Book 3, Chapter 12

Sitting astride his bike on the walkway in front of Billie's, Rabbit ignored the annoyed looks from pedestrians walking around him. He was used to getting strange looks. He was not, however, used to waiting and he did not enjoy it. But, as Anne had so kindly reminded him yet again, he couldn't just walk into the brothel and expect to be able to see Caine whenever he liked. At the moment, he'd been informed, the young man was at the university and, as he had no appointments for the rest of the day, it was uncertain when he'd get back. Too impatient to try again another day and uncomfortable waiting upstairs, Rabbit had opted to stake out the building's entrance until the Oracle turned up.

Initially during his wait, upon finding that his lighter was empty, he'd occupied himself by resolving to quit smoking. His resolve had lasted all of the fifteen minutes it took him to walk down the block to a convenience store, buy a new lighter, and walk back. He consoled himself in his failure with the fact that he was definitely not going to die of lung cancer.

Back on his bike with the phantom taste of smoke in the back of his mouth, his mind had wandered to his current work to find Julian. The first thing he'd done was visit the site of the abduction itself despite the low probability of finding any evidence. He'd checked out the alley, noted the positions of the cameras that had been out at the time of the disappearance, and then asked people in the surrounding buildings if they'd seen anything.

The work had taken the better part of a day and had turned up nothing--the only positive thing that had happened that first day was that the surveillance feed from the time of the disappearance and the maintenance records of the cameras in the blind spot had been waiting for him when he'd arrived home that night. Though he wouldn't admit it in front of anyone else, Surge was thorough and dependable, and Rabbit was glad he had him available to fall back on for help if he needed to.

Not that he ever intended to need to.

He was a little irked at the fact that neither the Protectors of Antiquity nor the Surge himself had thought it appropriate to be honest with him about the vigilante's identity. They'd left it up to him to draw his own conclusions, and they were more easily drawn than either of those parties had probably guessed. Rabbit remembered the blond man from the night Jin had killed Greg, and after asking had found out that an attempt to rescue the Surge had also taken place that night. And then there was the fact that the data Teyen had promised him had come to him without a return path or a sender name. It hadn't been hard to add up the facts he'd been presented with. He still wished they'd just trusted him as they were asking for his help.

The next step he'd taken in the investigation was to talk to Sasha. After meeting the man, Rabbit had a momentary suspicion that Julian had disappeared on purpose so that he'd no longer have to put up with him. That's what he would have done, anyway. Despite being exasperating and moody, however, Rabbit was convinced that Sasha was in no way involved with Julian's disappearance.

It wasn't really Sasha's strange personality or various psychoses that had set him on edge, though. Tilting is head back to stare up at the sky through the buildings, he chewed on the butt of his cigarette before spitting it out on the sidewalk. Meeting Sasha had been a lot like meeting the Surge had been--something about him had sent prickling sensations through Rabbit's body and thrown him off kilter, which had made him defensive. It was similar to being in Caine's presence, except that the vibration he experienced around Caine was pleasant, almost comforting.

Which had made him decide to consult Caine as his next step in the investigation. He'd initially planned to meet with Maxwell or, better yet, his assistant, to ask a few questions, but had discarded the idea as soon as the thought of visiting Caine had occurred to him. For one thing, if Caine could give him answers, he wouldn't have had to put himself through the annoyance of meeting the politician, and for another thing, he very much doubted that Maxwell had anything to do with Julian's disappearance. The two of them had seemed more than happy to have nothing to do with each other when they could help it, and Rabbit couldn't come up with any reasons for that arrangement to have changed.

Rabbit held his pack of cigarettes up to his face and peered inside. Half empty already, and there had only been one missing when he'd sat down here to wait. He wondered briefly where the smoke went if he had no real lungs, and imagined murky water swirling with every breath he took. With a sigh, he lowered the pack of cigarettes to find Caine standing in front of his bike with a vague smile on his face.

"I thought you'd come by today," he said by way of greeting.

Rabbit slipped the cigarette pack into his pocket. "It's a business call."

"I understand." Caine leaned forward on the front of the bike and Rabbit marveled at how comfortable the other man was with him despite their brief acquaintance and his own surly manner. Like so many other things about Caine, he found this aspect of his personality comforting. "What can I do for you?"

"Julian's been abducted. I was wondering if you knew anything about it."

