“You’re free to go, sir.” The officer unlocked the cell across from Mark and the girl’s father exited, a nasty bruise developing on his right cheek. The man nodded towards Mark’s cell and the officer opened the other cell too. Mark stood up warily, uncertain if there would be a repeat of the previous morning.
“I’m free to go?”
“Unless you want to stay.” The man said, gesturing the officer away. Mark stepped out of the cell and stretched looked around uncertainly. The man stuck out his hand, “Sam Mitchell, by the way.”
“Mark Levins.” Mark shook his hand, still searching for the exit. He couldn’t see himself but he could feel the bruising around his eye every time he blinked.
“I’m sorry about the shiner, it’s just I got caught off guard by the news and I have some… anger issues.” Sam was following behind as Mark started down the hall towards what he hoped was outside.
“No, I understand completely. It’s fine, really.” Mark felt a wave of relief as he spotted an exit sign and followed it, only for the man to follow him down the series of winding corridors.
“Well now that we have that cleared up let’s discuss how you’re going to help me get my daughter back from this vagrant.”
“I’ve given the police all the information I have, I can’t really offer anything else. As it is I’m probably suspended if not fired.” Mark tried to speed up casually and winced as the man matched his pace and opened the outer door for him.
“Oh I wouldn’t worry about that, just help me out and everything will work out fine.”
“What the hell is that even supposed to mean?” Mark felt invigorated by the fresh open air and simulated sunshine, and turned on his pursuer.
“I can get you transferred to my ship temporarily, just until we clear up this little snafu. Find my daughter, deal with things, then you go back to your cozy little job no harm done. No suspension, no black mark on your shiny record…”
“You can’t promise that.”
“Just think about it, talk it over with your captain. I’ll be staying here when you’re ready. I’ve got to get a new ship anyways so take a couple days…” Sam slipped an address card into Mark’s hand. Mark couldn’t help the mental image of someone slipping a dollar bill into a stripper’s g-string, and was relieved to be interrupted by a pascal barreling between them.
“Sam you’re gonna owe me a lot more than a drink now, I got you a ship and it’ll only cost you a drink, a lunch, and a meeting with the rugrat.”
“Vortran…” Sam looked down at the pascal and it was as if all the insidious energy he’d had before left him. Mark started backing away, seeing his chance to escape. Jessie’s father sat down heavily on the fake grass.
“I… I don’t have to meet them if that’s too much… Sam?” The pascal paid Mark no mind as he took off and the last thing he heard was Sam muttering that he needed a drink.
“Sam you gotta help me out here, buddy, I’m not even up to your waist.” Vortran stopped to prop the man up a bit more. Sam groaned and burped. Vortran had never seen him this drunk, and had tried to stop him earlier, but there was no stopping him till he was too far gone to hold a glass.
The sidewalk turned a little and Vortran felt one paw land in newly wetted fake grass, sinking slightly. The shift in balance was too much and Sam started slumping over. “Going down, buddy.” Vortran twisted around to avoid being landed on and managed to keep Sam from hitting his head on the ground as he landed. The man was out cold, and Vortran sat on the sidewalk, trying to work out how to move him like this. Sam hadn’t even said what hotel he was staying at, so there wasn’t anywhere to go anyway.
“Looks like you’re having a rough time from him too.” A voice made Vortran jump and look around. It took a second to spot the man Sam had been talking to from before, standing a few yards away. The man approached and stood looking down at Sam. “I guess I won’t be talking to him tonight regardless.”
“You’re the guy who lost his kid?” Vortran asked, nudging Sam with one foot. The man groaned but didn’t move.
“That’s a bit harsh… but kinda.” The man sat down on the sidewalk, “Is he normally so…?”
“Eccentric? Manic? Unpredictable?” Vortran shrugged, “Not quite this bad, but he has moments. Makes life interesting.”
“I don’t think I want that kind of interesting.”
“It grows on you.” Vortran looked over at the man, who was carrying some papers, “What were you going to talk to him about?”
“I…” Mark looked down at the papers, “I think he was asking me to help him find his daughter, and I might be thinking about saying yes.”
“There’s a lot of maybe in that statement.”
“He sent paperwork to my job, before we were even released, to get me transferred for the duration of what would’ve been a suspension. I’m not sure I even have the option of saying no at this point.”
“Well you want to help find the kid, right?”
“Not just her… a friend I worked with went missing too.”
“So you’re saying yes.”
“He made it feel like he was buying me like a call-girl.” Mark grimaced as Vortran burst into laughter, practically doubling over.
“Sorry, man. Sam is a bit hard to get used to… but if he’s paying for the night, why not help me find his hotel room?” Vortran snorted as Mark huffed, and gestured to the prone figure soaking in dew, “If he gets too handsy we’ll just leave.”
“Oh shut up, it’s not that funny.” Mark helped lift Sam up despite his annoyance, and found the card in his pocket.
“Just be sure you don’t fall in love, that never ends well.” Vortran helped hold Sam up on the other side and the two of them started down the sidewalk.