Not all Police work is chasing down perps and beating on things. In fact, Neke Okeke knows that’s only part of the job. Often a small part. A lot of the ‘field’ work is investigation and surveillance.
Tonight the dark skinned woman is in a pub somewhere near the West Side of Chicago. It’s not pretty here, not elegant and life is rough. She’s just entered, wearing a pair of form fitting trousers and a top that has ‘Solo Mid’ and the teams logo emblazoned on it. Fan girl? Maybe. That’s what she looks like.
She’s looking for someone who should be here – Jose Thanadar – who supposedly put a big bet on one of Bjerkson’s players and lost all of it, in an upset about eight weeks ago. The time the team started receiving threats.
Michael Cross is here with her, not that anyone else knows that. One of his… more unusual abilities is the power to turn invisible. And he has. Which doesn’t change the fact that he is right next to Neke and in radio contact with her. It might be easier to approach Jose if he doesn’t see a man with a silvery hand… to start with. After Neke has coralled him, that’ll be a different story.
//Are you supposed to be a fan or a team staff member?// The invisible cat mutters into the radio with a chuckle.
Neke glances around the bar around, looking in Michaels direction as she does. //Don’t I look like a fangirl? What? Too old for you? Or too corporate?// Judging by the saccharine sweet tone she’s using, he might want to be careful.
Sidling up to the bar, the darkskinned woman calls out “A double whiskey, no ice, and keep them coming, I’m in the mood to celebrate! Team SoloMid all the way to the playoffs. Woo yeah…” Michael might roll his eyes at that. It’s so no not Neke, really, but she can put on an act when she wants. “And my boy, Smoothrunner. What a great support!”
There’s some rumblings in the bar and a big bear of a man looms out of the shadows. He’s //huge// and he towers over the spirit channeler. “Eff SoloMid. And if you’re a supporter you can just get the eff outta here. Don’t need your type of trash in here.”
The figure certainly matches the description they have for Jose and the attitude … well, that matches too. Perhaps.
“Oh come up, Bub. SoloMid are //clearly// the best in League. Want to try and convince me otherwise?” She’s baiting him and that might Michael roll his eyes even more.
It’s probably a good thing that Neke had been moving sideways slower, because Jose lurches, fist cocked back to try and punch her.
There’s a ripple in the air as Michael appears on the other side of Jose and grabs at his arm, trying to abort the punch. “Woah, buddy! Whatever happened to sportsmanship and all that?”
He’s not a big sports guy, Michael, e-sports or otherwise. He’s got other interests, that’s not generally one of them. What is one of them, though, is making sure his partner doesn’t get punched.
Neke sways as the fist flies for her face and smirks at Michael as he appears and catches the fist. Jose blinks in suprise and sputters. “Such a gentleman … ” she teases and jerks her chin up. “I think we should take this outside, don’t you.” After all, they had come here to speak to Jose.
Jose struggles but Michael can probably hold him, Jose’s a bear of a man but Michaels trained in certain techniques. “Sportsmanship … ” the big man sputters “Solomid cost me a small fortune …”
“That’s kind of sounding like a ‘you’ problem…” Michael says as he twists teh beefy man’s arm behind his back and reaches for his badge. “Michael Cross. Fifth Column security. That’s my partner you just tried to assault. I assume you’d find talking to us outside preferable to talking to us from the other side of a detainment cell, right?”
It’s offical and officious but hey it works most of the time. The paperwork to charge him would be a pain… but being held for 48 hours for ‘procedureal matters’ is also a pain.
Neke just looks on mildly, displaying her own badge as the patrons of the bar all turn away. She doesn’t say anything at the moment, just lets Michael handle this.
“I… uh… ” the bear of man still struggles against Michaels grip, for a big man, he’s … not very strong. “Her type ain’t welcome here. Effing Solomid and their carrier sucks.” Struggles, that is, until the badges come out and the word ‘assault’ is mentioned. “Uh, outside sounds good…” seems the idea of an all costs paid stay doesn’t appeal to him.
Neke holds the door whilst Michael ushers the guy outside, there’s an alcove they can talk just off to the right, even if it is a bit chilly. “So, Jose…” the dark woman finally speaks again, this time not gushing like a fan girl “… how much did you lose on the game the other week?” Both she and Michael know it was a several thousand dollars. Big numbers, for a man on Jose wages .
“Uh … the mortgage payment for the next two months …”
“Uh huh.” Once they’re outside Michael lets the man go. It’s only at that point, when he goes to stand next to Neke, that the other man will see the silvery hand.
“Well I’m sure the family won’t be especially pleased about that. In fact it’s enough to make a man angry, that kind of pressure. Enough to make him do things that… might be a bit silly in retrospect.”
There’s an implication though Michael hasn’t out and out said it. It’s best not to go into these things at full pressure. Give folks a chance to respond. And remind them if you have to lean on them that they can make it all go away by talking.
Jose glances at the hand and back up to the man who came out of nowhere, a frown creasing his brow. He’s still blustering but at least he’s not threatening to pulverise them – whether he can or not is another matter.
Michaels phrasing gets sort of a panicked look, the implication has been heard and he’s worried. “The wife doesn’t know. Not yet and she won’t if I have anything to say about it ….” The words are very rushed, and he’s starting to flush. His heart rate is rising.
