A slim blonde man in a charcoal suit and vest with a tight fade and wire rimmed glasses walked into the room. He was followed by a taller, bearded man in a Fred Perry polo carrying an AR-15. Behind them, and so far not noticed, Casey was still crouched in the closet. In her left hand she held an adjustable wrench, and her right was hovering at the gun on her hip.
Myka figured she had about half a second where she could have Tesla-ed these guys before anybody’s trigger finger got too itchy, but she’d spent that moment looking at Casey.
Casey mouthed “Spencer” and her eyes jerked to the smaller man, and Myka looked away quickly.
“Hands where I can see them.”
Damn it. Myka raised her hands and wished, for the first time in a while, she had a badge to flash. “You don’t need to point that thing at me.”
“You aren’t from this conference. Who are you, and what are you doing in this room?”
“I could ask you the same.”
Spencer spoke with a slightly pompous air that remained calculating as he looked around the room, so far, only the parts that Myka was in. “My employer organized this conference, I invited all the guests, and there was a disturbance here earlier. I heard a noise and wanted to make sure nothing was wrong. You, however, are trespassing. You need to leave. Or, perhaps you would like to explain to the police what you are doing in a hotel room that isn’t yours at a private event you weren’t part of.”
Myka squared her shoulders and put on her best Agent Bering voice. “Sure. Why don’t you call the police, I’ll explain to them what I’m doing here, and we can talk to them together about the whereabouts of Helena Wells.”
Spencer stiffened at this, and the taller man raised the point of his gun slightly. “What do you know about Wells?”
“All I want to know is where she is.”
Spencer quieted his features. “Then we are on the same page, I think. Why don’t you come with us, and we can talk about things in a more comfortable setting. Keep your hands up— Erik and I will follow you out.”
Before Myka could decide whether to move, there was a noise from the closet and Erik turned his gun to follow the sound. Myka didn’t stop to think, her Tesla was in her hand and discharging and Erik was down on the ground. Spencer gave a shout and then he was down too, and Casey was over him with the wrench in her hand.
“Nice shot. Is that, like, a taser?”
“Something like it. Helena invented it, actually, you can ask her about the details when… anyway, thanks for the distraction. I’m glad you didn’t shoot anybody.”
Casey snorted, “Come on, I’m not an idiot. I don’t exchange fire with militia types when there are other options around. And you told me we had other options.” She shrugged, “Also, we would have woken up this entire place.”
“Are you sure we haven’t?”
“No. Let's search these guys for key cards and get the fuck out of here. How long will they be out?”
Myka thought, “Maybe half an hour, ideally more? We need to find a way to keep them immobile until we figure out whatever is in room 902.”
Casey looked down and nudged Erik’s belt with her boot, “Well, creepy dude Erik over here came prepared to party. Got a lot of zip ties.”
Myka blanched. “Ok, I’m going to call Pete and Claudia. Can you search their pockets? Helena said Spencer’s room was across the hall, right? Maybe we can stash them there.”
Claudia picked up the Donovan Special on the first attempt, “Do you have HG?”
“Not yet. But we’ve got leads. Do you know an AJ Spencer?”
“Spencer, yeah. Internet troll with the fancy suits and the nazi hair? He works for Thiessen. Some kind of social media campaign manager, but high ranking. Probably a white supremacist on the DL?”
Casey called out, “Definitely a nazi.”
Shushing Casey, Myka continued, “He’s our mastermind. He was grooming Thiessen for the Rivers of Blood Brigade and he knows who you are. You and Steve need to find out who he is working with and who else dangerous could be here and tell Pete and me ASAP. He came with an armed bodyguard. Claudia, make sure these guys aren’t hanging around you right now.”
“Where is he now?”
Myka showed Claudia the body on the ground. “Currently incapacitated, thanks to Casey.”
Claudia whistled, “Well done, Case. She ok?”
Casey leaned into the screen with a thumbs up. “All good Claud! I think Myka’s even warming up to me.”
“Sweet. Ok, what else do you need?”
“Ok, first, Helena thinks she was drugged. We don’t know where she is, but we know she was going to a collector swap because Spencer wanted some artifacts owned by the Watchowski sisters. I want you to let me know anything you have on what those artifacts can be. Especially, I guess a wrench? Oh, and anything L’Engle related as well. Anything that could be a tesseract. Or, um, a quilt.”
