Log:Defiance Guild: Crimson and Crownhill
The short story: The events of finding a dead Duros on Nar Kanji unfold further into a murderous mystery. Tarion and Kasia visit the Red Light Sector.
The long story:
Hex Ashkuri, Master of the House, keeper of the zoo, is alone at the table in the Control Tower. He's got what looks like a data card plugged into a computer terminal, but right now the screen is off. He has a troubled expression on his green features, smoking pensively, lekku shifting as he perhaps processes whatever he's just seen, read, heard. Or, then again, maybe he's just perturbed because he doesn't know how to use the computer.
"Try restarting it," Tarion advises as he comes through the door and notices Hex's puzzled/perturbed look, in a way that suggests this exact scenario has played out before. He's dressed as he always is, with his gun as he often is, and actually pretty clean, which he often isn't. "Nine times out of ten that's all it takes, I don't know why you let it freak you out like this."
Kasia is in the office doing work, which she is actually accomplishing because the computers don't perplex her the way they do Hex. It's not until she hears the words from Tarion that she glances out the open door. "Are you having trouble, Hex?" she calls, though she doesn't come out yet.
"Why do you all assume I'm incompetent?" Hex complains, ignoring the obvious fact that he usually is incompetent. He taps ash into his ashtray, and explains. "You two remember the dead Duros that was supposed to sell us illegal oxidizer on Nar Kanji, ka? Jehn found a data card in his pockets and I've just had a look at it."
"Because you usually are," Tarion replies immediately, with a casual grin as he makes his way over, looking for the power button to turn it on until Hex's words stop his questing finger dead. "Oh shit. Duros porn. I'm sorry man, just uh. Think about Kasia, or Naelyn, or uh. I don't know, how Hutt porn is probably worse. I still don't know how they do it." Then he pushes the button to turn it on. "Duros are so nasty looking."
"I don't think you're incompetent," Kasia protests probably at the same time as Tarion offers his reply. She frowns, you can't see it, but she does. "Stop being a dick, Tavers." The sound of her chair pushing back can be heard, and then she makes her way out of the office, toward Hex. "What is it you found, ka're?"
Hex sighs. "This," he says, and switches the terminal on again, pulling up its files to be projected in the form of a large-ish holo "screen" for Kasia and Tarion to read. The data card is damaged, and not all the files seem to be readable. The ones that do work appear to be a series of messages. The first is from a sender identified only as 'Crimson':
"The deal is off. Do not make the sale. You have been warned. We have been on good terms, until now, but don't begin to think that hiding on Kanjiklub's doorstep is going to save you if you persist in folly."
The owner of the datacard, Akachi, replied:
"With respect, I didn't join in order to have my affairs meddled and micro-managed. I will buy what I want, sell what I want, and say whatever I please to whomever I wish. If I see profit in telling Ashkuri about Crownhill, I am not passing it up."
Crimson sends one more message:
"Please understand you will not be speaking to Ashkuri about Crownhill, or about anything else."
The screen comes up, and Tarion skims it quickly, opening his mouth to say "That is not how you spell club" while his eyes keep scanning. "I have questions," he decides, hands akimbo on his hips. "One, who's this Crimson? I have a theory, either a hot redhead or a weird red alien. Two, what is Crownhill? Those are all of my questions. But it sounds like this Crownhill thing is worth a lot of credits or the potential hot redhead wouldn't be so pissy about your dead Duros friend," the bounty hunter concludes, and then adds with a laugh, "Oh shit, and he knows your name! That's not good," he realizes a second later, face immediately shifting into a concerned frown. "Hex, that's bad, he knows your name. That's Kasia's name and she signs my paychecks so that's a trail back to me."
Kasia comes to a stop behind Hex, leaning forward slightly to read the words on the screen. Not burp. What's wrong with you people. God. "Well, I guess that explains what happened to him. Is this something you think we should follow up on, ka're?" she asks, slipping around to stand beside his chair, one hand resting on his shoulder. "It seems like something we could also leave alone, and I don't know that they'd come bothering us."
