|megpie71 (megpie71) wrote,|
@ 2008-03-04 13:38:00
Fic: Steele (part 3 of ?)
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII (Approx 10 years pre-game).
Title: Steele (part 3 of ?)
Rating: Moderately worksafe (some swearing, some violence, reference to drug use).
Warnings: Drug users, thugs, sneaky shopkeepers - just Wall Market, really.
Summary: The popular belief with regard to Wall Market is if you're there, you can look after yourself.
Getting down to Wall Market in Sector Six is easy enough. There's this nice regular train service which runs down to Sector Seven, and from there it's a short walk to the sector border and the gateway to the Wall Market. Hey, it's the main shopping district in the below-Plate areas, and Corneo extorts enough money from the various shop owners to pay for a bit of security on the main walkways into the Market itself. Of course, there's various signs here and there along some of the roads, as a way of warning the more cautious or timid-minded of the above-Plate denizens they're not in recognised Shinra territory any more, but they're more formality than anything else. The popular belief with regard to Wall Market is if you're there, you can look after yourself. I've taken a few extra precautions as a result – a knife in my boot, another hidden up a sleeve, and a couple of loaded magazines of spare ammo in the pockets of my trousers – and I'm ready to go search out Trood's pawnshop.
Old Man Trood has one of the more established shops in the Wall Market, and I've never really prodded to find out how much he has to pay Corneo to maintain it. The shelves are lined with bric-a-brac and small items. Little valuables, things like silver hair ornaments and similar – the sorts of things which are sold off in order to get just enough gil to get from day to day. He has a larger warehouse on the other side of the market, where he keeps the furniture and effects which are pawned by the desperate, or by the few who pick up and leave Midgar when they realise they won't be making it big here. I've never liked pawnshops – they always smell faintly of desperation and despair.
Trood himself is a short bloke, stout and balding. He tries to cover up the last, afraid people won't take him seriously I suppose, although the comb-over he affects instead makes me much less inclined to trust to his powers of perception. Mind you, I suppose we all delude ourselves over one thing or another in an effort to retain at least some innocence.
He's not at the counter today. Instead, a man I presume to be one of his sons (he has six, only two of whom I've met, both of whom share a similar type of male pattern baldness to their father) is staffing the desk, and negotiating with a sandy-haired woman about what a fancy saucer is truly worth, in terms of gil. She's losing, of course. She needs the money, and I can see the signs of an addict in the desperation in her eyes and the sound of the whining edge in her voice as she attempts to wheedle just a few more gil out of him. It's not Joy she's on, though. Joy addicts tend to come in two varieties: the satiated, in which case they're fairly stable; and the strung out, who are either gibbering wrecks, or completely apathetic. If I had to guess, I'd say she's on dragon's blood, which means she's about as stable as Bahamut on ball bearings. Bloodheads are damn chancy.
I wait for the negotiation to cease, and for the bloodhead to fling herself out of the shop with approximately one-third the amount of gil she'd been asking for. Then I wander up to the counter.
“I'd like to speak with the boss,” I say.
“Boss is out,” says the younger Trood.
“Do you know when he'll be back?”
I nod. It doesn't surprise me. “Can I leave a message?”
“Sure. What do you want to say?” He drags a piece of paper and a pencil toward himself.
I pull the hundred gil I owe Trood out of my wallet. “Just tell him Steele left this, for services rendered. I'll phone him tonight to make sure he got it.”
The guy's eyes turn flat with annoyance, since I've just prevented him from nicking the cash from his dear old dad (who is apparently keeping sonny-boy here on a fairly tight leash, money-wise) but he jots down the message, and wraps it around the gil. “I'll let him know,” he says.
I nod, and make my way out of the shop. I'll definitely be phoning Trood tonight to ensure he's received the money – something about this one is pinging at the edges of my trouble radar.
My PHS goes off almost as soon as I step out of the shop, and I step out of the main bustle of the marketplace in order to take the call. It's the client, as I'd expected.
“I'm sorry, I was in a meeting,” she says. “You said you had some information for me?”
“Yeah,” I say. “I got a lead on where that box of yours might have gone.”
“Oh, wonderful!” Her voice crackles in my ear as a result of the whole transmission process. “Can you get it back?”
