I can never tell if I’m eager or terrified going into a fight, particularly a gunfight. I had two pistols, a shotgun, a big damn knife and one of Sun’s walkie talkie things. In the distance Hell had another one, so that she could keep us informed. If she knew where they were, and could keep an eye on them, then she could send us immediate word about which way the bad guys were heading. That was actually more valuable than her bullets.
Sands was carrying the third walkie. He had Sun and Aggie with him, creeping along the trees at the back of the house. Sun was leading the way of course. We’d made it all the way to them without being spotted. It would have been a lot harder without his help because we couldn’t use a vahana to get there. They would have heard the engine from a distance.
We were waiting for a word from Hell. She had to set up on the other side where she could see the end of the house. The moment she was ready, Ares and I would head into trouble. He almost looked bored. I wish I could do that.
The little machine sounded at last. “Hath here. Ready and waiting.”
Then it was Sam, “Any time. We’re in the trees, moving apart now.”
I answered them, “We’re on our way in.”
I was surprised how quietly Ares could move. He’d rather just cave your face in, but he knew every different way there was to take on an enemy. We were on the end of the house that had two vahanas. We knew someone would be there watching them. Fortunately, these guys were bored to death, watching a lonely house at the boundary that was in no danger at all. So there was just one god leaning against the side of a vahana smoking a cigarette. Ares crept around one side, I went the other way. It was easy enough. I was closer so Ares made a little noise with a rock or something to get his attention. With the guard looking the other way, I could rush in and put my knife between his ribs. He hardly made sound enough to warrant my hand over his mouth.
I hate killing a god. Somewhere out there on Earth the mortals lost some concept, some ideal or evil, something that helped them make their way through their unforgiving world. A piece of understanding was gone. I had to hope that he had been someone minor. We were fighting for all of theology though, so a few casualties would be a small price to pay. Unless we were those casualties, of course.
I dropped the body and picked up the guy’s gun. I hoped that small pistols like that would be all we’d face.
That was one down. There were eight or nine more inside. Ares stepped aside at the door. He could get in the hard way, but he couldn’t pick a lock. We wanted to be quiet for as long as we could. As it turned out, I didn’t need any trick to get in. The door was unlocked. Their first real mistake. I was encouraged. If they weren’t expecting trouble, then they wouldn’t be ready for it.
We were on the end of the house that had the kitchen. No one was there. I hate that feeling of relief. It wasn’t as though no one would be inside. Ares took the lead then. We found three of the guys at a table in the next room. Ares saw them when they saw him. I was in the room too late to do anything but cover the doors. Ares had smashed one over the head and shot another. The last guy slipped out a door shouting. “Someone’s here!”
I hoped that the idiot’s screaming would bring them all running. Shooting them as they came around corners would be a lot safer than moving around those corners ourselves. Neither Ares nor I could hear everything, but we could tell that whoever was in charge was giving orders.
After Ares stomped the head of his first victim enough times to be sure that the god would never get up again, we were ready to move in. Ares didn’t say a word. He held up one hand, telling me to be patient. We weren’t in a hurry. We knew that it was possible that they had walkie talkies and that more gods would come running. It wasn’t likely though. So it was just us and them all sitting and waiting for as long as it took to kill each other. The house was long on one side, short on another, to go with the cliff. So we would have to push through the place while they defended it unless they actually ran like we hoped.
I put out a call to the others. “Any action outside?”
“We can hear the shots,” Sam answered, “but from here, you’re all boxed in.”
“Nothing that I can see either,” Hell said. “Wait! I’ve got four guys coming out on the west side. Five guys.”
We heard the rifle report. She popped off a couple rounds. Then we heard her voice over the walkie again. “They’re not taking the vahana. They’re headed into the trees toward the cliffs. I put one down, so there’s only four left. I saw no case or bag. I don’t know if they have the money.”
“Great,” I said to Ares.
He said, “We’ve only got two or three in here then. No problem.”
