, tight jeans that made it easier to point her out in a crowd. I could recognize her outline, now. She was wearing a choker, but unlike D, it gave her a mature, almost sultry air about her, one that I couldn’t ever hope to match. Her look would have been completed if she had put her hair down. At the moment, it was tied up in a bun. Like I’d complain, though. Sarah still looked good.
She went to my side, a cup in one hand, careful not to spill it. A small smile on her face, shy, she tried to hide it, though she couldn’t help but feel giddy. Something else was holding the reins. I could see it in the light blush in her cheeks, the faint aroma from her breath.
“How’re you feeling?” Sarah asked. She was close enough that my shoulder touched her elbow. I was well aware of the contact.
I had to raise my voice to answer.
“Feeling? Put it like this. You look bad, but in slang kind of way. What I feel is more… dictionary definition.”
“Oh yeah?” Sarah’s voice sounded warm with liquor. Not slurred, but a drink or two away from getting there. She lifted the cup closer to my nose. The smell got stronger.
“Why don’t you have some, then?”
I shot a look at her.
“You know I can’t. I’m not to here to party,” I said, and then I lowered my voice for the next part, using it as an excuse to lean into her ear, “And I’m not exactly able to.”
She whispered back, just as close. “And why is that?”
“Alcohol and I, we don’t mix very well.”
“Oh? And what does?”
“It’s a little sweeter than alcohol.”
Somehow, Sarah was able to get even closer. I could feel her breath in my ear, my skin. The aroma as it hit my nose. The hair on the back of my neck stood straight up.
“Is it something I might be able to provide?”
I hadn’t even had a sip, but my head was spinning. I had to force myself to lean away and lean against the wall instead, or I’d probably lose my balance and fall.
“Maybe,” I said, breaking away from her gaze. “But… I don’t need that, not right now, and I don’t think you’d be up for it.”
Sarah stood straighter, too, pulling her cup away.
“No? Haven’t I already?”
It didn’t take long for me to recall what she was talking about. I saw the bandage wrapped around the hand she used to hold her cup.
“That, I made a mistake,” I said. “It’s just who I am, what I am.”
Whatever that is.
Still needed to work on that.
My hair was pushed back, set behind my ear. Wasn’t me.
Sarah’s fingers brushed against the top of my ear. Soft, almost imperceptible, but I felt it send a shock through my body.
“I know who you are, Wendy. You are courageous, you work hard to a fault, and you have really good taste in glasses.”
I almost laughed. “Is that your way of giving compliments?”
“Why? Did you like them?”
“Coming from you? Can’t say I don’t.”
“See? People like being appreciated, so now I know what you are.”
“It’s not that simple,” I said.
Sarah slinked around me, so she wasn’t as close. Part of me was relieved, another part wouldn’t mind if she had somehow completely closed the space between us.
I did get view of her face, though, as she looked at me. Head tilted down, taller than me, added inches thanks to her heels. It was dark in here, but there was the occasional blink of red and green. Strobe lights. It added to her already smoky yet striking makeup.
“Isn’t it?” she asked. “But if you still see yourself as a mistake, then I could be making far worse ones than you.”
I actually did laugh, that time. Residual giddiness.
“You have a habit of saying stuff like that to me,” I said.
“Until it gets through to your stubborn head, I’ll keep reminding you how awesome you really are.”
It sounded like something Isabella would say. Trying to talk me up.
I tried to match Sarah’s expression. A coy grin.
What the hell am I doing?
“Thank you,” I said.
Sarah gestured, taking a sip. As if this was easy. She went back to my side.
“Forgot how fun this was,” Sarah said. “The nightlife. Takes me back to my college days.”
“Had to be a lot of stories,” I said.
“Some I’ll probably keep to myself,” Sarah said. She winked. “Compromising information for all parties involved.”
“I can imagine,” I said.
“How about you? Was this ever your scene?”
Memories. Scenes I had no attachment to.
“It was, but that was a lifetime ago, now. I was…”
“I was a different person.”
“Cheers to that,” Sarah said, taking another drink, finishing it. “I’ve spent those years learning my limits, testing them. Now I know better.”
I didn’t know what she did with her cup, but she put her hand down, and when I saw it again, the cup was gone.
“All part of growing up?” I suggested.
Sarah’s grin turned to a smile. There was a difference.
That gave me enough assurance to take my back off the wall. I was able to move, now, and I had help.
“I think I’ll go check on Lawrence,” I said. “Make sure the deal is going down okay.”
“You know where to find me,” Sarah said. “I’ll help keep an eye on everything and everyone for you. And speaking of…”
Sarah leaned in, signaling to come closer, beckoning with a finger. I tried to leave, but I didn’t hesitate to go back.
She whispered into my ear.
“Looks like I’m not the only one who can’t take their eyes off you.”
