The bar was even darker then I had remembered. The only real light came from above the flickering neon tube behind the bar, which was little more then a slab of wood with some stools and drinks on top of it. I moved past the crowded tables to reach it, cutting through the curls of smoke that hung in the air.
Elbowing my way past the regulars probably wasn't the best idea, but I was in a hurry and didn't give a damn about them. Its not like anyone here would really want to kill me. Unless I knocked over a pint or something, but thats practically understandable. Anyway, I made it to the bar and managed to get the barmaid's attention. Taking a $20 note out of my wallet, I ordered a drink, then asked if the boss-man was available. She smiled briefly as I was given my drink and told me he'd be free in 5 minutes, in the first room on the left upstairs.
My time was up, I drained the last of my drink and ducked under the bar, heading for the stairs behind. Upstairs was pretty dark, as befitted the establishment. Rumour had it those shadows had hidden more than one assassin's knife or bullet, but I had no fear, as the boss was in, the meagre light coming from his office. I walked in, noting he was hunched over a bunch of papers, calculating figures on a small hand held device. Taking the seat opposite his desk, I spun it so the back faced him, then sat in it, arms crossed.
The silence continued for several seconds, his bald head hunched while I stared at an object several inches behind his left ear. I broke first. “Listen, I need The Hacker.”
Without even looking at me, he replied “go talk to Aini then Cain, I'm sure she'd be happy to help. Please close the door on the way out.”
“You know, I'm pretty sure I just spoke then, I recall my lips moving and everything. I didn't ask for Aini. She's good, a maths whiz for certain, but I don't need her skills. I want The Hacker. I need someone who was good enough to get into the Government Inc quantum databases first time around.”
“Alright then.” He opened a drawer and removed a piece of paper, putting it at the edge of the desk. “I'll assume this is Discordian-related business, shall I?”
I took the paper. “But of course. And thanks.”
“It'd better be. I pay my dues to you people, but if I find any of you abusing it, I wont hesitate to have you dragged out back and your knees broken. Don't forget that. Now get lost, its hard enough trying to cook the books 3 ways without you trying to read it upside down as well.”
The address was for a bar in an upscale part of town. The East Quadrant, to be exact. Nice sea views and uphill, both a plus for the landowners, bankers, record executives and other sorts of criminals. It must be something genetic in any ruling class, to flee away from the plebs to uphill, easily defended areas. Oh well. I ducked under the bar, before shoving through the crowd again to get out. Distracted, I was humming the tune in background and singing under my breath “back in the city again, I hope that you have been. The kind of poison, that you really oughta know...oh feels so good, I wish I could get this message over to you, now...”
I considered my options out on the street. No taxi was going to come in here, so I could either walk out and hope to find one, or go home for the evening. To hell with it, the night was still young and I had my legs. Making sure I had the piece of paper secure in my pocket, I started the hopefully not long walk. I didn't want to be exposed to the psychotecture for too long, insanity was an all too possible outcome.
20 minutes later, to my profound relief, I got my ride. Another 20 minutes passed and I was now a block away from the bar I needed to be at. I liked it around here. The streets were clean and the houses were well spaced and pleasing to the eye, the ones that could be seen at all, beyond the vast spaces and high hedges employed. This was an entertainment, not accommodation district, however. Expensive sounding and looking bars, restaurants and cinemas were the order of the day.
Mine was in fact just several feet away now. The cue was pretty small, as befitted the earliness of the night. I prepared to walk in as two mountains of men moved in front of me.
One of them rumbled “what do you think you're doing...sir?” with just the right amount of contempt. I sighed. I know I looked like a badly dishevilled detective, like a modern Columbo, but that was the sort of look I liked. It made deciding what to wear in the mornings so much easier.
“I'm trying to get in...but a pair of oafs are blocking me.” Before he could answer, I took two bills from my roll in my pocket and handed it to him before pushing past. I didn't stop to check, just assume it worked and keep walking.