The Real Deal

By: Jason Cline

Every head turned as she entered the bar. This is to be expected of course, The Pitt isn't located in the safest part of town and a body doesn't live long if they don't pay attention to who is coming and going. It was what he saw that made Luke lose interest in his pool game. She was a real piece of work; tall and lean, her delicate elven ears poking through her thick dark brown hair. Her skin was the rich brown color a certain type of woman pays top yen to achieve. She was done up retro too, wearing styles made famous a century ago by Jackie Kennedy. A white polka-dotted dress fit snug to the waist and billowed out around her legs, swishing as she walked. She had used a silk scarf to capture her shoulder length hair, though several strands had worked their way free and framed her face.

Luke turned to watch the woman, leaning casually against the pool table unconcerned with the protests from his opponent. She moved with confidence towards the bar, seeming completely at ease in her body and her environment. The elf found an open spot at the bar and signaled the bartender. Her order completed the elf spun on her stool and surveyed the bar scene, looking for all the world like a queen surveying her subjects. The man seated at the bar to her left tried to strike up a conversation and was rewarded with a quirked eyebrow and what appeared to be a cool brush-off. Luke snorted; the poor sod never had a chance. Even though he had never seen this elf before Luke knew her type, "High Roller" might as well have been stamped on her forehead. Just another corporate slitch come to the barrens for a bit of slumming. Any minute now her joyboy would be walkin through the door, probably dressed to the nines.

As if on cue the door to The Pitt opened again. Luke couldn't help himself this time, he chuckled. Through the door walked the very picture of what the corporate elite thought of as 'Street Wear'. A black synth-leather trench coat complete with spiked shoulders, what looked like leather pants beneath, combat boots, the idiot was even wearing mirrored shades indoors. He had his hair fluffed up into a mop and the collar of his jacket turned up in a way he probably thought looked cool. Joyboy didn't look nearly as comfortable in his clothes or his environment as he hurried through the bar trying not to make eye contact with anyone. The elf woman hadn't yet noticed him so Joyboy took a few seconds to compose himself. When she caught sight of him and beckoned him over the Joyboy walked with noticeably more swagger than before. Shaking his head Luke turned back to his game. "Corps…" he snorted as he lined up his next shot.

Over the next hour Luke continued to watch the two suits, or more specifically he continued to watch the elf woman. Within a few minutes of his arrival, Joyboy seemed to convince the elf to move to a corner table, which afforded them a bit more privacy. As Luke continued to watch from the pool area he noticed quickly that the elven woman was completely uninterested in Joyboy, a fact he seemed oblivious of. As Joyboy talked the elven woman's eyes scanned the crowd, no doubt looking for something more interesting than what was sitting before her. Once or twice the elf looked over towards the pool area and Luke made sure to let her know he was watching her too. It wasn't long before the game began. Joyboy would look away or get up to get another round of drinks and the elven woman would search the bar for Luke. Luke kept moving around the bar, first he was playing pool, then he was sitting on a barstool, then he was talking near the DJ, but always he would watch her search for him when she got the opportunity.

Finally after an hour and a half of cat and mouse games Luke saw an opportunity. Joyboy had been hitting the drink pretty hard, Irish courage and all that, and finally nature came a callin. Luke had moved close enough to the couple that he could just barely make out their conversation over the background noise of the bar and he heard the man say he was going to the bathroom. Joyboy wasn't half way across the bar before Luke slid into the seat across from the elven woman and smiled.

"You've been watchin me…" He told her, the left side of his mouth twitched up in a roguish smirk.

"Have I?" the elven woman replied, her light brown eyes sparkling with mischief. She leaned forwards slightly and smiled at Luke. "Why would I be doing that?" she asked in an innocent voice.

"Because you're lookin for the real deal. An honey let me tell you, that aint it." Luke said, jerking his thumb toward the Joyboy who was standing in line for the bathroom.

"Awww what's wrong with Spike?" the woman asked in a playful voice.

Luke laughed, "Spike is it? What a wholly original name that is. I'll tell you what's wrong with Spike…he's a poseur, that's what's wrong with Spike." Luke turned in his chair so he could face Spike. Leaning on the table and gesturing with his left hand he continued, "I mean look at him. Black synth-leather and spikes…do you corps really think we dress like that? He looks like an extra in some stupid low-budget Cop trid."

The elven woman smiled again as she looked Luke over slowly. "And you're the real deal are you?" she asked skeptically.

"Lady…it don't get more real than me." Luke said confidently.

