After leaving Heckle and Jeckle in the care of LA’s finest I made my way back to the Los Angeles Municipal Docks. I tried to keep from drawing any attention to myself the last thing I needed was another spot search by an offended police officer. The security was light and if wasn’t too hard making my way to the dump that Julian ‘Orange’ Redgrave called an office. I didn’t bother to knock, letting myself in to the sight of Julian sharing martinis with a blond far too young and attractive for him wearing a little black dress that could make a working girl blush. “Am I too late for drinks?”
Julian’s eyes turned upwards with a mild look of annoyance. “Too late, too early, and completely in the way. So a normal day for you.”
The blond leaned over next to him. Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?”
“Of course.” Julian gestured in my direction. “Kitty this is Samuel Sloan. A pile of trouble that will be leaving as soon as I figure out a way to get rid of him.”
“Pleased to meet you. I’m Kitty.” The girl said with a perfectly white smile.
“And you, I hope Julian is treating you well?”
“He is very kind. Although he won’t tell me why people keep calling him orange.”
Julian piped up from behind the desk. “Enough you two. Kitty why don’t you go in the other room and get us a couple more drinks while I find out what this mug wants.
Kitty made a mock pout then sashayed away. “You are just no fun.”
Just after Kitty left the room Julian stopped staring and the smile slid slowly off his face. “I think it goes without saying I would rather be spending my night with Kitty than you. So tell me how I can get you to turn around and leave before I am forced to hire some goons to get rid of you.”
“West Coast Construction. I believe they are a front and I need to know for what. And why don’t you have guards? Anyone could just walk in and interrupt you any old time.
“Armed thugs cause as many problems as they solve. Eventually they want a cut of the business. People see you walking around with a couple of boys and start to think you are a player. I prefer a solo act. I’ll make you a deal as I am feeling kind. If you walk away without one more word, tomorrow I will get information on West Coast Construction and give it to you for half price.” Julian sat up waving his finger at me. “I mean it not one more word, else you can blow.”
I took half a second to think about it then tipped my hat, turned and walked out the door. I even closed the door on the way out for him. I slid into the Fairlane considering my next move as Sarah’s voice came into the car. “It appears Miss Ishamoto is working at the Century Club tonight and would be happy to talk to you.”
“Cherry’s place? When did this happen.”
“Unknown Detective. Should I tell her you are on your way?”
“Do it. We are in a holding pattern until Orange reports back as it is.” I stepped on the gas turning the car towards home.
As soon as I entered the second story walk up I called home I was greeted by Sarah. “I took the liberty of ordering you some dinner and getting some clothes ready for your night out.”
“The chicken from the Chinese place next door?” My stomach involuntarily rumbled as I realized I hadn’t eaten since the plate of eggs this morning. “And it isn’t much of a night out. Just a fact finding mission.”
“Of course Detective, but still the Century Club does require a certain style. We cannot have Miss Azure’s people throwing you out. Not without good reason anyways.”
The delivery bot arrived on time with a plate of hot Kung Pao chicken. To tell the truth part of me misses delivery drivers, but at least you don’t have to tip the bots. The chicken was tender and seasoned just right. Sarah was even kind enough to be quiet and fade from view as I devoured it with abandon. A half hour and a warm if not wet vibrating shower later I was reasonably presentable in a black and red outfit Sarah had found in storage somewhere. I adjusted the hat, a crisp Stetson and made my way down to the parking garage and on to the Century Club.
The bouncer pulled the velvet rope aside as I approached, I gave him a polite nod as I was escorted into the lavish blue interior of Cherry Azure’s Century Club. Behind the bar and dressed to the nines was Asiru Ishamoto. Her jet black hair falling over a dress of deep red. I made my way to the bar taking a stool near Asiru and nodding in her general direction. Asiru excused herself from an older gentleman with an amorous look on his face and stopped in front of me. “Good to see you again Sam. I have a bourbon with your name on it if you want it.”
“Sounds perfect.” I decided to save my questions for when we could talk alone.
“If you take the third booth on the right I’ll be over with your drink in a moment.” Asiru turned to a pair of new arrivals as I took my seat, watching the Century Club’s peculiar brand of decadence with a mild disinterest. After a minute Asiru gently slid onto the bench across from me with a top shelf bourbon. My credit at the club must still be good. “So why are you really here Mister Sloan?” I could hardly see a trace of the terrified girl I pulled out of her apartment a month ago.
I took a long slow sip of the bourbon. “First things first, when did you start tending bar for Cherry?”
Asiru took a sideways glance to make sure no one was listening in. “The bar is just a cover. I really do computer work for her. Some legal, some not so much. A woman like Miss Azure is always watched and no one thinks twice about a young Asian girl tending bar.”
I nodded slowly. “And if anyone unfriendly should ever come looking for you again, Cherry is some formidable protection.”
I decided to let Asiru’s new employment well enough alone for now. “I am looking into a company called West Coast Construction. I am sure they are crooked, but have not come up with anything to prove it. Possibly some information might fall into your lap?”
“I do owe you at least one favor, so I’ll see what I can find.” Asiru stood up smoothing her dress. “But don’t expect me to go bailing you out every time you get in trouble.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.” I motioned for Asiru to slow down on her way back to the bar. “Be careful here, Cherry is a dangerous woman.”
“Mister Sloan I have been around dangerous people all my life. I know when to duck and run.” Asiru touched my arm gently then went back to her tending bar. The wrinkled gentleman was thrilled. I finished my drink in one long gulp and made for the door. Hopefully I would get at least a few answers tomorrow. I set destination on the Fairlane back to the hotel and started on my to do list for tomorrow.
Parking at the old hotel, I made my way into the lobby. Place looked about average for early evening drinks except for a couple of no neck types trying fairly hard not to be watching the parking lot. I skipped the elevator and made for the stairs switching on infrared as I quickened my pace around the stairwell. One more at the door, perfect. I decided to try to talk my way out of this and very calmly walked through the door, right into a sucker punch to the gut. The breath was knocked out of me as I dropped to one knee with the sound of his two friends close behind.
“Hello friend, my boss wants to talk to you.” The no neck in question was big, smelled of cheap whiskey, and hit hard enough that I was sure this was not his first rodeo. He grabbed my by the shoulder starting to lift me up for another swing.
In a moment of desperation I reached out with my titanium hand and heard the servos close as I squeezed somewhere I am not proud of. My apologies to Mrs. No Neck, if there was one. The goon dropped instantly clutching himself in pain. “Sorry other plans tonight.” I managed to sputter out before tipping a decorative plant I could not quite identify in front of the door and making a run for another entrance. I tapped the side of my eye activating comms. “Sarah the car and an exit.”
“On it’s way. Still making friends wherever you go Detective.”
“So it seems.” I took a hard left and burst out a side door still clutching my stomach as I fell into the car. “Get me out of here.”
“Confirmed Detective.” The car sped off into the night. “Destination?”
“Back to the office. We can at least control who comes in there. With luck our fishing expedition will come up with something tomorrow.” The trip to the office went off without further incident and I pulled and old cot from it’s hiding place in the wall. “Secure the building.”
Sarah blinked into view slow steps walking the office. “Taken care of Detective. The local area is being monitored and I am waiting for contact from Miss Ishamoto and Mister Redgrave.”
“Well done, Now I am going to get some sleep.”
“Good night Detective.” Sarah faded from view turning the lights off with her.
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