After a too-long shower and a too-short sleep, we rose to face the day. Of course, day in the Coscarla is only slightly less dark, a perpetual gloom hangs around like a fog.
We tossed Draylock’s office for clues, finding precious little. There was a note with a scrawled reference to Lili Arbest, Saul’s sister, so we made plans to visit with her for information. Sadly, none of us had remembered that we had planned that very thing back in the Interrogator’s briefing room. I felt like a FNG for a moment, but I let it pass and put my mind back on the mission, as we all met back in room 3, which Sila and Venus were using.
“We would be best served dividing our labors”, Ignace began.
“Second”, Barick said.
“I’ll head back to the Union Hall, see if I can drag up more info”, I said.
“Barick, perhaps you could check around for some other leads in the stacks?” Sila suggested.
“I’m on it”, he replied.
“We will talk with Lili”, Venus added, including Sila and Ignace with a glance.
“Alright then, let’s hit it. Vox if there’s trouble. We’ll meet back here.” I said. I shrugged on the heavy overcoat and headed out into the gloom of the Coscarla, making my way to the Union Hall.
As I walked, I got that itchy feeling between my shoulder blades. The feeling has served me well through the years, and I stopped dead. I scanned the street, looking around me with an eye to detail. I saw nothing. Still, when I resumed my walk, I did so warily.
I made my way to the Union Hall and into the bar at a brisk pace. Many of the same faces were here, professional drinkers racing their livers to the grave. I sat on the same barstool, and the tender brought over the same ale I’d ordered before. A good memory can be an asset for a bartender.
“You must be a tough one”, he said. I raised one eyebrow, a bit taken aback but waiting for him to continue. “Heard what you did to ol’ Draylock’s boys. Heard it from Luntz, actually. He wants to meet you.”
“Man’s quick”, I said.
“He keeps his ears open, that one. And always willing to pay for muscle.”
“Man’s smart”, I said. When I get a good theme, I stick with it.
“He keeps an office of sorts here”, the bartender continued. “It’s the door around back, doesn’t connect to the rest of the building. Knock five then three.” I couldn’t suppress a snort and a grin. “I know”, he said, “Luntz likes his pictdramas.”
“Tell him I’ll roll around later today” I replied. Then I finished my ale and I left.
I had a few hours to burn. I didn’t want to go straight to Luntz, as I didn’t want us to seem like a gang of overeager simps. I strolled the market for a while, taking in the sights and sounds. I’ve visited livelier intensive care wards.
I had some time to think about things. I knew that the Coscarla was dying, and would be another faceless underhive in maybe two decades. I knew that somebody had altered Saul Arbest, and not for the better. I knew that we’d seen a strange creature, human in shape, that we couldn’t find. I knew that I didn’t know near enough. I’d have to rely on the whole team to put it all together.
I decided that enough time had passed, and made my way back to the Union Hall to speak with Luntz. I made my way to the back door, and tapped the code out on it, shaking my head the while.
When the door opened, I was met by a one-two punch of odor and ugly. The stubjack that manned the door looked like he’d gone ten rounds with an ork and lost, and he smelled like said ork’s armpit.
“Whaddyer want?” he said, and I suffered the affront of his halitosis.
“I’m here for Luntz. He’s expecting me. I’m with the crew that aced Draylock’s half-wits.”
He took a step back, letting me enter. “Hey boss!” he yelled, “Got’s a visitor!” Hell, he talked like an ork, too.
The man I assumed was Luntz came into the room like a rolling fog. He looked like he’d been augmented with some vat-grown muscle, as his arms were about as big around as my thighs. The plug of a lho-stick protruded from his lips, unlit, and a stubble clung to his jaw and the top of his head. He was wearing old fatigues, likely surplus or lifted from a shipment.
“I’m Luntz. Thanks for showin’.” He stuck a massive hand out, and I shook it.
“Thanks for the invite.” I lifted my chin a bit. “It’s your place, your show. What can I do for you?”
“Direct.” He nodded his approval. “I like that.” His voice issued out of him like a bass drum dragged over gravel.
I answered with a slight grin, and said nothing.
“You seem a capable crew. I heard what you did to Draylock’s boys, and they were some hard bastards, through and through. I do things here that could use a capable crew.” He looked at me expectantly. He wanted me to ask. So I did.
“What kind of things?”
“I keep things running here. Try to hold off the dark a bit. Yeah, we move narco goods, but people here need ‘em to get by, yeah?” This was a pitch he’d practiced. “Sometimes a bit of muscle’s just the trick. You’re more than a bit of muscle, and I like that.”
“Sounds worth talking about,” I replied, just to keep him going.
“Well, here’s the thing. I want to find out what all you’re good at. You up for a test?”
I shrugged. “Sure.”
He looked me over, and I watched him decide to buy in. “Alright. Got a job needs doing. You’ll find me generous if it gets done. There’s a queen bitch over at the Alms House I want dropped like a habit. Keeps herself to herself, but went sour on some trade with me. You take her down, you pass.”
“You want this pro bono?” I let a bit of an edge creep into my voice.
“No, man, nothin’ like that. You drop her, it’s worth a cool five hundred.” That was real money to the Coscarla. I let myself look impressed.
“All right, I’ll check with the team.”
“Do that. While you’re at it, you come across a friend of mine named Saul, you let me know. Went missing a bit ago.” I kept my face still, even though I recognized the name.
He turned and left, quite unlike a man holding court in the backrooms of a bar. There was nothing left for me to say, so I said it. I left, heading back to the hostel. I wasn’t sure if it would be worth our time to run an errand for a narc-runner. It was certainly distasteful. But sometimes you crawl through a bit of muck to reach an objective.