The woman laughed, "Well…your certainly sure of yourself I'll give you that. My name is Heather." She offered him her hand.

Turning back to the table Luke took her hand. "I'm Luke." Heather's skin was soft and her handshake was firm. She was wearing perfume and when Luke took his hand away the scent lingered in the air between them. Her eyes wandered over his face and Luke knew she was noticing, probably for the first time, the scars on his face and arms, the legacy of a life on the street. Her eyes widened slightly and Luke gave her a grin. "Like I said baby…I'm the real deal."

As Heather continued to study him, Luke noticed Spike out of the corner of his eye. The man had finished in the bathroom and was making his way back to the table quickly. Luke smiled to himself and turned toward Spike as he approached. "Yer in my seat Chummer." Spike growled, drawing himself up in an attempt to look threatening, an attempt that was greatly hampered by the fact that he was swaying slightly. Shaking his head Luke turned back to Heather and said, "How 'bout we get out of here. I got a little place in the back where we can…talk." Spike dropped a hand on Luke's left shoulder. "I said yer in my fragging chair you…" whatever else the man had to say was choked off as Luke twisted in his seat and drove his fist into Spike's stomach. Doubling over from the force of the blow, Spike went down on the ground whimpering.

Heads turned but no one took particular note. This was The Pitt after all, the chief stomping ground for the Pitt Dogs, and Luke was not only the leader of the Dogs but the bar's owner, if he wanted to smack some corp wannabe around more power to him. It didn't pay to get too involved with the misfortune of some poor slot who got on the wrong side of the Dogs. As Spike continued to whimper in pain Luke got to his feet and offered a hand to Heather. One look in her eye told Luke that she was a little less sure of herself now and that drew another smile to his face. If the elven corp wanted a taste of the wild side he would giver he one she would never forget. "Come on baby…I keep the good stuff in the back." Luke saw a brief flash of panic in her eyes but she recovered quickly. Smiling Heather took his hand, "How can I say no?" she asked coyly. As the two passed the bouncer, a Pitt Dog called Box, Luke jerked his head in the direction of the still fallen Spike. "Show this man out would ya Box, and be sure he knows his kind isn't welcome in The Pitt okay?" The ork grunted and threw Spike over his shoulder, an action that elicited a low groan of pain from the stricken man. Luke gestured towards the bar and a door that presumably led to his "little place in the back". As Luke opened the door for her, Heather turned just in time to watch Box carry her date out the front door of the club. Luke thought she saw her shiver slightly and grinned, looks likes little miss corporate ladder climber was getting a bit more than she bargained for.

Box carried Spike out the front door of The Pitt and into the alley beside the bar. "Fraggin poseurs…" the ork muttered to himself as he pushed his way through the debris in the alley. He had plans for the wannabe, plans that included quite a bit of noise, and he didn't want to attract too much attention. As the ork reached the end of the alleyway he bounced Spike on his shoulder. "Time to wake up chummer…I'd hate for you to miss…" What exactly it was that the ganger would hate for Spike to miss will never be known for at that moment the ork slumped to the ground unconscious. A perceptive observer might just have noticed a slight glow around Spike's hand, but that could have just been a trick of the light.

...

Rabbit grunted as he heaved the massive bulk of the fallen ork off his body. Rising gingerly to his feet he pulled the wig off of his head and shrugged out of that ridiculous coat. Wincing in pain he muttered out loud, "Why did no one tell me he was a vatjob? Christ I'll be pissin blood for a week after that hit. That slag must have Arnie Awesome mods to hit that hard."

It is no less than you deserve using that poor girl as bait.

"Save the lecture, I only have ten minutes."

Rabbit rolled the unconscious form of Box behind the dumpster and began to rummage through his pockets.

Does he have the key?

"That's what my informant told me." the elf replied continuing his search.

Informant? Bah…the man is nothing but a wastrel. He would have told you anything for the money you gave him. Money he will most likely use to buy more toxins to pump into his body. What are you doing?

"What does it look like I'm doing…I'm taking his weapons. If things go south I don't need another gun pointed in my direction." Rabbit replied, pocketing a Colt America L36, a combat knife with an eighteen centimeter blade and…

Ah yes, a certified credstick. Truly a deadly weapon…

Rabbit grit his teeth as he continued to search the ork's pockets. "You know…I always thought a helping spirit was supposed to…oh I don't know…help?!"

But I am helping young one. I am helping to steer you towards a nobler path.

