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  1. The Sheriff Following the girl was easy. She was short and could’ve disappeared into a crowd but evidently she wasn’t worried about being followed, because she made no effort to do anything but walk straight to her destination. Her mother, Vanessa Van Silver, hadn’t given Lawrence much to go on, only that her daughter kept disappearing during the day into the Pennway District and had used some rather subversive language to describe the Brotherhood. Lawrence thought it all a bit ridiculous, probably an overblown case of teenage rebellion, as Clara had suggested. And even though he had some doubts about why exactly Clara wanted to hire them, he’d still rather he take this job than someone else. Of course, Clara being his new employer was something he still wasn’t sure about. He believed her when she said she didn’t trust Patricia Devereux. But he still wasn’t sure what to make of her. He’d learned from asking around last night that she’d grown up wealthy, her parents owning the hotel before her. She looked the part, but she certainly didn’t act like someone who would call themselves a friend of Patricia Devereux or Vanessa Van Silver. At least, she hadn’t acted the part during their meeting, and he suspected she was probably pretty good at acting the part. She was also good at reading people, that much was clear. But knowing all that he still didn’t know what exactly it was Clara wanted from him. It made him suspicious and intrigued all at once. Liz’s southern path turned toward the west, and Lawrence had to leave his thoughts behind. She walked toward the Pennway docks along the east river Lawrence couldn’t remember the name of. She came upon a row of riverside buildings, restaurants and bars and market stalls. She headed toward an unlit neon sign that read ‘Inglenook.’ The bouncer guarding the door gave her a nod as she entered, without searching or stopping her, which meant she probably worked there. Pennway was a nice district, clean and well patrolled, and the Inglenook was a nice, clean red brick building standing two-stories tall. It looked like it could fit right at home here, during the day with its curtained windows and not-dilapidated exterior. In a less favorable light, maybe at night with its neon sign lit up bright and a rotating cast of drunks pouring in and out, he could imagine it looking every bit the part of shady club. Still, he’d seen places that looked much seedier. Lawrence approached the redheaded, mean-mugging bouncer, holding his jacket open so the man could pat him down. He knew the drill. The thought crossed his mind to ask the man about Liz, but it wasn’t a bouncer’s job to give information away. And this man seemed only interested in looking tough and guarding the door. Upon entering it took Lawrence a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dim interior. It had a few more customers than he expected at this early hour, probably folks getting an early start on the evening’s festivities. The girls working the place were dressed up in costumes, or as much as they could be while wearing as little clothing as possible. Some had pointed cat ears or floppy bunny ears on, a couple wore fanciful hats with giant feathers, and one was wearing a skimpier version of a pirate outfit Lawrence recognized from an old comic book he’d seen. Before anyone could mistake his purpose and offer any services he’d then decline, he made a beeline for the bar along the wall on the right. He found a stool a good distance from any of the other patrons and ordered a beer. He took off his hat and set it on the stool next to him. When he’d first entered he hadn’t seen Liz, and now getting a better look around he still didn’t see her. There were a few folks up on the balcony across the way, above the stage, and another bouncer guarding a deeper part of the club. Probably private lounges and the dressing rooms, if he had to guess. Lawrence finished his mediocre beer and motioned for another from the bartender. When the bartender brought it over, Lawrence gave him a generous tip and said, “I’m looking for Liz. Her mom sent me. Tell her it isn’t bad, I just would like to talk to her if she’s willing.” The bartender took the money and leveled a skeptical look at Lawrence, but motioned one of the girls over and whispered something to her before she disappeared into the back room. Lawrence drank a little more of his second beer but didn’t finish it, and left another tip on counter. He didn’t know if he’d ever need it, but buying the goodwill of a bartender was never a bad idea. It wasn’t long before the shorter, brown haired teenager wearing a midriff baring plaid shirt came out of the back, looking as angry as he’d expected. She glared at him for a second, giving the impression she was about to walk away