I should have known it was too good to last. The second bike is here, which means we don’t have to ride tandem (which with the moves we make is suicidal and contrary to popular belief, I’m not suicidal.), or have him follow on my bike– we can do this thing right.
First item of business was going over the bike, making sure everything was fine tuned for Ray and making sure it was stocked properly, and so that Ray knew where everything was. Then we got our first call.
We headed out, me in the lead. It was a rainy evening– but then it always seems that way. Dark, oppressive– wet. I don’t know how many accidents we have because of the rain-- people driving too fast, hydroplaning; people not stopping fast enough on slippery roads. Then when the sun does shine we end up having accidents because people just aren’t used to the light.
The roads were slightly more treacherous than usual, I did okay, but Ray went down– not too hard, but hard enough. The protective gear took the brunt of it like its supposed to, but I know he’s going to be stiff in the morning. He signaled me that he was fine and I continued on my way.
He caught up with me about two minutes before the ambulance arrived. We did a good job of handling it all things considered– but his bike’s going to need some work before it goes out again. I told him that I’d figured out his plan and it wasn’t going to work.
He just glared at me and shook his head. I’ve seen that look before, just never on his face. Doubt. He’s wondering if he can do this on a nightly basis– we all go through that stage. Sometimes it hits later on, but its always there, lurking. Some people like the job because of the adrenalin– Ray’s never been that type... he does it ‘cause its what he is.
He’s not a daredevil, he’s not an adrenalin junkie– what he is is one of the best medics on Citiwide’s payroll. I don’t blame him for wanting to think this through, it’s a bit of a jump. But its not like Walter thinks– we aren’t the ‘gunslingers of modern medicine’ or some bastardization of the true calling. We’re an adaptation.
Ray’s just realized how dangerous the job really can be and our job is dangerous enough as it is. Seems more and more people don’t care about the lights or the siren. Sometimes.
We got another call and Ray got up, looked me in the eyes and told me he was taking it. Just as simple as that. I could almost see it click for him. He found his reason, whatever it may be, and he just decided.
I know Ray– once he made that decision everything fell into place. Now that his heart and mind are in it, everything else will follow.
Fire District 97 – rescue division, is online and ready to serve.
Ray and I started early this morning(afternoon). We took a ride down to the arcade and found out that my life *did* make an interesting video game. At least the motor-medic part of it. I don’t think people would believe it if we threw in the other things that have been happening lately.
Some of the people playing it had a hard enough time believing that what they had was real. I think the simulation may have gotten some people interested in the riding part of it at least. I just wonder how many of them wouldn’t like the rest of the job.
I explained to PC what had happened and he nodded as I described the incident. What it all boiled down to was the feel of the road against the tires. Knowing what you can handle and what you can’t. Three very different variables– four actually. The weather conditions, the road, the bike and the rider’s response.
PC nodded and thought about it for a moment. I swear he looked like a cartoon character with a lightbulb over his head when he came up with a solution– he began coding for different bike types and then designing an input device so he could gage different rider’s responses.
We left him there, lost in his algorithms. He told us distractedly to come back Tuesday and he’d have something for us. I’m just waiting for Citiwide to get the bill.
When we got in, Walter gave us a rundown on the calls they’d covered. From the looks of things everybody’s just waiting for us. Sometimes it feels that way.
Guy about to speed home, checks his watch and decides to wait thinking, ‘Jess and Ray’ll be on in an hour, why don’t I wait for them and give them something really interesting to work on.’
Sometimes that’s the way it seems. Its almost as if there’s a set number of accidents planned for the day and if they don’t get them out of the way in the morning we’re dealing with them all night.
It was all in the radio calls. All night. It wasn’t just us, every district seemed swamped. Every time we’d clear, we were rolling again. My bike got a full work out, and Ray handled his share of calls on it.
When end of shift rolled around I looked at him and nodded. “Congratulations,” I sighed. “You’re a moto-medic.”
He smiled at me, but he looked like I felt: exhausted.
