While I might’ve wondered about the items that Binara was getting me, what was at the forefront of my mind was the information that I’d uncovered a kernel of before Konk had shown up on campus. While a decent amount of the hours I spent in the library that day was for homework, some of it was searching for the reason why my gut wasn’t trusting Ahmad. I had been called away from the search when Binara had her incident of falling into a guy’s monitor and the subsequent liaison duties I had. I didn’t get the chance to return to the lead I had dug up until after I had secured my next semester’s internship, a couple of weeks after Binara had left to go pick up whatever items they had told her somehow were ready.
I had a rare lull in my casework at my internship, a criminal defense attorney’s firm, that afternoon and instead of polishing the brass to keep myself busy or pulling out my casebooks to go over my notes once more, I pulled out the copy of the nibble I had found and set about working on it. The case number I had pulled was the incident report from when Medhi and I were attacked. Everything the police had compiled was in there; the statements (including mine) the physical evidence documentation, the dispatch recordings, etc. What I was looking for specifically, was the suspects’ names and any other cases that they were involved in.
The first suspect they had arrested, Omar Rhuda, didn’t give up much to questioning, and lawyered up with another firm before answering the employment question. The second suspect, Joshua Sawton, was admittedly less tight-lidded, as he gave up his immediate superior before counsel from the same firm as the first man stepped in. This intrigued me, as the firm was not known for doing low-dollar or pro bono work often. With a bit of cross-referencing, Omar’s legitimate employment history matched only at two places as Joshua’s, and one of them was a defunct company. The other was what is termed in TV a “shell corporation” that bounced its records a few times before it landed as part of Shatech, also retaining the services of the same firm that was defending the suspects. It was a flimsy lead, but it was what I had without opening a formal investigation, which I couldn’t do without a license or a supervising attorney backing me up in the case. When I looked up from making copies of the documentation I needed for it onto a flash drive, several hours had passed. I sighed, resolving to do what I could to make it as close to airtight as possible before approaching my supervising councilor and my teachers about this.
What I didn’t expect was for them to be such hard-asses about precedence and protocol as to deny my requests to take it formal. I get the being to close to the case part, but refusing to even put it on the docket to be looked at was a slap in the face. It was like they didn’t even care about a future co-council and student other than my grades and what I could do for them.
I’ll admit, I got careless and called up Medhi for that dinner invite to vent my frustrations about the case. She was cordial, but slightly defensive when I mentioned the connection between the men who attacked us and the companies they were traced back to.
“So you think my uncle had something to do with it?” She asked in between bites of a carrot stick.
“Possibly, but my damn teachers and job aren’t allowing me to go further with it,” I said after a sip of soda. The wings here were a lot more flavorful than the reviews made it out to be.
“But my uncle wouldn’t want to hurt me! He’s a good man.”
I sighed. I told myself the same thing in my doll years. “As far as I know, you don’t know every side of him. Neither do I. Character judgments aside, have you seen or overheard anything when he brought his work home?”
Medhi thought for a bit, staring at the decor of the Wing Shack. “You know, there was that one time, before the incident, that I got curious about the work guests he had over in his office and was going to ask them if they wanted coffee. I think I overheard something about a new energy security system that they didn’t want to have to register with the SRA or the FCC before I knocked. A few days later, I was out shopping and got pulled into the alley and met you.”
“And why didn’t you tell me this before?”
She shrugged. “I didn’t think that it was important.”
“One one hand, it could be coincidence. On the other, it might be a motive. Either way, I can’t know definitively until I get a stronger set of evidence than what I have.”
“We should leave it to the police, is what I think.” She fidgeted with a garlic herb wing. The look in her eyes said that I wasn’t going to get anywhere else with discussion and venting, so I dropped it and dug into my meal. I spent the next hour dancing around questions about Binara before we parted ways.
While I had written down the detail that Medhi had divulged in the notes for the case I kept, I still didn’t think that it was a strong enough addition to appeal to my professors once again. This, plus a fairly big practicum test, had my thoughts elsewhere the week after my dinner with her.
It was late, and I had to walk to the only bus line running to my apartment from the library. I had just passed the midway point in downtown Chapel Hill when some drunk jerks meandering from the bar across the street bumped into my shoulder.
“Hey!” one of the men said.
“Sorry,” I said and waved, not wanting to have a confrontation while on a tight schedule to get to my bus.
Apparently that wasn’t what he wanted to hear, because I felt a hand yank on my shoulder. I turned and saw the same man in the light of the streetlamp who had put a gun to my head months prior: Omar Rhuda. Damn, the bastard had made bail. The other men in the group were dropping their drunk act and trotting up to us. One of them said something in Arabic that caused Omar to turn his head.
I took this as my chance and did a duck and elbowed him in the gut. He doubled over and I bolted down the street. Shouts followed me as the men picked up their pace. Damn, I’d have to get off the main drag in order to be harder to catch.
I said the Cherokee word for protect as I rounded a corner into an alley between closed shops, which activated my collar’s defenses. It was the only thing that could protect me if they caught up with me, since Binara was still away getting whatever items she commissioned. I didn’t know if it would protect me from gunfire, but it certainly was good at keeping the awning that had fallen onto me from crushing me as I moved the injured man during the Skulker incident.
I damn near ran into a cell carrier tower’s footing that was propped up against a wall as I made my next turn. The alley let out onto a cross street with a small park behind a row of shops. I spotted one of the men at the intersection with the main drag, who yelled at his buddies. Crap, I lost the headway I’d made.
I paid no heed to traffic as I crossed the road, dodging cars like a football player. If I could just make it to the Franklin Street plaza…
The crack of a gunshot from behind me, along with a feeling of force stopping the bullet from reaching its mark told me that they had a clear line of sight on me. Damn, the park was exposed. I ducked in between two bars and emerged on the main drag once again, a few blocks from the plaza, with none of the men ahead of me. They were hot on my heels as I crossed the last of the distance to the rear entrance of the walk up.
The plaza was busy on this Friday night, with plenty of people out celebrating the upcoming Halloween. Live music played from one of the cantinas circling the fountain as I plunged into the biggest part of the crowd in order to lose my pursuers. I could barely hear them as I got near the candy shop. The crowd around there thinned, caring more for the eateries than sweets.
That changed as I looked ahead at the bus stop. Sweet salvation, the bus was there and finishing unloading passengers. I picked up speed once again, hopped on and tapped my bus pass just before the doors closed. I sat down in the middle row and saw out the back window the men getting to the stop and looking confused as the express to my area, already a block out, sped away.
Once my heart stopped pounding in my ears (and I got in the door and locked it) I was sure that Ahmad was behind both of these incidents. Medhi was too trusting of her uncle to be reliable to even vent to now, and I freaking got lucky that Omar was momentarily distracted. This case was getting dangerous, and a quick Youtube video on self-defense techniques wasn’t going to cut it should they show up again. I did a quick check of the contacts email that Medhi had sent me and saw a high ranking police official among them. I had to consider them compromised under the circumstances, so no reports. Just what was this new energy security system anyways, and why was it worth attempted murder to Ahmad and his henchmen? I pondered this as I researched local martial art studios.
The next day before class, I was at my local hapkido studio signing up for lessons and expressing interest in staff training in supplement to the normal empty hand style. The lady at the front desk smiled and said that I was going to love training under their specialist in staff and spear before handing me my copies of the paperwork.
Either I would love it or I would be all kinds of screwed, I thought to myself in that moment as I placed the paperwork in my bag and headed out.