"Born of the Blade" - Part Three

"Here we go," said Absinthe, tapping commands into her keyboard.
We were gathered around a desktop terminal in the club's upstairs office. Absinthe gestured at the screen as a display box appeared and video footage started to play. The angle looked down at a set of low cushioned chairs around a table near the front of the club.
"There," said Absinthe.
Brittany sat on one of the chairs dressed in a long sleeved black dress that fell to mid thigh, a drink in hand. Next to her was a blond twentysomething male with close-cropped curly hair taking a swig from his drink before resuming conversation.
I checked the image on my phone.
Todd Pearson stared up at me.
"That's Pearson," I said, looking back at the footage.
We watched them talk for another few minutes. Then they finished their drinks, got up from the table, and walked out of camera view.
Absinthe tapped out commands and another video box appeared, this one an angle on the front entrance. We watched Brittany and Todd leave the club.
"That's one set," said Absinthe and keyed more commands.
Another display box and another stream of footage.
We identified Eve and Sheena with their clients, each pair seated at other parts of the club. Eve with Cynthia Baker, Sheena with Dale Wannamaker. All three clients matched the images Miss Renée had given us. The footage was roughly the same. Sit, drink, and talk, then leave the club. Eve altered that by dancing with her client for a short string of songs before they headed out.
When the last stream ended, Absinthe leaned back in her chair and looked at us. "That get you what you needed?"
"I think so," I said. "Can you send those to Val?"
"Will do," said Absinthe, leaning forward again and keying commands. Then: "Done."
"Thanks," I said to Absinthe.
She nodded. "You'll find them, won't you."
"We will," I said.
I stepped away from the desk toward the window that looked out onto the dance floor below, pulled out my phone, and called Val.
"I got vids from Sis?" she said.
"Security cam feed," I said. "I need you to track the girls and their clients after they leave the club."
"Copy that," said Val. "Oh, and I finished a search with West Precinct. Nil on those reports. I'll try another pass, though. Different params."
"And BCU?"
I heard Val suck in a breath. "Not yet. But soon."
"Keep us posted."
After Val hung up, a thought struck and I called Miss Renée.
"Kat," she said. "You found them already?"
"Not quite," I said. "But thanks for the vote of confidence."
"Any leads at least?"
"Possible leads."
"Can you tell me which of the Copper Girls operating in BCU look similar to our three?"
"Yeah. Looks, build, complexion. That sort of thing."
"You think there's some kind of connection?"
"I don't know off the top of my head but I'll have one of the ladies run a search. Shouldn't be long. I'll call when I have it."
I hung up and found Mouse standing near me. I told her what I'd said to Miss Renée
"Hadn't thought of that" she said. "So what's next?"
Popped optic clock.
"Lunch," I said.
"Good call," said Mouse. "Fuel up before we slice and dice the kidnappers."
"Could just be one."
"More is merrier," said Mouse.

*   *   *

We stood by a Korean taco truck run out of an old schoolbus a block from the White Rabbit waiting for them to call our order. The dozen other patrons kept their distance from us, typical when a meter-ninety of dark haired Amazon in black biker leathers is standing nearby. It didn't help Mouse was still wearing her back scabbards.
At least no one called the blue boys on us.
My phone chirped for attention.
Mouse signaled she would pick up our order and I nodded and answered.
"All three went to the Roadside Motor Inn," she said. "Over on Center, just north of 48th. Got them on street cams all the way there until they got to the motel entrance. But the entrance leads to what looks like a courtyard parking lot. Cams couldn't see that far in."
"What about motel surveillance?"
"If they have it, it's not linked to the 'Net. Could be self-contained inhouse. I'd have to get in there to look."
"Roadside Motor Inn."
"Yeah. 5434 Center Avenue."
"Is that one on the list from Miss Renée?"
"Hang on." A few key taps, then: "Yup. It is."
"Mouse and I will check with the motel about surveillance," I said. "And you said the three girls went there with their clients."
"Yup. Clients drove."
A thought struck. "Clients drove there and back?"
"Good question. Drove there. I'll check ahead on the feeds."
"Call me with what you find."
I hung up just as Mouse walked up with our orders. She handed me my soy bulgogi taco and I took a bite before telling her what Val had said.
When I finished she said, "What're you thinking?"
I started back toward our Royale, still eating my taco. Mouse followed and matched my pace. "Those dates and times," I said. "On the data file. Must be when all three girls checked back to Heavenly Dreams. But nothing noted after that."
"You thinking whoever got them did it after they finished their business at the motel?"
"Yeah," I said. "Question is: where did they get them? At the motel? Enroute from?"
"Could be someone who works there," Mouse said.
"Maybe. Some staff person who doesn't like what they do."
"Well, if there's trouble, at least it's not the Ascot Arms."
"Yeah," I said. "We can't let them have all our shootouts."

*   *   *
We had just gotten back to the Royale when Val called.
"No on the drive back," she said. "Cams show the client cars leaving the motel but I only show the client driving. No girls with them."

