Bad morning doesn’t begin to cut it when André de Vries is woken by a loud knock on his door at 7 a.m. on a Monday by two hard-nosed Lone Star dicks and a half dozen patrolmen, all smiling like they won the lottery. They read you your rights on an armed robbery beef that doesn’t sound familiar, throw the cuffs on, and rudely stuff you into the back of a Patrol–1. Twenty minutes later, you’re in the dark and hostile interrogation room of the old Lone Star precinct downtown, which is soon to be a Knight Errant franchise, getting enthusiastically interrogated by a human Detective Riggs and an Elf Detective Murtagh.
The irony dawns on you before you’re halfway through the hour-long interrogation, being asked the same questions over and over (and for that matter, harder and harder). You had nothing to do with the truck of commlinks that got hijacked in Devil’s Estate at 8:00 p.m. last night. Wrongfully accused isn’t how you’d usually describe yourself, but even a broken clock is innocent twice a year, or something. It’s almost enough to bring a smile to your face, as there’s no way they’re going to make this stick.
It’s not long before the detectives get tired of your stonewalling and realize they’re not getting anywhere with their good cop, bad cop routine. They pull you out of the cramped interrogation room, and march you down the hall to a holding cell full of other malcontents like yourself, a bunch of unusual suspects.
You’ve been sweating in lockup for a while without access to a phone call or your lawyer; in other words, the world is still turning. Just as you’re starting to seriously worry that, in the ultimate irony, you might actually go down for a crime you didn’t even commit, you hear the clang of one of the security doors in the hallway, and the sound of the Lone Star detectives bickering with a hotheaded female attorney. You
hear the phrases “warrant,” “wrongful arrest,” “probable cause,” “putative identification,” and “unlawful questioning without legal counsel.”
Then a begrudging and bewildered-looking uniformed officer unlocks the cage door, and a short, smiling woman in a grey, pinstriped business suit strides past him. The cops almost seem scared of the tiny little norm chica. She’s cute and slight, with short, neon-orange hair and a dusting of freckles. She looks all of fourteen, but starts talking like a high-speed robot built for dispensing rapid-fire legal jargon:
“Hey, just so you guys know, I just told them they have to put you before a lineup, get the prosecutor to formally press charges, or let you go, or I’m gonna have their gonads for wrongful arrest and violation of your rights as SA citizens. You may be far from the forty-eight-hour deadline, but they really screwed the pooch on this one, and privatized rent-a-cops don’t get blanket protection under Qualified Immunity statutes.”
You’re not sure you followed all of that, or any of it, when she presents you with her card (an ARO, naturally). It reads “Imaginary” Annie Goldsmith, Invisible Esquire.
“Don’t worry about any payment for my services, any public defender fresh out of law school could have seen through this obvious fishing trip. But would could join me for a cup of soy while they process the release of your gear.”
As you are grabbing some coffee at the local Soybucks, she mentions that she’s looking for a few good people for a piece of work she’s contracting for a third party and that you look like you can handle yourself.
She places a matchbook emblazoned with the logo of a bar called Banshee, with a commlink number scrawled on it in ballpoint ink, along with a time, underlined: 7 p.m.
You are, but you’re also wary. “I don’t mean to look a gift attorney in the mouth,” you say, “but how did you know where to find me? You wouldn’t happen to know why the cops picked me up today, would you?”
“Just serendipity. I overheard some officers talking about your case while on another case.” She smiles a smile that only lawyers seem to be capable of. “Anyway, I’m just asking that you go there and hear out this third party’s offer.”
You don’t believe her, but you take the matchbook when you leave. There’s something fishy about “Imaginary Annie” but you might as well run her offer past the rest of the group.
A quick matrix search confirms it, even by your standards the Banshee is not a nice place, the rundown facade of the building (consisting of crumbling twentieth-century wood and brick) and the blinking red neon sign slowly dying away to the last phosphor leads you to believe you’ll be wearing Heckler & Koch rather than Mortimer and Armanté to this meet.