Last installment of 2009. If you are enjoying the series, I'd appreciate a comment to let me know. I think there will be at least two more chapters of this story arc, maybe three or four depending on how the final scenes play out on paper.
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8
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"How are we possibly going to find him?!"
By this point of reading my story you might think poorly of my intelligence. I had, after all, made quite a few missteps that in hindsight were easily avoidable. But I was young, just out of Common School, and had never experienced much of the cluster beyond our little corner back home and even there I was pretty insulated from a lot of stuff. Naive does not being to describe it. But I wasn't stupid.
"First, check all our documents to see if Rusack put a contact number or address on anything. I don't think he did, but its worth a check," I said.
"He didn't, he kept his fingers out of everything. Well, except the money."
"Still, check. Look for any number that you don't recognize."
"Alright," he said without much hope. "What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to pay someone a visit."
* * * * *
Rusack had obviously done this type of job before, and it was pretty easy to guess he had used this exact station in Perimeter system before too. He knew the people to talk to, what officials needed palm grease, which to avoid, what work crews could be counted on to do the job and not ask questions. You don't get to know that much without being around a lot. Hell, I would say you had to live in a station to get that much traction. Hotel rooms, even the seediest long term suites, were expensive in Perimeter but a small apartment could be affordable to a successful "businessman" like Rusack.
I made my way to the main concourse deck and employed a public terminal to browse through the list of residents looking for Rusack or some spelling thereof. I didn't find any but I didn't really expect to as I figured he would be a fool to use his own name to rent an apartment. I then entered my station warehouse renter access code and brought up the Goods Inspection report so I could note down the name of the crooked inspector Rusack had bribed. "Jacob Sintol," I muttered to myself.
I flipped back to the resident directory and searched for his name. A hit came up: "Sintol, J - Deck 20, Apt 197". I logged off the terminal and made my way towards the residential lifts, pondering my next step.
Caldari stations are typically set out so that the main concourses and corporation offices are on what is referred to as Deck 0, or the Ground Floor. Depending on the size of the station, decks 1 through 10 are commercial districts with the exclusivity and quality of the businesses slowly degrading as you rise through the levels, with local residential groceries, restaurants, and other businesses existing on the upper commercial decks. Living quarters for long term inhabitants start on deck 10 and, just like the commercial decks, their quality and size decrease the higher you go.
Deck 20 was still pretty low on the grand scale of things for this station. Things didn't get dicey until around deck 50 so it looked like Inspector Sintol had been doing very well for himself, especially in a well populated and busy system like Perimeter.
As I got off the lift on deck 20 and followed the signs towards apartment 197, I considered how to get in the door and what to do after that. I passed numerous doors and a few people out and about until finally coming to my destination where I pushed the buzzer and tried to look relaxed.
"Yes?" a voice queried through a concealed speaker.
"Inspector Sintol? It's me, Kirith Kodachi. You inspected our 'frozen vegetables' yesterday?"
"And?" he asked suspiciously.
"Everything is fine," I assured him in my breeziest tone. "Rusack asked me to hand deliver some information on another, er, 'inspection opportunity' that came up suddenly. He would have come himself but he needed to shuttle down to the planet to firm up details." He didn't respond right away so I played my trump card. "He knows it is very short notice so I sent along a bonus fee to cover any inconvenience for you."
The door beeped and opened up a crack. I put on my best smile and held up my debit card which had a grand total of ten credits and change on it but he couldn't tell that from there. As I hoped, he greed overcame his caution and he opened the door all the way.
"Come on in."
I strode past the entryway and waited while he closed the door behind me, surveying the apartment for signs of other people. It was a modest apartment so unless he had a wife or child in a bedroom or washroom, I figured we were alone. Judging by the single armchair in front of the vid screen, I figured I was right.
The door closed and I grabbed his lapels and slammed him against the wall. I wasn't a big guy; average height, average build. Sintol had a few inches on me and a lot of pounds, but it was all mush and I was young and in decent shape.
The inspector sputtered in indignation and tried to remove my hands from his shirt. I pulled him forward a bit and then slammed him harder against the wall so that his head smacked a little, taking out my rage and frustration. I think it showed on my face because his face changed from surprise to fear and confusion. "I... I... I..." he stuttered.
"Rusack has my money! Where is he?"
"I... I don't know!" he finally got out. I slammed him again, driving my knuckles into his collarbone a bit more. He cried out in pain, "Please stop!"
"Tell me where to find Rusack. Stop wasting my time! A number, an address, something! NOW!"
"Please, I don't know..."
"BULLSHIT!" I slammed him harder yet again against the wall and he put his hand to the back of his head. "Stop protecting him and start thinking about yourself, you lying piece of shit! I'm out millions of ISK, broke, and very very angry. If I can't find Rusack, I'm going to take it out on you."
I had never really hurt anyone before, my sole fist fight in school being a couple of wild punches before we wrestled to the ground and punched each other in the side of the head. I don't think I would have gone much farther than pushing the old man around and making lots of noise, I was already startled by my last shove and felt a little bad for hurting him. My how things have changed.
"I don't know where he is!" he pleaded. "But I think know where he lives!"
"Deck 81! I went there a couple years ago to pick up some stuff from him!"
"I think.. 23?" I tightened my grip and clenched my jaw. "Yes! Definitely 23!"
A measure of relief washed over me. It wasn't a solid lead, but it was better than nothing. At the very least it might give me a pseudonym to track down. I threw the other man to the side and he stumbled onto his knees on the floor.
"Good, I don't need to scrape my knuckles." I walked over and roughly helped him up by the back of his collar. "Now let's find something to tie you up with so you don't go calling Rusack before I can see him."