AUTHORS: Mel and Christy (We evil two...)
~ This takes place during chapter 15 of 'Reunion'.~

Key:
minor scene change (from person to person at the same place, etc): ----------
major scene change (at another place, some time later, etc): * * * * *
flashback or dream starting or ending: ~*~*~*~
thoughts (and the occasional sound effect): *Tadah!*
some more sound effects (little ones!): -tadah!-
electronics (phone, TV, intercom etc): <<Tadah!>>

Instant Karma

Heero looked up at Trowa, cold mask firmly in place. "I'll book shuttle seats."

"I'll be ready when you are."

Relena looked from one to the other, confused. "But... where are you going?"

Her fiance smirked, getting up. "Guess."

"...Oh... Oh, good!"

Trowa flicked his cell phone open and hit a speed dial button as he moved towards the door.

< < Winner Enterprises, Mr. Winner's office. Ninke Assink speaking. > >

"Ninke, hello."

< < Mr. Barton, good morning! Is there something I can do for you? > >

"Yes. I want you to get me some information. It doesn't exactly come under the heading of 'WEI business', but I'm sure you'll be able to track it down."

< < I'll certainly do my best. > >

"I need a list of all the pawnshops and second-hand shops within... let's say a ten kilometer radius of this address..." Trowa reeled off the address on L2 where they'd found Duo, glancing down and smiling as he felt Quatre's hand slide into his.

< < Got it, sir. > > There was a slight pause before Ninke continued, curiosity audible in his voice. < < Er... may I ask exactly what you're after? I have, ah... well, if I had details, I might be able to be of more help. > >

"We're looking for places where a gang might dispose of some stolen jewelry."

< < ...I see. > >

"I'm sure you do," Trowa muttered.

< < I'm sorry, sir. I didn't catch that. > >

"Nothing. I need that info soon. Heero Yui and I are going to L2 as soon as it can be arranged."

< < Would you like me to book tickets for you? > >

"No, Heero's handling that side of things."

< < In that case, if you give me your ETA as soon as you know the schedule, I can arrange for a data pack to be delivered to you on arrival. Is that satisfactory? > >

"Perfect."

* * * * *

As they stepped out into the L2 shuttle terminal, Heero and Trowa scanned the waiting crowd.

"Ninke didn't give you a description of his messenger?" Herro asked quietly, glancing to his left. "Or a specific location to meet him?"

"No," Trowa replied, looking right. "He said we'd be met in the arrivals area, and-- Ninke?!"

Heero's eyes widened in surprise as he saw the man in Preventer's uniform walking towards them, then narrowed. "That's not Ninke," he said curtly. "Too tall. And his eyes are the wrong colour."

Trowa snorted. "Trust you to spot it first, even though I've spent more time around him..."

"Mr. Yui? Mr. Barton? I'm Nicklaus Assink," the agent said, walking up and offering his hand. "My brother, Ninke, asked me to hunt up some info for you."

Heero folded his arms across his chest and scowled as Trowa shook hands. "What have you got for us?"

"Here," Nicklaus said, handing over a fat document wallet and a disk. "I've actually been assigned to the area you're interested in for the last two months, since we first got an office up here, so I was able to pull together a lot of data you might find useful. As well as the list of pawn shops and second-hand stores -- I've marked the ones known to deal in stolen goods, by the way -- I've included all of the relevant information we have available on the local gang members and the names and addresses of the known fences in the area. If we're talking about the theft of one or two fairly inexpensive items, you're much more likely to find them in a pawn shop than sold to a fence, but they may have been thrown in with a larger haul."

Trowa raised an eyebrow as Heero flipped through the thick wad of papers in the document wallet, pulling out a map and examining it briefly. "You've been busy."

Nicklaus shrugged, doing a fairly good job of looking innocent. "Ninke said it was for a good cause. Besides, it's my duty to co-operate with a couple of visiting Preventers... Ah, I do hope you have your Preventers IDs with you?"

"Yes," Heero said flatly, closing the document case and tucking it under one arm. "Anything else?"

"My contact details are on the disk if you need any more assistance or back up. Ninke made a hotel reservation, but I can cancel it if you've already made other arrangements, and I have a car waiting for you outside. Is there anything else you need before I go back to the office?"

One corner of Trowa's mouth twitched up slightly. "It's almost breakfast time. Coffee and a danish?"

Nicklaus smirked back. "There'a a take out box and a thermos in the car. Here's the keys. I'll see you gentlemen later, shall I?"

Despite himself, Heero snorted slightly as they walked away. "I have got to do some research into that family..."

* * * * *

Once they reached their hotel room, Heero and Trowa dumped their bags on the floor and got to work. Trowa spread the papers out over the coffee table, unfolding the map and reading the neat notes written on it. Heero started up his laptop and began going through the data on the disk.

"Anything useful?" Trowa asked quietly, pulling out a sheaf of papers and matching them up with the notes on the map.

"Detailed write ups on the shops and fences," Heero muttered. "Rap sheets and mug shots of gang members."

"Hm... I've got the general write ups on each gang and the lists of addresses. They're plotted on the map, too; we'll be able to work out a logical search sequence so we don't end up doubling back or missing anything."

Heero glanced over the top of the laptop screen. "What are the shaded areas?"

