Greyhound buses are not exactly comfortable. That is to say that there's little leg room, the smells are often unbearable, and you have no control over the fellow travellers you encounter. Quinn and Gwen knew these to be facts - they'd spent a good deal of time on Greyhounds in their younger days, before the arrival of Izzi shook them into 'settling down'. So when they booked the tickets and found the bus, Quinn hustled quickly to secure their accommodations.
At the back was where they found the most privacy and the most room, so she beelined for it ahead of Gwen as her sister loaded the bags and tried to contain the vehement protests of their five-year-old girl. Obviously, Izzi's outburst was just, the girl had only recently gotten used to their situation in Las Vegas, had made friends finally in her school, and didn't see a reason for their incredibly sudden move. She had little to say in what was happening (outside of the small concessions her mother and aunt gave her, treats mostly) but she fought most valiantly regardless.
When the two headed up to the bus after Quinn they found her at the back stretched out across the entire bench seat, with a leg draped over to the two seats facing it. Standing before her was a bespectacled man, his attitude growing unhinged and bewildered at this blatant disrespect for the customers of Greyhound. Their argument had just begun, a sort of calm before the storm, but the other passengers wandering onboard were taking note and avoiding them altogether.
"You can't just...lay there and take up all these seats!" The man fumed, his voice still low but shaking with the nerves of facing down a conflict. Quinn's overall vagabond appearance really didn't help the situation; she was wearing a muscle shirt that was almost entirely open on the sides, with a ripped and plunging neckline that left very little to the imagination, showcasing her ink almost unfettered, as she had intended. Her jeans were torn almost to shreds, a look she very much enjoyed, and the boots she wore were old and falling apart, the leather peeling on the toes and covered in scuff marks, with soles chalk full of mud and dirt.
"Uh, like I told you. I. Am. Reserving. These. Seats," The man huffed and turned to look for some kind of validation from any other passenger, but only Gwen and her daughter were easing their way through the aisle and he seemed crestfallen at their appearance. "See? I told you!" Quinn sat up with a massive beaming smile, the small victories always lit her up, and the similarities between Quinn and Gwen shut down any protest he may have made against it.
Gwen tried to be accommodating.
"Oh, I'm sorry sir, she must be reserving these for us," And slid past him as he fell back into a pair of seats nearby, clearly defeated and muttering under his breath. She paid him no mind and guided Izzi, who was staring at the man blatantly, into the seat where only seconds before her aunt had her dirty boots placed. "Really Q?" With a shrug her sister dismissed the growing agitation showing on Gwen's features and made herself comfortable by once more stretching across the back seats, sitting up against the wall.
"I mean really?" Came the man's voice, his eyes barely cleared the top of the seat but Quinn could see his burning rage. She flipped him the bird and stuck out her tongue, much to his disgust.
"Jesus Q! Stop it!" Gwen slapped her sister's hand down, Izzi watching with silent eyes.
It wasn't long before the bus took off with its cabin nearly filled, and their long journey to Chicago began. It made the twins nostalgic, they passed stories between themselves while Izzi listened, intrigued as she was by the past her mother never really shared. They spoke about more recent memories, the times just before Gwen had become pregnant, before 'the mystery man' showed up. Izzi had heard the phrase before, Auntie Quinn always used it when she spoke about her father, but Gwen had revealed his true name once in the past during a bitter argument the two sister's had waged.
Izzi couldn't quite pronounce it properly like her mother had but she held onto it like a flicker in the night, the only key she had to the nature of her being. Of course, neither Quinn nor Gwen knew anything of this, Izzi was becoming quite a proficient secret keeper like her two idols were, but had they known they might have told her. Revealed to the young girl the nature of her mother's incongruous affair with the Peruvian who spoke such fluent French and had swept her off her feet with whispered tales of the jungle and the red banners he had flown.
Izzi drifted off into a peaceful sleep, thinking of her father's name over and over in time with the thumping of the tires on the pavement and let the sway of the chassis carry her to another dimension far removed from her own.
