Dan heard a click, followed by a panel of the wall swinging open to reveal another room. A voice called out “come in”.
Cautiously he slinked into the adjoining room, only to quickly cover his eyes to the glare of dozens of monitors. When his vision had finally adjusted Dan looked around. The room was a long thin security chamber. One wall was entirely covered in monitors displaying security feeds of different parts of the club. Dan’s gaze drifted across a half dozen sleazy business types enjoying lap-dances off in ‘private’ rooms.
“Sit” Frannie said rolling forward on her three-wheeler chair. There was a miniature tripod in front of Dan that reminded him of something used in a police interrogation scene. He obediently perched himself on it nonetheless. The door behind him clicked shut. For the first time he was able to get a good look at her. She was suited up a bluey-black security jumpsuit, her hair tied back in a bun, a single loose strand hanging rebelliously. She pulled out a remote from her jumpsuit and signalled to the screens.
Suddenly half of them switched off, the central screens merging to form a blown up image of a man in his late fourties.
“This is my husband, Paul.”
Dan began memorizing the features of his face, the stumpy bulbous nose, the creases around the eyes, and the withdrawn hairline.
“Our marriage was pretty typical. Except for his Job. Paul worked for WEXCORP’s external affairs division. He’d be out of the city 2-3 months at a time. Then they’d allow him to have a month back at home before sending him off on another business trip.”
“I won’t lie. It wasn’t easy at first. But somehow we made it work for us. Every time Paul returned he’d shower me with gifts from wherever he’d been, we’d go out for dinner like a first date all over again. No matter where they sent him, the first thing he’d say when he stepped through the door would be ‘there’s no place like home’. He loved this city. We rarely talked about his trips – he wasn’t allowed to go into details. But he never once visited anywhere that he preferred to here.”
“Well, that was some time ago.” Her face soured.
“It started with dreams. Nightmares really. He’d be waking up in a cold sweat multiple times a night. I tried to ask him about them, but every time I brought them up he became distant. ‘it was just a dream’ was all I could get out of him and then he’d change the subject.”
“So, after a while, I guess I just let it go. “
She paused and sighed, a darkness falling across her face, “But it didn’t get better as I’d hoped. It only got worse. At first it was just innocent questions about the building’s security, camera set up, the locks on my apartment. There had been some spikes in crime in the area, and I assumed he was just worried for my sake – what with being left alone for months at a time.” Her shoulders slumped, “Then he started talking about this guy that was following him every day from the office. That little red car that just waited outside on the double-yellows, waited until he came out and then left. And he’d swear he’d see that little red car a half dozen times on his commute home.” Dan felt an unease in his gut, the story felt familiar. Not the car, or the wife, or the apartment. But whatever was happening to Paul he could swear he’d seen it before.
” Well, maybe ’cause of the dreams, maybe ’cause of the paranoia, maybe one caused the other who knows; either way Paul up and decided one day he was quitting at WEXCORP. He just comes in, biggest smile I’ve seen him wear in months: ‘Darlin’ one last trip, and them I’m a free man.’ It was a miracle I swear-” Frannie grabbed a packet of ciggarrettes off of the security desk and pulled out the last pair, “Want one?”
Dan shook his head. She gave him a look as if to say ‘you’d better not judge me’ and lit up. “I smoked when I was a kid. Gave up when I met Paul.” She coughed, a puff of smoke filling her face, “I guess he was my patch. Without him I’m right back at ’em!” She laughed, struggling to find her breath. Dan didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing.
After a few minutes Frannie extinguished the tip on her desk and took a deep breath.
“Right where was I? Oh. Yeah. The trip.” She tapped the controller in her hand, the security monitors responding with a flicker. The video Dan had seen earlier appeared on screen: the man at the bar talking the ear off of the bartender.
“Who is that?” Dan asked. Frannie waved away the question and carried on,” So in the days leading up to this last job – Rome or somewhere fancy like that – Paul is all himself again. No nightmares, no paranoia, no weird questions. He’s telling me about all the things we’ll do once he’s back. All the places he’ll take me to see. How the company gives a big pay-out to anyone whose been in the Job as long as he has.” She paused, tears forming at the corner of her eyes, “- And that was it…”
Dan leaned in, “What do you mean ‘that was it’?” He reached out a comforting hand but she brushed him away.
“He left for the trip. He didn’t come back. That was six months ago. They never send him that long. Never.” At that point she broke down, six months of sorrows gushing out.
Dan reached out again and this time Frannie didn’t stop him. He held her and waited until her breathing steadied. He pulled back looking her in the eyes,
“Did you try asking his office? Surely they have to update you, you’re his wife after all!?”
She shook her head, her lips curling up into a rage induced smile, “They told me he’d probably found a ‘nice-young thing’ and decided not to come back. They said they can’t give details of where he’d gone, or how long for. That’s all I got from them…” Her gaze hardened, as her eyes darted up to the monitors still displaying the same scene in loop.
“Him” She snapped.
“He was Paul’s line manager. The one who gave him his assignments.”
“You want me to try and get the info from him? If the office wasn’t willing to-“
“No.” Frannie cut in, “Not ask. Take”
“You try talking he’ll shut up tighter that a choir-boy’s -” Dan laughed nervously, “Right, so this isn’t exactly a legal job?”
“Did you forget who you’re working for?” Frannie let out a laugh that almost seemed genuine.
“Each one of WEXCORP’s lackeys carry a card with them. It gives them access to their computers, the elevators, security checks. Everything in the building there allowed to use, and everywhere their allowed to go. You get that card from him. Get into that guy’s office. He must have something on his computer about where Paul went.”
Dan looked on in near disbelief at what he was hearing. If he’d heard all this an hour ago without the memories of the past night he’d have walked out of here and never looked back. But, he could remember. Once the bug of curiosity had bitten, that’s it, you were hooked.
“Surely someone in the building will realise I’m not that guy? And how am I meant to get it from him anyway?” Frannie grinned, she knew she had him.
“The second part’s easy. He’s a regular, and a regular drunk at that. He’ll be passed out by midnight and then you’ve just gotta pull it from his wallet. And don’t worry about getting in, there’s over ten thousand in that building alone, not to mention all the other tower blocks in the city owned by that company. There are new faces wandering in all the time.”
“And the guys office?” Dan said
“From what Paul told me none of the external affairs guys had permanent offices. They were always in and out all the time so they hot-desked when they were at HQ. You just scan the card at a terminal and it’ll download his files onto a fresh laptop. Then once you’ve got what you need, you hand it back and leave. Easy!” Frannie finished, her eyes saying ‘you in?’.
“Too easy.” Dan paused, “So when’s his next visit? This guy run on a schedule?”
“Next visit? He’s here. That’s live footage…”
Thank you for reading this canto of Sin City.
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