on him. But then she leaned in closer to him and whispered in a spiteful tone, "You can go back home and tell my mom she can fuck right off." “I’ll be sure to pass that along,” Lawrence said. He had expected the reception to be less than warm. “You want something to drink? Your mom is paying.” “No.” Lawrence took another drink of his beer and then swiveled on his stool to look Liz in the eyes. “Look, I’m not some hardass. Your mom may have hired me but I’m not here to rat you out. I’ll tell her whatever you want, one on condition.” "What?" she said as she eyed him skeptically. He glanced around and made sure no one was listening. The bartender was leveling a hard look in this direction, but was drying glasses at the other end of the bar, out of earshot. When Lawrence spoke, he did so in a low voice. “Your mom didn’t get into the specifics about what you’ve been saying. Only that it wasn’t exactly friendly toward the Brotherhood. As far as I’m concerned, they probably deserve whatever names you called them. ”But here’s the deal. You gotta be careful. You can’t just go round saying things like that. It isn’t going to help anyone, least of all yourself. The fact I’m here shows it’ll only bring scrutiny. And next time whoever your mom hires won’t stop at just talking with you.” She kept eyeing him for a few seconds, though now with more confusion than skepticism. "Okay," she said with some hesitation. “Also, you might want to start varying your routes coming here. It wasn’t exactly hard following you.” Lawrence undercut the criticism with a friendly smile. At least, he hoped it looked friendly. "Hmm." She kept looking at him like she didn't really believe that what she was hearing was real. “So what do you want me to tell her?” "Uhm... I... I don't know." She lowered her gaze and stared down at the bar bench. “I’m assuming telling her you work at a strip club is off the table. But you’re coming over here so often she’s not gonna believe me if I tell her you’re just visiting your boyfriend or girlfriend.” Liz didn’t seem like a bad kid, and he didn’t want her to get in any sort of trouble. “Really, if I lie to her and she sends someone else to see what you’re up to, it’ll be on you to make sure they can’t follow you here. Think you can handle that?” "Maybe," she said with no hint of conviction in her voice. Lawrence finished his beer. He was hoping this would be a little easier to pull off. “How long do you usually work here?” "About 6 hours a day." “What do you usually do after you get done with work?” "Hang out a bit here, then head home." “If you want to keep working here and don’t want your mom to find out about it, you’ll need to make sure someone else can’t find out about it. I’ll tell your mom you’ve got some friends you’re hanging out with and that’s why you’re always gone. “But after you get done working here how about you come by Clara’s? She was the one who asked me to do this for your mom, to make sure you didn’t get in any trouble over whatever you’ve been up to. But I’ve got some friends that could help you learn how to avoid being followed, if you really want to keep working here.” "Thanks, but I... I'm not sure." “I’m going to shoot straight with you Liz, if this little lie we’ve crafted falls apart, it’s not going to cause me any harm. You and your friends here, on the other hand, are going to have someone else breathing down their necks.” He leaned in close and lowered his voice again. “If there’s the slightest chance someone thinks you picked up that rebel talk from around here, it’s not going to end well. You’ve heard what’s going on out there. The Brotherhood is going to be tearing through this place with your loose lips to blame.” Lawrence didn’t know if that was true, but it sounded sufficiently terrifying to scare her straight. ”So you either hide that you’re working here or quit working all together. In both cases the less said about the Brotherhood, the better.” Lawrence stood and put a few more coins on the bar. “Either way, you know where to find me.” Liz didn't say a word and only stared at him with big eyes. It was hard to tell what she was thinking but it was clear that she was feeling some sort of regret.  “If it’s just a job, you can always find another. A job ain’t worth all this trouble.” Lawrence took his hat off of the stool next to him. He dusted it off before putting it on and tipping it to her. “Take care, Liz.” With that he left the Inglenook behind and headed back to the Gold District. Heeding his own advice, Lawrence made sure it wasn’t a direct path, and he doubled back to catch anyone who might be following him. Dealing with all these rich folks put him ill at ease. He didn’t trust any of them, no matter how much they were paying or promising to pay. He eventually arrived at the Van Silver residence, where a servant let him in the gate and led him to the back parlor, where Vanessa was waiting. Looking like an older and more well-mannered version of her daughter Vanessa looked him over before glancing behind, almost as he she was expecting him to have brought her daughter with him. "So?" she said in a calm and slightly friendly tone that betrayed a hint of impatience. Lawrence knew he wasn’t much of a liar, but he hoped that Vanessa wasn’t the perceptive type. “I followed her and watched her for a bit. Seems she’s found a group of friends down by the eastern docks. They didn’t seem to be troublemakers more than any other group of teenagers are.” "And?" “And what, Mrs. Van Silver? Far as I can tell she ain’t doing anything illegal.” "And who are these little rascals? Which families do they belong to?" “I think you misunderstood who I am, Mrs. Van Silver, if you expected me to round up your daughter’s friends.” "I don't expect you to round them up. I expect you to find out who they are." “And what would you do with that information?” Vanessa was silent for a second as she gave him a disapproving look. "That depends on the family they hail from." “That’s what I thought,” Lawrence said. “I found out what your daughter was doing like you asked. But I’m not going to get some dockworker or bartender’s kid in trouble cause they’re hanging out with your kid. That’s liable to only make her resent you more, I reckon. So if that’s all, I think it’s time for me to leave.” "That's probably for the best." Lawrence tipped his hat and left the way he came. Outside the gates of the Van Silver home, he wondered if, or for how long, his story would hold up. He wasn’t lying when he told Liz this wasn’t going to hurt him. He knew that Clara was more interested in Liz understanding the potential danger she was in than Mrs. Van Silver getting what she wanted. And Lawrence had done all he could to convey that Liz needed to quit badmouthing the Brotherhood at the very least. He hoped that would be enough for her mom too. As Lawrence walked back to Clara’s, a few early partygoers were taking to the streets in their costumes. It was a peculiar thing, this Halloween celebration. Back home most of the holidays usually involved large celebratory meals, not costumes and partying. Though he had to admit, it seemed like fun. And important to Wellstone, seeing as the curfew had been extended. Clara’s hotel was a towering fourteen story light brown brick building, windows and doors framed by white stone, and the roof capped with more white stone trim. On the roof was a large sign that read ‘RESIDE HERE’. Above the western entrance was a less imposing sign, a red neon sign written in cursive that simply read Clara’s. Two Protectrons shined red in the soft neon of the sign above the entrance. They scanned those coming in for visible weapons, and greeted the patrons on behalf of Clara in their heavily modulated voices. In the entrance hall was another one walking it’s programmed path around the room, and Lawrence knew there were two more each guarding the street entrance to the casino and cabaret. The foyer was all decked out in the Halloween spirit, with fake spider webs covering the chandeliers, paper bats stuck to the second story gallery railing, and pumpkins and other gourds positioned by the tables and couches. The hotel was roughly a square. On the first floor the casino stretched along almost the entirety of the north wall while the cabaret stretched along the south wall. The middle third was the entrance foyer, with the kitchen and laundry behind it to the east. On the second floor were galleries overlooking the cabaret and casino, as well as offices above the kitchen and laundry. Lawrence had gotten the tour of most of the fourteen floors the day before. At the check in counter directly across from the entrance, the hotel’s manager George was busy assisting a few customers. He was short and stocky, though going a bit soft. He had a strong face with a thick rectangular mustache that sat like a shadow below his mountain of a nose. He walked with a pronounced limp, and leaned on the counter to take the pressure off his leg. There wasn’t a thread out of place on his suit or a hair out of place on his head. George looked the type of the perfectionist manager, though Lawrence had learned he’d worked in construction before the accident that caused the limp sent him to the hotel business. The guests were done with him so Lawrence approached, hat in hand. He always took it off indoors. George saw him coming. When he spoke his voice was clipped but friendly, while his Middle-Waters accent was somewhat diluted by couple decades in Wellstone. “Mr. Harding. Clara wanted you to check in once you got back. And Rodge will have your job for the night for you once you’re done speaking with her.” Lawrence thanked him and was let behind the front desk and into the hallway that stretched behind it for employees. He passed the kitchen and found the stairs to the second story where Clara’s offices were. In broad strokes he told her what went down with Liz and more specifically how Vanessa reacted. Lawrence was more interested in gaining insight into what Clara thought than anything else, and he could tell she was relieved to hear what he’d told Liz. Their conversation was brief and after he went right across the hall to the security office. The office wasn’t very large, with a couple of desks on one side of the room and a jail cell taking up the other half. It was mostly for drunks, people you didn’t want causing problems but didn’t want to involve Wellstone Security with either. The way Clara talked yesterday, it was better to handle some things in house than get the police involved. The office had only one occupant. William Rodgers, the hotel’s head of security, was tall and thick, with a bushy silver goatee. But he was getting up there in years, and grunted as he rose from his chair when Lawrence entered. In his deep voice Rodgers said, “Mr. Harding. I’ve already sent your friends out. The doctor and the scientist are down in the basement messing with one of the server bots. Reyna is in the cabaret with my number two Sawyer. He was out yesterday when y’all came by. I figure she’s pretty sharp eyed and he can more than handle any troublemakers. Get more than a few drunks here this time of year. Abbey’s in the casino already, and I’d like to have you join her there. You know how the games work, right?” “I do. I’ve never done security for something like that, but I figure I’ll be able to spot someone switching out the dice or hiding cards,” Lawrence said. “That’s probably all we’ll need. I’ll be making the rounds every so often. If you have any trouble makers, haul them up here and they can sleep it off in the cell,” Rodgers said. “Yessir.” Lawrence headed downstairs and into the casino. It didn’t take him long to spot Abbey prowling the floor, her right hand dangling by her side and reflexively formed into a fist. She had her long black hair pulled back into a braid, and she was wearing her straw cowboy hat and serape. Tonight, looking like that in the casino let her blend in better than if she’d been wearing regular clothes. Lawrence donned his hat, took his old badge from his pocket, and pinned it to his chest. At least for one more day, he could be a sheriff again. As he and Abbey walked the casino floor, keeping an eye out for anyone up to no good, the uneventful afternoon faded into a slightly more eventful night. The crowd grew considerably larger and rowdier, and which led to one patron trying to fight Abbey and losing after one punch, as well as Lawrence hauling a couple off to the drunk tank. It was late in the night, while the party was still going but beginning to die down, that Lawrence had to drag off his third drunk. He was an older man, his balding head sweaty and liver spotted, and he reeked of beer so bad Lawrence thought he might get second hand drunk. The old man had tried to palm chips from a table, only to knock them to the floor, where he quickly joined them in his drunken state. Since Abbey had already had to fight someone, Lawrence was stuck with the drunks, so he picked the old man up and pushed him toward the security office. Getting him up the stairs was its own adventure, and halfway up Lawrence had to resort to carrying the man the rest of the way into the cell. There were four drunks were passed out on the floor, two of them courtesy of Sawyer and Reyna. Lawrence dumped the now snoring old man in with the others. Lawrence locked the cell back and went over to one of the desks to catch his breath. Damn drunk fool’s heavier than he looks. Abbey probably wouldn’t miss him for a few minutes, so Lawrence sat down and kicked his feet up on the desk, leaning his chair back until his head could rest against the wall. He could just faintly hear the muffled instruments and singing coming from the cabaret, though he couldn’t make out any words. Guillermo and the other two singers, Vince and Gloria, were all singing tonight, taking turns, singing duets, and putting on as much of a show as they could. Lawrence was disappointed he hadn’t had a chance to step in and watch them, but he was sure he could eventually, if this job panned out. The singing faded, the cheers took its place, and then those too faded. In the space between the applause and when the next song started up again, no more than a few seconds, Lawrence heard a new sound. It was faint, even more so than the singing, and just a few days ago he wouldn’t have recognized it at all. He pressed his ear up against the wall and heard the soft mechanical whir of an elevator where there shouldn’t be one. What the hell?
