"What were you doing in his office?"
The man's breath fell hot on Dave's face, smelling of nicotine. His eyes flashed like steel blades, and Dave could feel himself withering beneath his gaze.
"Tell me what you were doing in there before I cut you open and hang you by your guts."
He didn't need to read his mind to know that he was serious.
He tried to speak, but the man's brawny arm was crushing his throat. He slapped on the man's arm until he let up, stepping back. Dave hunched over, hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath.
"Talk," the man prompted.
Dave looked him over in the faint light of the street lamps. He was dressed in a simple shirt, the white fabric contrasting against his dark skin. Suspenders over his shoulders held up his slacks. He filled in his outfit well, but Dave couldn't help thinking he seemed incomplete, somehow. That he wasn't as plain as he presented himself to be.
"Who the hell are you?" he asked the man, still panting.
"My threat still stands," the man said, his silver gaze holding firm.
Dave could do without an arm on his neck again, so he obliged.
"It was my brother's office," he said. "I'm sure I had a right to be there."
"The police didn't seem to think so," the man said, fetching a lighter and a cigarette from his breast pocket. He held his stare on Dave as he lit the cigarette. "You look just like him," he said after a draw. "Weird."
"That's how twins work," Dave said, standing straight. The man was still staring at him. It made him feel uneasy. "How do you know him, anyway?"
The man took another draw. "I'm in his employ," he said. "Or was. Whatever."
Dave gave him a sceptical look. "What kind of work?" He doubted Doug would see it fit to associate with someone like this man.
He shrugged. "Bodyguarding, mostly. Private security, if you will. Did most of everything as long as he could pay."
"How long?" Dave was still doubtful. How couldn't he know about this? Well, not like Doug ever told him much unprompted.
"Four paycheques now," he said around the cigarette. "Or it would be tonight if he didn't go missing."
"Do you know what happened?" Dave asked, hoping someone had seen something.
Something like guilt seemed to flash in the man's eyes. "No. Stepped out for a smoke and next thing I know he's gone. Don't know how whoever it was got away with him, but they did. I intend to find him. And get paid for my services."
Dave had the distinct sense that this was all just about the money for this man. "Then we have similar intentions. I'm an investigator. I find people for a living. The sooner we find him, the sooner you get paid and I can get back to my work without worrying about where the hell he is."
"Hmm," the man grunts. He drops the half-smoked cigarette to the ground and stomps it out. "What you got?"
Dave looked out from the alley. It was late enough that they were the only ones on the street, but he hadn't wanted to take any chances. He pulled the file he'd taken from Doug's office out of his waistband. It was a miracle the police hadn't searched him.
"I swiped this from his office before the police took me in. I haven't had a chance to go through it yet, but see if you can find anything important. Now, if you come with me to my office -"
The man snatched the file from Dave's hand.
He opened the file. No way the light was bright enough for him to read in. But he skimmed through the file anyway, grunting as he read. He finished and handed it back. "Yeah, he kept talking about this crusade thing. They're supposed to be this secret society or something, and they're pretty much damn everywhere. Had me swear to him once that I wasn't one of them. Think he was going loopy."
It didn't seem too farfetched. Doug had always been one to commit to conspiracies. But what was so damn special about this one that it had probably gotten him kidnapped?
"Was he talking to anyone about it that you know of? Anyone that might have seemed suspicious?" Dave asked.
The man nodded at the file. "There's a list of contacts in there. I tailed him when he visited a few of them. Couldn't have him getting killed under my watch."
"Fat load of good that's done," Dave muttered.
The man scowled. "I take my work seriously and I haven't lost anyone under my watch until today. Hate to admit it, but whoever these people are, they're good."
"Then help me find him," Dave urged.
"I don't work with anyone, bub," the man said, taking out another cigarette. "And especially not with someone who's barely able to drink. It's better for you if our paths don't cross again. You don't seem the kind to keep your nose out of things, but I've got a word of advice for you: leave it to the professionals."
Dave glowered at the man. He was sick and tired of not being taken seriously, sick and tired of being treated like he was just a kid pretending to be a grown-up. Doug, his old boss, the police, and now this man that he'd barely known for ten minutes.
He was sick and tired of having to prove himself to all of them.
He was finally going to.
"Look, I'm going to find my brother with or without your help," Dave said. "I'm worth just as much as you are and you'll see that when I find my brother and you're paid nothing for screwing this up so badly. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a brother to find."
The man chuckled around a draw of his cigarette. "You got spirit, kid. That'll take you a long way. But nowhere near far enough."
Dave huffed. "Those are bad for you, y'know." He secured the file in his waistband once more. "Keep doing that."
The man laughed again. "Good luck, kid."
Dave huffed and started to walk away. He'd hoped that he'd find an ally in him, but that didn't matter now. All that mattered was that he had a lead now and he was going to make the most of it.
One way or another, with or without help, he was going to find his brother and the people who'd taken him.
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