He really had a great sense of ironic timing because right then the din of gunblasts filled the other side of the room. Whoever they were, they were stocked with bullets. I hate fighting rich guys. Ares had to crouch back behind his cover. He pointed for me to take a side door to flank them. You can’t dislike a guy who volunteers to take enemy fire.
Ares’s shotgun blasted back, but he had to fire blind. Where he was, he couldn’t afford to poke any more of himself out than he had to. So I rushed around to get to the other side. They must have had the same thought, because some scary looking guy in dark glasses was moving right at me. We both fired. I felt the bullet, but it wasn’t bad. My shot wasn’t as fast, but I hit what I was aiming at. Those dark glasses split. Another theological point of view was lost to two worlds.
Once I got to the other door, the two thugs were ready. I couldn’t get in, but they had to watch for me and Ares at the same time. Ares was true to form. He had only half an opening, but he still threw his whole oversized frame into it. The moment I saw the Temple men panic I joined in. I managed to hit one in the leg. If he were mortal, he’d never walk again. Even as a god it would take years or decades to recover. The other guy? The one closer to Ares? I couldn’t even tell what he had looked like.
With the shooting in the house ended, we heard the gunfire outside. “Damn.” I got on the walkie. “Sam, can you tell us what’s going on?”
“We’re trying to stop them, but there’s more of them than us. Get out here. Maybe we can hit ’em from two sides.”
“We’re on our way. Hell, watch the trees. We can’t let these guys get away.”
The wounded god at my feet reached for his pistol. I kicked that way and then stepped on his leg. “Where’s the money?”
“The money! Did they take it with them?”
There was no way he was lying, so imagine my confusion when he asked me, “What money?”
I saw Ares give me a look. We didn’t have time to deal with it. “Grab his gun and his keys. Let’s go after the others.” I got on the walkie talkie thing, “Hell, don’t shoot. Me and Ares are coming out.”
Ares was moving faster than I was. I could hardly feel the wound from the bullet. I was furious, that cold anger I get sometimes that scares me. I had thought we were winning after Ares and I had cleared the house. I wasn’t sure what we were after if there was no money. My mind was running over the possibilities. The Temple men ran from the house without carrying anything. What were they doing out there?
I had to try a couple different keys while Ares was getting his guns ready. “She’s not a bad shot,” I said.
“Knew what she was doing,” he said. We knew that Samael had picked the right cop for the job. If her first shot had hit one of the guys coming out of the house, they would have piled into the vahana. She put two rounds where the driver was going to be, and no one wanted to be the first person in that seat. It forced them to run where we wanted them to go, and it left us a fast way to catch up.
We had to wheel around in a jagged path through the thick trees. “Which way do I go?,” I asked. I was answered by the report of a gun. I started off in the direction of the shots. “How far do you think they got?”
“Can’t have been far.” And he was right. It was minutes when he said, “I can see one now.” He put his arm out the window to shoot. One of the Temple men was there, limping away from whoever was shooting at him. A big guy, almost as big as Ares, he had a pistol in each hand. When he heard the motor, he turned a gun on us, but Ares’s shots changed his mind. The ground was rugged so Ares didn’t hit his target. It did make the guy hurry to move out of range.
I could see which way he was going to go, so I told Ares, “Save your bullets.” There was a sickening thump under the wheels. I’d never run over a god before. I’d shot, stabbed and bludgeoned gods over the centuries, but this was the first time I’d put one under a vahana. I didn’t much care for the feel of it. I even saw Ares wince.
We weren’t fool enough to stay in our seats. We barreled out on either side, knowing that we’d come under fire if any other Temple men were anywhere near. As it turned out the only reason this bruiser was lagging behind was that he’d already been shot three or four times. Aggie and Sam came rushing over. Aggie told me, “We’re chasing them through the trees. Icarus is with them. I’ll be honest, Boss, without Sun, I don’t think we could follow him.”
I saw some blood on Aggie’s arm. “You’re shot?”
