HoundMan seemed to need a little more reassurance and as Pirouette got her things in order and double checked her clothing, she reached out with one hand to lift one of his and place it over her heart; nowhere suggestive or suspicious, but rather high enough that he would still be able to feel the lingering rapid beat through her clothes.
“It was unpleasant, I did not like it... Aie... I was uncomfortable, it is true. But you know, HoundMan, that it was not so much a trauma as I was making it seem, yes? Do not worry.” She shared a last less-than-professional warm smile for him before heading out.
By the time they collected Disappearance, Pirouette was fully composed again, though there was no hiding subtle hints that part of her performance had involved a sniffle and tearful eyes – the hints of out of place red would still take a few minutes to fade. She gave the other woman a firm nod, wings flexing up and down once as she did.
“We have enough for now. This much I can confirm. Beyond this, I will say that calling in Internal Affairs was the correct course of action in this matter... It is only unfortunate that it took different people coming at it from different angles to crack it open. Do not distress, Disappearance. I am certain that I would not have made the progress I have without your ground work, yes?” At the question of Bank, Pirouette glanced to one side, unconsciously letting her eyes flick towards HoundMan as he answered, then looked back to Disappearance with a slightly grim twist to her lips.
“Aie... It has become very sensitive, I am afraid. For this particular investigation, Bank is now too involved to be the direct report. Her conduct may be innocent, but you know, not it is not certain enough, yes? If she is clean, then she will understand the necessity, no? I am sure that Bayonet will bring her in on this as soon as she is cleared of any suspicion. Come, let us finish this.” She spared Disappearance another brief, supportive nod as they headed out together but took the time to send the other woman a private message as they walked.
This may be personal, and so I apologise and ask in private, but is there anything else that is bothering you or upsetting you now, Disappearance? I would not wish to put you off-side with my own behaviour, if I have stepped on your toes, no? I was charged with resolving this matter efficiently, you know, but I feel as though some concern is preying on your mind still. Have I acted poorly?
For the time being, she kept the data packet that AppraisalMan had provided her a well-kept secret, as eager as she was; haste was needed in reporting to Bayonet, but if it contained the information that it promised, she desperately wanted to take a look. Finding a convenient excuse to delay wasn't that easy when they were already on their way, however. It was almost a shame, she caught herself thinking, that as a navigator she didn't have the ever convenient excuse of a bathroom stop to avoid suspicion, like the humans in crime shows could always use. Before they arrived, she sent another brief message ahead to Bayonet to let her know they were arriving.
Bayonet. Myself, HoundMan and Disappearance are en route to report to you now; the matter is resolved. There is pressing information that I will wish to discuss with you after this report is made, in private. It would be best if the others do not know this, or if it looks as though you are taking the initiative in keeping me back, yes?
When they entered the office, Pirouette waited until she was addressed before giving her superior a formal greeting – not quite as vigorous or sharp as the one she was sure HoundMan was doing, but correct all the same. She relaxed afterwards and rolled her shoulders, flexing her wings slowly and taking a long breath.
“I would not say no to a good cup of tea, after this, thank you Bayonet.” She smiled and moved to take one of the chairs, her normal behaviour leading her to turn it sideways by unconscious rote so that the back wouldn't interfere with her wings.
“To begin, the matter of the many week delay is resolved. AppraisalMan has agreed to be cooperative with NetPolice questioning, and to not withhold himself any further, as soon as his communications are restored and he can resume his business, you know. He has made an official statement to me that he is not Mafia affiliated, but has agreed to cooperate fully with further questions from officers more prepared to take and record such statements and collect the offered evidence, which he has also agreed to furnish upon request. This is... the good news, yes? There is a lot more.” She took a moment to sigh and raised fingertips to her temples as though collecting her thoughts.
“We have reason to believe that this situation was being deliberately drawn out, with NightMan's own misconduct setting him up to take the blame for it. The only solution was to first press AppraisalMan where it would hurt him the most – his business – and follow after with some more forgiving negotiation, which I would not have been able to direct without all that I learned from officer Disappearance's efforts up until now, officer HoundMan as well, of course. Their efforts and assistance in this has been exemplary. In particular, their efforts provided me with the understanding I needed to draw what was important from the house guest. I have recommended now that he be released, but held to his word on his promise of cooperation. If he returns to resisting now, it will place him under much more warrant-worthy suspicion.” She paused, thinking on AppraisalMan and what she'd learned from him.
“He is... a distasteful individual, but potentially a useful asset as well, no? He cannot, of course, be trusted in himself, you know. I have no doubt that any information, personal or otherwise, that he learns or knows about anyone within the NetPolice will stand chance of being sold on to whoever it pleases him most to trade with. But knowing this, I believe the information he provides, it is good. It may be very valuable indeed.” Pirouette paused again and glanced across at her companions, then nodded to herself. She reached to her belt and pulled out the slim black notebook that she used as much as a prop as she did for taking notes, and flipped it open.
“To the meat of it, yes? AppraisalMan is not specifically a Mafia financier, so much as he considers himself a neutral party who finances and loans money to many people. This may include people who we know to be mafia agents, you know, but also people who are not, and also, I fear, people who are members of our own organisation. This becomes a terribly sensitive matter.”