"I think it's worth looking into," Hex frowns, because otherwise this would be a real short story, KASIA. "I don't know who Crimson is, other than apparently not Kanjiklub. Someone with a hold on Akachi, who was not a /good/ dude, but... neither am I, when you get right down to it. I don't know what Crownhill is, either. A person? A place? A ship? ...A restaurant?" Oooh restaurant. He thinks fondly on that for a moment, then refocuses. "Reckon I'm a bit curious as to why Akachi thought I'd be so interested in this 'Crownhill', and I'm interested to know why Crimson was willing to murder to keep me from knowing. I don't buy a lot of information, but what I do is usually about slaves or profit. What I read here is that somebody's keeping slaves or profit from me. Also, I'm hungry."
Tarion listens to all that, nodding sagely as he thinks it over, and comes up with a response. "I'm hungry too. Maybe we should have this discussion over a meal. You guys want to go to the Meltdown?" No, we're supposed to be having an event, IT IS AN EVENT, so then he has another thought. "You sure this is all that's on the chip? No Duros porn? Did you look? There could be credits at stake, Hex, and a valuable education into Duros mating rituals."
Look, just because doing the smart thing isn't as much fun, doesn't mean it shouldn't at least be pointed out. Someone has to be smart here, even if smart is out voted at every turn, HEX. "I suppose looking into Crownhill might be a good idea, see what it is they're trying to hide from us, and why." Because that totally isn't going to blow up in their faces. "We're not going to the Meltdown, they never have seats at this time of night, since they've got like five of them to start with."
"I guess this Crimson person might think he told you already, too," Tarion adds since he forgot it on his actual turn.
"I could just start a fight by throwing somebody out of their seat at the Meltdown, and then while they're fighting me, Tarion could place a food order," Hex suggests. Wait, FOCUS. "Ryma'at, where was I. Right. We got Crimson, and we got Crownhill. We should probably look into whatever Crownhill is first, because it was valuable, and because Crimson might kill us if we come at him. Or her. And then we still wouldn't know what's so important about Crownhill. Agreed?"
With everyone in (more or less) agreement, and one stop to get snacks because 2/3 of the party is hungry and dumb, the Ashkuris and Tavers head out to the city, in an attempt to start asking around on whether or not anyone knows who Crownhill is. Or what it is. Kasia's contact is in a popular cantina that is not as good as my cantina because the lighting is red, not blue, and her contact is..... Phrog Vash. Former Nar police, Kasia-admirer, Hex-hater, but really, who isn't. The music is bumping and the place is packed, and perhaps Kasia's lack of success extracting information from Phrog (as yet) is not her fault. "I'm not talking about anything if THAT is here," Phrog sneers at Hex, who is protesting around a mouthful of food, "Seriously? This guy? THIS GUY?"
Tarion stands back to watch Kasia work her magic, fully expecting the contact to immediately tell her everything he's ever known in chronological order from the day he was born forward while he just hangs out munching on fried poultry, but shockingly, the guy doesn't talk. It seems he's not a Hex fan. Understandable, TT thinks to himself, nodding as he looks between the other three, noting the way that his boss, the green one, protests. Wiping his hands on his pants, he steps forward then, pulling something out of his pocket as he crowds up close to Phrog here, flashing a big ol' credit chit. The one he usually carries in case of muggers. "Listen bud, if you know something, we do a trade here, win-win, you get paid, Kasia thinks you're a hero, Hex won't like that I was the one that got you to talk, it's a win all around. Or," he continues, leaning a little closer and talking out of the side of his mouth, "the other alternative is, I shove this credit chit so far up your ass it's liable to meld with your DNA. Hex would love that, Kasia would think you're a joke, and I would have to wipe my arm off on your shirt. So, your choice," he chirps brightly, with a wide grin at the other man as he claps him on the shoulder.
"Vash, come on," Kasia protests as she rests a hand on his arm, trying to butter him up, but thre is clearly a history here. One in which neither male seems particularly fond of the other, with her right in the middle. Her charm doesn't seem to be doing the usual trick, because Tarion janked up her game, but whatever, she's still got it. Whatever it is. Then Tarion talks, and talks more, and keeps talking. "Tavers, really." She's got more to say, but it'll come later in the form of threats against his pay.
