Hayden Island

FEED://banks.media/celebtracker {DANNY GUNS MONTREAL. Seen walking around the flower district in Portland, OR at 18:45:39 PST with TANZY. Got into I.C.E-1 branded SUV after eating at Che La Vie. DEVELOPING.}

The SUV followed I-5 north for several miles before taking the exit for Hayden Island, curling its way downward into a misplaced suburbia on the northern edge of Oregon. Well-to-do Portlandians hurried across the wide roads in their dense jogging suits, their reflective limbs catching the light from the SUV’s LEDs. Moon towers floated above retail parking lots, their pinpricks of illumination supported by tall, unyeilding stems. Danny watched the pedestrian parade roll by, took note of the few cars they passed.

Lexus. Audi. Tesla.

Real estate opportunities on Hayden Island were effectively nil, so it spoke to I.C.E-1’s power and influence that they had carved out their own little section of the moated sanctuary. Tanzy had never talked about how much money her hacktivist collective brought in every quarter, but Danny was sure it was orders of magnitude higher than what he earned in his solo endeavors.

Rusted train tracks passed over the SUV’s moon roof, briefly illuminating the interior. Danny noticed Tanzy’s hand on the knee of her crossed leg, tapping out a rhythm that was either anxiety or anticipation.

“It was nice of you to finally come up,” said Tanzy, noticing his gaze.

Danny nodded as he turned to the window again. “It was time. You live in Umbra long enough, you start to think the rest of the world doesn’t exist. It’s nice to see there are still normal people walking around.”

“Normals. The affluent aren’t normals.” She gestured to a passing row of boats on trailers. “They’re our meal ticket. Client and victim, all in one convenient package. It just goes to show you, babe; it’s not about having the right product, it’s about selling to the right people.”

Danny bit back his own sarcasm and nodded politely. Perhaps later after they had rolled around in the sheets a bit he would say something about her schooling him on the basics of business, but not here, not in front of her driver and the muscle sitting in the passenger seat. As the figurehead of I.C.E-1, Tanzy’s authority was above question, and guests who didn’t temper their responses with the necessary deference often felt the full force of that authority.

Another flash of a streetlight. A smirk on Tanzy’s face.

The SUV made a tight turn into a row of trees that held close to the road for about a quarter mile before opening up into a large clearing. A squat, two-story building sat in the middle of the clearing surrounding by fifteen-foot high fencing tipped with razor wire. Robotic sentries stood on high pedestals at eight points, scanning for threats. As the SUV entered the clearing, low guide lights rose from the side of the road, illuminating the car from all sides. The gate opened automatically, and the guard at the booth gave a small nod to the driver as they passed through.

“Isn’t this a little much?”

Tanzy shook her head. “You can never spend too much on security.” She leaned forward to speak to the driver. “Up front is fine, Miguel.”

They stopped in front two massive, steel doors and a guard was at Tanzy’s door in an instant. Danny let himself out of the SUV and walked around it to join her.

To the left of the door, a small brass plate read simply, “I.C.E-1.”

“Welcome to my home, Mr. Guns.”

Inside, the headquarters of I.C.E-1 looked just like any other generic office space, with hallways stretching out to the left and right, carpeted with blue hexagons on a green background. Framed reproductions of the Portland skyline dotted the walls between doors. Tanzy ignored the hallways and walked through the double doors on the far side of the foyer.

The decor shifted to pure minimalism: white walls, thin black lines framing doorways, and a light gray grid on the floor. The lobby was larger than Danny’s apartment back in Umbra, and the cavernous space made the receptionist and her desk look tiny.

Tanzy gestured to the girl. “My niece, Evangeline.” She cupped her hand to her mouth. “Long-ass name, kinda rolls off the tongue like a brick into shit.”

Danny tried not to laugh as Evangeline approached.

“How are things tonight, Eva?” asked Tanzy, her voice echoing.

“Just a few messages, Aunt T. Also your guest arrived about an hour ago. I set him up in your waiting room.”

Tanzy stopped in the middle of the room. She gestured to Danny. “My guest is standing right here.”

“Oh,” said Evangaline, “I just thought.” Confusion swept over her widening eyes.

“You let someone into my office without an appointment?” She looked back at the guard standing just inside the door. “How did they get into the building?”

“Not just someone…”

Tanzy reached for her waistband under her jacket and withdrew a metallic 9mm. She started for her office doors.

Evangeline ran to intercept her. “No, no, it’s okay. It’s Mr. Coker. I recognized him from the feeds. He didn’t have an appointment, but I didn’t think you’d want me to turn him away.”

Benny Coker?” asked Danny. “White Line Benny Coker?”

The girl nodded.

“Does this happen often?”

Tanzy shrugged. “You know those types. Think they can just barge into any collective in the country and start throwing their money around. I like the money part, but I can’t stand the audacity.”

“What are you going to do?”

She slipped the 9mm into the back of her pants and motioned to a door on the left. “I suppose there’s no harm in hearing him out. You don’t mind, do you?”

“Pass up a chance to watch you do business? I can’t think of anything hotter.”

“Let me dispatch this feed monger, and then I’ll show you the meaning of hot.” Then, louder, to Evangeline, “Give me five and then bring him in.”

Danny followed her through several backrooms, including a doorway that was partially hidden behind a shelf full of empty computer cases. The door opened into her private bathroom and from there they stepped into her office. She walked to the front of her desk and turned to Danny.

“How do I look?”

She wore dark jeans that hugged her legs, a white shirt that hung loosely over her waist, and a black jacket of luminescent leather. A hand-knit scarf of purple and black wrapped around her neck. Wavy hair framed a natural face, its color matching the plastic frames of her glasses.

“Like the queen of Portland. A pleasure to be in your company, your Highness.”

Tanzy rolled her eyes, smoothed out her shirt, and gave her breasts a quick lift with both hands.

Two short raps came from the door, and then they opened to reveal Evangeline and a middle-aged man in a dark blue suit. He removed his sparkling white cowboy hat when he saw Tanzy.

“Now what is owner of the third-largest media feed in the country doing so far from the Jersey Shore?”

Benny smiled in return, nodded to Danny. “Sorry for dropping by unannounced. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Ms. Tanzy.” He held out a hand in greeting.

“Please, just call me Tanzy,” she replied, shaking his hand. She jerked her head towards Danny. “This is Felipe, my sex slave. You may call him slave or boy.”

“Oh, no,” said Benny, chuckling. “I’ve seen enough feed to recognize Danny Guns Montreal when I see him. I meet celebrities all the time at my casino, but I can honestly say this is a real pleasure.”

Danny shook hands with the man, felt the sweat already building in his palms.

“If you ever get out to the East Coast,” continued Benny, “give me a ring. I’ll set you up at the White Dragon, on the house.”