"Oh, well. I was hoping he'd be smarter than that." Emmett picked up the followers behind them with his good eye, and held Inez a little closer. "We've picked up a couple of shadows. I doubt they'll try something, but if they do, just met me handle it."
Once in the front door, Emmett scans the room quickly for his shipmates. If everything went well, the pair should be there.
The half man moves with speed over to them, directing Inez to get a table front and center, in full view of the bartender and the rest of the room looking at their faces for an indication as to how well things went. "OK, no time to talk. We picked up some shadows that followed us here. You guys need to either slip out the back or hide in the corner out of sight if you want to keep your cover on this. Inez and I will connect with the others somehow. There's a door out the back that I doubt they've covered."
Ibn Fadil shifts indecisively in his seat. "The deception failed? Is everyone all right?"
"We can't tell - he didn't rip Inez's wig off, if that's what you mean. But he's now either really suspcious or increasingly angry that we *tried* to ship Genevra off planet. In any case, he's got more men watching anyone who might even look suspicious. You're probably going to get a tail sooner or later, but Pham should still be free of suspicion."
Watching the door, he asks, "What do you propose to do next?"
"Get away from here, don't pick up tails - if you do, go to the Captain or the Three Trees offices and complain about Victor's men harassing you. That's what we're going to do if this keeps up. We'll wait here for Val and Hiro to pass the word that she made it off OK." Nyala will remain at the infirmary to await a more propitious moment to leave.
The half-elf contemplates his diminishing options with a gloomy expression. Avoiding decisions is a habit he is going to have to break, starting now ... he can either wash his hands of the situation, or accept that he is stuck with it whether he likes it or not.
Resigned at last, he fishes out a coin to pay for his half-finished beer. "I am going to slip out and shadow your shadows," he says. "With a little luck I may be able to find out what they want to do."
Suiting his actions to his words, ibn Fadil puts down his money and stands. "I like the idea of complaining to the company, by the way," he adds. "See you later." He slips out through the back door with practiced nonchalance and finds a place where he can keep an eye on the front door. He spots both watchers loitering about.
"Inez, honey, do you want to stay here or do you want to go with them away from prying eyes?"
She hesitates. "I'll stay."
"I'm sorry to have dragged you into this. It should be over soon." The pair take the chairs in the middle of the room and await the others.
Val and Hiro make their way to the Cask, content to let their watchers watch for the moment--it's broad daylight and a busy street, they're clearly not about to start anything.
Val enters the cask with shoulders hung low. The entire trip there is a bit nerve wracking, and maintaining a charade of defeat while trying not to give anything away leaves Val feeling drained. Once certain there are no watchers within the establishment, Val moves over to greet Emmett.
"So where is everybody?" Val asks the half-man by way of greeting. There is a glint in his eyes that tells Emmett that he is relieved to be here. "Has everything else gone well?"
* * *
Outside the Cask, Captain Ian Baris examines the stallkeeper's goods with painstaking care and wonders what his chances will be if he jumps ship in this port. He'd hoped for a promotion after a few more years on Bral, but the costs of working for this particular Victor are starting to outweigh the benefits of connection to the family. _This whole thing is ridiculous, I know we've been spotted, and what does he expect us to do anyway? Easy enough for *him* to say he'll take care of any trouble._ He sighs and signals two of the others to get around the back of the building.
* * *
Ibn Fadil sees two of the men he has picked out as Victor's heading toward his position.
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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson