We headed next to an all-ages club she liked to frequent. They wouldn’t be open yet, but there might be somebody around we could ask.
Loitering outside was the Englishman with the pearl-handled cane. “You.”
He lifted the cane in a salute.
“Do your friends have her?” I didn’t say who. I didn’t think I needed to. Thea stayed three steps behind me, protective. A bodyguard I neither wanted nor felt I needed for this, but a supportive presence. Once more I was torn about having her here.
“Yes. Straight exchange. You for her.”
“Rock Creek Park, 8pm, alone.” He gave more precise directions than that, of course, but the upshot was – alone in an area that would have no witnesses.
I glanced at Thea. She gave me a slight go ahead look.
“Alright.” I had to plan this carefully – I wasn’t going to let them kill me, but I wasn’t going to let them keep Kanesha either. They probably wouldn’t hurt her as long as they thought they could use her against me, but…
We walked away, then. Thea glanced at me. “Okay. We need to work this carefully. It would ruin our plans if they killed you.”
Her tone, though, didn’t lack affection. “I have no intention of letting that happen.”
“So, we need to make sure you have backup. But they think you’re alone.”
“Invisibility spell?” I asked, only half joking.
“Not that easy. Anything like that takes a moment to actually take down…so you’d be vulnerable. And they may have people who can see through it.”
“And if they think you’re around, they’ll disappear.” I frowned. They knew what they were doing when it came to avoiding witnesses, but the terrain in the park was actually quite conducive to hidden ninjaness. “So, stealth, then.”
She nodded. “Stealth, coming in from ways they don’t expect. This is actually a time when Mr. Otter would be useful. If he’d help.”
Her tone suggested that the odds were about even either way. I stored that up. Maybe he would help, maybe he wouldn’t. If he didn’t, I figured it would be because he didn’t know Kanesha, so why would he help her? I couldn’t expect him to.
But he might help me. “And they didn’t say anything about unarmed, did they.”
“A sword might make them back off, but…okay. Let’s swing by the base.”
Which we did. Thea had some quite, quite interesting things in her collection.