Freddy, their Met Police contact, turned out to be both their police contact and the right underworld contact. The bar was so smoky the patrons were never sure if they were with their friends or just high-backed chairs with some listening ability.
Hank focussed on his drink. He didn't want to let it sink in that he had gotten involved with Sneezly. If there was one thing you wanted to avoid, it was getting on Sneezly's radar, because once you were on it, the only way to get under it was to go six feet down. And now he was at odds with Sneezly, it wasn't as if his Debt wasn’t a problem enough.
The broad and her case were bringing all sorts of trouble Hank's way, the fact that he had predicted just this situation was as comforting watching a firing squad slowly load their weapons.
Across the table, Freddy wiggled .
"I don't know what that is, I don't know why she would want it."
"She?" Hank gave an evil eye to the blur across the table.
"I didn't say she, I meant, you know, he, she, doesn't matter."
The raisin shaped head jittered as it talked. He looked around, as if waiting for someone to end the meeting suddenly, possibly by the use of small arms fire.
Hank took out his sizeable if questionably functional gun and thumped it on the table.
"You know, Freddy, I'm not a usually violent man."
"He has only killed or maimed 23% of his contacts in the past quarter," offered Greg.
"See? I'm not usually. But when a trusted friend and confidante -- such as yourself -- starts lying to me, then tries to cover it up...” Hank paused, ”Well."
"23%." repeated Greg. Hank wasn't quite sure if Greg knew how menacing he could be with statistics.
Freddy, or the shadow that was Freddy, stopped, as if considering which dangerous and probably lethal option to take. It was an agonized silence.
"Alright, alright. A lady, she was wrapped up, she came by and offered me triple what you guys usually do. She went in. Honest, I had no idea what she was after."
"What did she sound like? What did she look like?"
"I don't know, it was all via text to my Desktop. She didn't say anything. She smelled like violets though."
Hank's mobile transmit went off. He checked the display, it was Him. Hank answered it, his voice went low, and his eyes stuck to the ground.
"We gotta go Greg."
"Just when things were getting interesting? We are walking away from our lead in this case just because you received an unsettling phone call? Honestly, this is a bellwether of where your career is heading."
"It was from Him, who I owe the debt to."
Hank nodded as if any sudden movements might set off a heretofore unseen bomb.
They walked out of the bar and into a large robot that smelled of expensive oil. It grabbed both Hank and Greg and walked into waiting ship. The ship lurched as it shot into the skyway.
It was dark. A speaker somewhere above crackled on.
"It seems, Mr. Pirelli, that we have a friend in common. Say hello to, oh I suppose you call her Jane or some similarly dreadful name."
"Hello." the voice was sultry, and almost too close; it sounded like silk being drawn under duress, too tight.
"You okay Jane?"
"I'm fine, for now."
"You had the pendant all along didn't you?"
"I... I did."
"I had to have someone distract other people who might have been interested in it. I’m kind of important."
"Right." Hank tried not to breathe in her smell too deep, warm violets. He put his brain to thinking of some sensible plan that didn't involve him screaming and possibly fainting. He grimaced. Trying to save yourself from almost certain death and looking cool was nearly impossible.
The lights came on, and Sneezly Simpernel strolled into the cargo bay. The floor rumbled, the ship was going an appreciable speed down the skyway. He had come to gloat, thought Hank. Sneezly held the Perma-Ice pendant on his fingers, playing with it.
"So.." he began.
Jane's hands flashed and out flew throwing knives, long thin and silver. They skewered his hand, he screamed, the pendant fell to the floor. In a fluid motion she dove, caught it in the air and rolled to a crouch. She looked back at Hank then up, her eyes widening.
The very large robot with the expensive smelling oil whirred to life. Greg in the confusion had already made his way to the back of the larger robot. When turned on, he lept up onto it's back, snapped a few tools from his wrist, removed the robot's head panel, and rewired a good portion of it before it could take single step forward.
"Old robots are old and tired, it's true. But we learn a fair bit along the way. Lady, and gentleman, shall we depart?"
Sneezly had activated a not so silent alarm, and suddenly the sound of running boots echoed down the hall. He screamed, drew a long sleek gun and leveled it at Jane as she ran towards Hank. Without thinking about the possibilities of a terribly disfiguring misfire, Hank drew and shot. The weapon made a sound like crashing metal. Sneezly dropped to the ground, from fear and shock. A sizable hole was in the opposite wall, quite far from anywhere Sneezly might have been.
Hank and Jane clambered on the large robot, and Greg drove. First he made it rip a good hole in the bay.
"This is the sort of robot that has thrusters, isn't it?" yelled Hank over the howl of the outside wind.
"I do hope so."
The large robot jumped out of the ship, and they free fell. The repeat of laser weapons roared behind them. Hank's eyes streamed tears from the ripping wind and he tried to focus on the worst problem. The fear from the shooting goons was replaced by the terror of dropping at terminal velocity at an Earth that could not be dodged. An explosion like TNT being detonated with a few hand-grenades went off. The robot had finally fired it's rockets. Hank and Jane held on and Greg maneuvered the robot to safety.
The Debt was being called. In a small dark oak paneled room with darker carpeting Hank waited. Greg waited with him, quiet, almost non-plussed. Hank had not gotten the money, or enough money. He hoped his death would be quick.
The Mayor, as he was known, walked in. He was a tall thin man, wore the same grey suit, and spoke quickly, cutting every word with the precision of a particularly high achieving surgeon.
"It's come to my attention that there is a Debt to be paid."
"A very serious one, in fact."
"Don't interrupt me." The Mayor motioned towards the door and in walked Jane.
"My daughter is the most important thing in my life, Mr. Pirelli. When I heard that she had been taken by Mr. Simpernel, there was no telling what destruction and wrath I was prepared to unleash upon the city. He's man who would like nothing better than find an excuse to kidnap my daughter, and excise some blood from me and my territories. Imagine, he said my daughter had stolen a pendant.”
Jane fluttered her eyes down. She was a delicate flower to her father. A victim in this whole ordeal, Hank kept quiet.
“ Something one of his men had been transporting when he had been, uh, liquidated. Naturally he needed an excuse to hold her hostage, to maintain face in front of the other Families.
"I was stuck, Mr. Pirelli. I couldn't challenge his honour. It was his word against mine. And I couldn't launch an all out rescue attempt, not without bringing the wrath of all the Families upon me. And then there you are, suddenly, saving her, delivering her to my doorstep.”
He gave a brief appraising look at Hank.
"In short, Mr. Pirelli, your Debt is paid."