After shift I went to Council Island and fell asleep in front of the trid with Mike.
I hadn’t meant to spend the night/day, but instead I woke up on the couch, wrapped up in one of the throw blankets. Mrs. Walker was fixing breakfast/dinner and insisted that I at least have something light before I headed back in.
When I got to the station, Therse’s car was there. It was a bit of a surprise, but not as much of a surprise as seeing Casey up and about. Guess he was tired of being the invalid. When I saw him over talking to Ray, I smiled. He was looking a lot better than the last time I’d seen him.
“Jess,” he called.
I smiled and waved, still looking around for Therese. “Hey Case,” I called as I finally joined them. I could have kicked myself when I asked where she was. His face fell slightly and I could feel the slight chill to his voice.
“She headed back east,” he answered stiffly. “Figured it was probably for the best.”
I bit my lip. I was kinda hoping that they’d managed to work things out, especially with how much time they were spending together. “Sorry,” I said.
He nodded. “She’d pretty much planned on leaving once I gave her the all clear on the case,” he added with a sigh.
“But...” I looked at him and thought about the car out in front of his place. It didn’t really make sense. “She left you her car?”
He chuckled. “Yeah, well– it would have cost her too much to ship it and I’m still in no shape for my bike.”
If I hadn’t been feeling stupid before, the next question sewed it up completely. “When did she ...”
“Last Sunday night,” he sighed. “Was kinda hoping to see you...”
I felt like a complete and utter idiot. Here I’d been ‘giving them room’ all the while, they’d given themselves several thousand miles of room. What can I say– I blew it. Chalk another one up to bad breaks.
Thing was– I didn’t want to just mark this one off as a mistake and move on. I wanted him to know how I felt. Only problem is... I’m not sure how I feel any more. I mean... I like Case. But when I thought he had a chance with Therese I was happy for him, if a bit let down myself.
Ah, hell! I can’t figure out any of this. I am so much better with accidents and trauma than I’ll ever be with relationships and I should probably leave it at that. I mean– I’ve already blown it, why not just admit it and move on.
The rest of the conversation was cut short by another call. It was a messy one that took up a good two hours of our time, but as we were heading back to the station Ray looked at me and shook his head.
He just smiled and let out a long sigh. “Jess, I know you. Its not like you to not visit the man...What gives?” he said.
I had to shake my head and chuckle. “I did– but Therese’s car was in the driveway. I kinda figured they’d patched things up.”
He looked at me and chuckled. “Now, that’s more like the Jess I know.”
“Yep, putting two and two together and getting 3.5.”
We drove to the station in silence. Ray was about to say something when I noticed two men standing next to my bike. I could tell by the way they stood that the taller of the two men was protecting the first. I didn’t recognize him, but I did recognize the man he was guarding.
“Jess,” Ray warned. “Those two are Yakuza.”
I nodded. “One of them was a patient of mine,” I added as I exited the truck and headed over towards them warily.
“Jessica Miller?” the man I’d treated asked questioningly.
“That’s me,” I answered with a slight nod.
His body guard didn’t like my response, but that’s fine by me. I wondered briefly about the body guard that had been with him the other night and realized that the chances of seeing him again were very slim– the man had failed to protect his boss, and that is not something that they would or could ever forgive.
“I wanted to say thank you, for helping me. Had you not happened by when you did...”
“It’s no problem,” I answered evenly.
“Most people would have left me to the services I had paid for...”
It was probably true, but then again, I’m not most people. “I was just fighting my old enemies,” I told him.
He studied me for a moment then nodded. “Then you are of the old school, you do not do this for money.”
It wasn’t a question but a statement. I could see the respect in his eyes. The phrase ‘Jess Miller, Samurai Medic,’ ran through my mind. I nodded.
“It is good to know that there are those who still fight their enemies wherever they are found– but you face an enemy you cannot defeat, he will always win in the end.”
That earned a half smile from me. “Death is sometimes my ally against the others– but I’ll still fight him as long as I am able.”
