“Fire is hot. Water is wet. And you can never leave the City…”

“Haris, not now,” Lilo muttered. It had been several minutes since the Inspector had left them to mull their fate; she had resorted to chain-eating profiteroles with her fingers.

“How do we know…?”

“I said not now.”

“No, I being serious. I mean… how do we know he was an inspector in the first place?”

Lilo scrunched up her nose. Was he really doing this now?

Haris ignored her and began counting things off on his stubby fingers, “He didn’t show a badge… he didn’t show any other kind of identification… he didn’t state his department.”

“He did give a name. Boynton,” offered Lilo.

“For goodness sake, he just sat down and started talking to us. Didn’t arrest us. Didn’t take us away for questioning. He conducted an investigation at a formal dinner.”

“We were all on the same table,” said Marie.

“Of course!” Haris slapped himself on the head, suddenly becoming more animated, “How could we be so stupid?” He shot a finger at Lilo, “How did you get your ticket?”

She shrugged, “It just arrived in the post. No idea where it came from but I wasn’t exactly going to say no.”

Haris laughed aloud, “I was the same!”

“This table has been a rollercoaster of emotion tonight!” said the waitress with a grin. She had arrived to collect away the desserts. “I hope you’ve all had an interesting dinner tonight. Would any of you like to request a coffee or are you quite energised enough?” They all made their excuses. “Then if you need anything else just ask one of my colleagues.”

The waitress proceeded to walk away, but Lilo called back, “Excuse me! The man who left a few minutes ago; do you know who he is, where he went?”

The waitress shrugged, “‘The man?’ Where he went? No, sorry,” and brusquely walked away.

“No need,” said Marie. She was on her tablet, “I can confirm that there are no inspectors under the name ‘Boynton’ in the entire City.”

Haris grinned, “We’ve been set up. None of this is real!”

Marie gave him a hurt look, “He wasn’t an inspector, but what he said, what we said, was very real.”

Haris put his knuckles to his chin and thought about the evening’s events, “Of course everything between me and you is real, but I think Sara Rossi is fiction. She just happens to be our daughter? Really? I don’t know what happened to her after I gave her away, how can he?”

“But he had a picture of her. I saw her picture,” argued Lilo.

“Ah, but we didn’t; and what does a picture prove? She could have been any shady client you pirates get. Doesn’t mean it was her who died. In fact, what about the man who supplies your mods? You didn’t know he worked for GMC. What if he didn’t? Remember, that ‘Inspector’, whoever he was, showed us the picture one at a time; it might not even be the same picture he was showing us.”

Marie put her tablet away, “So this man just mixed truth and lie to get the result he wanted. Some might call him a politician.” An announcer had taken to the stage at the end of the dining room and was preparing to introduce her to the audience.

“But why?” asked Lilo, “Why would anyone do that?”

Marie stood up, ready to take to the stage, “I’m sure we all have enemies. I don’t know whether he was after one of us or all of us, but he certainly gave us a scare.”

She felt the pocket in her dress as a notification appeared on her tablet. “I’m glad it’s all resolved.” She pulled out the tablet and glanced at the screen. Her face turned completely white.

Haris noticed, “Wait… what’s wrong?”

The announcer finished her short speech and began to call Marie onto the stage.

Marie quickly summarised what she was reading, “A young woman has been found dead in the CWPD. They think her genetic code has been corrupted by pirated mods.”

Haris’s response was drowned out by the applause.

DESSERT | COFFEE | AFTER DINNER

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