  2. Rude. No but seriously if this is more rpg like and based on Celtic mythology I’m in from day one. At the very least I’ll actually buy the game and then not play it for a year like the others in my pile
  3. I sorta expect Cersei to be in there between Tommen and Aegon VI. I’m not sure how it would happen but Cersei, without any of her children or Jamie, ruling for even a brief period of time seems like something that would make sense for her story.
  4. Bran’s actor has said Beinoff and Weiss got that directly from GRRM so I expect that will happen.
  5. I dropped a word and edited it in but not quick enough lol
  6. On the Richard and Aly post
  7. The Hotelier Clara took a little longer than was necessary deciding which of the two satin head wraps, red or black, she wanted to wear. It was going to be a long day setting up for the dance she held every Halloween at the cabaret, and she didn’t have time to fix her hair this morning. That would have to wait until she put on her Inspector costume later on for the festival. But it wasn’t the party preparations that she was avoiding by dragging out this decision over which wrap she wanted to wear. No, it was the meeting she had this morning. She knew she shouldn’t be nervous. She’d done all the preparations, checked and triple checked that everything was in place for tonight. Still, she couldn’t help it. The weight sitting in the bottom of her stomach had been there since she woke up this morning, and she knew it would be there when she went to bed too. She made a decision, grabbing and putting on the red one. It would complement her pink blouse more, after all. It took her only a few more moments to finish getting ready before she left her penthouse suite and took the elevator to the ground floor. There were a couple stops to pick up a few merchants and other businesspeople hoping to get some work done before the evening festivities, and Clara greeted them all and ensured they were having a pleasant stay. The elevator made the soft dinging sound and she stepped off on the second floor, where her soon-to-be-retired head of security, William Rodgers, was waiting. He was tall and thick around the belly, with a neat silver goatee and sharp but weary looking eyes. “Morning Clara,” he said in his soothing voice. She’d once asked him if he sang at all, but he’d just laughed it off. It wouldn’t have surprised her if he had a good singing voice, though. “Good morning Rodge. Are you ready for your last Halloween soiree?” Clara asked as they walked the short way to her office. “Here’s hoping I’ve finally learned how dance. It’ll only have taken me a few decades working here,” he said with a self-effacing smile. Clara smiled and gave him a hug. “I’ll miss having you around. Are you absolutely sure you’re ready to go?” “Barbara would kill me if we didn’t join the kids in Chicago. Don’t worry, though, I’m sure we’ll stay in touch. I’ll always be available when duty calls.” He gave her a knowing wink, and the weight in her stomach lifted just a little. It was good having people around you could trust, and there were few people she trusted as much as Rodge. They’d built so much of this place together, and he’d truly sacrificed to stay in Wellstone as long as he had. “I know you will be,” Clara said. She unlocked her office and they went in and sat down. There was a pot of tea being kept warm on a hotplate, as well as four cups, courtesy of her hotel manager George. She poured one each for her and Rodge. “But you don’t get to retire yet. We’ve still got a lot to do today. How are the preparations for tonight coming?” Rodge took a seat and grabbed his teacup, which looked very small in his hands. “Since we got your new hires acquainted with the place yesterday, when they arrive I’ll put them straight to work. Probably assign a couple to the cabaret and one to the casino with Sawyer. But besides that, I think we’re all set.” “Everything’s prepared upstairs?” Clara asked. He took a sip and nodded. “Just waiting for our guests to arrive.” “Good, good.” Clara knew the caffeine probably wouldn’t help her nerves, but drinking the tea helped anyway. “Oh, make sure George sends Lawrence up when he and the others arrive. I need to speak to him about a job.” Rodge arched his eyebrows. “If I wasn’t retiring I’d be worried you were replacing me.” Clara smiled and shook her head. “A different sort of job. Detective work for a friend. Though, if tonight goes well, who knows, I might keep them around. Keep a close eye on them, if you would, and let me know what you think.” “Will do. Do you want me in here for…?” “Thank you, but I’ll be fine. You keep an eye on everything else, and I can handle this,” Clara said. He set his teacup back on her desk and stood. “I’ll let you know if anything needs your attention.” Clara thanked him, and Rodge left. Once the door shut, she pried loose the false panel beneath her desk and pressed one of the hidden buttons, which locked the door. Then she pressed in the keypad code, and a section of the wall next to the door pushed out slightly and swung open. A light inside clicked on, illuminating the hidden staircase and elevator landing. She didn't have to wait very long. Within a few minutes, the elevator started to hum, then dinged again as the doors opened to allow in Julie Gillard, a woman whose influence Clara still did not know the full extent of. Her father had been one of the big shots who owned a sizable chunk of the Industrial District, but when he died most of it was divided up and bequeathed to the dozens of friends and contacts who presumably helped get him so rich in the first place. Julie was well-known and active in that part of the city, but there was some confusion as to what actually belonged to her. Whatever the case, the woman presented herself more humbly than most of her class. She wore plain jeans tucked down into her boots, and a brown coat that had no holes or tears. Her orange-red hair was tied back into a ponytail, and her blue eyes seemed very alert and focused. Julie smiled as she stepped out of the elevator and started forward, and greeted her in a friendly voice. "Hey! It's good to see you." “It’s good to see you too. It’s been too long,” Clara said with a smile of her own. She motioned for Julie to take a seat and went about pouring her a cup of tea. “How have you been?” "Busy." Julie sat down and graciously accepted the tea. "With all the craziness lately, I've hardly caught a break. Been to every corner of the city this week alone. What about you? Anything new?" “Rodge is retiring, so I’ve taken on some new hires. Not into the fold, though I’m optimistic. One of them kicked off whatever it was that led to Robert Devereux killing himself. I’m keeping my ear to the ground to find out what exactly that whole business was. So far, I’ve only found that it was connected to the Brotherhood.” "I like the sound of that, but please be careful. There have been a lot of pretenders, lately." Her expression became somber. "The last one cost us bad." “I’m sorry to hear that. Was it something we should be concerned about for tonight?” "I sure hope not." Julie sighed. Her eyes suddenly betrayed how tired she was. "This group's got nothing to do with the last one, and if they are who they say they are, then they could be the best friends we've ever made. If not, well I don't plan on meeting them alone. Is everything ready?" “The thirteenth floor will be cleared by then and the room is sound proof. No one should know the meeting is taking place. Is there anything else you will need?” "You've done plenty already. Thank you for this, Clara, I mean it." “It’s the least I can do. Whatever you and your new friends need, please let me know. Money, a place to stay, information, I want to help. Truly.” "I know. And you have helped, and you will help more soon, I'm sure. We'll need all those things in the coming months." She chuckled and shook her head. "If only everyone in this city had your conviction. We'd be unstoppable." A small, modest smile spread across Clara’s face. It made her feel much younger than she was. “Thank you, Julie. If we were all as brave as you, we might’ve won already.” "We will, though. It could take months or years, but we will." Julie's mood seemed to lighten. "May I see the meeting room?" “Of course! If you’ll follow me.” Clara rose and together with Julie they entered the hidden elevator. It only had four floors as options on the inside: the basement, Clara’s second floor office, the hidden thirteenth floor rooms, and Clara’s fourteenth floor penthouse, though none of the buttons were labeled, instead arranged in ascending order. Clara pressed the button for the hidden rooms and the elevator lurched into motion. “I haven’t got to show it off to very many people, for obvious reason, but I’m quite proud of it. George even more so. He designed it, and to hide the existence of these rooms, hired and fired several construction crews so only he ever knew what the final design would be.” It pleased her to see that Julie was visibly impressed. "Can't be too careful," the rebel replied. "This man George, is he available to do similar work for me? I'd pay him well, of course." “I’m sure he’d gladly help.” The elevator dinged and came to a stop. Clara pulled aside the scissor gate elevator door, revealing a long, narrow hallway stretching to the right and left. Motioning to the right, she said, “There are three small rooms down there, for anyone needing to lay low.” She led Julie to the left, to a heavy metal door. With the press of a button on the