“Doesn’t know for now you mean. These things have a way of coming out and secrets are bad for a marriage I hear.” Michael crosses his arms and glances at Neke. The guy is blustry and worried but he’s not fitting the profile they’ve worked up yet. So far the only tick box is that he’s emotional. Time to press him a little.
“You lose seven grand, it puts the house in danger. You figure you get a bit of payback and maybe make the next bet easier. If Bjerkson suffers an unfortunate accident, SoloMid starts losing and you make all that money back in the next game. No need to tell the wife, the bookies stay happy. Sound familiar?”
Neke keeps her expression schooled into something bland. When Michael glances at her, she gives the slightest shake of her head. Jose isn’t ticking the boxes at the moment but she’s no empath – the man could just be a good actor.
Not that it’s likely, Jose doesn’t look that smart.
“My wife will kill me.” Jose answers. “It ain’t gonna be bad for my marriage, it’ll be bad for me…” Makes one wonder what his wife is like. He blinks though as Michael speaks “Payback? Wha What do you mean?” Maybe he really isn’t that smart.
“Oh come on Jose. You can’t tell me it didn’t occur to you. Send some threatening e-mails. Put Bjerkson off his game. Then, when he leaves practice one day just… bam. Into the hospital. Or worse.” Michael is pressing further but he doesn’t really think this is their guy. Maybe he’ll let something useful slip. If not they can at least ask who his bookie was, maybe talk to that guy. This lead might be a dead end… but dead ends sometimes give you what you need to find the right path.
A dead end crosses one of the potentials they’ve got. But a dead end can be rather frustrating. Neke might owe Michael a drink after this.
Jose trembles at bit at the Panther shifters next words, flushing again – that hit a nerve at least. “I … what? No! I never. How could I do that?” Neke snorts, adding to the pressure “Now Michael, are you sure he knows how to send emails?”
That gets more bluster and venomous look at the animal channeler “I… ” back to Michael “… No! Not even when that guy approached me.”
“Guy who approached you? Who was that? And what did he approach you for?” Now there’s something. Michael is fairly well convinced that Jose had nothing to do with anything and is guilty only of some unwise betting. But if someone were approaching him related to it… well it might just be loan sharking. But it might be something else. Anything can be a lead, he’s learned.
Neke stirs slightly, pulling herself to her full height – which isn’t very tall – and watches Jose closely. Her eyes dart to Michael but she doesn’t say anything. Not yet. He’s got this. She knows that.
“Uh. I don’ know. Called himself //Enigma// and said he knew a surefire way to ensure that I broke even, or better, next time. All I had to do was send a message and the rest would look after itself.”
“Mmmhmm…” Neke growls a little looking over to Michael. This is … something at least.
“Did you send the message?” It sounds like he didn’t and… if so… they might want him to. Or maybe they just need to buy the man a new comm device and take his present one off his hands. He probably wouldn’t mind an upgrade for being cooprative. They may have to sweeten that deal a little.
“Enigma. Sounds like a name from a terrible hacker film from the 90’s.” Michael mutters. “One where they wear dark trench coats and weird sunglasses.”
“Not yet…” Jose answers, glancing between the pair. He’s not sure who’s the most ‘dangerous’, the guy with the silvery arm or the growling short woman next to him. “… it was only the other day he approached me. I mean, I’m angry an’ all but threatening the owner and players? That’s not me… ”
“So he’s waiting for an answer?” Neke asks, the growling stopped for a moment.
“Uh huh. Gave me till tomorrow to get back to him….” Jose blinks at Michael “… No. He’s tall and his eyes were yellow. But no trenchcoat.”
Neke looks to Michael and nods. Whatever he chooses, she’ll sign off on. Using Jose here though, might be a risk.
Michael steps forward and puts his arm around Jose’s shoulders. It’s a friendly gesture but it does project a lot of dominance? He looks like the one in charge of the situation. “Jose… we’d like to buy you a new phone. And take that old one off your hands. It’s got your mystery man’s number in it, doesn’t it?”
It’s a risk yeah. Hopefully by changing Jose’s number, it’ll keep him out of the line of fire. And also hopefully they can take yellow-eyes off the table before any mischeif can result.
Neke smirks to herself at Michaels antics. The man really is good at what he does. That’s why she employed him, mostly.
Jose’s tall and broad, which Michael has to stretch a bit but it works. “My phone … you want to buy me a new phone?” the man looks bewildered. He probably doesn’t have the faintest idea of what’s going on in the e-sports world. Still, with Michael there, acting so … chummy … “Uh. Sure? And yeah, Enigma put his contact details in there.”
“Might be an idea to stop the betting too, hmmm?” Neke murmurs. They’ll have to drop the new phone off when they get it. Stark-Fujikawa released a new model the other week, it will probably be that. Getting the tech isn’t a problem and she’ll just bill to Bjerkson.
“Anything else, Michael?” She … might be done here.
“Nope. Why don’t we head on over and get this man an upgrade.” Beat. “And then get back to the office.” They’re going to have some setup to do.
Michael leads Jose off with Neke no doubt following. Jose is just going to have to be confused for a little bit longer. Then they can get rid of him and get on with things.
Following a lead, Michael and Neke think it might be a dead one ... but find out otherwise.
March 23, 2051
West Side - Chicago