The elf snorted. "I'd rather you help me find this fragging key…got it!" Rabbit pulled a small key out of the ganger's pocket and slipped it into his own. Tossing the wig and trench coat over the ork, Rabbit wiggled his feet out of the oversized combat boots he was wearing and pulled on some shoes that he had stored in the pockets of his trench coat. The elf checked his watch; seven minutes left, and turned to his next obstacle. A five meter fence separated him from the back of the bar.

You know if you had spent more time training perhaps you could use your magick to move yourself safely over this obstruction.

"Duly noted." Rabbit muttered as he pulled himself up on the dumpster and leapt towards the fence. The elf managed to catch the top of the fence and shimmy over dropping down on the other side. "Well at least it wasn't topped with razorwire…maybe things are starting to look up."

Rabbit approached the door cautiously. The door was protected by a screamer alarm, a simple device that extended pins down into the tumblers of the lock. If anyone attempted to pick the lock or force the door an alarm sounded. In addition to the alarm, a screamer sent a burst transmission signal to one location, usually Lone Star but Rabbit was guessing that in this case it would alert the Pitt Dogs. Simple low tech security for this day and age but very effective; and according to several of Rabbit's chummers difficult to circumvent. Rabbit held his breath as he turned the key in the lock. The door opened without alarm but it was anyone's guess if the transmission had been sent.

Rabbit stepped into The Pitt's storeroom. To his right were three rows of metal shelving units stacked high with all the supplies one would expect of a bar; various synthahols, snack foods, napkins, and the like. To his left was a door leading to the bar. None of this interested Rabbit however. The elf checked his watch, only five minutes left, time to find his prize. Directly in front of him was a door that Rabbit's informant told him led to Luke's doss, but around the corner was a door that led to a small office where Rabbit would find what he was looking for.

The noise from the club could still be heard in the storeroom, but as Rabbit made his way past the door to Luke's doss the sounds from within were unmistakable.

He is violating her. Do not just stand there you have to do something.

Rabbit checked his watch, four minutes. Moving past the door without a second glance the elf made his way into the office and closed the door behind him. The office was sparsely furnished with only a desk and a small chair. A large bay window next to the door looked out on the storage area. A set of six lockers dominated the wall opposite the door. The desk sat to the right pushed up against the window where someone seated at it could easily see out into the storage area beyond. On the desk sat a small terminal plugged into a jackpoint on the wall.

Rabbit pulled a small pouch no larger than a deck of playing cards out of his back pocket and unzipped it. The pouch unfolded into a small black nylon backpack. Rabbit quickly set about unplugging the terminal from the wall. The elf placed the terminal in the backpack and began rummaging through the desk. In one of the bottom drawers was the box that Rabbit's informant told him would be there. Scooping up the box and dumping its contents in the backpack, Rabbit once more checked the time. One minute to go. Rabbit closed the drawer to the desk and surveyed the office to make sure he had not left any incriminating evidence behind, and then he put on the backpack taking time to position the load comfortably.

Rabbit exited the office and moved deeper into the storage area. Finding a corner to squat down in Rabbit began to center himself. The elven shaman closed his eyes for a moment and felt his connection to the world around him. The spirits of all things where his allies and the mana of the earth responded to his call. Drawing in some of that mana, Rabbit wrapped it closely around himself, bending light and rendering the elf invisible to the physical world.

Rabbit opened his eyes and rose shakily to his feet. Rabbit felt as though he had run a marathon, the effort of cloaking his physical form had taken a lot out of the elf. As he made his way towards the door he heard a commotion from the front room. Checking his watch the elf smiled to himself…right on time.

Quietly edging his way forward Rabbit saw the bartender come through the door leading to The Pitt's main room and compose himself before knocking on the door to Luke's doss. A few moments passed before Luke opened the door. The two had a hushed conversation that Rabbit couldn't make out over the noise of the bar. It must have been bad news however because Luke slammed the door with a curse and emerged not long after buttoning up his pants and ushering the bartender into the main room of The Pitt cursing all the while. Rabbit slowly counted to ten before approaching the door to Luke's doss.

Rabbit opened the door a crack and surveyed the room. It was a simple one room doss with a kitchen area directly in front of him and the rest of the room off to the left obscured by the door. Not seeing anyone the elf moved into the kitchen area and shut the door quietly behind him. Dropping his invisibility spell Rabbit moved into the living area. Huddled at the foot of the bed was Heather, arms hugging her knees and sobbing quietly. Rabbit touched her arm gently and Heather shied away.