“Stabbed by that guy you just ran over. Holy crap, he’s still moving.”
That didn’t last. Ares shot the guy through the head. Sam shrugged. He didn’t like having to see that, but he was glad he didn’t have to do it. He told us, “They don’t have anything with them. I think the money’s back at the house.”
Ares said, “A guy there told us there is no money.”
I asked Sam, “How many are there now?”
“Three, including Icarus. I think only two of them are armed.”
It hit me all at once. It was the kind of moment that makes you grateful for the answer, but angry that you were dumb enough to miss it for so long. “The one that’s unarmed, he have grey hair?”
“What? Yeah, why?”
“We can’t shoot him. He’s the thing they’re guarding. There’s no money out here.”
“Is he a witness or an accomplice?”
“He’s just a face worth a couple million drevens. Make sure to let Sun know that we need that guy alive. Sam, get on the walkie and you tell Hell. Also tell her to come along and watch the trees. If Icarus decides to slip out into open area, I want her to clip the bastard.”
“I’ll tell her, but right now he’s moving closer to the cliffs.”
“Makes sense. He heard the vahana. He’s making sure we have to follow on foot.”
It had been a long time since I’d had to do anything like that. It’s the kind of chase that starts intense, and then gets boring. We followed Sun cautiously. He could keep up with them reasonably easy. I imagine that it would have been extremely hard to follow Icarus alone. He had two more gods with him though, so there was no way for him to move without leaving a trace. We had to move quietly enough that we could get the drop on him, so before long I was just passing time. Then we caught sight of them. Sun pointed them out, hoping that one of us might be able to put a round into one. It wasn’t an easy shot. There were enough trees, and we were enough of a distance away that you’d be as likely to miss as hit. And that’s what happened when Ares popped off a round. He gave me an angry glance like it was my fault that he had to be careful not to hit the guy in between Icarus and the Temple thug.
Crawling minutes became violent moments. Icarus was pulling the idiot along behind him while the third guy was shooting back. Sam and I both had the chance to fire. I don’t know which one of us hit the tree right next to the guy, but watching him reel back was rewarding. If only it had been serious. As it was, we had the chance to follow.
Ares was the fastest. He charged forward, sometimes where he was almost likely to get hit. He was stymied when he got that far though. Ares was hard, but he was a city guy. Even back in the old days he didn’t waste a lot of time in the wilderness. So he had to wait for Sun to get to him and pick up the trail again.
Time moved as fast as we did. It was galling. We spotted our quarry at too great a distance to act. Twice. Finally, I’d had enough of it. I told Sun, “Get us closer. Don’t give us away. I want one good shot.”
The old cowboy nodded and got their sign again. I think a few times he almost thought he was where he needed to be, but he wasn’t going to say a word until he was certain. It was almost strange watching the reactions of our posse. Sun was focused on the task at hand. Aggie enjoyed every moment that he wasn’t in danger of being shot. Sam and Ares were the opposite of what they should have been. Ares knew the fight was coming, and he was patient for it, waiting with even breaths. Sam was getting aggravated. You could see it in his eyes. He wanted the case closed and he wanted to go home. Instead he was stuck in the trees, following some pioneer badass for reasons he didn’t understand.
Icarus stayed along the cliffs. He was smart enough to know that he couldn’t be safe if he left that cover. He was right. Aggie or Sam kept heading backwards every so often to stay in touch with Hell. That was another of our advantages. Icarus built his home where he did because it was isolated and beautiful. But he was a long way from any roads. The trees he was using didn’t fan out for miles. If we could reach him before then, we had him. If he could get to the wider wooded area, then we might lose him though, even with Sun’s help. It was a race. A slow, frustrating race of patience and determination.
At last Sun waved me up to him. I wasn’t sure why at first, but he pointed. There was a gap that he knew Icarus was going to have to pass through. It was a peach of a shot. Almost easy. I took careful aim, waited for a target and put a round into a god’s leg. The immediate shout surprised everyone but me.
