Honeycomb was suddenly silent. I ran through the workings out she’d be going through in her head, wondering how quick she’d be. After about a minute, I asked her, “You still there, sugar?”
“It looks like you were right, Mr Luck,” she said finally. If my hunch was correct and she was bright, there was only one conclusion she could come to (other than it actually just being some innocent newbie with the right numbers in his name): I’d recruited someone to pose as Alton74. Always assuming, of course, I was the first private detective she’d come to with this case.
“Get me out of here,” she said suddenly. “Please. I’m scared. Take me back to your office.” I teleported us directly to my desk and within two minutes we’d swept it clear and the distraction sex had commenced, her power suit vanished, but only from the waist down. Meanwhile, on my laptop across the room, Cassandra Corvette appeared from nowhere, approached Alton74 and asked him what he wanted. Mistake number four, but people don’t think clearly when they’re under pressure.
“I want to dance with you,” I typed as Alton. “But not here. I know this great new place that people are flocking to. Come with me and I’ll tell you something you don’t know about the owner of this club.”
Of course, she couldn’t resist. I sent her a teleport from the builder’s platform I’d erected a hundred metres above the office in which Honeycomb and I were fucking. She took it without checking the co-ordinates and appeared in front of me. Ten seconds later, she realised her (fifth) mistake and disappeared, but a second was all the gadget under my desk required.
She worked it out for herself. Honeycomb/Cassandra/Burnished stood up and re-rezzed her skirt. “There’s no such thing as a portable IP detection device, is there, Mr Luck?” she said.
“I’m afraid not, sugar,” I replied. “Just my little invention to dissuade you from attempting to bring on your own newbie 47, but it also confirmed to me that you had an IP device installed at your club – how else would you know your own IP so readily?”
“How did you know it?” she asked.
“Wrote it down when you were here last night,” I replied. “I have my own device installed right here.”
“You’re very clever, Mr Luck,” she said.
“And lucky,” I said. “You took on too much last night. All those pauses from you whilst your alts were typing: that was your first mistake. But I wouldn’t have realised it were it not for the Burnished/Cassandra crosspost and the way you then reworded it. Everything was just the two of us, all along. What a double act we made.
“I realise that Rico – Dominoe’s owner – probably actually was stealing your customers. Only thing is, you didn’t just want to win against him; you wanted him destroyed. It’s amazing what you can dig up on other people’s old blog posts. I found some very pretty pictures of the two of you getting married a couple of years ago.”
“He betrayed me,” she said. “And then he had the gall to make out it was me who’d been unfaithful to him.”
“So you cooked up the idea of a protection racket,” I said. “Run your own business into the ground and put word out it was the work of an all-powerful extortion group, then approach Rico with the same deal you tell everyone you refused. Getting me to poke my nose in was just for added authenticity. If Rico knew you’d been destroyed despite a good fight, he’d be more likely to take the threat seriously.”
“And he would have agreed,” she said. “I know him. He’d have paid through the nose to avoid being grouped in the same category as me, and he’d never have known I had him right in the palm of my hand.”
I’d like to say it was a surprise to me that all her previous investment in Frederick’s amounted to nothing, but bitterness is my business and there’s little it can do to surprise me anymore. I gave Honeycomb the conditions for my silence and she agreed. And she teleported away from my office and back to her empty club; and I, once again, was grateful to have demanded my first week’s fees up front.