How hard could it be to find that woman when she wore a great green beacon attached to her head? But I had spent the entire day searching for her and had not even caught a glimpse of a green feather bobbing above the crowds of people. Exhausted, I sank onto the steps of the Edison Opera House. The sun was getting lower in the sky and my time was running out. This was ridiculous. I hadn't sold a single drawing all day because I'd been busy looking for the woman, or more specifically, her hat.
It wasn't likely that she was even in the Culture District anymore. But without a U.T. card, I had no way of getting to any of the other Districts to look for her. And now that I thought about it, how could I know she was even offering me a job anyways? Sure, she had said I was "perfect for the job," but didn't say anything about what "the job" might be. And she neither asked for nor gave any contact information. She just left in a flash of unasked and unanswered questions.
And I had wandered over every inch of the Culture District, clutching a piece of paper with my name and Edison mailbox number on it like an idiot. I didn't have the slightest chance of finding her, and even if I did, I had no way of knowing if what I had assumed all day was true or not. I got up, crumpled the paper and tossed it in a trashcan. I wouldn't have time to set up again and try to sell some drawings, so I might as well go home.
I took a shortcut through the Dahlia Monroe Memorial Garden to evade the throngs of people who were pouring into the Culture District. Though it was fairly busy during the day, the Culture District didn't truly wake up until the sun went down.
"What's so interesting about her anyway?" I asked myself aloud, "She seems a little off, not all there. I can't imagine any sane person wearing that damned hat...."
I was cutting across a bed of assorted succulents when I spotted it. That damned hat! It rose well above the heads of the crowd, feathers bouncing in time to some distant thumping bass.
Before I could reason with myself, I took off running, leaping over a row of feathered white peonies and landing on the pavement outside the garden. I moved through a protesting group of glow-painted girls, eyes fixed on the shimmering green and gold feathers ahead of me. I followed the hat relentlessly, losing and finding it again several times. I called out, but it didn't stop or even hesitate. Even though I sped up several times, I never seemed to get any closer to it. I chased the hat past the opera house, through the field of neon and strobe light that was Club Square, and finally, down into the UT. Pushing past a man clothed entirely in tinfoil and flashing string lights, I barreled down the stairs after the bouncing pile of feathers and fake foliage. When I reached the platform, the hat was nowhere to be seen. I scanned the platform for any sign of the woman or her hat, but she must have gotten on the train already.
I set my case down and ran both hands through my hair, trying to collect my thoughts. Untangling my fingers and brushing strands of limp dishwater hair from my eyes, I glared down at the case containing the exact number of drawing boards I had come here with today. Not a single one had seen the outside of the case, not a single drawing had been sold. Cursing myself, I kicked the case with as much force as I could muster. It skittered across the platform and collided with the opposite wall, exploding on impact.
"Goddamn it!" I swore, drawing the attention of at least half a dozen passerby. I gathered up my scattered property, stuffing it haphazardly into the case.
"You damn idiot," I muttered to myself bitterly, "moron...."
Two or three people stopped to watch me, not bothering to pick up the pencils that had rolled to their feet. I caught one woman staring at my Work Pass, so I hid it in my shirt before she could get a chance to write down the number on it. It was only by pure chance that I looked up to see a pile of feathers, ribbons and baubles, its owner standing several yards away from me. Her eyes locked with mine, flashing golden with laughter, and a smirk played at her thin pink lips. I left my case and took a few hasty steps toward her. But just then, the train pulled in with a rush of stale air that pulled a strand of sleek caramel brown out from under the hat. Her grin widened and her eyes never left mine as she flashed her black First Class UT card to the conductor and boarded the train, disappearing into the windowless compartments beyond.
"Goddamn it!" I swore under my breath. The woman really was nuts, wasn't she? She had probably just been playing some kind of game with me all day. Cursing my stupidity, I bent down to pick up my case when I spotted something on the ground where she had stood. As casually as possible, I walked over to the spot and picked up the envelope that was lying there. It was one third the size of a normal business envelope and was sealed with a gold leaf sticker bearing image of a rabbit. I turned it over and found "Allen Wilton" written on it in thin, spidery cursive.
Perplexed, I opened the envelope and pulled out a card. The card itself was made of some high quality cotton paper, lightly textured with soft edges. The handwriting was the same as what was on the envelope and the writer had only given me a date and a place.
"October 12th. Blue Square."
I turned the card over for some hint as to whom this Miss Werner was, but it was blank except for a small amount of bleeding from the ink on the other side.