“Maybe,” I tell her. “Problem is, if I follow this lead, I'm going to be charging you danger money on it.”
“If you want me to follow this lead, you're asking me to put my life at risk,” I said to her. “That costs extra.”
“How much extra?” She's sounding suspicious.
“Three hundred gil per hour or part thereof,” I tell her. I move the handset away from my ear while she splutters out her shock. “It's your call. Do you want me to pursue the lead, or shall I send you your invoice?”
“Surely you have a lower rate than three hundred gil per hour?” she demands.
“I do. But not for situations which involve me risking my life,” I say. “If you choose to terminate the search, I'll send you all the information I have and the lead I would have followed up, and you're welcome to try and retrieve the box yourself.”
“Can't you tell me about the lead now?”
“No,” I say. I learned this much early on: if I give the client any information before they've given me the money, they tend to believe they're better off attempting their own retrieval, which generally leaves me in the position of trying to obtain funds from a corpse. So they get their information when I receive the final payment on their invoice; earlier only if I'm positive they're sensible enough to realise when they're out of their depth. This client isn't one of the sensible ones.
“I thought I'd purchased that information,” she says.
“You've purchased it when you've paid for it,” I reply. “Now, would you like me to send you an invoice, or would you like me to go and follow up this lead?” Out of the corner of my eye I can glimpse a couple of below-Plate chancers heading up the little alleyway I'd retreated down in order to get out of the press of people. Time to wind up the conversation. “Look, I have another call coming in. If you want to consider things, and phone me back in a couple of hours, I'll be available then.” I close my PHS and look up at the two bruisers who have overshadowed me. “What can I do for you, gentlemen?” I ask them.
“Hand over the phone,” the larger of the two says, “and your wallet.”
“I don't think so,” I reply.
The taller one turns to look at the shorter one, and smirks, then turns back to me. “Look, squirt, you obviously don't understand the way these things work. You give us the phone and the wallet, and we let you live. You don't, you die.”
I shake my head. “Small factor you're missing, boyo,” I say, and look right up at him. My eyes are glowing, and if I'm lucky, this nitwit has enough sense to know when he's beaten in a fight between a norm and a SOLDIER. Okay, I'm not SOLDIER strong, but chumbly here doesn't know that. Yet.
I'm not lucky. Nitwitski and his pal seem to think they're invincible. Fuck. Plan B is out, because they're blocking up the alleymouth, which means running like I have a pack of Kalm Fangs on my tail isn't really practical. Plan C then.
I concentrate for a second, forcing myself into fast-forward, and pull out the gun from behind my back. One shot into the forehead of the taller one, and he's down. His mate has just long enough to work out what's happened before my second shot hits him straight between the eyes.
I take a deep breath, coming back down to normal speed. I'd normally sprint the hells away from something like this, but in Wall Market it isn't feasible. Instead, I rifle their bodies, searching for anything which could identify who these two were, and who they might have been working for. I find their ID cards, which is a good start, as well as a couple of hundred gil in their pockets, which I take as a justifiable reward for having acted as a filter in the gene pool yet again. Aside from that, and a rather crumpled copy of a flier for the Honeybee Inn in the pockets of one of them, there's nothing on them. I dump the wallets and the ID on top of the bodies, and head out of the alley.
The stallholder on the right hand side of the alley looks at me curiously when I come out. She's seen the two thugs go in, and me come out, and she's more than likely heard the shots. I nod at her. She nods back. I glance over her stall – one of those used clothing shops which are so popular in the slums. What the hells, she can do with a freebie.
“Here,” I say, passing her a twenty. “Two deaders in the alley. Clothes are okay, might need a wash to get the blood out, but otherwise fine. You didn't see who killed them, right?”
“Hey, corpse is a corpse,” she says, winking at me. “I didn't see anyone kill 'em, couldn't say anything else to anyone who asks.”
“Thanks,” I say. At least I know she'll be able to get them cleared away without too much fuss.
Now the only question I have is whether I should hang around the Wall Market for a couple of hours while I wait for the client to decide whether it's worth her while to pay me the danger money or not. I'm not sure which way she'll swing on this one, although my more cynical side expects a “no”. Ah, stuff it all. I still have to get some groceries. I'll head back to the office.
All feedback welcome - what works, what doesn't, what needs more work?