He nodded approvingly. “Then Jessica Miller, I will leave you to your battle. Should you ever need anything– please think of me...”
A slight chill went up my spine. From what little I knew of the Yakuza, I knew that accepting his offer would mean– becoming theirs? I’m not really sure of all their codes and traditions, but I know that it was nowhere I wanted to be.
I bowed slightly. “There is no need,” I stated. “I was merely...”
“Fighting your own demons,” he answered with a nod. “Thank you just the same.”
He left me there with a very perplexed look on my face and an awful lot to think about.
Sometimes I hate my life.
I thought I had everything figured out, all nice and neat. Casey’s thrown that whole idea out the window. All right, Casey, Andrews, the Yakuza... and everybody else in the confusing excuse for a city.
I don’t know if was just the fact that I’d grown up in Baltimore or what, but I never had the problems there I’ve had in here three months. Three months... Its hard to believe...
I’ve done so much, had so much happen– and still I have nothing on the boys. Needless to say, I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s been happening, or hasn’t been happening. I’m not getting anywhere with my search.
I’ve cleaned up their apartment, taken care of their cats– but I’m no closer to what they were doing, or even who they’d become. Its time to try something different.
Problem is– I have no idea what I need to do. I only know what hasn’t worked so far. Even the case load matched my mood.
No calls, no clues, no direction– nothing but a sinking feeling that I’m fighting my way upstream and what’s waiting on the other side isn’t any better or more helpful than what I’ve already been through. Just another case of “you can’t win, you can’t break even and you can’t get out of the game.”
Sure, I’ve made friends. Some of them are probably closer to me that the boys ever were, or could be– but that’s not why I’m here. There’s so much I want, and I’m beginning to see that I’m not going to get it.
I wasn’t much company when I stopped by the police station, but at least I’d gotten some sleep. Ray knew I wasn’t having a good day, but he knew better than to try and help me. There wasn’t all that much he could have done other than annoy me.
Hell, if I could have, I’d have avoided me. I was that bad. I was heading for records when Andrews stopped me. One look and he knew that I wasn’t doing all that great. Instead of offering advice or hollow condolences, he offered me a job.
It’s the Mario method of dealing with things you can’t do something about... find something you can do something about and do it.
He introduced me to a woman who was looking for her brother. He’d only been missing 12 hours, so he couldn’t do anything about it officially. Unofficially he could put her together with me and see what we came up with.
Hell of a recommendation though. ‘Ms. Philips, this is Jess... she can’t find her own brothers, but maybe she can help you find yours...’
He didn’t say it, he didn’t mean it– but that’s the way I felt about whole thing. I paused and then nodded. “You’ll have to excuse me Ms. Philips,” I apologized. “Its been a very long night for me. Why do you think your brother is missing?”
She started to get angry, I could see it in her eyes. She’d been to the Star, and told that they couldn’t do anything for another 12 hours, and now the detective they’d recommended to her was questioning the matter as well.
“I don’t think... I know,” she snapped.
“Fine,” I sighed. “How do you *know* your brother is missing?”
She stared at me for a minute then finally told her story. I could tell she was tired of telling it, but I held her to it, asking questions when she trailed off. At first she was still angry, but as the questions continued, she realized I wasn’t questioning her, but looking for more details.
Her brother had called her out of the blue after almost six months of no communication. He’d set up a dinner date for Sunday Night, then nothing.
He never showed at the restaurant. When she stopped by his apartment it was empty. She stopped by his office and they claimed he never worked there.
I took notes then looked at her. “I can’t make any guarantees,” I warned her. “What I can do is get the groundwork done so that when the police can officially consider him missing, the information is already there for them.”
She looked at me a moment and then nodded. I’m not the type to snow somebody, I know how hard it can be trying to find someone here, encouragement is one thing, false hopes are another, and I’m not going to bolster them in someone else. We’ve got more than enough to deal with.
“Okay,” I told her, then I retold her story from what I’d gotten from her story.