“Aie... where to begin... AppraisalMan. Before any of this can make sense, the first step is knowing what it is, truly, that excites AppriasalMan. It is not a comely form, or a teasing voice... net...” again, her disgust showed through in the twist of her expression and the use of the far more satisfying Sharoan word, as she explained. “It is suffering. It is disgust, shame, anxiety and discomfort. It is self-loathing, disgrace and the feeling of defilement.” She turned an apologetic look towards Disappearance. “The more you pushed yourself to do things that you did not want to; the further into your discomfort you pushed, the better he rated... but, you know... over time, you would grow used to the same things, and you would be less uncomfortable, less ashamed... and the rating, it would stagnate, yes? So... you reached further, and got a marginal improvement, because you only make yourself a little bit more uncomfortable than the first time. Even to win at that game of his, you would have to lose more than you would gain, every time. It is foul and disgusting... but it is what makes all of this spin as it does.” She shook her head, dropping her eyes back to her notebook and drawing a breath.
“It is a game about suffering, and I fear many of the movements of pieces here, they are for the sake of causing more. NightMan called in Internal Affairs; I do not know why specifically, but there are several possibilities, you know. He has been negligent, yes? But also, he is a victim as well. This situation has been set into motion to leave him as the one to suffer. To take a fall, so to speak, no?”
“Either NightMan involved Internal Affairs in the vain hope that we would save him from his situation... but if so he never did believe it. Or he called us in because he was told to, even though he knew it would bring him further suffering. Also perhaps, it was not him who made the call, but one posing as him, but, aie...” she waved one hand to the side, dismissing the last phrase. “This one, it is much the same as the second, no?”
“He was bound by orders to obey AppraisalMan's instructions.” For a moment, her eyes flicked up to Bayonet, just enough to indicate to the other woman that the matter of high-ranking corruption was one of the more private topics. Her gaze returned to her book a moment alter as she carried on without pausing. “As it turns out, NightMan was prepared to put up with a great deal of personal discomfort and shame in the name of following his duty. It has cost him much because of AppraisalMan's... tastes. I was not able to uncover why he requested officer Disappearance in particular. This is a question that he will need to answer himself.
“Bank also has much to answer for in this situation. As I understand, she is normally very strict in her duty, yes? In this case, her negligence has been very... at odds with her character. She could have ended this very swiftly, but chose not to. It may be petty; perhaps she was hoping to... aie... what is your phrase... to, ah give NightMan enough rope, you know? If she stood to gain from his disgrace, perhaps. The other possibility... is that until AppraisalMan has provided his documents and they have been checked, it is possible, perhaps likely, that Bank herself may be one of his... ah... the word... beneficiaries, yes? NightMan was, until the need to pay him at all ended.” Here, Pirouette closed her notebook and set it in her lap, looking about Bayonet's office with a thoughtful expression.
“If I may... I believe that AppraisalMan became cooperative with me only because in voicing my goals to him, I promised more suffering and more shame for more people than continuing his current game. He does not care who it is who suffers. NightMan was growing... aie... not content, but... jaded perhaps? Jaded, with his situation. Our intervention promised a new level of disgrace and torment for him, if he then took a fall for it all.
I wish to be clear, yes, about the level of leverage that AppraisalMan had over him... in itself it is a reflection, you know, of the dedication to following his orders that NightMan has. AppraisalMan had him serving his business, and also...” Pirouette cleared her throat with a small cough. “Also... was compelling him to work as... as an adult actress... with... with other talent, in the flesh, you know?” She looked away, unable to stop the uncomfortable blush that reached her cheeks. “And it would seem that he truly felt he had no choice but to do this. I would keep this information in confidence for now, but I expect it will escape soon. AppraisalMan knows it, can prove it, and will wish to see the damage the information can do. We cannot keep him from selling it to the people he thinks it will do the most damage in the hands of, when he chooses.”
Pirouette tensed her shoulders and then relaxed them again, letting her wings ruffle and shake briefly as she settled.
“No matter; after I conducted my interview and spoke with him, AppraisalMan has agreed that he will cooperate now, and he will supply information with evidence that we may check, of everyone that he has financed, including net police members, how much he has given them, and what they spent those funds on. He was quite willing to agree to share this in the end, in light of our meeting and what was discussed. There is another issue. In the course of our meeting, AppraisalMan, you know, he let slip some small details without meaning to... he revealed that he knew things he should not have known or been able to know. Things that were said in other meetings and discussions – things said at the time when he was meant to be completely isolated, yes? This is another reason why I did not wish to notify Bank ahead of you.” She reached back to the pouch that she had stored the slim data packet in and produced it.
“An extra deal. I gave incentive, and he provided; this contains data, so he assures, as to how he was able to know what was being said in the meetings that happened around him, when he was meant to be isolated. Somebody in the net police most certainly had to have allowed this... So, this data, if it is sound, you know, it cannot be reviewed alone. I suspect it is good data, and correct... I gave incentive enough that AppraisalMan knows he has more to lose and less to gain by betraying me in this. If you will allow, I can unpack this now, yes? Unless I have forgotten any other important things? Do either of you wish to add anything I have missed, Disappearance? HoundMan?” She looked between them, then back to Bayonet, to check for her approval on opening the extra data packet.