Phrog's face draws up in a squint just like his sphincter is probably doing, and he looks like he's all set to dig his heels in and hate everything. He has scruffy hair, a 3 day beard, he's a little greasy and he smells like tabac smoke... things just haven't been the same since Eebua crushed NSec. He listens, though, and in the end, it seems to be the options of 'Kasia thinks you're a hero' or 'Hex would love that' that sways him. "Beautiful woman like this?" he protests to Tarion, "And she married that? Why, man? Why?" But he sighs, and parts with his information. "I don't know a lot. I know that Crownhill's the name of a madam in the Red Light Sector, and that she runs a place called the Sweet Sting. I've never, uh, I've never been there." He goes to different establishments. "But I used to hear it on the comms sometimes when there was a call there. Which there wasn't too often."
Hex mutters to both Tarion and Phrog, "I'm gonna kick my foot up both your asses and wear you around like a pair of idiotic shoes."
"I don't get it either," Tarion commiserates, passing over the dummy chit that totally would fool a mugger and/or this guy. "Thanks for the information, but uh. Don't spend that at Crownhill's tonight," he recommends, starting to head toward the door. "I would make a terrible shoe, I'm far too heavy," the hunter observes with an upturned nose as he brushes past Hex. "Let's go to the Red Light!" the idiot calls, thrusting a triumphant finger skyward. "It's like the Blue Light but a worse color!"
Kasia rolls her eyes as the familiar rant is returned to, letting out a sigh. "Contact me if you start feeling helpful." And before he DOES start feeling helpful, she turns to stalk away from the men, and their quiet threats of being shoes, and whatever. She'll just wait outside, or near the door if it's raining. Don't want to ruin her hair any more than it already was.
The three cram into a Space Uber and make their way to the Red Light Sector, driven by a Gotal Space Uber Driver who tells them the entire drive about the rooftop garden has Arcona girlfriend is growing at their apartment. The duskvines are coming up beautiful this year but he thinks that they'll need to adjust the nutrient mix of the qiviut fruits because they just don't seem as sprightly this year as they were last year, and sometimes that can be because the phosphate levels in the water are a little lower than is ideal! And the chivva-peppers are good, but they won't be winners quite like they were last year, no, not quite like last year, oh, okay, they've arrived outside the Sweet Sting. "Have a fun time!" the Gotal wishes them, merrily. "Be safe, and take precautions, you gentlemen!" Hex is in such a hurry to get out of the hovercar that he catches his duster in the door and has to struggle to free it.
The Sweet Sting is one of the classier establishments here, with shimmering lights in red, pink, gold, and deep purple. The front entrance is not discreet at all, with the name of the place in huge letters, and the gorgeous foyer is richly carpeted with tapestries. A drop-dead gorgeous Twi'lek girl in very little clothing and beautiful lekku-jewelry and fake eyelashes mans the front counter, and a large painting of a human woman hangs behind the front desk. The woman in the painting is human, blonde, naked, beautiful.
Tarion listens really hard to the driver, trying to make some sense of what in the world the Gotal is talking about, and maybe contribute to the conversation. He comes up with, "If you- you know, you take the things, and put them in there, and water it for like, a couple times a day, then you know, it'll probably get really big, but the small ones are- you just water the shit out of it," the hunter recommends, giving a course of action that will most likely kill the plants and also inflict them with mold and rot. "Good luck!" he calls as he exits the taxi and leads the way into the building.
There's a Twi'lek girl at the desk, but Tarion is busy looking at the painting; it's a human, the Twi'lek girl is not. A critical pair of eyes comes down eventually, too blinded by his prejudice to notice how alluring she is and instead picking up on something else entirely. "I'm Tarion Tavers, the bounty hunter," he greets with a casual nonchalance, leaning up against her desk and propping his chin on his hand on his elbow on the counter. "What's your name?"
Kasia listens to the plant talk, pretending to be interested, she's good at it, smiling, asking questions, you'd think she was super into plants. She's not. She's just super good at making people think they're very interesting. Then they're leaving the space Uber, and heading into the Sweet Sting, eyes moving around the interior of the place to look for... who even knows, she's just looking, and then her gaze settles on the Twi'lek at the counter. The smile she gives her is warm, and it seems as genuine as her interest before. "Hi." She tries to nudge Tarion to the side so that he doesn't mess things up, even though she's the one that failed the roll before. Shut up. "We're looking for someone, and I'm hoping you can help us."
