Teaser for Tuesday, July 6, 2010 -- "Gang Aft Agley", Part Two
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!"
-- Robert Burns, "To a Mouse"
The pianist's name was Amarie. She played deftly across the dual keyboards in front of her with her four hands -- a Terrellian racial fact of genetics that made her eminently prepared for music -- and had played at the Blue Note bar on Qualor II for ... more decades than she cared to remember or admit to.
She had been approached by many people in her past, each of them wanting to know things she'd seen, things she knew, names, faces, other random information. Since her ex-husband had been killed by Starfleet officers for being an immense fool while smuggling, the number of people pumping her for information had dropped somewhat, but there were still several Ferengi who knew how to show a woman that they knew her proper value. As a result, Amarie kept her ears open, her eyes open, and talked to as many people as possible. When the two men in leather jackets entered, she instantly pegged them as security of some sort.
She was willing to talk to them because the older man was so genuinely handsome.
She wondered the man's charm and wit were an act, but when she looked in his eyes, she sensed he was genuinely capable of this, even if he was artificially creating it in order to get her to help him and his friend. Besides, what woman would turn down some harmless flirting, even if it came with an ulterior motive? Twenty minutes later, when he finally got around to asking for her help, she had already decided she'd let him off easy.
She asked him to buy her a drink as she took a thirty-minute break. He bought her two, and they sat and talked. And talked. She kept expecting him to press his questions about the man named Harrison Cardiff, but he didn't bring it up once. When the bartender signaled to her that her thirty minutes were up, she finally turned to him and asked, "Are you sticking around for my next set? I'll get another break after it's over."
"I'd like to, but my time here is limited. I'm needed elsewhere."
"On the path of Harrison Cardiff, no doubt. Just out of curiosity, what are you going to do once you find him?" She took a long drag of her salt lick. She had no concern whether he wanted to kill Cardiff or give him a medal; she just wanted to hear what he'd say.
"He has information I need. I think he's in danger. So I'm going to offer him my help in exchange for the information."
Taking a wild guess, Amarie asked, "Do you go around saving handsome men in peril on a regular basis, Commander?"
He smiled a genuine smile, looking at his friend, whom Amarie had already guessed was Betazoid, and a friend. "I've never met Harrison Cardiff, so I'm only interested in being a good Samaritan."
"A shame. I was hoping I could start a new career as a matchmaker." She stood up. "I couldn't figure out why you spent my entire break talking about everything other than the question you wanted to ask: where can I find Harrison Cardiff?"
He kept smiling. "I didn't mind having a nice conversation. It seemed like you didn't mind it either. And I didn't need to ask the question."
"I already knew you were going to tell me."
She laughed. And just before she went back to her keyboards, she told them where she thought they could find Harrison Cardiff.
Outside the bar, Marcus Betencourt turned to Carlos Ruiz as he called for transport from their shuttle in orbit. "You've still got the touch, Carlos."
Ruiz turned to his friend and nodded. "Never lost it. Just haven't needed it in a while."