Harry followed Quincey along the walkway jostling his way through the crowd of boisterously happy men. It was obviously to Harry that everyone was having a good time. There seemed to be a pervasive party-like atmosphere. Harry was no stranger to the pleasure districts on Earth Prime. All that was missing here were the hucksters in the doorways pitching the good times within and the kaleidoscope of colored lights that were meant to draw the unsuspecting suckers like moths to a flame. However, in Nova-3’s red light district, there were no carnival-like lights nor hucksters of any kind but everyone seemed to know exactly where he or she was going. In the magnified starlight, everyone looked healthy and glowing. Harry began to wonder if the peanut butter bars he had eaten had also contained something besides a stimulant.
Quincey chose the middle door and walked through. Harry crossed the threshold right behind him and was surprised by the unexpected wall of noise that greeted him. He had not expected the sound dampers. On Earth Prime, the establishments would have allowed the music and noise from within to pour out into the street as another enticement.
Harry was momentarily stunned. There was music. There were women, dressed and undressed dancing on a stage/table along the far side of the room. There was all kinds of gaming equipment both holographic and live filling the middle of the room. The whole area seemed too large for the building until Harry realized that the gaming floor was several steps lower than the street level. To the left was a bar where men stood drinking and watching the women on the stage perform. To the right was a raised area with tables. Men and women were eating and drinking. The men were wearing the planetary jumpsuit and the women a light tunic that hugged their bodies in an erotically revealing way.
Quincey had taken a half a dozen steps and stopped. Harry stepped up next to him. “I thought you said we were going to a whorehouse,” he said over the noise.
“I did. We are. This is it,” Quincey answered. “Any woman not wearing a jumpsuit is available.”
“For the asking?”
“For the asking. Provided she says yes.”
“What if she says no.”
“Then, you walk away. Turgenev doesn’t take lightly to his women being abused.”
“What happens if you abuse one?”
“You might not eat for a week or two.”
“Remember, this is an ‘if you don’t work/you don’t eat’ planet. If Turgenev’s boys work you over so badly that you can’t work, you won’t eat again until you can. You lose four or five days of work, you lose four or five days access to your food.”
“So how are we going to find Somerset’s old girlfriend in this crowd?” Harry asked.
“That’s easy enough,” Quincey said. He turned and walked over to a holographic station at the end of the long bar. He touched a couple of keypads and a miniature holographic image of Diana Melville came to life before him.
Harry stared. Quincey had said that she wasn’t particularly good looking, but Harry disagreed. The holographic image showed a woman with blonde curly hair, pouty lips and large blue eyes. Harry liked what he saw. She had large hips and soft looking shoulders. Had she been a few years younger, she would have been exactly the kind of woman he liked to indulge himself with.
“According to this, she’s free,” Quincey said. He made an appointment then terminated the holoscreen. “Follow me.”
Harry followed Quincey across the gaming floor towards the tables along the opposite side of the room. Harry noticed that there were two tiers of tables and several doorways in the wall behind them. He made the not so wild assumption that the doorways led to private rooms.
Quincey sat down at one of the tables and triggered the holographic device in the center of the table. Diana Melville’s image appeared floating in the air inches above the table top.
Although he couldn’t see them, Harry figured that there were all kinds of surveillance devices spaced around the facility. He guessed that Diana was looking at them now and deciding whether or not to meet with them. Harry leaned in toward Quincey. “What if she says no?” he asked.
“How could she pass up someone as green looking as you?” Quincey responded.
Harry sat back and crossed his arms. “You already know her,” he said.
Quincey smiled and then his eyes suddenly went cold.
Quincey had chosen a table and a seat which gave him a clear view of the room as well as the wall behind the tables. In order to face Quincey, Harry had had to take a seat with his back to the entrances to the private rooms. From Quincey’s reaction, Harry guessed that someone, not Diana, was moving up behind him. Harry turned around.
Three men had emerged from the nearest access point and were walking directly towards them. The first man in the line was the most imposing. He was tall and thin, but hard looking with sharp features and expressionless eyes.
“Hello, Leon,” Quincey said when the men were near enough.
“Hello, Matt,” Leon Turgenev said. “Who’s your friend?”
Quincey nodded towards Harry. “Harry Salem, Directorate, on assignment to Lydia.”
Harry was surprised by the introduction, but he tried not to show it. He decided to play it cool. “Aren’t you going to introduce me?”
Quincey didn’t miss a beat. “Harry, Leon Turgenev. He runs the Rest & Recreation concession on this planet. The man behind him is Albert Harlas, owner of Mine-6 and the man next to him is John Rohl...”
“...Oh, I’ve heard of him,” Harry said. “The planet’s flight controller.”
“I’m surprised you’re so well informed,” Turgenev said.
“At the Directorate we pride ourselves on being prepared whenever we enter a...” Quincey’s foot gently tagged Harry’s. “... unique situation,” Harry said.
“I’m glad to hear it,” Turgenev said. He looked down at Diana’s hologram. “Business or pleasure?”
“Vigilance,” Quincey answered.
“Is she involved in Steve’s death?” Turgenev asked.
“Won’t know until we’ve talked to her,” Quincey said.
“Then we won’t keep you,” Turgenev said. He nodded to the other two, and the three of them left the table area and walked across the gaming floor to a door that led to an adjoining room.
Quincey didn’t move or say anything until the three of them had left the room. “Well, that went well,” he said. He turned towards Harry. “You’ve got promise, boy. Real promise.”
Harry was about to say something smart, when he saw Diana Melville in the flesh and for a brief moment forgot who he was and why he was there.