When Quinn, Gwen, and Izzi arrived in Chicago it was to no fanfare and the sky was overcast, the threat of rain tangent in the mood of the depot and driving a tension amongst the throngs of people, multiplied by the heat they all endured. Why had they come here? Izzi couldn't quite understand, and the fact she'd just awoken from what had become a deep and heavy sleep compounded her confusion to an almost extreme place. Gwen carried her in her arms while Quinn pushed a rolling cart loaded with their bags down to the curbside and next to a waiting cab. capricious eyes leering at their forms as they passed amongst the people.
Neither of the sisters heard what he said when he got out of the car, headphone in one ear and a huge shit eating grin on his face, but when he went to grab the bags Quinn was fast and kept him from them, placing herself in front of the bags and heaving one up off the cart.
"No, no, no, that's fine," She started, waving him back towards the driver's door as his eyes caught sight of her barely concealed tattoos and took a long glance at the rest of her body. "I'll load the trunk just get ready to go, my sister and I are in a rush," With an emphasis at the end the cab driver got the message; no sense in risking a lawsuit over a couple dykes wanting to load their own bags. So he returned to his seat and waited for the women to get inside, Quinn up front and her sister and niece in the back.
"Where are you going?" He asked, taking the time to give her a once over again out of the corner of his eye, but Quinn had no idea where they were going and shrugged. Producing a wad of cash she broke off a hundred dollar bill and held it out between two fingers.
"Take us to a cheap motel, and let me use your phone for the ride. Mine broke on the bus ride," He eyed the bill and raised an eyebrow inquisitively. Another bill appeared, and he hastened to remove his phone from his pocket.
"Okay, whatever you want lady,"
"What a..." Quinn caught herself just in time, glancing over at the once more sleeping form of Izzi as her mother carried her with them. To their rear was the cab, the driver taking just one last look at the twins before peeling himself away from the curb and ahead of them stood the dreary looking edifice which they had been deposited before. It's neon sign proclaiming 'Motel!' and 'No Vacancy' were both cracked and broken, illuminating partially with flickering moments of clarity or diming out completely. Surrounding its premises was a six and a half foot wall, partially made up of rusting and sometimes missing posts of iron and steel, with the remainder, made up of cracked and peeling concrete. It's once upon a time paint job was lacking the bluster it must have had at the time, and trash littered what they could see of the parking lot beyond.
Gwen was silent in her assessment of their new home but nodded grimly to her sister as she started for the gate. This needed to be temporary for everyone's sanity, and given the cash, they carried with them, both hoped it would be exceptionally temporary. Passing silent doors which at night would open and be manned by half-naked whores, the pair came to the office, an insipid, mesh encapsulated hole in the wall that was supervised by an elderly woman who rested safely behind a full counter to ceiling safety window.
"Can I help yous?" She croaked, voice decrying years of heavy nicotine addiction and a long night of drinking hard liquor in her own personal motel room. There was a smell the trio became aware of, powerful in its odour and even making Izzi's nose crinkle in disgust: stale piss, and it seemed to permeate from the other side of the glass.
"Uh," Quinn had a thought of just backtracking right out of the place and taking another cab, this time to a Hilton or some other four-star hotel with room service and free wifi. "Yeah, we'd like a room?" The woman didn't even seem to register the reply, just leaned forward onto the counter and dipped one old wrinkly hand below it, producing a small brochure which she slipped through the metal bowl that ran beneath the safety glass.
"One bed or two," She said, more of a statement than a question, and pulled out a small ledger behind the brochure. Names were scribbled, along with a mess of other information, but the only thing Quinn could make out was a long list of 'John & Jane Doe's' and wondered at the respectability of such a place.
"Two," Came Gwen's immediate reply, turning to her sister who was staring at the stain across the older woman's front.
"That'll be for the night?" Now she actually showed some inflexion with her voice and tone, Quinn was relieved to know the woman was actually alive.
