Winterhawk took a deep breath. “I think we’re going to need some more information before we can proceed, Mr. Takahara. Do you mind if we ask you a few more questions?”
“Of course not.” Takahara leaned forward in his chair, giving his full attention to the two runners. “Please do so. I would like to provide as much help as I can.”
‘Hawk nodded. “You say that Mr. Ng has never been to Seattle before. Are you certain that he was here this time?”
Takahara blinked. “I—do not understand, Mr.—?”
“Call me Winterhawk. This is Ocelot. What I’m asking, Mr. Takahara, is if there is any proof that Mr. Ng ever actually arrived in Seattle. We know he was intending to come here, but did anyone see him here?”
The executive still looked confused, but he nodded. “Yes, of course. He called his wife when he arrived at the hotel, after he checked into his room.”
“You have hotel records to prove this?” Ocelot asked.
Takahara took a deep breath. “Gentlemen, I am sorry. Obviously I am not familiar with your type of work, so forgive me if your questions confuse me. Edwin knew that this meeting was very important to the continued existence of our company. He is as devoted to it as I am. I cannot see any reason why—”
Winterhawk shook his head. “No, Mr. Takahara. We don’t have any suspicions. We’re simply trying to cover all the possible eventualities. It was possible that something might have happened to Mr. Ng on his way to the airport back home. An accident, some sort of altercation—”
Takahara shook his head. “No. He boarded the plane in Boston. That was the first thing I checked. They have security footage at both O’Hare and Sea-Tac of the passengers boarding and leaving the plane. Edwin was on it when it left and he arrived here in Seattle. And as I said, he called his wife from the hotel phone. I assume they have records of that, although I haven’t asked to have them checked yet.” He bowed his head. “I am not a detective. I was hoping that Lone Star would be willing to investigate the case, but I understand that they are very busy.”
“Yeah,” Ocelot said, with just a hint of bitterness in his voice, but he nonetheless understood. “You wouldn’t believe how many people turn up missing around here, for all kinds of reasons. The Star’s got their hands full just handling the heavy stuff like murders. They’d get to it eventually, but if you want quick response you’re better off with us.”
Takahara nodded. “Thank you.”
“All right,” Winterhawk continued. “So we know that Mr. Ng arrived in Seattle on schedule and checked into his hotel. Which hotel was that, by the way?”
‘Hawk nodded. “He checked into the Laubenstein Plaza Hotel and called his wife. What time would that have been?”
“Around eight o’clock—so with the time difference, around five here. His plane arrived in Seattle about three-thirty.”
“Makes sense,” Ocelot mused. “He gets in, heads to the hotel, unpacks, then calls his wife.”
Winterhawk nodded. “Did he say anything to her that might have led her to believe that anything was wrong? Anything at all out of the ordinary?”
Takahara thought about that for a moment then shook his head. “I spoke with her after Edwin didn’t show up at the meeting. She said that it had been a very short conversation: he told her that he had arrived safely and gave his love to her and the children. He travels often on business so this is not an unusual circumstance.”
“Okay,” Ocelot said. “So it’s five o’clock, he’s here in his room, calls his wife. Do you know where he went after that?”
“No. Knowing Edwin, I doubt that he went anywhere, except perhaps to get some dinner. He might have had it sent up to his room to save time. As I said, the presentation that he was due to make for the venture capitalists the next day was a very important one, so I would have expected he would have remained in his room for the evening, going over it.”
“So this isn’t the sort of man who might go out for a drink or to a trid show or something of that nature?” Winterhawk asked.
Takahara shook his head. “No.” He give them a small self-deprecating smile. “Both Edwin and I are what one might call ‘nerds’. We are devoted to our business and to our families, and other than that we don’t get out much.”
Ocelot nodded. “Did anyone see him in the hotel in the morning?”
“I didn’t ask.”
“What about his room? Was everything all right there?” Winterhawk asked.
Takahara tilted his head. “I don’t understand.”
“Had the bed been slept in? Was anything missing from the room?”
The man looked down at his hands. “I have not thought to ask these things. I am sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Ocelot said. “That’s what you’ve got us for. Assuming we’re taking the job.” He looked at Winterhawk.
The mage shrugged. “I don’t see why not. I’m a bit curious about where our Mr. Ng has gone off to as well.” He turned back to Takahara. “All right, Mr. Takahara, you’ve got yourself a couple of investigators.”
Takahara smiled faintly. “Thank you. I appreciate your help, gentlemen. I hope you can find Edwin quickly, and I hope that nothing—” He swallowed and did not finish the sentence.
“So do I,” Winterhawk assured him. “Don’t worry—we’re quite good at locating people who aren’t easy to find.”
Takahara reached in his briefcase and removed two credsticks. “Thank you,” he said again. Passing the credsticks across the table, he added, “This is the first half of your payment, as agreed. You will also find an LTG number where I can be reached at any time. As I told you, I must return to Boston, but I will be available to answer any questions you might have.”
‘Hawk and Ocelot nodded, pocketing the credsticks. “All right, Mr. Takahara,” Winterhawk said. “Thank you. We’d best be getting started. You say you’re leaving tomorrow?”
“Yes, in the morning. My plane leaves at 9:30.”
“We’ll try to have something for you before you leave,” Ocelot said. “If not, we’ll give you a call when we know anything.”
“Please do the same,” Winterhawk told Takahara. He took out a pen, wrote a number on a nearby hotel notepad, and slid the sheet across the table. “If you remember anything, obviously if you hear from him, or if anything happens that you’re the least bit suspicious about, call us.”
Takahara carefully tucked the paper away in his pocket. “I will, I promise you.” He rose as Winterhawk and Ocelot did, and accompanied them to the door. “I hope that you will find good news and that it will be soon.”
“So do we,” Winterhawk said. “Ah—that reminds me. Two more questions: What was the name of the venture capital firm Mr. Ng was due to meet with?”
“S & S Investments,” Takahara told them. “They are a small firm here in Seattle, specializing in funding small companies like ours.”
‘Hawk nodded. “And did you have any reason to believe that your company’s financing might be in jeopardy?”
Takahara shook his head. “No. We had had a previous meeting with them a month ago and they were impressed by our business plan. This was to be the final presentation before the funding was secured.”
Again the mage nodded. “Thank you, Mr. Takahara. We’ll be in touch.”
Winterhawk and Ocelot did not discuss business further until they were downstairs and back in the car. “So what do you think?” the mage asked as he pulled the car out of the lot and back into traffic.
Ocelot shrugged. “Sounds like something happened after he checked into the hotel. Do you believe him that the guy didn’t leave the hotel room after he checked in?”
‘Hawk sighed. “I don’t know. He said he didn’t either—he only thought that he wouldn’t have left. Looks like we’ve got a few angles to investigate.”
“Yeah. We should talk to the people at the hotel and maybe do a sweep of the morgues in the area.”
“So you think he might be dead.” The mage’s voices held no emotion; he didn’t sound surprised.
“Not necessarily. Who knows? But it would be nice to at least have some idea that he didn’t get mugged and end up floating in the Sound, yeah?”
Winterhawk nodded. “Which one do you want to do first?”
VOTE RESULT (Poll closed 7/2/00, 66 votes):
Go back and investigate at the hotel: 91%
Check the morgues: 9%