This is not a natural habitat for Hexes, and he's only made it a few feet into the room before he looks like he's going to die of sudden aneurysm. "You can see her parts!" he gasps, of the painting. "All her parts!" The girl behind the counter looks coyly amused and says, "It's okay Kapi, come on in," and Hex turns the color of expired kale. "I'm... just gonna wait outside," he panics, and then turns around to push helplessly on the door, wait it's a pull door, okay, he's out.
The Twi girl at the counter turns her attention back to Tarion and Kasia, who are obviously some kind of swingers with a weird friend. "My name is Crystal." It's surely not. "Who can I help you find, lovelies? We have all sorts here."
Tarion doesn't know that she's trying to nudge him out of the way, Kasia that is, he assumes she's trying to grab his ass. "Kasia," he hisses, shocked, eyes wide as he turns toward her. "Not in front of Crystal." Looking a little hot and bothered, the hunter turns back to the pretty Twi girl. "Is there any way we can speak with the mistress of this establishment? I promise we won't mention you at all if you don't want her to know, but uh. We have some, um, special needs that might need approved before we get you know, beyond the point of no return, if you know what I'm saying," he explains, moving his hands all around each other, twisting his fingers up into a vague jumble, his face still flushed.
"Tarion, you're a jackass," Kasia informs him softly, voice polite, like she's saying something nice. She is not saying something nice at all, but she says it with a smile. She cants her head toward the painting of the naked woman, brows raising. "Is that your madam? If so, tell her that Kasia Ciph is here, and would like to speak to her." She'll probably remember Kasia, right? RIGHT?
"The m...mistress?" Crystal stammers, losing her hold on her composure for a moment. Is she scared, or upset, or...? It's hard to tell, and she looks at the painting behind her, lekku quivering a little in what Kasia can recognize as Twi'lek distress. Hex probably does that when they're out of mushrooms. "I... I... you'd better come with me." She steps away, crystals and beads on her scanty attire tinkling musically, like little bells. She steps away from the desk and beckons, and leads them down a hallway further in the depths of the building. They pass a few men and women who are leading customers to and fro, but everything seems nice, clean, expensive. Eventually Crystal knocks on a heavy door, opens it, passes through a beaded curtain (don't get tangled, Tavers), and arrives in front of a tremendous desk. Behind it sits a dark haired woman with almond eyes; she's modestly dressed and seems tired. And exasperated. She is not the woman in the painting. "Crystal," she snaps, "What is this?"
"I'm so sorry," the Twi girl quails, "They wanted to see the Madam." Then she flees, musically, and desk lady frowns at them.
Tarion breezes through the beaded curtain like a dream, they just ripple around him like the river around a stone, majestic. The bounty hunter is still armored but not that obviously armed, on account of this is a lovemaking facility, not a warmaking facility. "This is Kasia," he announces to desk lady, turning towards his boss. "Queen of the Blue Light District, protector of the Pulse, master trader, and owner of a perfect ass. She would speak with the madam."
Oh. My. God. Tarion might have cleared the beaded curtain, but it looks like Kasia just might decide to strangle him with it. Death by beaded curtain. "Well this is curious," she says, trying to ignore the fact that she was just announced as a queen, and the holder of a perfect ass. Not that either is false, but she doesn't like to brag. "I was hoping that my friend Dyana in here, but it seems it's not." She steps forward, moving toward the desk now, smiling in that way that the woman behind the desk will probably recognize. "You must be Mistress Crownhill?"
Desk lady raises a perfect eyebrow at this description of Kasia, and looks between the two of them. "I'm the madam," she says, terse. "What do you want? I can hand-select a companion for you if you're so needy that you bullied Crystal into bringing you all the way back to me, but it's extra for two of you." Then Kasia speaks, and the woman stiffens, visibly. "What do you want with Dyana Crownhill?"
Hex is outside smoking a bowl.
Tarion just preens in Kasia's disapproval, mistaking it for her praise and admiration. He's so getting a raise for this. "Oh no, I don't pay for ass," he dismisses blithely, letting his boss do most of the talking.
