Page 48

I shot her a bitchy glare (I’m good at that). “Oh, he wants me here all right. For an hour.” I set the compact on her desk and fished around in my handbag. She leaned away from the compact like she might catch a disease from it.

I pulled out a piece of paper and read: “Jin Chu. Canton Artemis. Arcade District. Aldrin Bubble.” I put the paper away. “Just call the fuckin’ guy, okay? I got other customers after this.”

She pursed her lips. Hotels like the Canton wouldn’t contact a guest just because someone claimed to be meeting them. But rules get bent where sex is involved. She typed a few keystrokes on her computer, then picked up the phone.

She listened for a while, then hung up. “I’m sorry, but there’s no answer.”

I rolled my eyes. “You tell him he still has to pay!”

“I’ll do no such thing.”

“Whatever!” I snatched up the compact and tossed it back in my purse. “If he shows up, tell him I’m in the bar.”

I stomped off.

So he wasn’t in. I could stake out the lobby—the bar had a great view of the entrance—but that could take all day. I had a different plan.

That lipstick adjustment earlier hadn’t just been for show. I’d placed the compact so I could see the concierge’s computer screen in the mirror. When she looked up Jin Chu, it popped up his room number: 124.

I reached the bar and hopped up on the stool second from the corner. Habit, I guess. I glanced through the lobby to the elevators. A beefy security guard stood nearby. He wore a suit and nice shoes, but I know muscle when I see it.

A guest walked up, waved his Gizmo, and the elevator opened. The guard watched but didn’t seem too interested.

A few seconds later, a couple approached. The woman waved her Gizmo and the doors opened. The guard stepped forward and spoke to them briefly. She said something and he returned to his post.

No sneaking aboard the elevator. You had to be a guest or with a guest.

“What can I get for ya?” said a voice from behind.

I turned to face the bartender. “Have you got Bowmore fifteen-year single-malt?”

“Indeed we do, ma’am. But I should warn you it’s seven hundred fifty slugs for a two-ounce pour.”

“Not a problem,” I said. “Round it up to a thousand and keep the change. Charge it to my date: Jin Chu, Room 124.”

He typed on his register, confirmed the name matched the room number, and smiled. “Right away, ma’am. Thank you.”

I stared at the elevators and waited for the guard to take a break or something. The bartender returned with my drink. I took a sip. Oh, man…good stuff.

I poured a little out on the floor for Trond. He was a sneaky moneygrubber who would break any laws that got in his way. But he was good to the people in his life and he didn’t deserve to die.

All right. How would I get past the goon at the elevator? Distract him? Probably wouldn’t work. He was a trained security guard and his whole job was controlling access. He wasn’t likely to fall for bullshit. Maybe I could find someone tall or fat and literally hide behind them? Hmm, that seemed a little too “Buster Keaton” to actually work.

I felt a tap on my shoulder. An Asian man in his mid-fifties sat next to me. He wore a three-piece suit and an ugly comb-over.

“Purai?” he asked.

“Huh?” I said.

“Eh…” He pulled out his Gizmo and gestured to it. “Purai?”

“English?” I asked.

He typed on his Gizmo then turned it to face me. The text read: Price?

“Oh,” I said. Well, that’s what I got for dressing like a prostitute and hanging out in a bar. It was nice to know I had an alternate career path if smuggling didn’t work out. I glanced at the elevators and their guardian, then back to my john.

“Two thousand slugs,” I said. Seemed reasonable. I was rocking that miniskirt.

He nodded and typed up the transaction on his Gizmo. I put my hand over his to stop him.

“After,” I said. “Pay after.”

He seemed puzzled but agreed.

I stood from the bar and downed my Bowmore. I assume everyone in Scotland gasped in psychic pain.

My little friend took my arm like a gentleman and we walked through the lobby. We got to the elevators, he waved his Gizmo, and we stepped aboard arm in arm. The guard glanced but said nothing. He saw this sort of thing a hundred times a day.

You’re probably imagining a high-rise hotel with twenty-five floors or something, but remember this is Aldrin Bubble. The Canton only had three floors. My customer pressed 1. Excellent, that was the floor I needed.

The elevator took us to the first floor and we stepped into the plush hallway. Shit, everything was decorated here. Soft carpet, crown molding, paintings on the walls, the works. Each door boasted its room number in gold relief digits.

My date took me down the hall past Room 124. We stopped at 141. He waved his Gizmo by the lock and the door clicked open.

I made a show of pulling out my Gizmo and looking at it. I frowned at the blank screen as if it had an important message. He watched with interest.

“Sorry, I have to make a call,” I said. I pointed to the Gizmo for emphasis. Then gestured for him to go into the room. He nodded and walked in.

I held the Gizmo up to my ear. “Rocko? Yeah, it’s Candy. I’m with a customer. What? Oh no she didn’t!” I closed Grandpa’s room door so I could talk to my pimp in private. He’d probably wait a good fifteen minutes before he figured out I left.

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