“Wrenches, quilts, Watchowskis, tesseracts, nazis. Got it. Over and out.”
Casey stood up and showed Myka the contents of both men’s pockets. Three identical key cards each, car keys, cell phones, wallets. Spencer had a nearly empty pill bottle in his pocket with “blue” written in sharpie across the top. Erik had about $200 in cash and a tin of Altoids. He had a tactical vest with zip ties, a utility knife, and spare bullets in it.
Myka called Pete and watched as Casey used spare paper to create two envelopes for the key cards, marked with “S” and “E”, and then stripped Erik’s vest off him and put it on herself, adding back the utility knife, bullets, the wrench and remaining zip ties. She pulled the magazine out of Erik’s gun, set the safety on, and checked the action, finally removing the bolt entirely, taking out the firing pin and placing it in her vest as well. When she noticed Myka watching her she shrugged and said, “now he can’t use it. I’ll check the key cards on this floor.”
Pete was less than two hours away. They decided that since Thiessen and Spencer were not active threats and she needed to go after Helena, they would wait to call the Warehouse or police until it was absolutely necessary. Pete’s truck had artifact storage, and they would figure out what was dangerous once Helena was safe. Pete would take Claudia and Steve’s calls.
Myka hung up as Casey came back into the room with the key to 713.
“I don’t want to be around when the police get here.”
“Casey, believe me, neither do I. So as fast as possible, we need to find Helena and make sure this isn’t an actively dangerous situation in case there are more of those” she pointed down to Erik “guys around.”
With a lot of effort and some stifled curses they dragged both men across the hall, leaving them ziptied and sitting against the wall. They left the pinless rifle and headed upstairs.
The ninth floor was dark, but there were murmuring voices coming from the two penthouse suites. Casey put her ear to 902 and fumbled for the key cards. Myka pulled her Tesla and stood behind her. When the lock turned green, she pushed Casey behind the door, sweeping the room.
The suite was large, elegantly furnished with floor to ceiling windows. A sitting area, a bar, and a desk made the three sides of the room, but in the center were piles and piles of artifacts. Clothes, typewriters, weapons, glass items, books, knicknacks. The artifact swap, it seemed, had started but not finished, or maybe this was simply the cache of items no one wanted. On the far right side of the room Myka could see two doors, and as Casey moved to examine some of the piles, Myka motioned for silence and moved towards the doors. Casey followed. The first door was the bathroom, empty except for a few more pill bottles, and as Myka moved to open the bedroom door, it flew open, knocking her back.
Another man in tactical gear and AR-15 emerged from the room, but before he could react, Casey had moved around behind him and swung the wrench once more. This time, she had a worse angle and a worse hit, and the man didn’t go down. Myka raised her Tesla and prepared to fire, when the man began to… babble?
“Hey ladies! What are you doing here? Are you looking for your friend? Let me tell you, she was quite the firecracker. Thiessen wanted all her artifacts, and she gave him some great deals! It’s a shame that Alex took the best ones away.”
Myka didn’t lower her tesla, but she loosened her grip and glanced briefly at Casey, who was watching the gunman with her head cocked to the side, plainly confused. The man rubbed a growing bump on the back of his skull and walked over to the couch where he sat down. Setting down the gun, he turned to Myka. “Won’t be needing this, I guess. Want to get me a drink, doll? I’ll tell you all about it.” Myka just gaped.
Finally, she asked, “What happened to our friend?”
The man rubbed a hand through sandy blond hair and smiled accommodatingly, “Well, last I saw her, she was having a chat with Spencer and Erik, you know? Then they took off, and she looked kinda funny and ran into that bedroom back there. I tried to follow, but the door was locked. It took me a while to get in, and then she was gone! Like pow! Disappeared!”
“Ok. When was this? What happened to Thiessen?”
“A few hours. Thiessen? Oh he’s next door, holed up in the bed and babbling about high speed rail and the four day work week.”
“Do you work for Thiessen? What’s your name?”
