Which wise man was it that said ‘greed was good’? Craig briefly wondered which head of which old world corporation had coined the phrase, but it certainly applied here. Whatever compunction Stiles had felt about ripping free a rival corps employee had fallen away pretty quickly after a few quiet words.
Greed had got the better of Mr Stiles. Craig relished the chance of killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. Another handy old phrase.
“I figure you could be a very interesting person to work with,” Stiles remarked, over yet another platter of sushi. Craig couldn’t stand the shit, but ate it with polite determination all the same. “In fact, contracting you directly to Sigma might benefit us all in the short term, and daresay the long term.”
“Well, let’s just see how things pan out, shall we?” Craig cautioned. He was surprised that Stiles was opening up so quickly to a total stranger. That was greed, again. “I certainly see no trouble for a short term contract.”
“I’d have to check with home office about the stipend …”
“I’m sure you’ll find my rates fairly comparable.”
Stiles smiled his grease smile, and shoved in a sushi whole. Spoke with his mouth full. All the things your mother told you never to do, Craig noticed. Like making deals with the devil. “No doubt! But you must excuse me if I haven’t already done a little digging on you, Mr Welles. An interesting back catalog.”
Craig repressed quirking an eyebrow. He shouldn’t be surprised, he figured. He’d done the same to Stiles. He took a sip of his green tea, to wash down some of the swill, letting the man continue.
“I’m not surprised that someone in your line of work has come across a man like Abraham Williams. I did some poking around into that one too. Interesting that he wants to jump ship, but I don’t think he’s entirely clean. Richmonds got him on watchlist.”
“Indeed,” Craig remarked, lying. “I noticed that too. All the better to go with this move quick.”
“But what do you want out of this?”
Craig put aside the squat mug, keeping his eyes on the guy. “Like you implied, Williams is a remarkable man. I’m happy to give up his expertise to Sigma as long as I can plunge his knowledge on Richmond.”
“Not much of a Richmond man, are you?”
Craig afforded a thin smile for Stiles. He knew he was skating a fine edge, but with any luck the Code Black would be lifted, just in time to snatch Williams away from Stiles and his cronies. He might not have Agency resources, or even Agency backing for the move, but there was nothing like getting Williams out, and getting closer to Stiles in the deal. Almost enough to make him regret his approaching retirement.
“I’m a man who likes to keep his options open,” remarked Craig.
“Like I said, fucking dangerous. You freelancers are too much! You’re nothing but a threat to us good company men.”
‘If only you knew,’ thought Craig, as he sipped his tea again. He idly stared at a kid across the establishment. Yellow leathers and spiked blond hair.
“If you can drop me the appropriate intel on Williams, then I’ll do the dogwork on this one. Just the basic work up. My people can take care of the rest. It might be an idea if your people take care of the chop work. Given he will finish this up as a Sigma employee.”
Stiles regarded him in silence for a moment, before nodding. He extended a pudgy paw. “Lets shake on it then. All will be left is the paperwork.”
Craig took the limp wheatsack of a hand and gave it a cursory squeeze, a slight shake. “Deal.”
“An excellently fruitful lunch appointment, Mr Welles.”
* * *
Craig kept the same open collared look when he went to the club. It was good to be free of a tie and its choke hold. He looked all the part of a businessman after hours, going down to his favorite local gin joint. Truth be told, he had never heard of the Blue Note before Dogson had mentioned it on intel. It was a quaint little melting pot, but entirely typical of Neon City.
A stunning black woman was on the stage, slow smoothing out a jazz number about a man called the Jackal.
Craig figured that this was all a little akin to his old SIS days. Running all the intel and legwork himself. In a way, it was a good break to get back to his roots. Maybe this Code Black was the best thing to have happened for a while. It was helping to blast a little of the cobwebs free.
It was a good turnout tonight, the club closed in its ranks of patrons. Craig scanned the crowds silently, before he picked Williams in one of the back booths. He bookmarked his presence and headed towards the bar to order a drink. Something sharp and stout. He settled on a tight, neat whiskey. The man behind the bar passed it over, looking sharp in his waistcoat and tie.
Craig glanced back towards Williams, despite his wetware keeping the presence directional to his mind. He frowned when he saw the particulars of the mans surrounds. There were another two men at the booth, trying not to stick out in their Downtown attire. A fairly sharp, almost gaunt looking man with glasses. Craig wondered where he had seen him before.
Craig snapped a shot, and found himself regretting the Code Black for the first time. Maybe Dogson did have his purposes.
There was a case sitting on the top of the table that Craig recognized.
‘Silly little boy,’ Craig thought, realizing maybe he was close to losing him. ‘Gone and taken a better offer. Thought I told you to sit for a while.’
One of the establishments waistcoated employees joined the table briefly. Craig could tell by the way the man moved that he was more than just a casual waiter. The facial expressions spoke of a muted confrontation. Mr Glasses smiled, dry, and then stood. Up on the stage, the stunning black woman finished her song.
Craig took another few snaps of Mr Glasses and his goons as they exited the club. The case was still on the table top. Craig made his way over to the rather harried looking Williams. The man was surprised to see him, as Craig slipped into the booth opposite him.
“Trying to take the highest bidder?”
“Fuck. What are you doing here?” Williams shot back. Then it occurred to him, “How did you find me?”
“I’m a resourceful man, Mr Williams. And you’re about to become a Sigma employee.”
Williams gave him a look like Craig could read his mind. “How did you know? I was only just contacted by them about an hour ago. You set it up?”
Craig tried to hide his surprise, but he knew he’d failed. His composure slipped as he realized Stiles had just got the drop on him. Trying to slip Williams out without his help. Slippery fucking shark. Craig rested back in the booth, glancing back towards the stage. The silence between them didn’t seem to be doing much to calm Williams nerves.
“They moved a little more quickly than I anticipated,” Craig remarked. An understatement to say the least. “I wanted to at least give you a few options. Put them on the table. What’s your feeling on Sigma?”
“It’s not Richmond.”
“You’ve been a bad boy, Abraham. Richmond has been watching you. You’re sure they aren’t watching you now?”
Williams pushed a hand back through his hair, and it didn’t do much to improve his appearance. “Just got to take my chances. Move quick.”
“Maybe I was wrong about what I said.”
“What do you mean?” Williams asked, staring back across the table at Craig. He looked like someone who didn’t like the company he was being forced to keep.
“About the sort of people I work for. Maybe they do need someone like you.”
“The Iwi Sympathizers?”
“Yes,” Craig replied, frankly. “And I’m sure they can give you a better offer than Sigma. You don’t want to go with Sigma. They weren’t my first choice for you.” Williams looked entirely unsure. Craig wondered what sort of figure Sigma had given him. He’d looked fairly close to taking it before they were interrupted.
“What’s your angle? I thought you set up this Sigma stuff?”
“You’re in a lot of trouble, Abraham. So it’s best if you do just what the fuck I tell you to. Especially now you’ve put yourself in the tank with the big fish. I have your best interests at heart. You came to me for help, right?”
“Yeah.” Williams nodded briefly. Sharp.
“Then you’ll find it best to do what I tell you. Time will be short and important here. I want you to walk out of this club, and straight towards the Bullet. You’ll catch the 11.10, then get off at Adjunct 776. You will go to this address, and there will be a woman named Aroha there who will meet you.”
Craig willed the details through to Williams, and he felt the mans wetware accept the facts after a brief pause. Williams just nodded again, staring passed him. Craig wondered if it was Mr Glasses, asking. Williams nodded again, Craig opting to look suitably grim.
“Best take the back way, then. Do you trust me, Abraham?”
Craig could tell that he didn’t. The poor fool probably didn’t know who to trust now he had tumbled out of his safe corporate office. Craig pushed the point. “Do you trust me?”
Not convincing. Craig nodded, standing. Forced Williams to do the same. “Back door. Go now.” Thankfully Williams moved like a man with a mission and a place to be. Craig knew that he had to move quick and carefully to pull this one off, least Williams end up a victim of poor timing.
Craig started towards Mr Glasses, who was already motioning his men to move. Craig put a link through to Stiles, taking a sweet tone when he felt the man’s presence.
“Stiles,” Craig remarked, shouldering his way towards Mr Glasses. The tall, gaunt man had the decency to stay where he was, realizing the gig was up on some level. “I have reason to believe that Williams has bolted. I think Richmond are onto him a lot closer than we thought.”
“I’ve got my men –”
“I realize that. I said Williams has bolted. Thankfully, I know where he’s headed. So it’s just a matter of putting our men at the Taranaki exit of the Bullet.”
“I’ll get my people to stop him before he even boards it.”
“No,” Craig said, finally standing before Mr Glasses. “I think it’s better we keep him bottled, and not let him know we’re onto him. Else he could slip off to anywhere in Neon City. Then we lose him. Now excuse me, but I think I’m just about to introduce myself to one of your associates.”
Craig cut the call before pleasantries could be offered. The man in the glasses extended a gloved hand, and Craig took it in a strong shake. It felt like real leather. With the handshake, their credentials exchanged and began to populate Craig’s heads up.
“I believe you know my employer,” the man said. “My name is Mr Erikson.”