"Yeah, for now,"
"You can pay for a week and it'll cost about a third less than just doing every day, cept if you get killed or arrested you don't get back the week's cost," The twins were dumbfounded, everywhere they went in this godforsaken country things just got crazier and weirder.
"That's fine, we'll take a week. What's the damage?" Asked Quinn, who felt a sudden and almost uncontrollable urge to scrub every inch of her body with soap.
"Three hundred," Three crumpled bills slipped beneath the glass and the woman made to write down their names, a pair of keys now appearing in her other hand.
"Do you need one?" The woman started scribbling in 'Jane & Jane Doe' while shaking her head.
The office was neatly kept, adorned with art, and manned by a gorgeous buxom blonde who smiled cheerily as Quinn took a step inside. She took her time getting up to the desk, soaking in the contrast between the silence of the office and the bustle of the strip mall she'd just entered in from. It seemed a strange place for a law office, or maybe just a strange place for a 'decent' law office, but either way, she made it to the desk and the blonde laid into her with her piercing blue eyes.
"Hello miss, how may I help you?" She asked, and Quinn held her gaze with the thought of sheer embarrassment alone; her cleavage was tantalizingly on display.
"I uh- need to meet with Landon Piscitelli if he's available," Quinn shifted on her feet and felt her belt tightening around her, there was practically no way for it to hold both a pistol and two-hundred and fifty gs comfortably. Bundles of cash were taped all across her stomach to accommodate and the heavy plaid shirt she wore concealed it all perfectly.
"Do you have an appointment?" The blue eyes of the secretary were turning hollow as it dawned on her this woman had not booked an appointment. Quinn's shake of her head solidified the fact. "I'm sorry miss, but Mr. Piscitelli is extremely busy today, you'll have to set an appointment to meet with him another day. Perhaps," She checked the lawyer's schedule on her desktop, it's screen concealed from Quinn's view. "In November?"
Quinn couldn't help but scoff. If November rolled around and she was still alive it would be a goddamn miracle.
"I'm sorry that I don't have an appointment, but I really only need thirty seconds. It's crucial I meet with him," The doubt in the secretary's face made Quinn lean forward, conspiratorially. "It's exceptionally private, I don't think he'd want me to say anything," She held her stomach with a mother's touch, indicating nonchalantly to it, and the blonde's face lit up with understanding.
"Oh my!" She placed a hand over her mouth and got herself back under control. "Of course, I'll call him right now," She punched in his number and mere seconds later Quinn was being shown into the office of Mr. Landon Piscitelli, one of the top defence attorneys in all of Illinois.
"Thank you, Jen," He said from behind his tempered glass desk. Pages lay askew everywhere, folders of court documents were all around and a number of thick law books sat on top of them all, scattered haphazardly across the table. The books had come from the wall behind him clearly, volumes upon volumes of every kind of law book sat in silence on the heavy bookshelf, some coated in thin and thick layers of dust while others seemed brand new, never opened.
Landon rose as the door closed, shut some of the folders within his immediate vicinity and tidied up a little while Quinn approached the two heavy seats that were before him. "I'm sorry for the mess, I can never really get a handle on it," A smile spread out and beamed across his face as his eyes fell upon Quinn's, clearly it was something he had practised many times in the mirror.
"I'm not much of a cleaner myself," Quinn had ditched the discreet mother routine and dropped into one of the chairs with a laxity that kind of caught the lawyer off guard. She crossed a leg, revealing her dirty shit-kickers and smiled right back at him, her own grin contorted by the darkness she harboured within.
"I'm sorry, Jen just told me you had something extremely important to talk about but didn't give me your name, and I don't believe we've ever met?" He left the question in the air, leaning low over his desk and glaring at her intently. Clearly, he wasn't pleased with the way she was conducting herself.
"Oh, I'm sorry then. I kind of acted like I was carrying your child to get in here," The look of shock was amusing to the sadist. "In truth, we've never met. You can call me Q, and I'm here because I think we can become business partners, you and I," She pulled a cigarette from a pack she'd produced as she spoke, held it out towards him and he recoiled as if it were a pistol.
"This is an office, you can't smoke in here!" He hissed and eased himself down into his chair. The stone wall he'd dropped at her words seemed again to be well rehearsed, and Quin was not surprised. After all, he was one of the most notorious lawyers in Chicago, widely known for defending infamous criminals including a number of cartel gunmen in recent history. "And I don't believe business works if I only know you by an alias," His eyes squinted, and he wanted desperately to tell her to fuck off. But knowing what he knew about criminals, and the way they operated, especially in Chicago, he kept his tongue and waited for her proposition.
"Maybe I'll tell you my name in time, for now, Q is all you're going to get. Now, unless you have some other reason for stalling, can I get on with my business?" He took a moment to respond, but finally caved and made a show of allowing her to continue with his hand. At the movement she rose up from her seat and began unbuttoning her shirt, not quite what the lawyer had been expecting but he sat silently behind his desk, bemused by the appearance of this bizarre woman.
When her shirt was undone enough to reveal no only her bra but also the straps of cash she'd plastered across her torso, his eyes lit up like LEDs and he rested his head on his hand in a perfect imitation of 'The Thinker'. Quinn was now amused.
"Here you can see," She finished with the buttons and started peeling stacks off herself, the pain going unnoticed as she simply stared at him with a dull smirk on her face. "Is two-hundred and fifty gs. Now, I don't know what you want for a retainer, but I would like to hire you to represent me in all legal matters," Landon was smiling now, and alternating between the pile of ten g stacks she was building on the chair next to her, and Q herself.
"And what exactly would these matters be? I assume you know I'm primarily a defence attorney, right?" She cocked her head to the side and smiled widely, a sick and twisted look that caught the lawyer off-guard.
"Yes, the voices told me that. I also know you've been accused of engaging in illicit behaviours in the past, most notably a little deal that came to light between yourself and a former judge?" Understanding dawned on Landon, this woman wanted him for something more than criminal defence.
"What do you want then?"
"I want you to handle my business in Chicago,"
"And what exactly is your business in the city?"
"That's something we're going to work out together," She dove headlong into the story of her and her sister, starting from their arrival in Las Vegas and their employment as hired guns, right up to the heist and their subsequent escape to Chicago. Landon particularly liked that part - Chicago was as far away from an escape destination as anywhere else in this country - but he listened intently and seemed co-operative throughout. At the end, he had some questions, most of which Quinn refused to answer. Things like, 'where are your sister and Izzi?' or 'where are you from originally' were answers she promised to share at a later date. For now, she just wanted to know if he would take on the twins as clients and if he was willing to help them in Chicago.
"Well, of course. You're not really that far removed from the other clients I have come through here, of course I can't talk about them, client-attorney privilege, which is something that will pertain to you with this hundred-thousand dollar retainer you're providing," He smiled as Quinn balked, his support was necessary given the connections he had throughout the heavy hitting Chicago underground, but a hundred g's for a retainer? The Canadian was flabberghasted.
"So how far does a hundred grand take us, exactly?" Landon thought for a moment and weighed the cash to what he could provide. The girls needed new paperwork, that would be easy he knew a guy downtown that handled some of the best counterfeiting tools around the country. Next, they needed a place to stay, as well as a place to launder in what they still owned. He thought about businesses in the city, there were a couple different avenues he could lead them down. It was really up to them what they wanted.
"Well, for starters I can get you new paperwork by the end of the week. As a show of my commitment to you, of course," She wasn't very moved by it. "And then we can start looking for a place for you two to set-up. I know this real estate agent, he's big time into development and if I give you two a good word he might be willing to 'loan' what you need to get a business up and running. Know what I mean?" Quinn thought she did, something like giving herself back the money she had to make it seem legit. She liked where Landon's head was and wondered why he wasn't at the top of the search she'd put into Google for 'Nicest Criminal Defense Attorney Chicago'. He was definitely number one in hers.
"Any kind of business in particular?"
"Got anything, in particular, you'd like to do?" She smiled and crossed her legs.