"Okay," I said. "Any update on police reports?"
"Second pass at West Precinct also nil. BCU gave up three days before I had to back out."
"Yeah. They got close, too. But I left in time. I'll try again in a bit."
"Anything in those three days?"
"Also nil. Sorry."
"Keep checking."

*   *   *
We were turning south onto Center Street from 41st when my phone chirped.
Miss Renée.
I put the phone on speaker and slipped it into the dashboard holder.
"I have the info on the girls you wanted," she said.
"How many?"
"Three others," said Miss Renée. "Brandi, Starr, and Rhianna."
"Call them," I said. "Tell them not to take on any clients until further notice. Have them go someplace safe."
I heard her rattle off instructions to someone nearby then she came back on the line. "Safe. What do you mean?"
"As in where no one can get to them."
She gasped. "Oh my god. A stalker?"
"Could be. And it looks like they may be targeting Copper Girls who look like our three."
"I'll have Sam and Dean pick them up and bring them back to the office."
"Sam and Dean?"
"Two of our security guys here."
"What kind of security?"
"Private. Like you two ladies."
"Good. I'll keep you posted as I know more."
I hung up and was about to put the phone away when it chirped again.
On speaker and the dash holder.
"More on the clients?" I said.
"No," said Val. "Something else. Reports from South Precinct."
Mouse and I exchanged looks.
South Precinct meant Southside.
"They found bodies," Val went on. "First was on the 28th. October. Dumpster behind a mom and pop shop on Campbell and Mayfair. Throat slashed. Stabbed in the gut twice. Face cut up." Val swallowed. "I recognized the dress from the cam feed. It's Brittany."
"Shit," said Mouse.
"And," Val went on, "her heart's been removed."
"Holy shit," said Mouse.
"You said bodies," I said, my mouth suddenly dry.
"Yeah," said Val. "Other one's Eve. Red dress. Like in the cam feed. Found at Meecham Park on the 4th. Same as Brittany. Slashed throat. Cut up face. Gut stabs. No heart." Some keytaps, then Val made a sound of disgust. "Can't look anymore."
"What about Sheena?"
"Nil on her." Key tapping, then: "Far as I can tell, they're treating Brittany as a one-off and Eve as 'ganger casualty."
"Let me guess," I said. "Steel Demons."
That made sense. The Steel Demons punkergang owned a huge swath of Southside, from South Harbor east to Waterman and Campbell south to Sunset and were known for using blades on their victims and rivals. Meecham Park was on the northwest corner of their turf.
"Eve's head," I said.
"Yeah," said Mouse.
"Bingo again," said Val. "Eve still had her head. So it can't be the Demons."
"Can't be the Trogs either," said Mouse. "Too far from Winn Town. What other punkergang uses blades exclusively?"
"Just those two," I said.
"Fuck," said Mouse.
"Yeah," I said.
"What?" said Val.
"I definitely think we have a serial killer on our hands," I said and I pulled the car into the Roadside's parking lot, slid into an empty parking slot near the main entrance and cut the engine.
"Fuck," said Val.
"That'll be a new one," said Mouse.
"Shouldn't we let the blue boys in on this?" said Val. "I mean, that's what they do, right?"
"We don't exactly play well with law enforcement," I said.
"I know that," said Val. "I meant an anon tip."
"Miss Renée asked us to help her," I said. "That's what we're gonna do."
"Does that include going after a serial killer?" said Val.
"Let us handle that part, Val," I said. "Just keep on with the infodumps."
"Okay by me," said Val.
When I hung up, Mouse said, "She's got a point, though."
"Does helping Miss Renée include going after a serial killer?"
"It'll help keep her girls safe. End the threat."
"You sure this isn't falling into wetwork?" said Mouse.
"If you say so."
"You having second thoughts?"
"I can solo this one if you're not in on this."
Mouse shook her head. "No. Just thinking out loud. I'm in. Besides, somebody's gotta keep your big ass out of trouble. That way it can fit into that slinky red dress for Jake."
"Ha ha," I said and reached for my phone again. "I'd better call."
I dialed Miss Renée and told her about Brittany and Eve.
A long silence.
Then: "Another 500,000 Credits and you two stop him. Her. Them. Whoever."
"Understood," I said. "We'll get it done."
She hung up without further comment.
"And?" said Mouse.
"Stop them."
She nodded.
I was about to put my phone away when it chirped.
"Hey, Rev," I said, putting the phone on speaker. "What's going on."
"We have problem," Revell said. "Specs has been attacked."
I felt my gut clench.
Next to me, Mouse sucked in a breath through gritted teeth.
"What happened?" I said.
"Don't worry," he said. "He is still alive. But barely. Doc is taking care of him now. He will keep me informed."
"Sonofabitch," said Mouse.
"We will talk more when you finish," Revel said. "Focus on run."
He ended the call.
Another call.
I put her on speaker.
"Go," I said.
"Hit on Sheena," said Val. "Meecham Park, two hours ago. Same as the others."
I sucked in a breath between gritted teeth.
"Shit," said Mouse.
"Thanks, Val," I said.
I put my phone away, let out a long breath, and turned to Mouse. "Let go find us a serial killer."

(to be continued...)

"Born of the Blade"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 4

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