I wasn’t sure how to react to that. I took the statement and chopped it up, focusing on the most important bits.
Not the only one.
“Oh?” I asked.
“Blonde, bun in hair. Glasses. Older. Too old for you, in my opinion.”
I didn’t look up and around, not right away. I didn’t want to make it look obvious.
“Oh,” I said, straightening myself.
“Does that put me back in your good graces?” Sarah asked.
“It absolutely does, thank you,” I said, for whatever felt like the millionth time, yet it still didn’t feel like enough.
I started to push through the crowd, leaving Sarah at her post. Everyone was either dancing or drinking, but they were still courteous enough to let me through.
Wasn’t here to have fun, not exactly. There was work to be done.
We were in a nightclub, but it was also neutral territory. We were in talks with another gang. They weren’t bigger than us, but we did comply with their request to have a meeting on a sort of middle ground. It was a show of good faith, on our part.
The meeting was designed to go smooth. The gang was no more than an extended group of wannabes, I couldn’t even recall what they named themselves, they had just rebranded. I did note the blue hoodies when I saw them come in, though.
They owed us some money, and they were actually willing to play ball. Our reputation was finally starting to mean something.
Lawrence would handle the talking, he was better at that stuff. I was to stay downstairs, keep an eye on everything and everyone, in case anyone would try to listen in or interrupt. Because we weren’t just getting our money, we were working on building connections. Real ones. For a gang, connections were like veins, and favors were like lifeblood. We had to curry what we could.
D wasn’t here, but she was around. She had come back from meeting with Styx. Nothing worth reporting, according to her, and for a man like Styx, no news meant good news.
And Sarah… was just to better sell the image of me being here. Easier to get into the club if I was with someone. A date. She was playing a part.
She also served as my extra eyes and ears, and she had picked up on something. Or someone.
I glanced around, trying to act natural. Then… there. I saw it. Her.
It was a woman, exactly like how Sarah described her. Blonde tied up into a bun, horn-rimmed glasses. What she was wearing looked to be more fitting for a boardroom than a bar at a nightclub.
I turned as soon as I noticed her, pretending to keep looking elsewhere. In the split second I had eyes on her, hers were on me, and she didn’t have a drink in her hand.
Whoever this lady was, she didn’t come here to have a good time. But she sure as hell wouldn’t ruin mine.
I retreated to another part of the club, by some tables. People were either conversing with each other or competing for how many shots they could take. I pulled out my phone, sending a text.
I got a response from D first. All lowercase, with enough icons and shorthand to make it almost unreadable. She didn’t know who the lady might be. I typed out a reply, to drive around the club, see if there was anything else going on. D was right on it.
Lawrence’s response was delayed, but it did come. Made sense, he was in a meeting. His was much easier to read than D’s. He appreciated the heads-up. From his end, it was going well, the gang would provide aid, should we require it. They definitely didn’t want to be our enemies. Lawrence typed that he’d advise them to take another exit out of the club. We couldn’t tip anyone off to our dealings.
Then, I typed out a suggestion.
D approved. So did Lawrence.
I put away my phone.
Pushing through the crowd again, I went straight for the woman.
I used my height to my advantage, it was easier for me to disappear into the crowd, to duck my head low and stay out of sight. If she really was keeping an eye on me, she would have a harder time, now.
All I had for weapons were my hands, I had lost my knife and gun. Even if I hadn’t, I still wouldn’t be allowed in the club with those things on me.
It was just one person, though. I could take her.
I moved over to where the bar was, to the woman’s right. A neon glow emanated from the light fixtures on the corners and back of the shelves, giving everything a soft hue, lighting bottles and people alike. It was red when I approached the bar, green when I approached the woman.
“You come here often?” I asked.
She had lost me in the crowd, and she didn’t see me come up to her. I expected her to be startled, but I got no such reaction. Instead, she turned, facing me. Her hands were placed in front of her, clutching a folder. Her expression was stern.
“Not at all. I don’t find much value in spending time in establishments like these.”
“Then it must be a special occasion, seeing you here.”
The woman’s expression remained, but I could have sworn I saw a small smirk settle across her lips.
“I suppose it is.”
“May I have your name?” I asked. I was trying to assess things before I acted on them, see if this woman posed an actual danger. Right now, I wasn’t sensing much.
“Mrs. Carter,” she answered.
Not sure why that thought came to me.
“I’m not really good at this kind of thing,” I said, still acting out the role of a normal person, but that was still an admittance on my part. “Not my scene, either.”
“Good, it means we can start taking our leave, soon.”
Was she as Sarah described, or was it something else?
“Is there… some business you had with me?” I questioned.
Mrs. Carter raised her chin, straightened her shoulders. The light around us changed to a warm yellow.
“I do. I am here on the behalf of Mister, and he would like a word from you.”