Hack dropped Rachel and Frieda off in front of a place called Molly’s Diner. He was heading down the road before he could notice that the two women weren’t interested the blue plate special.
Rachel gave a jaunty little wave to Molly as she led Frieda by the hand toward the building’s small lobby. The door wasn’t locked in case someone had to see Dr. Moss, whose office shared a reception room with Sam’s, for an emergency. The bulb on the stairwell was out, but Rachel’s eyes scarcely registered the gloom. Between the low-light vision and the beauty of their angelic cousins, all of the Lilliam had the full see-and-be-seen package.
Enough light came down from the floor above for Frieda to see well enough by the time they reached the first landing. The light, she judged, was from a single lamp behind the frosted glass door labeled “Sam Watson, Private Investigator”.
Rachel stopped for a moment, appraising the door with an unfocused look in her eyes. Her scrutiny satisfied, she squared her shoulders, strode the three paces across the small reception area and knocked on the door. A shadow moved in the office.
“Who is it?” asked a masculine voice.
“Advance agent for Santa Clause, Mr. Watson,” said the dark-haired girl. “I’m here to discuss some irregularities of your behavior for proper listing.”
The door opened. The man inside wore shirtsleeves, suspenders, and an empty shoulder holster. He kept his right hand behind the door. The smile on his face died away as quickly as his eyes went from the girl to the woman behind her.
“Oh,” said Rachel, “introductions as soon as you let us in, Sam.”
He stepped aside with a nod into the room. The two women were barely in before he closed the door and locked it behind them. Sam re-holstered the handgun as Rachel took a seat on the desk.
Frieda chose to remain standing, taking a position along the wall opposite the door. The man, Mr. Sam Watson, Private Investigator she presumed, was of middling height and a fit build. His hair was light brown tending to red in the light of the hooded desk lamp. He didn’t seem particularly young, maybe late thirties, forty at most. He looked the tired of a man who had just completed some vigorous activity. If the girl was bringing her to this man, Frieda concluded that the activity would have been the fight at the warehouse.
Now that she finally had some decent light to make an assessment, Frieda looked at her guide. She had been assuming that her rescuer was young, and now her appraisal confirmed it. The black haired girl was more than a waif, probably sixteen or seventeen, with a pale-skinned, expressive, face.
The question was forming in Frieda’s mind when the girl answered it.
“My name’s Rachel.”
Sam had by then reclaimed his composure.
“May I offer you a drink, Doctor?”
“Are we safe here?”
“So long as you weren’t followed the Imperials would have no reason to look for you here.”
Frieda let out a breath that she hadn’t been aware of holding.
“Then thank you, I need a drink.”
“Set me up one too, Sam,” said Rachel.
Frieda quirked an eyebrow as Sam took a pair of glasses out of a desk drawer.
Rachel smiled and said, “I’m older than I look.” With another look, Frieda saw that despite nothing seeming to change about Rachel, she had to reassess her age into the mid-twenties. Frieda made a note to rebuild her magic sensing glasses as soon as possible.
“I need to make a call, pardon me, ladies,” said Sam, now sitting behind the desk and pulling the phone over to him. He took pains to keep the number he dialed covered up. Frieda was still able to tell by counting the clicks of the rotor.
“Quisitor. I’m checking in for Lamb as well. Yes, about that, Knocker is secure. Yes, Lamb brought her to my office.”
“Tell him I thought there would be road blocks between the pick up and the safe house,” offered Rachel.
“I agree,” said Sam, ignoring Rachel’s intrusion, “the damage has been done, she knows both of our names. Uh-huh, thought you’d say that. She’s right here.” With that, Sam held the phone out to Frieda. “Liberty for you.”
“Thank you. Hello?”
“Dr. Kellner, I am glad to hear you made it out safely.”
“Good to be out, but what about your men?”
“We did lose some, both killed and captured, but we are already working to find them. For now, it is enough that you are safe.”
“Thank you, but what now?”
“For now, I’m going to have you work in Mr. Watson’s cell with Rachel. I had other plans, but it is better that you stay with them for now.”
“How much can I tell them?”
“I would have brought Sam in regardless, so you may tell them everything about the project.”
“I’ll remain in touch to get you set up with a new identity in the meantime.”
“Thank you, again.”
“Thank you for taking the risk, Doctor. Good bye.” The line then went dead.
Sam and Rachel were watching her through the conversation. Frieda replaced the phone onto the cradle.
“Liberty says that I am to trust the two of you with the information I have. That being the case, I need to tell you about Ambulamort.”