Logan stopped at the side of the table near the back booth of Joe's bar, wrinkling his nose at an odd scent of old death. The man had been right where Skye had told him he would be, and looked exactly the way she had described him. There was also a strange stillness to him that Logan found disquieting, and he decided that Skye was right. He was not going to like being around the man.
The man's head turned slowly to regard him through tinted shades, not mirrored, and there was an almost unnatural calm in the dark eyes. "Yes?" he asked quietly, not moving a muscle that Logan could find while he waited for the answer.
"You Blade?" Logan asked, his shoulders tense.
"Yes." Blade answered and continued to regard him in that stillness.
"Skye sent me to you. Said you might have some information that I need." Logan watched as the man indicated that he should sit, and Logan slid into the bench across from him. He settled himself tensely into the booth and regarded the still man. He wasn't sure about this . . . Blade Santiago. There was a strange scent of old death about the man that blocked out all other scents, and he was so still that his body language was too difficult to accurately read. And he couldn't . . . quite . . . see his eyes clearly.
Blade returned the stare. "The first question is free." Blade said quietly. "All the others . . . ?" he shook his head slowly, indicating that every other question would cost him. There was a credit card scanner attachment to the computer which sat before him and Logan found himself staring at it. He, himself had brought cash, but he had a credit card that would access his own personal accounts and holdings. But it made him wary that the man actually brought a credit card scanner.
Logan looked at Blade shrewdly. "How do I know I can trust the information you give me?" immediately popped to mind, but if he were in the man's place, he would simply answer with you don't and move on to the next question. He thought carefully. He would have to ask a question that he already knew the answer to, and would, at the same time, reveal how well-informed the man was, without it being something too public, as there were a lot of people around. He finally dug into a pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. "What do I call Scott Summers? Write it down on this." He slid the paper across the table.
Blade gave him a slightly disgusted look, the first sign of humanity since Logan first spoke to him and reached into his jacket deliberately, yet slowly, and removed a fountain pen. He scratched some things down on the paper and folded it before passing it back to him. Logan picked it up and slowly unfolded it. There in flowing script were the words. "Scotty, Slim, Cyc, Cyclops."
Logan controlled his reaction carefully. Apparently the man was very well informed, and Logan didn't particularly care for this fact. And he cared even less for the idea that this information can be purchased, and that the man apparently knew which Scott he was referring to. But Skye had been right. The man was correct with his information. He looked up from the paper and met the unfathomable dark eyes of Blade Santiago and carefully considered what he wanted to ask.
"What do you know about Hades Incorporated?" Logan asked, testing the waters, trying to find out just how good the man was with his information, as well as his prices.
Blade met the eyes of Logan and without even flinching, without blinking an eye, answered with "12."
Logan raised a single eyebrow, a little surprised. "Thousand?" he asked, knowing that he wasn't taking singles.
"Million." Blade answered, his tone flat and unchanging. He watched Logan carefully, his expression unwavering, as Logan's nose twitched and flared slightly.
Logan considered carefully the next question, knowing there was no point in arguing, yet obviously not getting charged for question regarding monetary increments. "How do you justify that price?" he asked slowly, wondering what this was going to cost him, and if he was willing to pay it.
"500." Blade replied.
"Thousand?" Logan asked, disbelieving.
"Nuh." Blade replied. "$500.00 for an explanation of my billing methods."
Logan nodded and forked it over, deciding that there just might be the possibility that he may need to use this man again, and he would need to understand how the man operated. He handed it over in cash and watched as the cash seemed to disappear under the table, with a single smooth movement of Blade's hand.
"Information on Hades is in high demand, Mr. Logan." Blade said quietly, his speech pattern somewhat slow and deliberate. "The more difficult the information is to obtain, the more private Hades wants to be, the more other people want it, the higher the price. The more information you want, the higher the price. You want everything I know on Hades, it's going to cost."
He fell silent as he punctuated the last word, his speech also tending to accentuate consonants, and Logan watched him return to his drink, sipped slowly, then deliberately replaced the glass on the table in front of him. Logan found the man irritating, but he now understood how the information broker worked. And he also found that Skye was right about the information. He could find out what he wanted to know, but it did depend on how badly he wanted it.
Logan regarded Blade again as he thought about the phrasing of the next question. "The incident with Hades Inc. over by the FOH headquarters." He began, watching Blade carefully. Blade nodded almost imperceptibly and met his eyes. "Why was Hades interested in the girl?"
He watched as Blade opened up with laptop and met his eyes. "5 thousand, Mr. Logan." Blade said and waited patiently. Logan considered the information, and weighted it against his need to know, to understand Terri, and discover what made Hades move, then pulled out a roll of bills and laid them on the table discreetly.
Blade pulled out a cellular phone and dialed a number. Logan raised an eyebrow in question. Blade did not respond. Instead in a moment Logan listened as Blade carried on a conversation which sounded to Logan as . . . "Mr. Reynolds. An offer has been made of five thousand concerning your activities of two nights ago. Do you wish to make another offer for my continued silence? . . . I see, Mr. Reynolds. . . . Understood. . . . Good evening, Mr. Reynolds."
