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The Conference Job - Part 1

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"This lady over there," Hardison says, pointing sort of subtly at a spot on the other side of the room, "Pretty sure she's working something on her own self here. Saw her when I was coming back from the men's room, she was checking something up behind the paintings in the hallway."

Parker goes up on her tiptoes, craning her head to look over the roomful of people. Eliot doesn't bother; he looks Hardison up and down instead. "The men's room again, really?"

"What's -- what's your problem, now? It costs you something that I'm going to the damn bathroom?" Parker is still tilting herself into different angles, trying to catch a glimpse. Eliot looks completely undisturbed to be scowled at, big surprise there. "I had a lot of soda last night, arright? Had to stay up ridiculous hours setting up this thing. You think last-minute planning doesn't cost you? Oh, it costs you. It costs you the life blood and sanity of the guy trying to lay in your fake histories, you hear --"

"Life blood?" Eliot says. He doesn't have to say 'really?' again, his eyebrows say it for him.

Hardison opens his mouth and closes it again a few times. No sounds come out.

"I see her," Parker says, back to standing flat-footed on the floor now. "You mean the blonde girl, right? She's wearing a blue shirt?"

"Oh, her," Eliot says, before Hardison can recover the power of speech. "Yeah, she's probably working a job. She's definitely carrying."

Parker turns to frown at him. "You saw her? You're supposed to tell us that stuff."

Eliot shrugs. "Didn't think it had anything to do with us. Her gun's got salt in it. Heard about that before, it's a pretty specialized kind of crazy." His face settles into the beginning of a frown. "No idea why she'd be checking the art if she's a hunter, though. Maybe she thinks it's haunted."

"Aw, come on," Hardison says. "A hunter? Guns with salt? That's an urban legend. You can't tell me you believe that crap."

Eliot's frown deepens into the usual scowl. "Do I believe there's a bunch of people going around thinking they're gonna fight a werewolf in a minute? Hell yeah, I believe it. Doesn't take believing in ghosts to believe they have salt in their guns."

"Salt in their guns," Hardison mutters. "Radioactive crocodiles in the sewers under Brooklyn. I bet even Parker knows better than believing that stu -- uh, Parker? Where's Parker?"

"Great," Eliot says, just as the mark wanders into their line of sight, smiling and shaking hands. "Hey Nate, we have a problem."

**

"Are you here on a job?"

Jo flips the EMF meter shut in a hurry, trying to stomp down both on the urge to scramble and the urge to have a heart attack. She clenches her fingers around the top cover, where it looks like a regular cell phone, and forces herself to breathe. "I'm sorry?"

There's a tiny scrap of a woman leaning against the wall near her. Jo's been too focused on the lack of readings, senses dulled by the white noise of the crowd. She curses herself silently.

"You've got rock salt in your gun," the woman says. She shrugs and pushes herself off the wall a little, not really coming any closer; Jo fights against the urge to bring her hand any closer to the knife at her side. Sometimes a tell is worse than being caught empty-handed, and she's not going to start an all-out fight in a room full of so many people if she can help it.

Besides, her jacket is nice and long to cover up everything she's got on her belt and in her pockets, and if she grabs the knife she'll have to take the time to move it out of the way. A long enough time to take care of any advantage surprise could get her. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

"I don't have a gun," she says. "They don't really let people bring them through security, you know. Do I know you?"

The woman smirks at her. It'd be disconcerting if Jo wasn't already as disconcerted as she's going to get.

She really is tiny, and Jo's lifelong history of being around hunters tells her for pretty damned sure that she's not a fighter. But she's something ; her body is poised, ready in the way that people are when they're in complete control of what every last bit of themselves is doing. And she knows something about Jo, but a hunter would be more subtle about asking it, just in case. And Jo still hasn't figured out what she's looking for, here, so there's no real way to check if this woman is it or not.

She's also got something under her clothes, Jo realizes suddenly, looking her over while the silence stretches. Her clothes look professional, clean lines blending in just right into this room where Jo's own clothes just barely duck getting her some attention, but they bunch oddly in places -- barely detectable, but obvious once you notice. Body armor? Some kind of non-human add-on? Does she know any monsters that look normal but have an exoskeleton?

"I'm busy," the woman says. Jo blinks.

"Okay..."

The woman puts up a hand, like someone in the middle of an important phone call putting you off for a minute. "Yeah, I know. They'll be okay. No, it's okay, I'll be back in a little while." She frowns at the wall behind Jo's left shoulder. "I can't talk right now."

Jo just stares at her. Then she remembers to start inching her hand closer to her belt.

[TBC...]