The smell was strong and unpleasant, but both men were so used to it that they were able to walk through the room without a grimace contorting their features. The walls of the place – and old factory in Coruscant’s machinery district – seemed to be falling piece by piece, what had probably been shiny white paint broken almost completely to the point in which it was an ugly brown. The floor, covered in simple concrete, produced an echo when meeting the steps of both men.
“He is the fifth one, the second this month.”
Mace pointed at the laying figure on the floor, burying both hands on his black jacket’s pockets and looking away. It was the first time he saw one of the victims for real, and the pictures hadn’t prepared him for such a cruel reality.
“Who is in charge of the case?”
“Kit. He should be arriving now, Luminara, too.”
Obi-Wan hummed in acknowledgment and walked towards the lifeless body, crouching to examine it closely. It had been years since he saw something like this. He was a young man that couldn’t be more than fifteen, naked, both hands and feet were tied and he was visibly tortured. The hair had been cut with no precision and the skin of his lips had been torn away. An ear was missing. It was an image that made him remember the reason he had quitted this job. Or at least one of them.
“Same pattern?” he asked, looking up at Mace.
“Same pattern. No prints, no clues, clean, fast, professional cuts.” Mace sighed, shook his head. “He doesn’t leave us a thing to work with.”
“Or she, as far as we now.”
“No, and no apparent motive either; no notes, he doesn’t seem to have a purpose. Is the most mysterious case we’ve had in years.”
“And what do you want from me, Mace?”
“You know, same as always.”
Obi-Wan stood up and Mace followed the movement with his eyes, shrugging.
“Investigate a little, look at the pictures, help us. No compromise.”
“Mace, you know I don’t–”
“Do this anymore, I know. I know it’s not your job anymore and that you’re happy teaching kids at the university, but you’re the best and we’re desperate.”
Mace wished he could draw a pout to help his petition, but he just gave Obi-Wan his most desperate look, incapable of conjuring any other gesture. After all, he was the head chief of the Police Department and he had a reputation to maintain.
“No compromise, just give it a look.”
Obi-Wan shook his head, sighing. There were some things that were impossible to leave behind, and his old job seemed to be one of those.
“Good!” Mace widened his smile instinctively. "I’ll make Luminara give you all the necessary information, you see each other at the university every day, right?”
Obi-Wan nodded, looking at the lifeless body once again. This city was rotten.
“Can I ask you one last favor?”
Obi-Wan arched an eyebrow, adjusting his tie to the white collar of his shirt in a gesture born out of habit.
“You’ll choke if you keep doing that.”
Obi-Wan just finished the movement, straightening then some wrinkles his long black coat had gotten from the continuous rain that consumed the city in this time of the year.
“That other favor…?”
“Oh yes, could you talk to Quinlan? See if he knows anything about this.”
“Why don’t you do that? He is a police’s contact, not mine.”
“He doesn’t listen to me.” Mace crossed his arms over his chest, repressing a sigh. “And he annoys me to no end.”
“Sure, Mace, I’ll talk to him.”
“Long time no see.”
Quinlan left both beers on the table and sat on the chair that faced Obi-Wan’s, a smile adorning his features.
“Anyone would say you don’t have time for me anymore.”
“What business do a professor and a bounty hunter have, Quinlan?”
Obi-Wan leaned both elbows on the table, loosening his tie now that he was in a more casual environment. Quinlan always made him feel comfortable enough to lose the uptight professor look.
“Bounty hunter?” Quinlan arched an eyebrow, giving the yellow that covered part of his face a lighter color for a few seconds. “You offend me, old friend.”
Obi-Wan laughed softly, watching Quinlan take a sip from his drink.
Quinlan was certainly the most extravagant character that surrounded him. It was true that Mace, the police chief, and Luminara, professor and head of the police forensics department weren’t exactly normal either, but Quinlan definitely beat them all. His past was a mystery, so was the business that occupied him, but Obi-Wan knew he could trust him.
It had been Qui-Gon who had introduced them years ago, when Obi-Wan had been an idealist young man coming out of the academy and into the real world, and Quinlan… the same man he was now, just younger. To anyone who didn’t know him, Quinlan was just a bounty hunter like the hundreds that lived in the city, but to the police he was their most loyal contact with the streets.
“So tell me, what motivated such an urgent call? Police business?”
Quinlan sat back, looking around him in a way Obi-Wan had learned to like.
“You know anything about the murdered kids? Mace wants me to give it a look.”
“Curious business that one.”
Quinlan got closer to the table in a confidence gesture born out of years of paranoia. Quinlan knew the streets, and he was aware that someone could be listening all the time.
“A complete mystery, no one seems to know a thing and no one wants to talk about it… but I can investigate here and there if you want me to.”
“Sure, Mace seems a little desperate.”
“And why didn’t he contact me before?”
Quinlan leaned back again, a mockingly offended gesture on his face. Obi-Wan chuckled.
“I think you irritate him.”
Quinlan huffed and Obi-Wan widened his smile, fingers starting to tap unconsciously on the table, next to the bottle full of beer.
“How are you, Quinlan?”
Quinlan half smiled; Obi-Wan was one of the few people that genuinely worried about him. “As always Obi, a job here, a job there, surviving.” Quinlan shrugged, rescuing a cigarette from the pocket of his leather coat. “But I’ve lost Aayla definitely.”
“Did you ever have her?”
Quinlan smirked while he lighted his cigarette, inhaling strongly. “No, I guess not. I think she’s with Kit.”
Quinlan nodded, and Obi-Wan took the tapping hand to the bottle, clutching it but not taking it to his mouth.
“The case’s his.”
“Oh, cool. I bet they look good together, blue hair, green hair, a real match.”
“Me?” Quinlan arched an eyebrow, pointing at himself. “Of course not.”
Obi-Wan half smiled.
“Besides, I’ve got a new love now, don’t know why I never noticed him before.”“Is it a him?”
“It’s a him.”
“And who’s the lucky one this time?” Obi-Wan’s voice was mocking, but Quinlan preferred to ignore him. Obi-Wan wasn’t the only one who considered his seduction tactics a little bit excessive, after all.
“Mace? Are you out of your mind, Quin?”
“Of course not, Mace is in love with me, he’s been for years,” assured Quinlan, almost daring someone to deny the fact.
“Sure, he just doesn’t know it yet.”
Obi-Wan laughed, incredulous.
“And what about you? Any cute student willing to do anything to get a better grade?” Quinlan wiggled both eyebrows.
“Please Quin, what kind of–”
“I know, I know, too much morality to do such a thing, right? Sincerely mate, you need to get laid.”
Obi-Wan huffed, slightly infuriated. “What makes you think I’m not?”
“Just look at the way you’re clutching the bottle.” Obi-Wan looked at his hand, surrounding the bottle with firm fingers. He moved it away quickly, looking back at Quinlan. “You clearly need a quickie. I could–”
“Oh no, we’re not going there.” Obi-Wan crossed his arms over his chest, shook his head.
“I thought you were after Mace?” asked Obi-Wan this time, arching an eyebrow.
“Oh, you’re the first one on my list.”
“I’m flattered, Quin, really.”
The local was on the edge of the district that belonged to the prostitutes by right, close enough for the veterans to look for clients there, scantily clad in leather corsets and high heels while the pouring rain fell on their faces. Obi-Wan entered the place before any of them could spot him as a potential client.
Obi-Wan offered the guard a nod and walked towards his usual table without awakening any special interest on the rest of the clients: some regulars and some he had never seen, most of them bounty hunters and probably killers. Dex’s was probably the classiest local around there, but the alcohol, the fast food and the spectacle always attracted the most vulgar people.
The little scenario the tables looked at didn’t show strippers or live sex, as places like this used to do, but an entertainment that was sexual but not offensive. At that moment, a girl in a golden bikini danced to the rhythm of oriental music with as snake as only extra adorning; no one seemed to be paying her much attention, though.
Obi-Wan looked up when the waitress approached his table, answering the common salute with a kind smile.
“Same as always?”
Obi-Wan nodded, and the girl walked away.
It had been Quinlan who had taken him there for the first time, infatuated as he had been with the waitress. Aayla Secura, a blue haired young woman who felt quite comfortable in tight leather clothing and who had the guts to face any man who made a pass at her had obsessed Quinlan for years, until now, it seemed. Of course, that hadn’t stopped Quinlan from shagging anything that had motor skills, after all, and in his own words: ‘I’m only human.’.
From the day Quinlan had brought him here, Obi-Wan had become a regular. He went to the local four nights a week, sat on the same table with a glass of whisky he never drank and waited for Mimi – the snake girl – to finish her show. Just like she was doing now. And then, he appeared.
The old announcements that adorned the local’s door called him Anakin, but Obi-Wan couldn’t be sure that was his name, and he had never dared to ask. Anakin… he liked the way it sounded, anyway.
Said man appeared on the scenario then, and he seemed to attract all the looks Mimi hadn't gotten. Every night he appeared with a different outfit, a theme that was always ignored in favor of his deliciously swinging hips. This time he was wearing the one Obi-Wan had defined as ‘the rocker’, tight black leather pants, ripped in the right places, and nothing else.
Even if Obi-Wan closed his eyes, he could see the rip on his knee, the other one on his tight and the third one just where the leg became buttock, but why closing his eyes when seeing such a show? Naked chest covered in a light layer of sweat, bare feet and hips moving to the sexy beat of the music.
Oh, those hips were the best part of his day.