Chapter 39: Sketchy Planning
Giselle tapped her heel impatiently outside of Useless’s door. She rapped once more. “Useless, I know you’re in there. Open up.”
She heard shuffling and her impatience was greeted by Useless’s big brown frown.
“Can… can I help you?” Useless murmured.
Giselle smiled beguilingly at him and was satisfied momentarily by the cringe she saw race along Useless’s broad shoulders.
“I heard you got fired.”
“Uh…” Useless’s brow creased, and the frown remained unmoved.
Before he could retort, Giselle put a hand on his meaty forearm. As predicted, the large arm dropped away as if stung, and Giselle took that moment to slide into his apartment. “I had a business proposition for you, big guy.”
Useless remained by the door. Giselle didn’t hear the door close as she took a seat on the sofa she had claimed the other day. Her quick eyes took in the immaculate cleanliness of the place as she resumed her sprawl. After the brief surveillance, she let her eyes rest on Useless. He was fidgeting uncomfortably but had yet to answer her. His eyes kept flicking to the bathroom.
Useless opened and closed his mouth several times, obviously torn between his bladder and the insistence of her gaze. Giselle rolled her eyes. “For Christ’s sake, go to the bathroom.” Giselle crossed her legs to get comfortable. Purring, she felt the smile spread. “I’ll be right here when you get back.”
Useless blinked at her in confusion, then looked once more at the bathroom. As if the realization just hit him, he nodded dumbly and lumbered into the tiny space of his bathroom and shut the door behind him.
Giselle sighed. “…It’s so hard to get good help nowadays.”
It took seemingly forever to finish up with the visit. David kept giving her the death glare, and Renee was so irritatingly happy. It was bad enough that Renee had seen X in her apartment, but now David knew he had been around. Not only was she lying to Renee by not clarifying the whole mess, but she was quickly losing David’s faith.
Lenora was not unaware of the repairs that would need to be done to remedy the friendship. She had no doubt that David would tell Renee all about X when they got home. She could only imagine her friend’s reaction at that kind of news.
Lenora, finally alone again in her kitchen, pulled the card out of her pocket.
It was torn up at the edges from wherever it had been stuck in the CAT’s neck, and it had been folded twice, some letters worn off. The important ones were still visible, though, and Lenora looked at them again to make sure they were real.
Taking a shaky breath, she shoved it into her pocket. The only other readable part of it was a name: Dr. Bryce Ahren.
“Ok, come out, you.” Lenora snapped at the quietly watching mechanical eyes.
Trap crawled out from under the futon and sat just past the line of linoleum.
Lenora moved over to crouch before the little mechanical creature, and stared him right in the eyes. “This didn’t get into your fur on accident, did it?”
Lenora furrowed her brow, fishing the card out again and showing it to the placating face of the CAT.
He sniffed at the paper, and the faint rays of its scanner traced the paper idly before he bonked her hand again.
“You know where this came from, don’t you?” Lenora insisted, rubbing the sides of the CAT and then righting him once more to face her.
The green glass eyes blinked at her, but kept her stare.
“Please Trap, you’re smart, I know you are.” Lenora narrowed her eyes at it. “X wasn’t the one using my Ad Screen, was he?”
The CAT lolled his head to the side. “Mrow…”
Lenora ‘tsk’-ed and used a hand to roll his head back towards her. “Trap, where did this card come from?”
The CAT fixed her with a glass-eyed stare. “Mrow?”
Lenora clenched her jaw in frustration. “What do you want? Do you want me to do something for you?”
“What? What do you want?”
The CAT pulled back from her hands and loped with an awkward gait to the ad screen. He extended his body to paw at the advertisements ever-flashing there, and let out a low, pathetic ‘mrow’.
Lenora got up and pulled a stool over with her, positioning it before the screen, then helped the CAT perch on top of it.
She stared at the screen for a moment, thinking that her job was done.
“Mrow!” The CAT swatted at her hand.
“Ach, sorry.” Lenora grumbled, pulling up the ‘Make a Call’ screen. A touch pad of numbers filled the bottom half of the screen and she watched the CAT.
Trap scanned the screen and then began to bat a few numbers. However, Lenora could see the problem – the pads on his paws were wearing away, and not all the numbers were being selected.
“Ok, ok.” Lenora let her hand hover over the numbers, pressing each one that was punctuated by a short ‘mrr’ sound. It took forever, but when they finished, the CAT had entered a Mid-Level number, and it hung idly on the screen.
“Now what?” Lenora murmured, staring at the numbers as it if was a puzzle.
Lenora glanced at the CAT to see it staring at her with a distinct expression of disbelief. (How a mechanical creature could pull that off, she wasn’t sure.) Regardless of the impossibility of such an expression on such a damaged piece of machinery, Lenora flushed in embarrassment, and hit the ‘Call now’ button.
The ad-screen phased out to a Personal Connection Program.
Lenora had only ever used Sandal or Crustack’s PCPs. They were databases that could hold appointments, access voicemails or e-mails, and were accessible through any ad-screen or Telecomm. They were way too expensive to maintain on Lenora’s salary however.
Several options appeared on the screen, and the CAT batted at ‘Calendar.’
Lenora’s hand was shaking as she pressed the option.
A Sprawling planner opened up on the screen, and through much trial and error, the CAT led her through the archived dates and meetings of Dr. Bryce Ahren until he stopped her at a phone conference from almost a year ago.
’Confer with M.J.’ Was all that it said.
The CAT stopped prompting and its stubby tail swished back and forth, satisfied at the progress.
“What does this mean?” Lenora’s brow furrowed. This was important, she knew it was. “Who is M. J. –“
Lenora’s breath caught in her throat.
Arrowhead was connected to M. Jones.
“That’s why he was attacking the clubs. He wants what they know about Arrowhead. They have to know something about Arrowhead.”
Lenora felt her eyes clouding over, and she plucked the CAT from the stool and hugged it close. Regardless of the uncomfortable scratchiness of the patchwork fur, she squeezed her eyes shut and planted several gracious kisses on the machine’s little forehead.
“Thank you, Trap. This is… I don’t know, but it’s something! Thank you!”
Lenora hastily put Trap back down on the linoleum, and exited out of the PCP.
Then she began to pace.
I need to get more. I need to find Arrowhead. How? I’ve been to every club I can stand. There’s no way to get behind the scenes as a patron. There are too many bouncers watching, and I wouldn’t have the first idea of where to look. If I could only get behind the curtains, I might be able to find a clue – an address, something solid, and then when I find X again…
A cool little paw batted at her foot. Lenora looked down at the inquisitive little green eyes, and she felt something click uncomfortably into place.
“…I bet the dancers go back stage, don’t they?”
The CAT didn’t respond.
Lenora took a shaky breath and shut her eyes. Flashes of danger and red, silver, black, red, red, red whizzed behind her eyelids.
She pulled her eyes open and pushed the thoughts to the back of her mind. She found that her hands were in fists, and she clamped her jaw in a firm line.
“Piece of cake.”
Lenora smiled down at the CAT. “I can do this. No problem.”
The CAT cocked his head to the side skeptically, and then bonked his head into her shin before retreating to the futon again.
Lenora headed for the discarded remnants of her closet in the bedroom. If she was lucky she still had some of those skirts, and at least one of the shiny clubbing shirts she used to wear…
“I can do this.”