“I do, dollface! I work for Thiessen, but Spencer got me the job. Name’s Kyle. We were friends from way back, joined the Rivers of Blood together, me and Erik and Alex. The plan was to get Thiessen to hire as many of us as possible, take over the organization from the inside, you know? First Thiessen’s businesses, then tech at large. I don’t even care about computers much, but Alex said it’s the way to get rich, so here I am!”
“Here you are indeed.” Myka wished all her interrogations for the Warehouse had gone this easily. Kyle was bursting with information, it seemed, so she kept asking questions.
“How many of you are there?”
“Us, like ROB guys? Uh, 5. Me, Alex, Erik, and then Tim and this Cuban dude, Bautista.”
“And where are Tim and Bautista?”
“Patrolling. I could call them over?”
Casey raised her eyebrows and Myka sat up straighter. If he was telling the truth… “That might be good, but uh, not yet. First, what’s going on with all these… um, items, piled up here?”
“OH those have magical powers. At least, Thiessen thought so, and Alex was trying to figure out which ones did what and all that. Wouldn’t let me touch anything. See that one there? The Guy Fawkes mask? From the set of V for Vendetta. Alex told me it’s not so powerful as it would be if Alan Moore had touched it, but I don’t know it looks fuckin rad to me! Maybe, do you think since Alex isn’t here, I could put it on quickly?”
“No!” Myka started, but Casey continued, “Wait up, bro… Kyle, is it? Nah, I think you shouldn’t touch it. What if Alex came back, right? He could any second.”
“You’re right, you’re right.” He looked disappointed as an eight year old driving past a Chuck E Cheese.
“In fact, Kyle, what would you think about putting your hands in front of you, letting me just put these on for safe keeping?”
Casey pulled another ziptie out of her vest.
But Kyle shrugged and held his hands out in front of him. “Sure thing, kitten! Anything you want.”
Casey smiled sweetly, but when the zipties closed around his wrists the smile slid right off, “Don’t fucking call me kitten, ok?”
“No kittens, sweetheart. Fine!”
“Casey, can I talk to you for a second?” Myka was starting to get a sneaking suspicion about what had happened here. Casey nodded, grabbed Kyle’s gun, and followed her into the bathroom. Myka closed the door, but Casey spoke first.
“You thinking what I’m thinking?”
“That the wrench you’re carrying is a Watchowski artifact that somehow renders its victims both incredibly helpful and unwilling to see the women wielding it as threats?”
“That was more detailed and specific than I was thinking, honestly but yes. Corky’s wrench, from Bound. Does that make you Jennifer Tilley?”
“Ha. You should be so lucky. Helena was trying to find you a weapon after all.”
“Do you think we could convince friendly Kyle over here to go downstairs and join Spencer and Erik in a heap on the floor?”
“Possibly, but better yet, why don’t we get him to invite the other two next door, we can tesla them all, take their guns, and leave them at the mercy of the typewriter?”
“And go after Helena in peace.”
“And leave Pete a much easier clean up.”
“I never took you as the kind to use an artifact as a weapon.”
“Well, you are still getting to know me. And I’ve always been a big fan of speculative fiction and its world saving potential.”
“You and Helena.”
And that’s what they did. The plan went relatively smoothly. Kyle called Tim and Bautista, and they all moved over to room 901, where they found Thiessen wrapped in bedsheets and muttering about rapid transit and the four hour work week. While they waited, they asked Kyle to type out a message on the typewriter, and soon he had crawled onto the bed to join Thiessen. Tim and Bautista showed up a few minutes later, and they barely registered Myka stepping from behind the door before they were on the ground, Tesla blast reverberating around the room.
“Well, that was easy.” Casey stepped up, tapped each man on the head experimentally with the wrench, and tied their hands. “Should we have them touch the typewriter too, to be safe?”
“Uh, let’s not overwhammy them, shall we?”
“Too many artifacts, we don’t know the side effects.”
“To be fair, we know more about the typewriter than the wrench.”
And so it was that Myka Bering, in contravention of most rule books she ever read, consented to overwhammy all of the gunmen, and even allowed Casey to briefly take the typewriter down to room 713 for Spencer and Erik as she called Pete and updated him on the risk factors. Now all that was left was to find Helena.