A note about today's title: The picture connection for today will make sense once you read the bit (hopefully).
Click here to go back to the beginning.
It still felt stupid when she answered the door. She’d gotten a fresh set of clothes from somewhere, and she looked just as unflappable and serene has she had to that point. But the room was nearly steamy, and her skin was the kind of pink that made him wonder how hot she’d been running the steam shower, and for how long.
“I was looking for a tactful way to ask if you needed clothes.”
She blinked at him. “I called my boss and he set me up with a marketplace account, and stuff. So…”
“Well, I hate to eat dinner alone, and you’re the only person I know in PacIC other than the search and rescue commander who’s really sure I should work for him, and Inspector Hussein.” He gave her his best ‘awe shucks’ smile. “There a little place about a block away that’s good, they have all kinds of stuff on the menu.”
She walked back over to the table and grabbed her key card, sticking it in her pocket, and he stepped back from the door so she could close it.
“Was your boss understanding?”
She blinked at him, waiting for the lift. “Matt’s a worrywart. He’s not upset with me, really. He’s just worried. He seemed understanding of the fact I called as soon as I could.”
Brody had looked into GIG while he was waiting, and read some basic information pages about what GIG did, and what actually constituted ‘non-government’ survey. The short answer was that in most cases ‘non-government’ survey meant consumer information. But GIG was a little more advanced than that, they did a lot of social and civic involvement survey, a lot of ‘how do the people of x place feel about the school district’ kind of questionnaires and personal interviews.
Some of these companies had a less than stellar reputation, but GIG wasn’t that way. Her boss had a reputation publicly for being difficult and exacting, but if they had a relationship that meant she saw him as a worrywart that was a clue to who she was he maybe needed to pay attention to.
PacIC was generally gorgeous in the early evening, with a balmy breeze that swept along the perfectly lined streets angled to catch it. There was a pleasant thrum of the music and noise from over closer to the Galleria center, but as far away from that as they were it was almost like white noise.
Halcyon was probably his favorite restaurant anywhere on PacIC. There was a certain ‘beach cabana’ vibe the original decorator had been going for, when it was first built, but that had passed years since. When the new owners took it over they hadn’t changed anything more than recovering the old vinyl booths and putting a new sign out front. Letters made in the shape of palm trees spelled out Halcyon, and there was a silhouette of a kingfisher next to the letters.
“Welcome folks, sit anywhere you like,” the guy behind the bar called out, as they stepped through the ‘used to be a door’ opening. “Someone’ll be with you in just a second.”
Brody waved her to a booth along the edge, and slid in across from her. “The pesto sandwich is amazing, but a little messy. Or the macaroni. Pretty much everything I’ve had is good.”
She looked over her menu, and seemed to pick something quickly. “I’m not sure I get the bird thing?”
He smiled, looking at the different bird pictures, and fake stuffed birds all over. “Halcyon used to be a term for a kingfisher, something about a mythical bird that laid its eggs at sea. And given this is a floating city, and they’re always at sea, they thought it fit.” He frowned. “Have you ever been here before?”
“PacIC or here here?”
She shook her head no. “I did a long survey stint on Atlantica two years ago, which is just similar enough to be uncomfortable. And I’ve done a couple of short things on the Black Sea.”
“But the corporate office is in Boston?”
She nodded. “For a while I kept a place there, but…” She shrugged. “I go where they send me.”
Brody thought about that while they ordered. Her itinerant life, spent between ports and working all the time—he didn’t need to see her history to know that, he could tell it just having this conversation—made a chill run up his back. If she had died in the explosion, if they’d wiped their arrival out of the system, and wiped her out of the system, how long would it have taken them to realize something had happened to her?
Her boss would have raised a stink, but would he have assumed something had hurt her, or would they have assumed she erased herself from the grid and ran away? That was a thing people did, when they couldn’t truck the way humanity was going anymore. There were whole off the grid colonies hanging out in the American mid-west. The normal cities and things hadn’t survived the last dust bowl, but there were a few Luddite bands scratching out an existence there.
“So, Captain Halliday—”
She blinked at him.
“That doesn’t mean you’re not still—”
“It means I don’t want to be called Captain any more.” He hadn’t particularly wanted to be called Captain off duty even when he wasn’t retired. “Brody, please.”
“Brody.” She wrinkled her nose. “Are you going to keep calling me Ms. Wade?”
He grinned. “Well, probably with Inspector Hussein and the EMR. Otherwise no, Libby.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “Thank you. My boss offered to go digging into the ‘there is not record of me’ thing and I told him not to.”
He blinked, and leaned back in his seat. “Is there a reason for that?”
“I’m a superstitious idiot and as soon as he said it I felt like he was going to kick over some sort of horrible rock and get himself in trouble.”
Their waitress showed up with drinks then, and he thought for a long second before he answered. “Okay, first…”
She cocked a brow, waiting.
“You’re not an idiot, even if your job didn’t make that untrue, I’ve spent enough time around you to realize you’re not stupid.” He nodded. “And how likely is he to listen to that? Will he go digging anyway, even though you told him not to?”
“No.” She rubbed the back of her neck. “Not right now, anyway. Matt doesn’t interfere with the personal lives of his employees, and I wasn’t supposed to be on for a few days. Now I’m not supposed to be on for a few weeks. If I’d already started the job he might feel differently about that.”
Brody nodded. “Good. I don’t know if you should be…worried about anything, but I’m a big fan of following your gut.”
“It is,” he agreed. “And maybe it’s nothing and I’m just trained to see shadows everywhere.”
“And I’m overreacting?”
He snorted. “You are the least over-reacting person I think I’ve ever met, Libby. Anybody who tells you you shouldn’t be spooked right now is selling something.”