Aggie said, “Did you just shoot the guy you told us not to shoot?”
Ares smiled in his savage way. “Now they have to leave him or drag him.” But then we all saw that there was a third option. We all had to start shooting to prevent them from killing the wounded god themselves. That wasn’t a problem. All of us were where we could see. Neither Icarus or the Temple thug were easy targets, but they had to turn tail and run or the constant fire from five guns was going to get lucky.
With our enemy gone, we all rushed up. Ares and Sam were watching for the bastards, so Aggie saw it first. I couldn’t help enjoying the amazement in his eyes. “It’s Fade Triumph!”
Sun didn’t know the man on sight, but Sam did. He looked over, then he gaped. “He’s not dead?”
Even Ares was confused. He’d seen the photo in the papers. There was no mistake. He just looked to me for answers. I explained it. “It’s not Fade Triumph. A fade maybe, but not Triumph.”
“Yeah,” the old guy said. “Can you get me to a doctor?”
Sun said, “Lemme have a look at that.”
While he tended to the bullet wound, I explained it to the others. “Fade Triumph was never at the Primum Mobile. This guy was there, using his name. Hey, what is your name?”
“Sawdust. Fade Sawdust.”
“Sawdust?,” Aggie asked.
“I used to live near the mill at the north point of Muspelheim.”
“He’s just some guy, some lost fade that the Temple was rehabilitating. All they needed was someone with the right hair color, near the right height. Not quite the right height though, huh? That’s why the suit didn’t match up.”
“Th-they wouldn’t even let me keep it,” Sawdust complained.
“They set us on a fake robbery, chasing their suspect instead of the real one. They didn’t know that the real Triumph would be found by Sun. They either didn’t know or didn’t count on the boundary preserving the body for that long. Maybe they just assumed that he wouldn’t be discovered.”
“I only found him because I was followin’ some tire tracks,” Sun said.
Sam had to ask, “If he really got all that money, then where is it now and why in the world didn’t he take it to the police?”
“I don’t know how he got the money out of the bank, but I do know that the Temple found out about it pretty quick. He had to know it would happen. How could he go anywhere the Temple might be watching? They had to have had men looking for him.”
“They did,” Ares said. “I’ll testify to that.”
“So he had to run. I don’t know if he ran to the boundary on his own looking for a sympathetic pioneer or if they somehow lured him out to Icarus. The second one sounds more likely. Then again, I don’t know how many pioneers are on their payroll. If anyone knew anything about it at all, then they couldn’t risk having anyone looking into it. So they set up a fake robbery. They even set up a patsy to play Triumph as fast as they could. That’s why they couldn’t avoid the coincidence. They just didn’t count on how hard we were going to pursue the details.”
“But how did they find a fade that matched Triumph perfectly?,” Sam said.
Aggie got it by then. “They didn’t. They just had someone go to the registry and swap the photo with another. That easy. The only people who might be able to tell us different worked for the Temple. All of Triumph’s friends lived there, and the Temple probably counted on being able to keep that quiet. I guess there was that skinny dame from the soup kitchen, but who would really listen to her if she said anything? They had the proof they needed. Even if they had to make it themselves.”
“But now we have their secret. We can prove that the man that the Temple wanted found is not the one that was murdered.”
Ares told us, “We can’t prove the frontier manipulation if we don’t have the money. And the money isn’t out here.”
He was right. “We’ll take care of that as soon as we’re done with this. We can’t let Icarus get away.”
“What are you talking about?,” Aggie asked. “We’ve got their pawn here.”
Ares told the kid, “If Icarus gets to a phone or telegraph station or anything, then he can contact the Temple. We’re a long way from the city. Imagine the Temple sending everyone they have looking for us between here and the city. That’s not a fight we want.”