Poor Hex, Kasia knows he's probably hiding somewhere getting high and trying to forget what the inside of this place looks like. It's okay, bby, we'll probably all be dead soon anyway. "Is Dyana the... really?" That makes her laugh a little, surprise, but it might also sound a little uncertain. "Well honestly, I was hoping to find my old friend Dyana, and to speak to Crownhill, not knowing that they were one and the same. I used to know Dyana by a different name."
"I'm not talking to anyone about Crownhill," the desk woman asserts. Vash had said that Crownhill was the madam, but this woman -- not Crownhill -- seems to say that she is, instead. But she's obviously clamming up fast, and shaking her head. "I have nothing to say to you. You should go."
Tarion is not that sexy in here, not with our almond-eyed faux madam, anyway, but he tries to make a case regardless. "Come on, lady, you know that's not true, I know it, we all know it. You might as well tell us what we want to know, ok ka, because like, Kasia is really easy to get along with when she gets what she wants." It's persuasive, right?
"We will go," Kasia assures the woman who claims to be the madam, stepping closer to the desk to look down at her. "Soon. As soon as you tell us where Dyana can be found, once you do, I promise we will get right out of your hair. We won't even say a word about how we found her, if that makes you feel better." She smiles, once again moving closer to the desk, and the woman behind it. "I'm sure she won't mind, anyway, Dyana and I go way back."
It's not persuasive, Tarion, it's not. Desk Madam opens her mouth to say something that looks like another iteration of 'get out!' when Kasia speaks, in a much more civilized fashion. "Why do you permit him to speak?" she asks in a terse, clipped tone. Then her gaze falls to the desk, looking at some datapads without really seeing them. "Dyana Crownhill /was/ the madam here. Was. We found her dead three days ago, shot through the heart. If you want to know where Dyana can be found, if you want to see her, then you'll have to go to Deadtown. That's where she is now."
Because Tarion has to say something or his turn would be boring. "Well damn," he announces, turning toward Kasia with surprised good humor. "I did not see that one coming, did you? Dead. Was that her in the painting, for real? Shit, that's a loss." He made himself sad. "Oh and don't tell anyone you told us this if you don't want to end up like Dina, alright? Thanks so much."
Kasia's eyes narrow a touch as she studies the woman, a faint frown appearing. "You can ignore him, he's not the one in charge," she assures the madam, which was probably obvious already. "We had no idea that she had been killed. Is there anything you can tell me about why someone would want to kill her? Who might have done it?" Someone is playing detective here now. "Tell us whatever you can, and we won't say anything to anyone. This one knows better than to blab," because if he does, he won't get paid.
"This one is her loyal servant," Tarion interjects helpfully. Oh man he is so getting a bonus.
"No. I don't know! I don't know anything about who wanted to kill her!" Desk Madam protests, seeming a little upset. "It's Nar Shaddaa, and the Red Light Sector can be intense in competition between businesses, so doesn't someone want everyone dead? I don't know anything specific. The two of you can talk to some of our companions about it if you want, but talk quickly and go. Everyone's upset about this enough already."
She directs them to a lounge area where 'off duty' companions are hanging out, and there are several hotties available to pick from: a golden Twi'lek girl, a cute blonde human girl, a green-skinned Mirialan dude with a man-bun and an 8-pack. Also a Devaronian dude with a reeeeeally long tongue. Awwyeah. Who has the secrets?!
Tarion immediately gravitates towards the cute human female blonde as he makes his way into the adjacent area, reaching out to part the bead curtain with his arms like an icebreaker ship first. "Hey there," he greets, giving her a vaguely roguish smirk. "I'm Tarion. I like your blouse," he adds, nodding down at it. "I bet you're glad to be on break and the last thing you want right now is someone getting all grabby and flirty, so I'll shoot straight with you. I just want to know if anyone had any grudges with the old mistress. I'll give you whatever your hourly rate is for an answer, no touching involved."
Kasia just lets Tarion go first into the room, because she just looks even better after he barges in and messes things up, right? Yeah. She steps in and heads for the Man-Bun with the 8-pack. "Hello," the greeting is followed by a smile, hands folded primly in front of her. "If you have a moment, I'd like to ask you some questions. Don't worry, I'll be sure to compensate you for your time, I know how it can be working in a place like this."