“Your brother is a molecular biologist for Paren Dee & Nebula Pharmaceuticals. He’s been working there for some eight years on a project he hasn’t been able to talk about. You two used to be really close, but with work and everything you’ve drifted further and further apart. Three days ago he calls without any real explanation asking you to meet him at Trattoria Pagliacci’s for dinner last night. Reservations were placed on or around the time he called you.”
I paused as I thought about the story, knowing what not knowing was doing to her. I could see the tension as I repeated back what she’d told me. She nodded and I continued. “When you showed up, he wasn’t there. You waited...” I paused as I reviewed the notes I’d made. “... two hours, then called his apartment, unsure if you’d made a mistake. There was no answer.”
“No...” she corrected softly. “There was nothing. I got that annoying tone and recorded voice that said that number was not in use.”
I nodded, updating my notes and then continuing. “You took a cab to his apartment and it was empty.... then you waited for records to open here and reported what had happened.”
She nodded. “I just know something’s happened. He wouldn’t just not show up...”
I nodded. “I’ll see what I can do,” I promised. “Let me talk to Andrews.”
She waited in the interrogation room we’d commandeered while I tracked him down and got the details from him.
“There’s a good possibility he either had a breakthrough or another job offer. Wanted to share the good news with his sister,” he looked around for a moment. “He could have ended up working for another company... willingly or otherwise.”
“Or the same company, on a shorter leash,” I added grimly.
“Now you’re thinking like a Seattle detective,” he told me encouragingly. “You taking the job?”
I looked at him with ‘the look.’ “You knew I’d take it,” I grumbled. “There goes that nap I was planning.”
He smiled. “I knew that permit would come in handy.”
I sighed. “Could you at least tell me what the going rate for a gumshoe is?”
He looked at me for a moment and then shook his head. “You really don’t know do you?”
I shook my head. “Medic rates, sure– those I know and study... You’re the one that set me up with the detective stint.”
“Simple case... go for 200-500/day plus expenses... “
“Andrews, if there’s one thing I’ve learned since I got here, there’s no such thing as a simple case,” I sighed.
“Well, there is that,” he agreed. As I turned to go, he gave me an updated disk, and I once again compared it to the last. There had been one case that had been updated with more details, two open cases had been closed and seven more had been added.
That done I finished the formalities with Ms. Philips. We agreed on 350/day with the understanding that, unless I came up with anything, would be simply for one day– to do the groundwork for the Star and to make sure that the trail didn’t grow cold while we waited for them to take over.
She went back to her place where her brother could call her in case something had come up, and where I could contact her if need be. I waited about 10 minutes after she left then headed out.
My first stop was the arcade. I needed to talk to PC about the simulator and it gave me the perfect reason to be there. I told him some of what I needed and supplied the theory I needed to get it.
Then he took my pocket unit and went over it, muttering under his breath about people working with off the shelf units with factory installed tracing chips. He asked me how I’d lasted as long as I had.
I reminded him that I was a medic-- that I used the jack for checking e-mail, file transfers and filing my reports in a timely fashion. I could tell by the look he’d given me that he hadn’t believed me the first time I’d told him.
As I was leaving, he told me to come back sometime, and he’d set me up with something a little less testosteronally challenged.
Next I checked the hospitals between his place, his work and Trattoria Pagliacci. I didn’t find him, but I did find one of Andrews’ cases. I called it in and then headed over to a restaurant PC had suggested. ‘Blue’s’ A place that caters to the matrix set.
I ‘decked’ in, if you can call it decking with the equipment I was using. Lets face it, I wasn’t doing anything exciting or intrinsically difficult. I was checking the man’s records. Phone, address, employment... simple things that should have been in the book.
Should have. It was as if Darwin Philips had never existed. Seeing that, I looked up Elaine Philips, his sister. At least she checked out
While I was in the system, I made an appointment to look at his apartment, which according to the system has been available for over a month.
The apartment, as she said was empty. But it looked more like it had been empty for over a month, like management said, rather than his sister. It smelled of relatively new paint, but it wasn’t fresh. I thought about it and realized that the trail may be older than the 12, now 18 hours, we’d thought.