"Gang territories. According to this," Trowa waved a hand at the litter of paper, "gang members who go outside of their own borders have a habit of turning up dead... so they don't. If we find Duo's cross, we'll know it was taken by the gang in that territory."

"Convenient."

"What's even more convenient is the fact that Agent Assink has kindly listed each gang's usual activities. Some of them concentrate on drug- and arms-dealing, and regard muggings as beneath them."

"We'll save them for last," Heero said dryly.

* * * * *

"You're sure?"

"O'course I'm sure, son. Don't get many crosses, and the ones I do get are usually fancy. I'd'a remembered a plain silver cross like that because it woulda been unusual. Can't help ya, sorry."

Stepping out into the thin artificial daylight, Trowa shook his head briefly at Heero. "Another 'no'. At least this one was positive..."

Heero snorted, putting a line through the pawn shop's name on their list. "It's better than 'how the hell do you expect me to remember a piece of junk like that?', anyway."

"I still say he was only after a small bribe. Five or ten credits would have done it," Trowa said mildly. "You didn't have to threaten to put him through his own display counter."

"His memory improved, didn't it?"

"True. Where to now?"

Heero studied the map briefly, then pointed off down a side street. "'Skeet's Pawn and Vintage Emporium'. Four and a half blocks that way."

Trowa blinked, checking his memory. "Doesn't one of the fences live a couple of blocks that way?"

"I want to double back a bit and stay close to the shortest route between the 'port, Maxwell Church and where Duo was staying. If we don't get any results, we can expand our search pattern later." Heero's mouth twisted slightly. "After all, Duo didn't have anywhere else to go; he's not likely to have been mugged anywhere else."

Wincing slightly, Trowa nodded agreement as they walked off.

Half a minute later...

"What did you say the next place is called, again?"

"'Skeet's Pawn and Vintage Emporium'."

"'Skeet's Pawn'..."

"Yes."

"...'and Vintage Emporium'."

"Yes."

"Are you sure both bits belong to the same name?"

"Yes."

"Just checking."

-----------------

"Skeet's" was a small shop, and amazingly cluttered; racks of second hand clothes shared space with shelves of electrical equipment and boxes of random junk. Nothing looked particularly valuable, but Trowa had accompanied Catherine on a couple of bargain hunting expeditions to places like this, and knew that there could be almost anything in the bottom of a box or tucked away in a corner... if you were willing to look under all of the cobwebs and dust.

"Can I help you gentlemen?" A short, balding man leaned on the counter and smiled, blinking a little sleepily.

'Gentlemen'? We're in one of the worst parts of L2, and we find a pawn shop owner who calls his customers gentlemen? Trowa raised an eyebrow and moved forward as Heero drifted towards a couple of glass topped cases holding cheap jewelry and watches.

"We're after a specific item that might have been sold in this area sometime in the last week," the taller pilot said carefully. "A plain silver cross. Have you bought anything like that recently?"

"Well, let me think," the mad said slowly, rubbing at his chin. "Seems to me I do remember something like--"

"That one," Heero said abruptly, pointing into one of the cases.

"--yes, that's where I put it," Skeet said happily, shuffling out from behind the counter with a large, jingling bunch of keys. "Came in... mmm... two days ago? Might've been three... no, it was two, I remember now, because Thursdays I have a bowl of chili for lunch and I nearly dropped it in the bowl. They didn't warn me the chain was broken when they handed it over..." Fumbling with the keys, tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth as he concentrated, he got the case open and picked the cross out, handing it to Heero. "I fixed the chain," he pointed out helpfully. "That the one you're after?"

Heero turned the cross around with fingers that shook slightly, then jerked his head in a quick nod. "It's his," he said huskily. "It's got his initials on the back."

"Thirty-five credits, then, if you're buying it."

"Do you remember who brought it in?" Trowa asked as he dug out his wallet, not really expecting an affirmative answer. They'll belong to the local gang, but knowing names might help. He probably won't want to tell us, though...

"Oh, sure, I remember," Skeet replied calmly, relocking the case. "Names do you any good, or do you need descriptions?" Shuffling back behind the counter, he smiled lazily at the expression that flickered quickly across Trowa's face. "Now, what's that look for? Anyone would think I just said something strange."

"You did," Trowa admitted. "This was sold to you by a gang, wasn't it?"

"The Demon Dogs, yes. They run this area."

"And you're not worried about what they might do if you talk to us about them?"

"Oh, the Demon Dogs-- stupid name, really-- the Dogs and I have an agreement," Skeet said in his slow, calm voice. "I give them a better price than they'd get from anyone else around here, and they don't expect me to keep my mouth shut about their business. I'd keep my mouth shut on principle if I actually liked them, of course; but I don't, so they'd have to give me a bigger profit margin if they wanted my silence." The smile widened slightly as he shrugged. "They decided that a few extra credits were more important to them."

"If you don't approve of them, why do you deal with them?" Heero asked coldly.

Skeet's smile twisted slightly, then he shrugged again, spreading his hands. "Look around you, gentlemen. This is L2, the cesspool of the solar system. Everyone deals with people they don't approve of. There aren't enough nice people here to build a business on. You wanted to know who sold this, yes?"

----------------------

[cont]