“Forget it, dude, it’s J-Con,”
That’s what the private security guy tells me when I ask him about the swarm of cops that just came through the Omni hotel lobby. This is being told to me by a weird, hippy-ish, looking guy, with shades and a green suit, before he adjusts the strap attached to his stun-gun SMG and talks to someone else via a blue-tooth head set.
I start to get worried that the police presence might have something to do with me, but a quick look on social media tells me otherwise. My phone — which has been monitoring the anime convention newsfeed since it started — is getting reports of some cosplay models that were showcasing a V.R rig went berserk and started attacking con goers. Drugs may be involved, but that’s still just a rumor.
I look up past the banners of advertising that show pictures of anime robots, magical girls and samurai and at the Austin night of downtown that looks caged in the glass and steel wall grid that is the floor-to-ceiling entrance of the hotel. The brightly lit buildings outside against the night sky remind me of the trail of lights that Austin does every years that involves putting up giant-size Christmas trees several stories tall and lighting them up after sun down.
It’s Molly, a goth blond whose wardrobe is ninety-percent black leather and ten-percent black cotton, fish-nets, and combat boots. She also has a blue-tooth head-set and stun SMG snugged over her shoulder. She looks like she hasn’t slept in days, which doesn’t surprise me since she’s been part of the security detail trying to keep the con under control. This one — judging by the bags under her eyes — was not going well. She stands out among the crowd of brightly dressed anime nerds and weeabos who are cosplaying the latest ninja, demon, cyborg, robot, school girl, or whatever thing that’s trendy in that world at the moment. I look down and notice that her name tag says Amanda.
“Hi…Amanda,” I say, cocking an eyebrow, “playing someone else tonight?”
“Just until this gig is over,” she said with a shrug, “I’ve been looking for you.”
“Can you help me find someone?” she asks me, “he disappeared off the grid a few hours ago.”
“What has he done to deserve you?” I ask her.
“I sent him to check up on something while I’ve been off doing this gig, and I haven’t heard back from him.”
When she says this I start to get a really bad vibe in the building. Suddenly, it feels like every eye ad ear is trained on us and the cops wandering around the hotel are not helping. I put my hands in my pockets and start towards the door leading outside. Without either of us saying a word, we walk together, Molly just a few paces behind me, until we are outside and in the parking lot. I’m reminded just how brutal the summers are here in Texas, despite this being August.
“Should I ask what you sent him off to find?” I ask Molly, picking up the conversation where we left off.
“Not unless you want me asking what you’ve been passing along to the clients in that hotel,” she tells me.
“Being a courier is hardly illegal in this city,” I tell her.
“True, but seeing how I’m one of your biggest customers, I know about the majority of packages you pass along are illegal,” she says as she glances over my shoulder and raises her eyebrows at my backpack.
“I don’t look at what’s inside the box,” I tell her.
“Yeah, but you’re not dumb, Arty,” she says “I know you walked out of here with a lot of cash money tonight. Maybe too much cash in that backpack of yours to be a normal courier.”
I feel my body shift. Fight or flight is starting to take a hold of me again. I hate when she does this to me. I’ve been told it’s called leverage. I grimace as I unzip a compartment in my back pack and boot up a small netbook. My hands are shacking as I glance over and see the cop cars with there blue and red lights still pulsing in the parking lot.
“Let’s make this quick,”
Molly moves next to me to look over my shoulder.
“With pleasure,” she says, also eyeing the cops, “the GPS I.D is blackcandy32,”
After pulling up the Deep Web app and starting up the GPS plug-in, I type in the I.D and the map zooms in on a park in Austin. His vitals show that he is still alive, but he’s standing still in the middle of the park.
“What the fuck,” whispered Molly, “why is he in Walnut Creek Park?”
“You didn’t send him there?”
“He’s supposed to be on the other side of town.”
Molly’s about to pull out her phone until we notice the dot representing Molly’s man had disappeared. We look at the screen for a few more seconds before realizing what happened.
“Holy shit,” I whisper, “his GPS and vitals are gone.”
“Either they pulled it out of him…” her voice trailed off.
“Or he’s dead…”
The time was 11:56p.m.
Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser