I told Honeycomb I’d take the case, but could make no promises; she agreed and left. Cassandra apologised for the crosspost – making out it was meant to be to her boyfriend who’d just come online for the first time in a week, but she’d felt bad about abandoning me – and excused herself quickly to take care of him. And then Burnished typed in, “Take my bra off, baby. Take it off now.” Which was, of course, mistake number three.
But how could she possibly suspect that?
There were metaverse devices that could read the IP address of an avatar’s computer – I had one myself installed under the desk in my office. Two avatars with the same IP address would be highly suggestive of them being one and the same person (sure, one guy could live next door to the other, be jumping on his unprotected wireless connection and just so happen to be in the same metaverse location at the same time as him, but the chances of that were about as likely as my expense claims being met). So far as I knew, you had to have land rights to install such machinery. Cassandra and Burnished weren’t even staff at Frederick’s, let alone management. Had someone invented a new device that could be worn and carried around?
Assuming that Cassandra/Burnished did suspect Trigger and Gutter to be the same person, why had she taken one to Dominoe’s and one to a private residence? Had she come to suspect the deception before or after we’d left Frederick’s? What would have happened if she hadn’t suspected a thing?
And what, if anything, did any of this have to do with Honeycomb’s extortion racket?
But you don’t go ten years in the business without learning when to recognise the smell of a lead. Whatever their role was, they were connected somehow. The question was, what did they suspect me of and what, therefore, were they trying to get me to believe?
I logged Trigger out and brought on another of my alts – Baggage Cardigan, last used eight months previously to obtain pictures of a notable metaverse celebrity in a not uncompromising predicament. But, before I brought him on, I checked I could still connect my laptop to the next door neighbour’s wireless. It worked, but only if I put it on the other side of the room.
Good enough. Now we’d see what happened when someone unsuspected turned up at Frederick’s. I parked Baggage on the end bar stool with a cigarette in his mouth and a glass of bourbon at his hand. And waited.
Part five will be published on Monday...