“I don’t normally…” The client looked around nervously. She was wearing an oversized baseball cap, wide sunglasses, and a trench coat. She couldn’t have been saying “look at me, I’m sneaky,” any more if she had been wearing a sign. “…I don’t really…”
“Let’s go in the back room, why don’t we?” Nate nodded at Elliot, waiting casually at the bar, and at Sophie, chatting up an out-of-town businessman two booths away. “I think you’ll be more comfortable back there. Oh, bring your drink. Joe won’t mind.”
“If you’re sure it’s no problem…” Her voice quavered and shook. Her gloved hands were tight around the mug. But she stood without an trouble and politely refused Nate’s offer to help her up.
In the back room, she seemed to relax a bit, leaning back in her chair and sipping cautiously at the beer. “I don’t like public places… and I don’t want to be seen… here.” She gulped her beer this time. “It’s just… well. I don’t normally leave Sunnydale.”
“Sunnydale?” Nate asked, letting the earpiece pick it up. “I’m not familiar with…”
“Oh hell no,” Hardison’s angry whisper cut across the earpiece. Nate ignored it.
“It’s a small city in Southern California.” The client flapped a gloved hand dismissively. “So you can see this was quite a drive for me.”
“A drive?” Nate lifted an eyebrow, while in his earpiece Hardison continued to swear.
“I do not… I don’t like planes. They make me uncomfortable.” The client clearly was uncomfortable everywhere, but there was only so much Nate could do about that. “The problem is… my son is missing.”
“We don’t normally do missing…”
The client slid a folder across the table, along with a small voice-recorder. “My interview with the police. And, as of five days ago, all of the children who have gone missing. Also, a description of the group and their flier.”
“I’m sorry?” Nate frowned at the folder without touching it. “‘The group?’”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” The client’s sudden confidence vanished as fast as it had shown up. “My son was part of a youth group. A lot of the kids were. We thought it was a good idea at first, you know. Keep them out of trouble.” She ducked her head and flapped her hands. “There’s more trouble to get in than you’d believe, in Sunnydale. But then… Well. They started not coming home. First for a day or two. And then he vanished altogether.”
Nate flipped through the photos, one by one. “And the police…”
The client pointed at the recorder. “They’re not interested. It’s not the sort of thing they do.”
“I see.” Nate’s jaw set. “Let me consult with my team… but I think it’s safe to say, Mrs.…
“Mm. Mrs. Doe, I can’t promise that we’ll find your son. But we’ll get to the bottom of this, one way or another.”
Part III: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1135971.html
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