“I’m sorry, Dad. I’m so sorry. Just get out of there. I’ll call you when this is over.”
“Jasmi—” he started, but I hung up.
Another benefit to the proxy service: Dad couldn’t call me back.
I cowered in the nook the rest of the evening. I darted out to go to the bathroom twice, but that was it. I spent the rest of the time just fearing for my life and compulsively reading the news.
I woke up the next morning with cramped legs and a sore back. That’s the thing about crying yourself to sleep. When you wake up, the problems are still there.
I pushed the access panel aside and rolled out onto the corridor floor. I stretched out my complaining muscles. Bean Down 27 didn’t get many people coming through, especially this early in the morning. I sat on the floor and ate a hearty breakfast of unflavored Gunk and water. I should have stayed hidden in the nook but I just couldn’t take the cramped quarters any longer.
Sure, I could just hide out and hope Rudy caught the killer, but it wouldn’t help. Even if he succeeded, the people behind it would send another one.
I took another bite of Gunk.
It was all about Sanchez Aluminum.
But why? Why were people killing each other over a bygone industry that didn’t even make much money?
Money. It’s always about money. So where was the money? Trond Landvik hadn’t become a billionaire by randomly guessing at shit. If he wanted to make aluminum, he had a tangible, solid reason. And whatever it was, it got him killed.
That was the key. Before I worked on who I had to figure out why. And I knew where to start: Jin Chu.
He was the guy at Trond’s house the day I delivered the cigars. He was from Hong Kong, he had a box labeled “ZAFO,” and he tried to hide it from me. That’s all I had.
I poked around online, but I couldn’t find anything about him. Whoever he was, he kept a low profile. Or he’d come to Artemis under an alias.
That cigar delivery felt like forever ago but it had only been four days. Meatships come once a week and there had been no departures in that time. Jin Chu was still in town. He might be dead, but he was still in town.
I finished my “breakfast” and put the packaging back in my nook. Then I sealed the nook, straightened my rumpled jumpsuit, and headed out.
I hit a secondhand shop in Conrad and bought a hell of an outfit: a bright-red miniskirt so short you could almost call it a belt, a sequined top that exposed my midriff, and the tallest heels I could find. I topped it off with a large red patent-leather handbag.
Then off to a hair salon for a quick updo and voilà! I was now a floozy. The girls at the salon rolled their eyes at me as I checked myself out in the mirror.
The transformation was disturbingly easy. Sure, I have a nice body, but I wish it had been a little more effort to become so trashy.
Travel’s a bitch. Even when it’s a once-in-a-lifetime vacation.
You leak money like a sieve. You’re jet-lagged. You’re exhausted all the time. You’re homesick even though you’re on vacation. But all of those hassles pale in comparison to the food.
I see it all the time here. Tourists love to sample our local cuisine. Problem is: Our cuisine sucks. It’s made of algae and artificial flavors. Within a few days the Americans want pizza, the French want wine, and the Japanese want rice. Food makes you comfortable. It’s how you recenter.
Jin Chu was from Hong Kong. He’d eventually want proper Cantonese food.
The types of people who have one-on-one meetings with Trond are business magnates or, at the very least, highly important people. Those people travel a lot. They learn to stay where the food’s good.
So we had an important, travel-savvy guy from Hong Kong who’d want home cooking. One establishment fit the bill perfectly: the Canton Artemis.
The Canton, a five-star hotel in Aldrin bubble, catered to the Chinese elite. Owned and operated by Hong Kong business interests, they provided a homelike experience to high-end travelers. And most important, they had a proper Cantonese breakfast buffet. If you’re from Hong Kong and you have unlimited money, the Canton is where you stay.
I walked into the plush, well-adorned lobby. It was one of the few hotels in town that had an honest-to-God lobby. I guess when you charge 50,000? a night for a room, you can waste a little space on presentation.
I stood out like a sore thumb in my prostitute regalia. A few heads turned in my direction then turned away in disdain (though the male heads took a little longer). An old Asian lady manned the concierge desk. I walked straight up without a hint of shame. Internally, I was embarrassed as all hell—I did my best to hide it.
The concierge gave me a look that told me I’d offended her and her great ancestors. “Can I help you?” she asked with a slight Chinese accent.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’ve got a meeting here. With a client.”
“I see. And do you have this client’s room number?”
“Do you have his Gizmo ID?”
“Nah.” I pulled a compact out of my handbag and checked my ruby-red lipstick.
“I’m sorry, madam”—she looked me up and down—“I’m unable to help you if you don’t have his room number or some other proof that you’ve been invited.”