By Shapcano and Gantroc

Sticks waled into Lisama's Ice Cream and moved to the counter. "Hello, Senor Cabrales, how are things this fine day?"

He nodded, pumping the man's offered hand, "I've seen better days where teh sun shines down, but I'm getting by. And you, Senor Lisama?"

The older man waved his weathered hands in front of him. "Gerry, just call me Gerry you stubborn young man," he laughs. Sticks takes a seat at the counter and orders a soda, careful to check the parlor with a quick sweep of his eyes. Good, nothing out of the ordinary...except for an older gentleman in the back booth. He seemed to be a little too nervous, and his suit (though rumpled) marked him as someone who did not frequent the Barrens. The Escrimador furrowed his brow momentarily, wondering if the little man with a double chin and balding grey hair had been rolled by the local toughs yet.

Sticks faced the counter once again as Gerry delivered his soda. The man was giving Sticks a knowing look, his eyes traveled to the pudgy human in the back, then back to the young filipino.

"He is here to speak to you, Senor. He asked for you by reputation," the shop owner whispered, handing Sticks his money back.

Slowly reaching his hand into his jacket pocket, Sticks grasped the asp collapsing baton his had hidden there. Secure with his ability to defend himself, he leaned over to the counterman and asked, "Please, Gerry. When did he get here, what did he say to you, and was he alone?"

When the store owner's reaction betrayed surprise, the young filipino said, "Better to be prepared than to walk into trouble unsuspecting, neh?"

Gerry wiped the look of surprise from his face quickly and leaned toward Sticks with a smile, "I think that if you walked up to him too quickly, he'd die straight away." Gerry looked about to make sure no one else was listening before he continued. "He asked for someone who could be trusted with an important job opprotunity."

Sticks frowned again, "Has he been asking all over?"

"Not according to him," he gave Sticks a wink, "and I made sure for you, Senor. I think he just didn't know where to look. When he came in, I told him to hush up and to sit and wait."

With a nod the young filipino thought over what the old man had said. Then he came to a decision...

With on hand onthe baton in his pocket, Sticks slowly walked up to the booth. Observing the balding man in his rumpled suit for a moment, he said, "I understand you are looking for someone for a piece of work. If you'd step into my office, I will talk to you."

Cautiously, the older man nodded and got up. He followed Sticks around a table and back to the same booth, the last in the shop. He raised an eyebrow when the young man indicated he should sit back dwon on the other side of the table. With a last look around the store, Sticks slid into the seat facing the front door.

"So, your office is where you have a wall beind you and a view of what's coming at you, eh?" the man asked with a flemmy chuckle. The weak laugh died on his lips as he saw the deadly seriousness with which the youn man was regarding him.

"You have biz to discuss?" Sticks asked simply.

"Well, uh, seem sort of young to..."

The brown eyes continued studying the sweating older man withou changing. Seeing that the scar faced youth was not going to be baited into discussing his age, the man gave a slight shrug and launched into his proposal.

The older man coughed a bit, trying to bite back his discomfort. "I'm sorry for sounding the skeptic. It's just that this whole business, I've never really done this before."

Sticks looked the man up and down for a moment. "I'm here, so far so good." It was the best attempt the filipino was willing to offer in the way of putting the old man at ease.

The guy took a deep breath and began, "I've been quite a busy man. With my wok and other responsibilities, I've been very negligent at home," he paused and reached into his wrinkled coat pocket to fish out a 2D picture. There is a noticeable flinch when he saw Stiks reaction to the sudden movement. "Just a picture of my son, honest."

With caution as an ever present guide, Sticks took the proffered picture. It was of a child, no older than 7, sitting on the man's knee with a smile fromear to ear. The mussed blonde hair and dirty clothes on both people indicated a long day at the park. Sticks looked expectantly at the older man.

In between the time that he had looked away then back again, the man had begun to cry. "He's gone. I don't know why, but he's gone." Using a handherchief in his pocket, he blew his nose as quietly as possible.

Sticks tried to remain unemotional, "How did it happen, and when?"

"It was about a week ago. I tried going to Lone Star, but they just said they'd start the investigation." The man clenched his fists in frustration. "But it seems that everytime I call them, they just give me the run around. I just want ot find my son." He takes a sip of water that Ferry dropped by the table. Afer the store owner moved off, the man continued.

"I came home one evening, very lat. My wife, she was upstairs in Darren's room crying. When I ask what was wrong, all she could say was 'They took him, you bastard, they took him!' I didn't know what she meant by they."

The man pused and looked deeply at Sticks. "I'll pay whatever it costs. I've even made contact with a couple other people to help. I just didn't know where to turn. If you'll help, I'll provide you with as much info as you need. I can set up a meet with the others I've contacted. I think they can be trusted," With a sigh he stopped and looked down at his hands. "I just don't know anything anymore. Will you help me?"

"How much is your son worth to you?" Sticks asked.

As the older man's face collapsed, the youn man immediately regretted the abruptness of his question. "I mean that this is very open....unclear. There is no border...In the whole world you ask me to find one seven year old boy, you see. I could spend years and hire thousands of other people. You have others already you say. Are they detectives? The matrix wizards who plug their heads into machines? Real wizards who can track your son with magic? Many questions."

"Who are you? What do you do? What does your wife mean when she says 'they took him'? Do you have enemies? Rivals? Does your wife? Is this related to your work? why do you come here and ask a stranger to do this?" Seeing that the older man seemed to be crushed further by each succeeding question, Sticks stopped and folded his hands in front of him. He nodded for the man to take a drink and compose himself and after a brief pause said,

"I'm sorry to make you sad or hurt. But a man I have never met says to me, 'My son is missing, will you help me, I'll pay whatever it takes'. I have to know much, much more. I need to know details before I can jump into any job. This is not 'guard my store' or 'chase these punks' yyou see? If I take a job I do what must be done, but how can I know what must be done unless I have much more information."

"Because my words have stung you, I will tell you for free, you are in a bad place. This is not your part of town. You are safe here because Senor Lisama's business is protected, but when you leave here, you are a fat, slow fish in shark waters. Here they would take you life for the money the organleggers would pay for your parts. For 100 nuyen, I'll make sure that you get home safe. you will think about what I need to know to take the job. You will decide on a figure that you will pay me for this work and you will prvide me with 25% up front. If the information and payment are enough, I will look at the child's room and his things, I will decide to taket the job or not and then I can meet the others. Or you can hre another stranger. Is this acceptable?"

The pudgy man gave Sticks a nervous grin and began to wring his hands. "I'm sorry, I just don't know the etiquette for this sort of thing." He quickly looked at his hands, then drying them on a napkin in front of him, offered it to Sticks. "My name is Thomas Gillian."

Sticks looked at the offered hand, "Meaning no disrespect, but..."

Gillian withdrew his hand with a nervous smile, "I understand. No offense taken. And you are?"

"You can call me Sticks," the young filipino answered simply. He was satisfied to note that the man made no mention of the name as being out of the ordinary.

"Well, let's see, where to begin. Uhhh, well I work for Lankersham & Donovan. We're a small accounting firm that handles foreign holdings here in the UCAS. Nothing fancy, but we do well." He drinks the rest of his water before continuing. "I've worked there for aboooooutttt....Christ! I've been there for twelve years. Well as for enemies, I don't know. I try and be the best person I can, even though I learned early on that when you leave yourself out there too far, you're bound to get stepped on."

Sticks began to take mental notes on Gillian, watching his mannerisms, speech patterns. Anything that would tip off a lie. Confident for the time being there was none, he asked, "What about your wife?"

"Well, she socializes a lot. Likes to shop, but she's a very good mother. I can't imagine what this must be doing to her...well I guess I can. I think I've lost three inches on my hair line this week alone. No...No one I can think of. If you need to come to my house...i guess that's okay, as long as she's not home. I don't know what her reaction would be if she know what I was doing."

The Escrimador gave him a hard look, "Your doing the best you can under the circumstances Senor Gillian. But I do have to know who else you've talded to and why you've come here."

"At first, I tried going to downtown Seattle. Checking bars, clubs. I figured that's where people who do what you do waited for people like me." He shook his head and ran his hand through what was left of his hair. "I don't mean to make it seem so bad. In any case, I spoke wth a large man with a lot of....enhancements? He seemed to be honest and told me that it wasn't his game, but that he knew an off duty paramedic who could help. I contacted her, a woman by the name of Jess. The other person, an elf, I met in a bar named Cross Foxes. A British bar of all things. but he was very affable and seemed eager to help. I think he is a magic user of some sort. But he's very patient and thorough."

Gillian closed his eyes for a moment, trying to maintain the professional level he was at...Sticks can tell that it's a hard fight for the man. his emotions seem to be filled to bursting on the dam of his will. "The man over there, behind the counter, he speaks highly of you. That is why I stayed and waited. As far as getting out of the area, I can call another cab...althought the last one left in a big hurry. But I would appreciate your help. Your terms are more than fair, 25% up front. I could even take you you my place right now." He checks his watch. "It's only 2:30, my wife will probably still be at her sister's house. Would coming to my house be too much at this point? You can decide on how to get there, and can decide against at any time. I'll respect your decision. I just need someone I can trust." Thomas gave a rueful laugh. "No offense, but I guess that sounds pretty ironic from a guy doing what I'm doing."

Sticks continued...