Icarus wasn’t trying to get away. We assumed that he was trying to get some distance while we were fixing up the injured fade. Seeing that famous face had distracted Ares and Sam enough that they weren’t watching the way they should have. Ares saw Icarus almost too late. There was some little sound or maybe just an ages old instinct that told Ares to watch out. There was Icarus, taking aim. I saw Ares dive aside, but we were too close together. Agnosticism screamed when the bullet hit him. I could see the shock on Ares when he saw what had happened. “NO!”
In the next instant, with me and Sam firing to push our enemies away, Ares was wheeling around the trees. Icarus knew that death was coming for him. Fast as Icarus was, it wasn’t fast enough. Ares was ruthless enough to know that he needed to hurt the man more than he needed to kill him. The sound of Icarus when the bullet struck his leg is something I’ll treasure until the day I fade. Icarus didn’t stop though. Ares, Sam and I had to give chase both to him and the Temple thug with him. Even in his panic Icarus knew that he needed to stay in the trees. There was no way to go but onward. By the time we got to him, we were close enough to the cliff’s edge to see it. Sam shot the other guy. True to his profession, he took him alive, a shoulder shot that not only stopped him, it disarmed him. Icarus wasn’t going to be that lucky.
We rushed past the fallen god, taking his gun with us. Icarus could hardly walk by then. He was slumped against a tree, trying to get a good shot. That might have saved him from one of us. The three of us together could move and cover him so that it was inevitable that he’d end up in our hands. Sam tried real hard to get to the story god. I made sure that it was Ares.
Icarus was out of bullets by the time Ares had him. Those massive hands had him up against the tree as though he could stand. Icarus nearly laughed. “You got me. I know it. You need someone to talk. I’ll do it. Those Temple guys are fanatics, but I’ll tell the world what I know.”
“No you won’t,” Ares said.
Ares gripped Icarus’s throat just hard enough to stop him from talking. The war god needed Icarus to understand. “That young god you shot is a brave man, true to his name. You’re worth less than nothing. Most mortals don’t even know why Icarus flew. But they know what you are. You’re supposed to be a symbol of abandon, of reckless courage. Instead you squirm for the city’s power. You’re greed and cowardice. But your story is also a cautionary tale. Fly too close to danger, and you fall. I can’t make you live like a god, but I can help you die like one.”
Icarus was begging for us to stop Ares. Sam thought about it, but he saw that I was ready to make sure it would happen. What could he do? Ares hoisted Icarus above his head and launched him over the cliff.
Sam sighed. “I didn’t see that happen. He fell. But we should have taken him in.”
I started us walking back. “No. Without the money he could lie and damage our story. Only with the money was he worth anything as a witness. And if we get the money we don’t need him.”
“Okay,” Sam said, “but we’re supposed to be fighting for what’s right.”
“That was justice,” Ares said, “and before you say it, that was also mercy. If Aggie dies, then Icarus is better off now than he would be if I still had him.”
We picked up the guy Sam shot. Icarus was right. The cretin was already telling us that he wouldn’t say a word. We didn’t care.
Sun saw us coming. “He’s still with us. Sam left his walkie talkie here, so I called Hell over. She’s on her way to us so that we can get him to the vahana. Due east is Brahmanda. They have a hospital.”
We put together a stretcher to carry him out. I had his head and Ares had his feet. The movement woke him up. His instant expression was agony. “Quiet,” I told him. “We’re getting you to a doctor.”
It took him some effort, but he forced out a one word question. “Die?”
I didn’t see any reason to lie to him. “I don’t know. I’ve seen gods survive worse.”
He nodded. After a minute or so he told me, “Safest … place.”
Ares said, “Don’t worry. We got ’em all.”
“No,” I said. “That’s not what he means.”
Aggie could tell that I didn’t know what he meant either. I didn’t tell him to stay quiet. I knew that he had something important to say. I saw his mind work. He had only a few breaths to force out any word. “Money.”
I didn’t make him say more. I hoped I had enough to figure that out. Then it hit me. “Great Cosmos! Aggie, this is why you’re my partner.” I saw something close to a smile on the kid. “Sam, when we get back to the city we need to bring this fade right to your station. When Han sees this double, he’ll do whatever it takes.”