I took the elevator to my bike, noting the empty space for apartment 124-A. It just wasn’t adding up. I reported my findings, or lack thereof. Then took some time to weigh my options. I’d finished the groundwork, except for checking with his employers.
After doing as much as I could for the time being, I headed over to Elaine Philip’s place. She wasn’t happy with the results, I wasn’t happy taking her money. She told me that a deal was a deal, and I had done the groundwork that would hopefully speed things up. I stayed with her until he was officially missing and then turned the case over to Andrews.
I just wish I could let it rest.
I was still a bit groggy when I got up and headed over to Dr. Chen’s. I figured it wouldn’t hurt anything to add the Philip’s case to my search. There was nothing new.
I finished up the hospitals and even ran by Renraku– not that they let me in mind you. There was no emergency and no reason for them to let me in. I checked in with Andrews and he told me not to worry about it, that I’d done a good job.
I’d done nothing. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’d done plenty, I just came up empty. It was too much for me. The trail was only twenty-four hours old, officially, probably more like 72 hours. That’s if we take it from the last time Elaine had talked to him.
Someone must have seen him, must have known him. I went back to the arcade and took PC up on his offer.
It was indeed an interesting trip. And the man had a simulation of the whole thing setup. I guess it was easier for him to program it than to try and find the words to describe it to me. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It was real, and unreal at the same time. Once he was sure I wouldn’t embarrass him, he showed me around a few of the ‘lightweight’ areas. Places I could go with my skill level and equipment. He showed me some of what I needed, then we exited.
He nodded at me. “Now... you wanna find out what we can about this?”
I looked at him. “But we’ve checked... everything haven’t we?”
“Jess... Jess... “ He sighed shaking his head. “What we looked at... that was just the tip of the ic-burg.”
I didn’t get his joke at the time, but by the end of his little tour, I understood it all too well. I got to watch what he was doing through a hitcher jack. He knew the ins and outs of security like I knew my way around an accident scene. No doubt he’d done this before. We bounced around through connections until we’d worked our way through to Darwin Philip’s alleged domicile. (I always wanted to say that.) He reviewed information for the last week. Records, visits, backups and finally security tapes.
Darwin Philips may not exist on their records now, but he was there a week ago.
PC warned me that the information he’d gathered wasn’t admissible in court, and for that matter, I could be in serious trouble if they even knew I was involved with what he’d just done. He didn’t have to tell me that, or the fact that he didn’t do what he’d just done.
No, it was just proof that somebody was hiding something somewhere. The question was what and why. Philips’ building’s part of district 43 which gave me an idea.
I made a few phone calls and traded my way onto tomorrow night’s shift in District 43. PC may be able to go through their computer system, but you’d be surprised where a medic can go.
I didn't have much time to sleep, I had too much else to do. I headed out early since I didn't know the people of the 43rd except in passing and I wanted to be sure I was familiar with the area. I wasn't officially there. I was a 'ride on', but since I am also a paramedic, I was expected to perform when needed.
I swung by Elaine Philips' place on the way in. Everything seemed nice and peaceful there, but I know what she was going through.
The shift wasn't that hard, and it was only an eight hour shift, but I got to talk to the guys and find out more about the area and about Paren Dee & Nebula Pharmaceuticals. Seems they've had a series of accidents recently. Citiwide has been called there eight times in the past three weeks. By the time they were allowed into the lab, the patient had already been stabilized and ready for transport.
I ended up checking the call load for the past year, and there had been nothing before the batch of calls they'd recieved. After the shift was over, I stopped by the hospital where all the patients had been taken. It was a little late, but the duty nurse had heard of me. She let me look through their John Doe cases and I managed to check a few of the other cases out before it was time for me to leave.
The two cases I did get a look at were both for chemical burns. One had been treated and released, the other... cremated before an autopsy could be performed.
I passed the information on to Andrews, filed a copy in my safety deposit box and went to bed. No matter what I come up with from here on out, I still have my real job to do.