"Heather…it's me"

Heather uncurled slightly and looked at Rabbit with puffy eyes. Before Rabbit could speak the woman asked with a choked voice. "Did you get it?" Rabbit nodded. Heather took a steadying breath and stood up. "Then let's get the frag out of here…" she said voice cracking. The beautiful elven woman stood and smoothed her dress, then tucked her hair back behind the scarf she was wearing. Rabbit looked away while Heather composed herself and moved to the door. A quick glance outside told him the coast was still clear. He turned back to Heather, all business. "We need to leave…I don't know how long this distraction will hold."

Heather had moved to a small nightstand with a mirror and was trying to clean herself up. "Just let me get my purse…" she snagged a fashionable purse off the nightstand and moved over to the door.

An hour later Rabbit stepped through the front door of an all night Diner and spotted Heather in a corner booth. A glass of water sat untouched in front of the young elven woman. Heather looked up from the table as Rabbit slid into the booth opposite her and signaled the waitress.

"I made the call." Rabbit said, "I have a meet set up with Johnson in a few hours. Once the package is delivered he will transfer the money into your account and that's that." Rabbit looked up as the waitress approached, "Just some soykaff." The waitress nodded and left. Heather sat and stared at the surface of the table between them. "It's over…" she said in a small voice. Looking up at him she asked, "How did you manage to get Luke out of the bar…I heard him say something about Stilettos?"

The conversation paused as the waitress returned with Rabbit's soykaff. After she left the elven shaman smirked. "The Rusty Stilettos are a rival gang. I know a few of the Stilettos and I talked them into helping us out. I got them to bust up a Stuffer Shack in Pitt Dog territory. Seeing as how all the stuffers pay the Dogs for protection that sort of thing couldn't be taken lightly. I put the call in when the ork was dragging me outside and I figured on about ten minutes before the Dogs ran to protect their turf. With all the chaos it is not very likely that anyone will remember us well enough to come after us." Heather nodded absently

Rabbit drained his cup and stood, tossing a few yen on the booth to cover his tab. He looked down at Heather. "Look I know tonight was rough on you." The elven woman looked up with red rimmed eyes. Rabbit smiled softly, "If it makes you feel better you should know that once this package is delivered no one will have to go through what your sister went through." That said Rabbit turned towards the door. "Luke was wrong," Heather told his retreating form. "You are the real deal." Without a backward glance the elven shaman stepped into the night.

...

Heather was silent for a few minutes as she watched the young elf leave the Diner. When Rabbit was out of sight Heather chuckled and shook her head.

One of the other diner patrons stood up from his seat at the bar and sat down opposite Heater in her booth. "What an interesting young man." the newcomer said. Heather turned to face him and smiled. "Not very observant thought…" the man continued, "That will probably get him killed one day."

Heather pulled the bag she had taken from Luke's doss up on to the table in front of her. At first glance it could be mistaken for a purse she supposed. Of course Heather didn't have a purse with her when she entered The Pitt, but I suppose if one were to be generous such a minor detail could have escaped Rabbit's notice, he was very new to the shadows or so Heather had been told. Idealistic too, how else could she have convinced him to take this run?

"I must admit that I am curious as to what the young man meant about your sister?" the newcomer said. Heather took a few moments to study the man in front of her. Dressed casually in tan khakis and a blue button up shirt, Harry Taliaferro wasn't an overly intimidating man, unless you knew his reputation. Hard to believe that this man on the long side of his forties was one of the most powerful Mafioso in the Seattle metroplex.

"I told him that my sister was addicted to BTLs and that the Pitt Dogs were her suppliers. To sweeten the deal I told him that she recently died from synaptic shock while slotting one of their latest. He thinks this run was about getting the beetles off the streets before more people die. He even took The Pitt's terminal because he believes that he can use it to track down the Dogs' supplier. He's wrong of course, when he turns over the beetles and the terminal to our Johnson all he will get is a pat on the head and a few hundred cred."

Heather turned back to look out the window at where she had last seen Rabbit. "Oh the Johnson will tell him that he's got a source that can track down the shipments, but by the time he finds them word will have gotten out that someone is looking and they'll be long gone. You know how those things go." She turned to look at the mobster who nodded sagely. "Such is life on the streets." Taliaferro said with an affected sigh.

"Still," Heather said turning back to Taliaferro. "He handled himself pretty well and word on the street is he is an up and comer so maybe I'll throw him a bone again in the future." Taliaferro's face split into a grin. "Never write off an asset eh?" he said with a wink.

Heather smiled back and slid the bag across the table to Taliaferro. "Now how about we talk about the real deal?"