Thirty pieces of silver

"No," says Joel, his lips going thin and white.  I could have told Red that he'd react like that, Joel doesn't like being told what to do.  But then, in fairness, Red's only known Joel for 30 minutes.  "This is not a game, Jeremy.  There are lives at stake, and not just yours."

Red's jaw juts out slightly and his eyes get a set look.  I have to put my hand to my mouth and cough gently to hide a smile: Joel and Red look a lot like each other at the moment.  So which one will be the Alpha male?

"We need the number, we need the phone, we need the third person," he says rapidly.  His voice is firm, but he's going a little bit too quick, he's nervous.  If this were negotiations I'd let him keep going at this point, let him run himself out of argument and then step in and point out a flaw and watch him collapse.  Joel should know this, but he's letting his ego rule his brain.

"I said no," he replies.  "You are not negotiating a better deal here.  There are no free texts, and no favourite callers."

"Look Joel, we need the number because there are three of us involved in this.  You've picked up the two of us, but you've missed the third.  We need this number so we can all stay in touch on your shiny little toys, it'd be a security breach to have to use another phone to call Laika.  And you need this number because you'll never find her without it."

Laika?  Who is Laika, apart from a Russian dog that went into space?  Does Red 5 have a girlfriend then?  I feel oddly shocked, even though it's obvious that a guy that handsome is going to be taken already.  He looks tired, like he could do with a good wash, and there's an odd chemical smell about him that reminds me of model airplane glue that I'm hoping is something to do with his aerosols and not a drug habit.  If he's got one of those Joel might decide he's more liability than lure and dispose of him.  And whatever else, I quite like Red.  We've been in contact for long enough now that meeting him's slightly exciting.

"And Laika is?"

"She's... I'm not sure who she is exactly, but she helped me out already when I needed a diversion.  She was there when Emma was driving like a maniac around the car lot--"

"Getting shot!" I butt in.  "Laika's the girl who hotwired the car for me?  She called herself Puppy."

"That's her," Red nods.  "She knows about Grozny, she's passed on tidbits now and then to me.  Stuff she shouldn't know."

"Where does she live?"  Joel's lips are thin and white still, but he's listening now.  It's a good sign.  Red just shrugs though and sighs and the corners of his eyes droop a little.  Make that very tired.

"She's a street-kid, I have her number and when I need her I call.  She finds me then."

Joel stares at Red intently for a few seconds but Red doesn't back down.  The tension in the air increases subtly.

"Give me the number, I'll see what we can do.  I'm making no promises; quite frankly neither of you seems to think too much before you act so I'll decide if this becomes a menage a trois or not."

He's given in, I know that tone of voice.  I'll even overlook the insult for now.

"There's a couple of rooms upstairs you can use.  Don't fall asleep, if we haven't found Lucky inside a couple of hours--"

"Laika!" says Red.

"Laika then, in a couple of hours, we'll go ahead with the original plan."

"I should phone Laika for you," Red starts talking again, his eyes brightening slightly, but Joel waves his hand dismissively at him.

"We're not going to call her, Jeremy.  We want her fast."

He stands up, pushing his chair backwards, and indicated No-neck behind Jeremy.  "Sebastian will show you the guest-rooms.  Remember, no falling asleep!"

I stand up as well, wondering for a moment if by falling in with Joel's schemes I'm not somehow betraying the Rebel Voice.

The End

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