Pixie didn’t have the time or energy to deal with Hillary’s histrionics.
“Fine. You can come with us if you do exactly what I say, when I say.” She could keep Hillary busy with internet research, where she wouldn’t be a danger to herself and others.
Dominick glanced at their friends and co-workers who lay sprawled out on the floor.
“He’s got the cure to whatever this is. We need to be able to investigate, to hunt this motherfucker down, and we can’t do that if we stay here,” he said. “None of us can go to our homes; the authorities might be able to track us down there, and they’d drag us off to the hospital.”
Pixie took a deep breath. “So we need a place we can lay low while we work on finding this psycho. All right, come with me. I know a guy.”
Pixie and Dominick sat on empty crates in what had once been the office of a warehouse building and now served as the headquarters to a local gang leader. Most of the original furniture had been removed long ago, and light filtered in weakly through cracked, grime-encrusted windows. Hillary refused to sit on, or touch, anything. An expression of utter horror wrinkled her face, and Pixie had no doubt that if she could have, she’d have levitated so she wouldn’t have to touch the floor.
They were in what had once been the warehouse district of Playa Linda. In the 1970s all the manufacturing jobs had moved overseas, so the factory employees who’d lived in the post-war housing tracts had drifted away, and now the entire district was largely abandoned to gangs, drug dealers, and thieves. The police avoided the neighborhood, refusing to patrol after dark.
Pixie had grown up there, in one of the former post-war housing tracts, which were now low-income housing projects. The city shoveled all of the welfare cases there so they could kill each other out of the view of the decent folk in the better neighborhoods. She’d largely raised herself, fending off the attentions of her mother’s tricks and hustling and stealing to survive.
The district was filthy and dangerous and unpredictable, but Pixie knew the streets and back alleys and the denizens as intimately as she knew her own flesh.
They were in a neighborhood controlled by Fraser Maxwell, leopard shifter and the leader of a low-level criminal gang who made most of their money by trafficking in stolen merchandise. The filthy room served as his office. He leaned back in old office chair behind a desk made of a wooden pallet laid across wooden crates.
There was electricity in the office, which he’d obtained by illegally tapping into city power, as well as internet service. He had a shiny new laptop on his desk, and Pixie would have been willing to bet her right kidney that he’d stolen it. He could have afforded to buy a laptop; he just hated paying for things, on general principle. The grimy surroundings were an affectation, as well, because he could have paid for a real office. Pixie knew him well enough to know that he kept that location not just to stay out of sight of authorities, but because it enhanced his reputation as a tough guy who’d clawed his way, literally, to the top of the heap.
“So now what?” Dominick asked.
Pixie turned to Hillary.
“Tell us everything you remember,” she said.
Hillary took a deep, quavery, breath. “Well, after you left, and Dominick took off after you, we got his brother some clothes and called him and his fiancee a cab. Good heavens, the language she used. Anyway, I was in the lobby when that man with the glasses walked in. Kory was there talking to the receptionist. The man didn’t say a word, he just grabbed Kory by the collar, and threw him against the wall for no reason. The receptionist hit the panic button, people came rushing in to the room, he was throwing them around everywhere as if they were feather pillows, and then…everything went blank.”