wall, it silently swung open, revealing a windowless room. It wasn’t decorated, and its only furniture was a metal table in the middle surrounded by eight chairs. There wasn’t room for anything else. The only other notable feature was a clock on one wall and red light bulb sticking out of the one opposite that. “I know it doesn’t look like much, but I thought safety was more important than comfort. Both George and I have access to a button that will turn the light on if there’s any hint of danger, though I suspect staying put would be the best bet in that situation. The only way in is through the elevator, and all of those entrances are well hidden.” "It's perfect," Julie said at once. "And the others, they'll be led in through the basement like I was?" “Yes. Preferably without knowing what building they’re entering. For my safety, I’d like them to be unaware of my affiliations until you’re certain they’re friends.” "I can arrange that." “Thank you.” Clara glanced up at the clock and saw it was nearly time for her other meeting of the morning. She expected Lawrence was a punctual individual. “Unfortunately, I have to head back down. I have a meeting with one of those new hires. You can stay here as long as you’d like and check everything out. I know the peace of mind that can come from inspecting things yourself.” "I'd like that. Thanks again, Clara." “It’s my pleasure, Julie.” With that Clara went back to the elevator, closed the door, and made it back to her office. She had left Julie and the hidden rooms behind for only five minutes when Lawrence arrived. Her hotel manager George, a short, thick man with a neat black mustache and noticeable limp, showed Lawrence to her office. She thanked George and told Lawrence to take a seat, which he did, placing his black cowboy hat upside down in the chair next to him. Clara looked the man over. He was in his early forties, and had seen a lot of sun in those years. His dark brown eyes were sad and his mustache followed the downward curve of the frown he wore. He sat up straight in the chair, though, and his eyes were sharp and with an unwavering focus, taking everything in. He had the melancholy air of someone who’d suffered in his time, but that it wouldn’t impede upon him accomplishing whatever needed doing. As she usually did, she’d noticed that upon meeting him for the first time two nights ago. There would not be much missed between the two of them, that she knew for certain. “Would you like some tea?” she asked. Lawrence said yes in a voice gruff in sound though not tone. She could tell he took the drink more out of courtesy than anything else. “Has George helped you and your friends find a place in the city? I know Guillermo mentioned wanting to get out of South Union as soon as possible.” “Mr. Parker was very gracious. I doubt we would’ve gotten a rate as cheap as we did without his help.” “I would expect nothing less from him.” Clara cleared her throat and set her tea down. “If things go well today, I’d like to hire you all full time. My head of security is retiring, and with the direction Wellstone is going, I could use with more guards. That would come with lodging here as well.” Lawrence looked surprised, though she could tell it was at more than simply her offer. “I thought your mention of long term jobs the other night was just you being nice.” “It was a real offer. I’ve heard only good things about you and your friends. But first I need you to help me with something. Or really, help a friend with something.” Lawrence watched her, and she watched him watching her. It was a moment before he spoke, when the lingering surprise on his face faded to a blank look that spoke vaguely of skepticism. “I appreciate all your kindness, Miss Teasley, and you offering us these jobs. But, if I’m being honest-“ “I expect you usually are.” He tilted his chin down in a small, almost noncommittal nod. “I usually am. And if I’m being honest, I don’t know why it is that you’re looking to hire us long term, and now asking me to help your friend. You hardly know us.” “You came highly recommended.” “You must trust Mrs. Devereux and her recommendations a great deal, then.” “In truth, not a bit.” She could see some of the skepticism fade as he could tell she wasn’t lying. He clearly hadn’t trusted Patricia, and it allayed his concern that she didn’t either. “You must trust me a great deal to tell me that.” “We’re both good at reading people, Mr. Harding. I trust what I learned about you from Patricia, not her recommendation. And I trust what I’ve seen myself.” “And what have you seen?” “A man with a conscience, who is honest and who doesn’t miss much. Guillermo loves you, the others respect you, and they all trust you. Five people, only one of whom, according to Guillermo, you knew a year