Blade met his eyes and he smiled slightly. "You are in luck, it would seem." He said as the money again disappeared from the table. "There was no counter offer made." He leaned back slightly and typed a few things into the laptop, and Logan understood why the "customer" was seated across the table. It made it impossible to see what was on the screen, and, as Blade's back was to the corner, no one could look over his shoulder. A smart man, this Blade Santiago.
"Hades Inc." Blade began seeming to read off the screen "had an interest in the girl because Reynolds was indebted to the girl's older sister, and was asked very sweetly to retrieve her." Blade said. "It was a private and personal issue where one debt Reynolds owed was repaid by this mission. In other words, it was a favor among friends." Blade stopped speaking. And looked to Logan.
Logan was thinking about the information. If this had been a favor amongst friends, as Blade claimed, then he knew from experience that, had the X-Men been doing the same mission, they would have reacted exactly the same way towards interference from Hades. They had been charged with the rescue of a friend, and had taken on all comers who might had wished her harm. Logan couldn't fault them for that. That was loyalty amongst friends.
"What decided Hades on accepting the job working for Anderson International against Walker Enterprises?" Logan asked, and waited patiently for Blade.
"850.00." Blade replied and a slight smile played at the corners of his mouth as Logan's eyebrows inched towards his hairline. Logan would have thought that finding the answers to this one would have been far more expensive, as corporations were involved. But Logan rolled off the bills and laid them on the table, expecting Blade to reach for his cellular again. He was a little surprised when Blade made that money disappear as well.
Blade again typed a few things into the laptop and then leaned back, his fingers folded elegantly in front of him, his elbows on the table. "Hades had found within the records of both companies correspondence from Walker Enterprises implicating the CEO of Walker Enterprises in certain transactions concerning the white slavery market. The CEO of Anderson International has a young daughter, who disappeared nine days ago, and a letter was sent out to Anderson International threatening to sell the daughter into slavery unless they agreed to back out of the market completely."
Logan sat back in the bench, surprised. No one on the team had ever thought the mission could be anything other than two companies bullying each other, which essentially it was. But the X-Men hadn't considered that the tactics of the companies would ever go that far. He nodded to Blade and stood, deciding he had what he needed and now it was essential that he do a few things. He had to pass on this information to Scott, let them know that, at least in this case, they had misjudged Hades, and would have to do deeper research before jumping to conclusions again. And then, he needed to apologize to Terri for misjudging her.
Logan walked away from the man in the corner booth and walked away, threading his way into the crowd until he reached the door. Then he walked out.
From out of the shadows near the bar, a young woman stepped. She stood 5'6" tall, with long Auburn hair and deep green eyes. Her slender, athletic build sifted lithely through the people until she reached the booth. There she sat and smiled at Blade. "Who would have thought it Blade." She said, her voice soft and warm, a direct contrast to the almost cold, dispassionate, hard look in her eyes. "I'm surprised at the price on that last one."
Blade smiled at his companion, and occasional business partner. This woman was the one person he almost never charged, and tried not to cross. Her name was Ashten Carter, and she was one of the anomalies in the world. She had lived for centuries, was a type of external, and had an odd mixture of gifts that even he, with all his knowledge, could never quite pin down. She was nebulous, as her code-name, Changeling, implied, and one of the few people Blade couldn't predict or read. Maybe that is why he liked her. Maybe it was for the same reason he respected Reynolds, power and a shared past. Regardless, he found her company delightful, a camaraderie such as only two people who were generally shunned and despised by the rest of the society could share having sprung up between them. "And why is that?" he asked her dryly.
"Because." She replied, shrugging delicately. "That news about Anderson and Walker will be public knowledge tonight when Anderson makes that public statement. Now that they were able to get all the documents to the authorities, Walker doesn't have a leg to stand on." She lit up a cigarette and exhaled deliberately. "So why only 850? If you're going to charge him, why not get him for more?"
"Because," Blade explained patiently "although the news will be made public, it is not public now, and we do run an honest business here." He watched as Ashten thought it through and then nodded thoughtfully.
"You're right." Ashten said finally. "Of course." She leaned back and relaxed, draping an arm over the back of the booth. "Then again, that's why I hang around you. To learn." Blade cocked his head slightly, knowing she would catch the movement. "After all, you can't . . . um . . . live, forever, now can you." She hesitated on the word live, as it could not appropriately be applied to Blade. "And with my ability to look like you, I could just take over once you're gone." She smiled and leaned forward, resting her chin in her hand. "Think about it, Blade." She said. "You'll be around forever, so to speak. A Staple."
Blade thought for a moment. "Like flour." He said and watched as Ashten smiled an nodded. "Hmmm." He said thoughtfully then slowly shook his head. "White." He said in a derisive tone.
"How about pepper then, you old bigot." Ashten teased.
Blade shook his head a smile beginning to form. This was one of the reasons he liked this woman. She could banter unlike many he had met over the centuries. It was rare, and he believed it was because most people live such brief lives. "Black . . . and white." He said, in an only slightly less derisive tone, not caring one way or the other if it could be considered politically correct to continue to hold prejudices.
He watched as Ashten thought and then smiled, and he seemed to come to the same conclusion as she at almost the same time. "Heh." The sound was drawn out in a single mocking, drawn-out tone. "Brown sugar." He said, and the two laughed together.
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