“Yeah,” Sam said.
“We need a bunch of heavily armed cops and some city auditors.”
“The money, Sam. We thought it was out here, but it’s not. Aggie and I talked to one of Triumph’s friends. Maybe his only friend. She knew what he was going to do. He told her that he was going to put the money in the safest place possible.”
“Right. So where is it?”
“Sam, where is the safest place for your drevens?” When he couldn’t answer the question, I had to tell him, “The bank, Sam. The money’s in the bank. Why didn’t I see this before? That’s how he did it. He didn’t need any special clearance. He didn’t withdraw the money. He just transferred it to another Temple account. It’s still sitting there.”
“No way,” Sam said. “They’d find it.”
“No they wouldn’t. The Temple works under Pantheon City law. Different accounts for different purposes. If any account has an extra two million drevens in it, then they have to account for that. If they can’t, then we have them. They didn’t look for it in the bank for the same reason we didn’t. They assumed that Triumph took the money with him. A Pantheon bank transfer is a single receipt to the person making the transaction, but two of them to anyone checking. They found the withdrawal, and knew that Triumph had raided their illegal account. They didn’t know there was also a deposit. They couldn’t have guessed that he just gave it right back to them. They wouldn’t think to look. And if it’s one of their charity accounts, well, I doubt they check the balance all that often, and they only get notified when money comes out, not when it goes in.”
“Could that be right?,” Sam asked.
Ares said, “I don’t know.”
I said, “Aggie, you’ve got to hang on. You’ve got to live at least long enough to see if you’re right.”
In response, he passed out. Hell met us not far from the edge of the trees. “It’s this way. Oh no.”
“He’ll be fine,” Sun said, “long as we get him to a real doctor quick.”
“Don’t say it if you don’t mean it,” I said.
Sun was the medic of our group more or less. He wasn’t any kind of doctor, but we were trusting him to keep the kid alive. Hath had brought along the survivors from our raid. The guy I shot in the leg, and the one she shot from a distance. We also had the one Sam shot at the cliff. Ares and I didn’t mind keeping them company. For a very brief interval they were defiant. Then they were quiet.
The cops were up front trying to ignore as much as they could in case they had to. The vahana drove as fast as Sam could handle it cross country. The lousy dirt roads out there weren’t much better. I was glad that Agnosticism was asleep. I wouldn’t have wanted him to feel the ground under us.
The Brahmanda hospital wasn’t big, but it was impressive enough. Sun said as much to Hell who was clearly surprised by the facility. He told her, “Ain’t the same out here as it is in town. Close to the boundary. Easier to get hurt. You get sick or break your arm out here, then you’d better have a damn good doctor to look at it. Aggie’ll be in good hands.”
Sam was keeping an eye on the nurse and the doctor there. I was getting my wound stitched up. Hell was thinking ahead. Without turning to him, she said, “Ares is staying here with Aggie.”
“The hell I am.”
She turned. “Hell says you are.”
“Very funny. Sun can do it.”
“Can’t,” the old man said. “Gotta get home. I left Chris chained in the basement.”
Ares told her, “Why don’t you stay?”
“I’m a cop. Sam’s a cop. We need as much police presence as possible where we’re going. We don’t need a gunfighter there. There’s nothing you can do to help with the Pantheon bank. So it’s up to you to sit with Aggie. Besides, if anyone here figures out anything or suspects anything, if anyone comes looking for the survivor of the fight, then someone needs to stop them. That’s not a job for someone with a badge.”
Oh, Ares didn’t want to hear any part of that. He was determined to win though, even if it meant he couldn’t be there. Ares was the kind of god who always made direct eye contact, but he couldn’t quite manage it that time. “You’re right. I don’t like it, but you’re right. At least I’m fighting alongside worthy gods for a change. Get to the city as fast as you can.”