ago.” She saw something flinch in his expression, not much, just a twitch of a cheek muscle. A reaction to his friend spilling a little more than he should have. He said, “You read all that in one night?” “It was a long setlist, and our friend does enjoying hamming it up between songs. Plenty of time for it. I’ve no doubt that by the time this meeting is through, you’ll have read just as much off of me.” “I’m not so sure about that. A woman who doesn’t trust her friend’s recommendation and does trust strangers this easily is a hard one to read.” She gave a small shrug of her shoulders and a coy smile. She knew he’d be able to get a read on her. Clara was a good liar. She had to be in her line of work. But she wasn’t lying to Lawrence about not trusting Patricia, about who she thought he was, and about wanting to hire him. She was as open a book as she was likely to get. “I trust the recommendations of certain friends. George, William, Gloria, Vince-“ “It a coincidence all four of them work for you?” “I like having people around me that I can trust. It was part of the reason why I hired Guillermo, and part of the reason why I want to hire you.” She watched him think everything over. He was deliberate, and clearly didn’t worry if he was wasting her time. She suspected that when he was on the job, back in the day as a sheriff, recently as a caravan guard, or now as a detective, he acted much the same way. “What did you learn from Mrs. Devereux that would lead you to trust me?” he finally asked. “I knew beforehand she suspected Robert was cheating on her. She said you were thorough and discrete in proving it. She said you also worked quickly, but I suspect that was more a function of luck than skill. Though it was the fact you went against Robert in the first place that most impressed her. And me.” Lawrence shrugged. “I’m new here. A lot easier to go against someone powerful if you don’t know who they are.” “Don’t play the fool, Mr. Harding. You’re smart enough to figure out who the big fish are,” Clara said. She paused to finish her tea, though she kept her eyes on Lawrence. “But Patricia did not mention precisely what it was you did. You’ve of course heard he killed himself. I’ve also heard he was connected to something illegal, something to do with the Brotherhood. Would you know anything about that?” She didn’t mention that Patricia had let slip she had evidence of the cheating because of pictures Lawrence took. Clara suspected there was more to those images than infidelity. Enough to cause Robert to take his own life, even if Patricia didn’t know what it was either. “I’d heard he died. I found proof he was cheating, but I don’t know anything about those rumors.” Lawrence didn’t flinch as he lied to her. She knew he was lying, he knew she knew, and he didn’t care. He was honest, but not willing to betray secrets to just anyone. That was a level of trust that had to be earned, not something he would just give away. She liked that about him. As much as Clara liked it, though, she would need to learn more. If there were pictures of Robert Devereux, one of the three powerful munitions merchants in the city, that incriminated him in illegal activity and involved the Brotherhood, those pictures would be very useful even with Robert dead. Once Lawrence and his friends were moved in, she might have to look through his things and see what she could turn up. But that would have to wait. There was still the job she needed him to do today, and the meeting tonight. “I suspected not. Now, about the job I mentioned?” “I’d like to know what it is before I decide, if that’s alright,” Lawrence said. “Due diligence is an admirable quality in a detective. My friend Vanessa Van Silver wishes for you to go to her house and meet with her. I gather her daughter is acting like a rebellious teenager, and saying things she shouldn’t. I don’t know the full extent of it, but what I do know is that no one should get into much trouble over teenage indiscretions,” Clara said. “You’re right about that,” Lawrence said. “I’ll head over there as soon as we’re done.” “Thank you, Mr. Harding. Good luck.” Lawrence rose from his seat, grabbed his hat, and gave her a nod before he left. As the door shut and locked, Clara sank down into the softness of her chair, letting the stress of the morning fade away. Her part in these endeavors was done, for now. All that was left was to throw a Halloween party, and that she could do blindfolded and with both hand tied behind her back.
  8. You’ll know I’m serious when I actually buy one of these games and then wait 2 years to play it like I’ve done with Horizon and Prey . But this premise does sound more interesting to me and more up my alley than the other games.
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