Human girl sees Tarion approaching and has a very, very brief look on her face like 'aw hell what do you want', but she flips it into a pretty, sunny smile, which then falters a little bit with confusion wwhen she listens to the rest of it. "It ain't a blouse, ya spindoodle, it's a bra," she explains with an accent straight out of Wild Space. "Pay up front and show me the money, honeybun, and then I'll tell you all the gossip what I know about Miz Crownhill, bless her soul. I like it when a man's fast. What'd you say your name was? Tavion?"
Man-Bun seems a little bemused by the fact that a woman is coming up to him, that doesn't normally happen, but hey, whatever, he's flexible in a number of ways. He lounges on a chaise in a way that suggests he's perfected the perfect lounge. Naelyn is off somewhere devastated he's missing this. Hex is still outside and considering taking up drinking again. "What kind of questions?" the Mirialan asks. He's green and tattooed, it's almost like what Kasia's used to, except way hotter and a lot less likely to come home saying something like 'I lost a thumb but it's okay I have it in this baggie still.'
"That's right, Tavion," Tarion agrees blithely, with a smile and a nod as he digs out another phony credit chit. Yes he has more than one. Yes he's afraid of muggers. Yes he had more made after Kasia got mugged. "Is that fast enough for you? Where'd you get that blouse? Asking for a frie- you know what, I mean, tell me about Miz Cowbill." Man he is easily distracted.
He's lounging, and so Kasia settles right there on the chaise beside him, sort of perched on the edge so she's not crowding him too much, but she is kinda in Man-bun's space here. "Questions about your recently departed madam," she tells him quietly. "I was hoping you might have some idea of who might be responsible for it, or why anyone would want to hurt her?" She hasn't fished out any credits yet, but when she does, they won't be fake.
"She done got shot up and straight murderized, Tarrien," Wild Space tells Tarion, conspiratorially. "And nobody knows who did it none. Why do you care where I got my blouse that I told you's a bra? You want to wear ladies' things? It's okay. I don't judge none though reckon your measurements is gonna be all wiggedy whack. Listen, anyway, I heard some tell that Miz Crownhill got mixed up with a gang called Shaoryn. Bad people. Criminals. Maybe that was true. Maybe it went sour on her. I hope this is good money, sugar-bee, or else I'm gonna find where you live and butcher y'all like a spring nerf." She smiles and wiggles her fingers in farewell, then she and Twi'lek girl mosey off, disappearing behind a curtain.
Kasia's target stays where he is, and they awkwardly share close quarters on the chaise. "I heard she was mixed up in the black market somehow," he tells her, very, very quietly. "There used to be a rumor that she wore jewelry that was actually a map, to secret slave auctions, or a cache of spice... depends on the rumor. I think she was sent off to Deadtown with it, though. Too bad."
"Thanks honeybunches of uh, blouse," Tarion replies, waving off her threats and trying to commit the important stuff to memory, squinting his eyes shut for a moment while he records everything in the hard drive of his brain. "Queenie, I'm going to find your lesser half," he informs Kasia, showing the wisdom of not using her real name and the idiocy of calling her 'Queenie'. "Come out when you're done." Then he's slipping back towards the front to look at that painting for as long as he deems safe before actually going to get Hex.
Man-Bun is a gentleman of the evening, close quarters isn't bothering either of them here, especially as it's respectful close quarters. Kasia is careful not to actually touch him, but leans in close to listen to his soft words. "That's a shame," she murmurs the regret on the matter of either the death, or necklace, or both. Whatever, all the trouble is sad, ok. She produces a credit chit that is generous in amount, and is also very real, and presses it into his hand. "Thank you for your help. I may come by again later, let me know if you think of anything else."
And as the latest chapter on the Apparently Murder Mystery closes, THE FACTS ARE THESE:
- Somebody named "Crimson" killed a Duros on Nar Kanji to keep him from speaking to Hex about "Crownhill."
- Crownhill turned out to be Kasia's erstwhile friend from Courtesan days, who also got herself murdered.
- It seems likely that Crimson, and possibly a gang called Shaoryn, murdered Dyana Crownhill. BUT WHY? Slaves? Drugs? Money?!
- The clues to Crownhill's murder, and to her cache of awesome or terrible things, seem likely to be on her body... in Deadtown, a giant warehouse-cemetery.
- The mysterious murdering Crimson certainly won't want those clues found...