"Normal," said Eddie. "Age 26. BCU student. Hopes to be a suit one day."
"Yeah, poor little bugger." Tapping of keys, then: "Parents live in Lakeshore. One sibling. Older brother. Works on campus. Food services. Has 30,000 credits in student loans. Not very good with money."
"Personal. Less than 200 credits."
"We hear he gambles."
"Must be a bad gambler then. Or he doesn't use his account to play. Transactions are mostly petrol, food, and your typical university entertainment."
"Beer. Clubs. Porn. The usual. Reckon he uses cashsticks when he gambles."
"Got a picture?"
"State ID. I'll send it to your phone."
I turned to Mouse.
She went wide-eyed and shook her head.
Gestured to the phone and mouthed: "Talk to him."
She mouthed back: "No."
I gestured again.
She drew a Bowie from beneath her trenchcoat and waved the point in my face.
"Kat? Still there, mate?"
"Sorry, Eddie," I said. "She's still talking to our client outside."
"Ah. Shame, then. Well, tell her I finally found those vids she'd been looking for. The one about the cop and the terrorists."
Mouse's jaw dropped. She stared at the phone.
"The one where they try to blow up the building?" I said.
"Bang on. All four. Original discs, too."
"I think she still has her player," I said. "I'll let her know."
Hung up and turned to Mouse.
She loooked at me, closed her mouth, and frowned.
"You said no."
She turned back to the phone, then put the Bowie away, and looked out the passenger side window.
"Okay," I said. "Let's talk to Absinthe."
* * *
When we pulled up outside the White Rabbit, my phone gave a trill.
I checked and found the picture Eddie sent.
A square-jawed twentysomething male smirked at us from the display. He had short cropped blond curly hair, shaved at the sides.
Eddie added a note: "1.86m, 95 kg"
Mouse frowned. "I don't like him."
"At least we got a face for the name," I said.
* * *
Marco, the huge, beefy, pony-tailed bouncer, met us at the White Rabbit's front entrance and let us inside.
In daylight, the club lost some of its mystique and looked completely bare. Tables and chairs were stacked along one wall and a black tarp covered the two giant columns of speakers that flanked the deejay's platform.
Absinthe, petite and willowy, with jet-black hair and blood-red highlights, wearing a corset, red blouse with bell sleeves, and knee-length black skirt above tall lace-up boots, stood by the bar watching two delivery guys roll handtrucks loaded with boxes into the taproom.
"Boss," said Marco.
Absinthe looked up, gave a signal to Marco, and motioned us over.
Marco nodded and disappeared into the kitchen.
Mouse and I went over to the bar.
Absinthe greeted us with outstretched arms. "Ladies," she said. "Always good to see you."
"You too, Abs," I said. "How's Val?"
"Some days get rough but she's holding up well, considering. What brings you two here?"
"What, Specs not on the pulse of the city anymore?"
"Oh, he is, but this is about something that happened here."
"And that is...?"
"Lover's spat. Three days ago."
"Mike?" said Mouse.
Absinthe quirked an eyebrow. "You know him, too?"
"Sort of," I said. "Our current run has him involved." I took out my phone and showed him the picture from Eddie.
Absinthe peered at the display and nodded. "Same guy. He's a regular. At least twice a week. Self-proclaimed ladies man."
"Is he?" said Mouse.
"With the drunker ones. But he's been here lately with the same gal."
"Last two, three weeks."
"She a tall blond?" I said.
Absinthe gestured at me. "Your height? Long hair, down her back?"
She nodded. "That's her. The two of them had the spat. No idea about what exactly, but there was a lot of shoving on her part. I stepped in when it looked like he was going to shove back. He's not a small guy."
"We have him at a meter-eighty," I said. "Ninety-five kilos."
"About right," said Absinthe. "He definitely works out. But it's pretty-boy muscle. Looks good. Intimidates the ones who don't know any better."
"And you stepped in?" Mouse said.
Absinthe smiled. "With Marco."
I grinned. Mike might be big but Marco was imposing in that "break you with one finger" way.
I said: "Then what happened?"
"She walked out," said Absinthe.
"And Mike?" Mouse said.
"Back to the bar. Caught him talking with another gal for a few minutes."
"Who?" I said.
"Another regular. Candi."
"Are you kidding?" said Mouse. "Candi?"
"With an 'i'," said Absinthe. "She tells you so."
"Working girl?" I said.
Absinthe shook her head. "Not like that. Works for Red Farrell."
"Don't know the name."
"Bookie. Popular with the BCU kids. Sports bets, mostly."
"Of course. He'd be stupid staking out a claim here and not be."
"Our info tells us Mike has a habit in this area."
"And your info's right. I've seen him talking to Candi a lot. Especially in the last week."
"We'll check on Farrell," I said. "Tell Val we said hi."
(to be continued...)