The party members meet up to enjoy the free breakfast that came with the room and to discuss their plans for the day. Taeva and Will decide to spend the morning in the hotel to see what information they can find online while the others go to try and meet Max Janthar.
Before the others leave, Will looks online for details of Max Janthar – and finds a lot of results coming back. It would appear that Max was a celebrity chef up until 20 years ago when he gave up to concentrate on his chain of restaurants, which he sold a little over five years ago. They track down his address to a penthouse apartment in one of the most expensive parts of town.
While Will and Taeva continue their online investigations, the others head to Janthar’s address. While Jie keeps a lookout, the others try to get the commissionaire to let them up to see Janthar. Arvor strikes up a good rapport with the commissionaire, but Janthar seems to be quite obsessive about his privacy. The commissionaire allows them to go up to try and speak to Janthar in person and they head up to try and speak to him in person. They speak with him over the intercom for a while but, although Arvor gives it his best shot, the old man simply won’t let them in.
Running low on ideas, they check in with Will and Taeva to see whether they have had any luck with their online investigations. They have. They spent the morning going through all of the old video clips they can find of his cookery show to see if they can find any co-hosts or other females on the show who might today meet Delores’ description. They manage to find three potential candidates.
Taeva shows the clips of the three women to the receptionist to see if she recognizes any of them. The receptionist discounts one of the three, leaving two possible candidates now – Chantelle Christiane and Margarite DuPre. Taeva passes the information back to Will who makes searches for both of them. Chantelle Christiane disappeared into obscurity after just a few years of co-presenting, but Margarite became very famous. Or, more precisely, infamous.
A popular celebrity chef, Margarite was in the entertainment industry for over two decades, with her cookery shows being syndicated across many worlds. Her career came to a shuddering halt five years ago with the ill–advised publication of an electronic cookbook ‘The Intergalactic Cookbook’ which featured recipes involving sentient alien species. Since publication (and the assassination of both her publicist and publisher) Margarite has been on the run.
The Intergalactic Cookbook is the only cookbook in history thought to have pushed so many races close to war. The book was an underground cult hit, supposedly as a spoof for all the other cookbooks out there that featured unusual ingredients from the worlds beyond the Imperium.
It was the K’Kree who first brought to light the problematic nature of the book with its recipes featuring various sentient races. Unsurprisingly the Aslan and various Vargr governments soon added their voices in protest, the Hivers initially thought it was a great joke until it became clear that some enterprising traders had been capturing hiver young and shipping them far from their homeworlds to farms where they grew to adulthood destined for the pot.
Will passes all of this information on to Arvor, Grim and Jie who take a cab back to the hotel so that they can discuss what to do with this latest information now they are pretty sure who it really is that they are looking for and why someone would want to find her.
While waiting for the others to arrive, Taeva tries another line of inquiries. She asks the receptionist for the time that Delores/Margarite checked out on the day of departure and for the name of the limo company that they usually work with. To her delight, the receptionist has both pieces of information. Taeva heads out to the limo companies offices to see if she is able to find out where the limo took her to.
The exercise takes her a couple of hours, during which time all of the others are back together.
“I have an address,” Taeva informs the others. “A villa out in the suburbs.”
Delighted to have a lead now, they immediately check out of the hotel and head out to the suburbs, which takes a couple of hours. They arrive at the address to find that it is an upmarket villa in an upmarket suburb. Taeva notices how well protected the property is with a lot of electronic surveillance gear and a wide garden area offering no cover – it’s not going to be an easy place to infiltrate.
They decide to try and find some other clues and Arvor finds a gardener working in the grounds of a villa owned by one of the neighbours. He asks about the owner of the villa. The gardener doesn’t know her name, saying that she is a private person. To the party members’ annoyance though, she doesn’t match the description of Margarite.
As it’s quite late in the afternoon already, they decide to wait to see if the owner comes back home. A little after 20.00 the owner does come back, arriving in an expensive ground car which pulls into the drive way. Jie watches the owner quickly enter the villa. The woman matches the description that the gardener gave – it’s not Margarite.
Arvor checks the car’s license plates and finds that it belongs to a woman called Chloe M’Banda – the owner of a private security company called Primary Threat Security.