Now that was good advice. The doctor that patched up our prisoners tried to convince us that none of them should be traveling, but there wasn’t any way any of them could stop us. As soon as we could, we piled into the stolen vahana. It was one heavy duty beast of a machine. I’ve got to hand it to the Temple. They really provided us with great transportation. Sun headed home. Sands, Hath and I were on our way back with three trussed up Temple goons and Fade Sawdust, the proof. We had to gag the Temple men, because they wouldn’t stop trying to intimidate Sawdust even through their wounds and bindings.
We were on the road and also on the lack of road for a while when Sands started in on the fade. “Okay, you’re gonna tell us a few things on the way.”
He stared straight ahead. The threats from the thugs that had been babysitting him had to have bothered him. On the other hand we had cleaned up that crew. Who was he more afraid of? “What will happen to me if I help you?”
“Well I’ll tell what’ll happen if you don’t. You end up in a cell. You’ve recovered from the long slide. You want to spend your new life behind bars?”
“Can you promise that I’ll go free?”
“Only a prosecutor can do that. I’ll do what I can for you though. I’ve got no reason not to. I want you on that witness stand.”
For a second the fade looked brave. “What I tell you cops now isn’t admissible in court? Is it?”
“You’re right, it’s not,” Sands said.
I saw the look in Hell’s eyes when she heard that. It was true. He didn’t have a lawyer. He hadn’t had the chance to contact anyone at all. By city law, the fade couldn’t be forced to repeat his testimony. The cops couldn’t repeat it. But I was sitting right there, and not being an officer of the law, I wasn’t bound by that. I could repeat anything the fade said, under oath, without breaking any law of any kind.
Sawdust bought it though. “I thought I was going to fade again. I was working in a Leviathan station. Shining shoes and carrying bags and stuff. That’s all. I was hardly making enough to live. I didn’t have my own place. I was squatting in an unserviced building.”
“I want to know how you got mixed up in this. Why does everyone think you’re the dead guy?”
I could have told Sands that. The Temple had no reason to let their patsy in on the whole story. Sands said, “He’s dead. Fade Triumph was killed not far from where we picked you up. The body was found with the face crushed so that you could pass as him when your picture took the place of his. What did they tell you you were doing?”
“I, I didn’t know what it was all about. I just knew that I was supposed to get all dressed up and have a few nights on the town. They were footing the bill. I was supposed to pick up some woman and make it look like I was heading to her place. I did go there, but it was all business. I didn’t, you know. I just had some drinks and some drugs. I spent a little time with a couple famous faces. I knew that I was screwing up someone’s life, but that’s all. I didn’t know anyone was going to be killed. Why would anyone want to kill a fade so bad they’d set me up to take his place?”
“What were they going to do with you?”
“I heard ’em talking a couple times. I think they were considering killing me.”
“Then we saved your life,” Sands said. “You’ve got that much more reason to talk.”
Sawdust broke down. We had to let him clear out some real sobs. I hate to say it, but I had a hard time holding in the laughter. The guy was pathetic. No wonder they used him. He told us who contacted him from the Temple. Just some nameless woman in a suit who showed up with his regular contact. He didn’t know a lot of names. They brought him to one of the Temple’s branches in his area, and they gave him some food and some nice clothes. They set up a couple big guys in shades to take him where he needed to go and to keep him out of sight the rest of the time. They were his chauffeurs, his bodyguards and more than that, his handlers. They just called themselves Hot and Cold. Code names obviously. They were both at the Icarus place. One was even trussed up in our vahana. Sawdust told us about partying at the Primum, and where he was when he was out of sight, just some little apartment at a place with a backdoor. He didn’t know who set it up, or why he was doing it.
So he wasn’t much help that way. He didn’t know what he was being used for. We didn’t need him for that though. All we needed was the proof that Fade Triumph was not the god at the the club who met Bible Lighter, that Triumph didn’t do all the things that were accepted, and that the Temple not only knew it, they created the cover up.