Dunkirk’s apartment had been cleaned out. Someone in his line of work never just up and leaves. Usually one or the other party has to be dead for that to happen. If Dunkirk had disappeared in such a way that left Fr. O’Brian worried, then I doubted that the hunter was the one who came out on top of his last job. My guess was that he had finally run into something he couldn’t handle, and that that something cleared the place out.
The heat outside was still intense, but at least the sun was low enough that the shadows of the tenements could keep the streets some soaking up even more heat. The neighborhood was starting to show the life that I presumed had gone inside in the face of the sun. There were a couple of elderly ladies dickering over the price of tomatoes with the dwarven owner of the corner bodega. A group of boys were starting a game of stickball in front of a building whose steps had sprouted an ork who was blowing cigarette smoke around his tusk. Voices came down from the open windows, often for the benefit of neighbors across the street.
I slipped the handkerchief with the wood shavings and the foil ring into my pocket. There was a seed of an idea that needed confirmation from Allison. I convinced the boys to pause their game long enough for me to pull out. The drive back to the office was a blur while the majority of my mind was running through the things I had learned in the past few days.
I entered my office to see Calliope and Allison seated around her desk in the waiting room. Their conversation died off as I entered. I had lived for the past decade as a man on the run, keeping an eye out over my shoulder and at a deep level dreading the tread of the Order at my door. So why is it that hearing a conversation between two women come to a crashing halt when I enter the room bring on a screaming case of paranoia?
“You’re a guy, Sam,” answered Calliope.
What she had wasn’t telepathy, and that made it all the scarier. I was yet again glad she was on my side.
“So no problems around here I take it.”
“Nope, not even a peep from Mr. Reiger.”
No complaints from my landlord, always a good sign.
I checked the wards. All good.
Allison was looking at me with a curious look as I sat on the edge of Calliope’s desk. I took the handkerchief out and unfolded it, being careful not to spill any of the wood fragments.
“Ms. Tierney, could you tell me if this means anything to you?” I asked as I held out the foil ring.
“Oh,” she exclaimed, and reached out to take the ring. Her smile fell as her fingers passed through it and my hand.
“Juicy Fruit, right?” she asked.
“It was a little tic Victor had. Whenever he started a new piece, he’d work the foil in his fingers. He started doing that as a kid and I don’t think he ever realized he was doing it until it was done.”
“Did Victor ever talk to you about what he did, exactly?”
“Never anything specific. He worked with stolen goods, moving them from place to place, keeping fences in line, that type of thing.”
And, I thought, he would be the type of guy that Ambrosi would send to clear out someone’s place after Ambrosi had finished dealing with him. A guy like Victor would have known how to dispose of someone’s worldly possessions on the QT while making a decent profit on the side. It would also have been very unlikely that any of the guys with him would have felt a ward or have recognized the physical components of one. I had to wonder, however, if Victor’s experience might have clued him into some things beyond the ordinary.
I nodded as more of the pieces started coming together. What I was learning was also adding to the list of people I needed to talk to.
A quick look at the clock told me that I needed to stick with my plan as to who would was the next person I had on my list.
I looked over to Calliope.
“You said Rachel is working at Club Hades tonight?”
“That’s right, Sam.” Her tone was commiserating, but her smile was telling me that she was taking a bit of good-natured fun at my discomfiture.
Club Hades. That was another headache that I didn’t need right then.
It took me only a few minutes for a quick wash and a change into a cleaner suit.
I was heading out the door when Calliope chimed in.
“Have fun, boss.”
“I almost forgot. Ms. Tierney, I spoke with Fr. O’Brian. He didn’t come right out and say it, but he can protect you if things get too hairy around here. So, Calliope, if there is a problem, get the comb down to St. Mary’s Church on the double.”
Allison smiled at the familiar name. Calliope looked stricken.
“Me? A church? You have to be kidding.”
“Just call ahead if you can, and tell Fr. O’Brian that you work for me. He’ll understand what’s going on and stay focused on what’s important.”
“Have a nice night.”