An Old New Friend
Liliyet was as confident as a fugitive could be.
She meandered purposefully amongst the crowded streets, careful to look part of the milieu, and made her way down the grand concourse of Proud Mountain Way. The artisanal shops were opening along the paths, and it was akin in the bustle to the fish markets of Tokyo or the grand bazaars of Istanbul and Tehran but something else all its own.
Seething bars, rancorous taverns, run-down shops, and bustling warehouses lined the thoroughfare’s sides, but the middle concourse drew one’s eyes the most. The Grand Concourse, as it was known, was one part food hall, one part farmer’s, one part flea, and all parts black. Say what you wish about the vagaries of Cascadian Capitalism: the ruthless consumer brilliance of Paralux; the city’s staid, storied 500-year-old bourse, Cascadia Exchange; the methodical unveiling throughout every night and day in The Wharves and those set up to profit from the traffic; many thought of the hustle and phantasmia of the Grand Concourse as the beating heart of Cascadia’s obsession with Mammon. Daylight, Twilight, or Midnight did not matter: this place was always aflutter with the din of activity. Yes, it had its own circadian rhythm of rest and run, but it was always open for business.
It was the perfect place to disappear.
Later, she would head to the aptly named Alibi, a particularly seedy establishment where many local gangsters hang out and mingle and talk shop. In the Pørtland Underworld, the Alibi was neutral territory. And it’s where your average highly-skilled confidence artist would go to get a friendly exit on the lam ahead of a few agents of the Complex Investigations Taskforce. For example.
Now, she needed to kill some time for the heat to die down a bit.
As far as the agents were concerned, she needed to have disappeared.
And that is precisely what she did.
She grabbed breakfast from an ableskiver stand, applying a heavy layer of butter and blueberry jam, and enjoyed it lazily while watching the nearby exits.
She was happy to appear otherwise engaged in her day, oblivious to the wanted criminal hiding amongst them.
So it was right on time that she strode into the Alibi, marched up to the jukebox and played the 1995 Annie Lennox hit “No More I Love Yous”.
It was the song that every underworld figure knew to play if they were willing to pay for extraction under challenging circumstances. Her flag firmly in the ground, Liliyet walked up to the bar and ordered a beer. Beer in hand, she made her way to the back of the place, the darkest corner, and waited.
As Billy Joel’s Death of the Piano Man came to a mournful close, the brief interlude between songs was pregnant with possibility that came to a sudden glorious head as Isadora Brightmorning walked into the bar, sun streaming in behind her. She looked like a conquering vespyr bathed in the ethereal.
Annie Lennox’s dulcet voice began singing of woebegone and lunacy and monsters.
A woman, older than Liliyet and strikingly beautiful with light green eyes and dark blond hair, sat in the booth opposite her.
“Did you know that the ancient Egyptians are thought to have been among the first to brew beer? Amongst the pyramids of the Mamluk Sultanate, it was recently discovered that one of the ancient kings of yore was laid to his final restful sleep along with his most treasured possessions, including several of his wives and an excellent recipe for a very hoppy malt.”
“I’m waiting for someone.”
“No, honey, you’re waiting to get out of here, and I’m your ride.”