There is some disagreement at this stage as to what they should do now as they think they have enough pieces of the jigsaw together to realize that Tibbs is the bad guy here, not Margarite. They decide to give him a call to see what he says. Tibbs does not answer the phone, however. Instead Will receives a recorded message:
“This is a recorded message. If you are calling this number you have managed to track down the package for me. You are to be commended. You can either send me the details via the vidphone messaging service and upon confirmation that you have tracked down the package you will be paid or you can deal with the package yourself. You will be paid a bonus sum of 100,000 credits if you eliminate the package. Upon confirmation that you have done so you will be paid this sum. If you do not wish to go ahead with this contract you will not be hearing from me again and I bid you good day.”
“To accept this contract you will need to ring this number again five minutes from now and just say the word yes. I look forward to hearing this response. Good luck.”
There are sighs all round as they realize that their fears have been confirmed. No one is keen at all on continuing with the mission to kill Margarite. Taeva just wants to give up on the mission and head back to the ship now. Arvor, however, is keen to try and see if there is a way of turning the tables on Mr. Tibbs and profiting from the situation in some way.
He calls up Chloe on her entryphone. She seems very nervous about Arvor and his questions and there are long pauses between her answers. After a while, Arvor gets the feeling that Chloe is deliberately trying to stall him and keep him on the line as long as possible.
These suspicions are confirmed when a van with blacked out windows slowly comes to a halt some 100m away from the villa. Although the van has just stopped a distance away and appears to be taking no immediate action, this is the final straw for the party members – now they all agree with Taeva that it’s best just to leave this messy situation well alone and get the hell out of Dodge.
They quickly head off in the opposite direction from the van and wave down the first cab that they can find, telling the driver to get them to the starport as soon as possible.
The driver agrees and heads off towards the starport. Jie notices that the van with the blacked out windows is following them at a safe distance.
The starport is on the opposite side of the city some three hours’ drive away. The van continues to follow them, but doesn’t seem to be taking any other action. Figuring that they will be safe enough once they reach the starport, they relax a little.
During the long journey, the driver is listening to Telmat FM. One of the items on the news catches their attention:
“Telmat Police are still appealing for information from anyone who has any information about the murder of two white males either late on 036 or early on 037. The two males were badly tortured and it is not possible to identify them due to the fact that their heads, hands and feet were all removed. One of the males is quite remarkable, however, due to the fact that he has detachable buttocks – a fact that has led the tabloids to describe the incident as the ‘Ass Bandit Murders’ and has led to a lot of jokes about ‘the police working their asses off to solve the case’ and ‘the Police Commissioner can kiss his ass goodbye if he can’t solve this one’ …”
The cab eventually makes it back to the starport. The van stops a distance behind them, but nothing happens as the party enter the safety of the port.
They are relieved to be back aboard the Princess again.
Autumn greets them all with some drinks. “So how did the job go?” she asks.
“Not that well,” Grim replies grimly.
“Well I have a little good news at least,” Autumn replies. “We already have one passenger to Glisten even though we haven’t been able to set a departure date yet. Maria Chan booked with us again. She arrived just after you left yesterday morning on 037. She has been acting very strangely since she boarded though. She doesn’t come out of her room and has already drunk her way through a quarter of our entire supply of gin. She hardly drank at all on the journey from Weiss.”
“I’ve done alright over the past couple of days as well,” Max announces. “Managed to finally shift that bloody whisky we’ve beeen hauling since Grote at a tasty margin. Made a bit on the clothes and cotton. Just struggling with that bloody cake. Getting sick of finding buyers for it. Next buyer I find and I’ll dump the stuff on him even if it’s at a slight loss just to get off this shithole world as soon as possible.”
No one is too enthusiastic to get further dragged into the case of Maria Chan and the ‘Ass Bandit Murder’ case, seeing nothing but a whole heap of trouble for zero reward. Nervous about the possibility of attacks from either Ceglarski or Chloe’s men though, they decide to post a guard at the entrance to the airlock for the remainder of their stay on Aki.
Jie enthusiastically volunteers for the first shift, the joy on her face evident as her fingers curl around the barrel of Black Betty after their separation for the past 36 hours.
The other urge Max to hurry up and finish his trading and for Autumn to start looking for passengers as quickly as possible so they can be offworld with the minimum of delays.