"Julian...the Healer?" Caine asked. His gaze flickered to one side as he thought and after a moment, when he straightened up, is expression was somehow more bleak. Looking at him, Rabbit wondered if it made him sad for people to visit him only to consult his visions. He wondered if the life of a prostitute was very lonely. "I haven't seen anything of him recently. I'm afraid I can't help you."

"Thanks anyway." Rabbit kept the disappointment out of his voice; he'd known that asking Caine would be a long shot, but he'd hoped that figuring all of this out could be that easy.

As he reached out to start up his bike, he looked up at Caine again. There was something wistful in the way he looked back through half-lidded eyes. Rabbit paused, then said, "Listen, once I've gotten this taken care of, I'll have some extra free time. We something."

Caine blinked at him and smiled gently. "I would like that."

Rabbit smiled back, just a little, and gunned the engine. Caine took a step back and Rabbit took off down the street. Buildings and people had been blurring past him for ten minutes before he started thinking about where to go next. He'd spent a good deal of the late morning and early afternoon waiting for Caine, and with that meeting over so quickly and no new information, his willingness to work any further on this case had guttered. He knew that it was urgent to find out as much as possible as soon as possible, but the more effort he put into it with no returns, the more hopeless the situation seemed.

He was passing beneath the walkways of New Anomalia when he decided to stop by the library. He'd ordered a book for his research earlier in the month, and it wouldn't hurt to take a break from this investigation to check on the delivery status. Escaping back into his academic work, even for just a short time, would help him clear his head; when he got home, he would look over the data Surge had sent him again and see if anything new popped out at him.

As he parked his bike and headed for the lift, he ruefully thought about how much easier finding Julian would be if Julian were there to help him. Even to himself, he hated to admit how much Julian had helped him on the William Speight case, and how much he'd appreciated the help. As infuriating as Julian could be, he was clever; he'd have been bound to see something Rabbit was missing in the data he'd compiled concerning his abduction.

Stepping out of the elevator into the library, he was surprised to see Hiroki sitting behind the front desk. The man smiled at him as he approached and shifted the notebook he'd been writing into to the side.

"Hi, Nicholas."

"Hey. I thought you were in preservation."

Hiroki made a wry face. "They're short staffed, and there's no new work to do over there, so I'm covering here this week."

"I see." Rabbit dug in his back pocket for his ident card and handed it over. "I'm just checking up on a book I ordered."

Hiroki ran the card through the machine and his eyes ran over the terminal monitor in front of him. "From Two Rivers? Looks like it's in transit, this side of the Divide, so I'd estimate its arrival time being sometime next week."

Rabbit thanked him and accepted his card back. He felt Hiroki's eyes on him as he slid it back into his pocket, and the other man smiled sympathetically at him when he looked back up.

"You look tired."

Rabbit passed a hand over his eyes self-consciously. "Just under some stress."

"SPD work?"

"Not quite," he admitted. "Nothing official, anyway. I'm trying to find a...friend who disappeared."

One of Hiroki's eyebrows cocked slightly at the way he hesitated over the word friend. "Did he run off somewhere?"

Rabbit didn't question why Hiroki assumed it was a he. "I don't think so. I think he was abducted."

Hiroki's expression sobered. "That's terrible."

"Yeah...well, I'm hopeful." Unsure why he was being so open about this with a man he barely knew, Rabbit rubbed the back of his neck with one hand and took a small step away from the desk. "He's been missing for five days or so now but... Like I said, I'm hopeful."

"Is he a very close friend?" Hiroki's curiosity was patently sympathetic.

"Just someone I worked with on another case."

"Julian Vaughn?"

Rabbit's brow furrowed. "Yeah. How'd you know that?"

Hiroki's expression became somewhat flustered. "Oh, I was following the Greg Waters case, and there was a brief mention of the two of you being instrumental to finding him in a news feed. I guess the name just stuck with me." He smiled sheepishly.

"Oh." Rabbit eyed him dubiously. "I should get going. I've still got a lot of work left to do today."

"Of course. I won't keep you."

Rabbit turned to go. As he stepped into the elevator, he heard Hiroki call, "I hope you find him."

Turning around to face forward, their eyes met. The sensation that ran through Rabbit wasn't like the one he had around Caine or the Surge or even Sasha--it ran deeper somehow, like a sound wave that was sub-audible, which he felt more than heard. It spoke of something very old; something his survival instincts told him he didn't want to come into contact with. He punched the close door button and rode unsettled back down to his bike.

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