"I'm good with my hands, been doing mechanic work for a few years now, maybe my own shop?" He nodded and jotted something down on a notepad he'd produced. She leaned forward immediately and looked at what he'd written: 'Repair shop'. His eyes looked a little hurt at what she had presumed.
"Yeah...we can probably do something like that," He set his pen down beside the pad. "I'll talk to my developer and get back to you by the week's end. Leave that whole stack here," Quinn made a reflexive move as if to defend the cash. "Don't worry, I'll keep my retainer and the rest will go to the business, should have a set of keys for you say...Monday or Tuesday. Think you girls can stay low till then? Don't need anything blowing up while I'm taking my weekend off,"
"I can keep my shit down, Gwen's way more of a tightass then me," Landon wanted to make a joke, reconsidered and dropped it all together. They made plans to talk when he got their identification and again when he had their place sorted out. Until then, it was back to the rat shack.
By the week's end the lawyer had the paperwork for his new clients dropped off by a courier on a bicycle, and Monday morning the following week Quinn was meeting with Landon a few minutes north of downtown Chicago. It was here that the address she'd given the cab driver surfaced; a succinctly downtrodden auto-body shop, made visible from the street by its single overhead door and brightly illuminated 'Open' sign that hung between the door's windows. All across the building's exterior, the paint was chipping, and a smell hung in the air from a nearby sewage manhole, but parked a short distance away was Landon and as Quinn stood eyeing the heaping mess of concrete before her, he strolled across the road and came up just behind her.
"Perfect, right?" His appearance shocked her but she kept it concealed well enough, his eyes cast upwards and surveilling the upper portion of the building itself. "It's even got a little two bedroom apartment up there, recently renovated too," She wondered at that, the place looked like it wasn't the most profitable shop in all of Chicago, so how exactly 'renovated' was the apartment? She decided not to ask and shrugged her shoulders instead.
"Leaves a lot to be desired, doesn't it?" Q looked back over her shoulder at the square-shouldered and foot taller man who accompanied her, his stature was much more imposing when he was away from his cluttered desk.
"That's a beauty of it!" He made a show with his arms outstretched towards the building, huge grin spreading across his hardened features. "It's a real fixer-upper, with a little bonus added in with the apartment. You and yours can really put some work into it and feel proud when it comes out amazing!" With a turn of his head, the smile fell on Quinn and she quickly looked away, taking in the building with a renewed sense of inspiration and smiled out of sight.
"Yeah, maybe you're right," Inside the mandoor, open as it was to let in fresh air, was the man they'd come to see. He was short and balding with a closely cropped ring of light brown hair resting upon his head. With features of strength - chiselled jawline, leathery skin, and heavy meaty hands - it was obvious he was a builder, and when Landon and the man met eyes they both smiled widely and shook hands with strength.
"Landon! So nice to see you again," The shorter man exclaimed, his eyes first taking in Landon then the thin and rebellious looking woman to his right. "And this must be Q, what a pleasure to meet you, and you're much lovelier than I had expected, Landon rarely tells me anything," He laughed heartily at his compliment and extended his thick, muscled hand towards her. She took it with a powerful shake that caught the man off-guard. "A strong handshake! I like it!" He was practically beaming.
"Well clearly Q is a very strong person, Clay," Landon remarked, obviously happy about the immediate response from his long-time associate. "Q, this is Clay Schmidt, Clay this is Q. She's new to the city, as we discussed on the phone, and interested in starting up a small business. You were telling me this place is up for sale?"
"It is! In fact, let me show you around. The previous owner has already left, the place is pretty much empty right now," And so Clay turned and began to show them around the building. First up was the office which the hall they'd made their greetings in ended, a simple countertop seperated the two halves of the small room, and the walls were adorned with all manner of clutter. Calendars, magazine cut-outs, posted messages, it was honestly a little claustrophobic. "Course there's some things they didn't both taking with em, a lot of the stuff you'll see around is owned by me, I bought the place originally as part of an estate sale when the guy before me passed. Came with all the tools and everything," Through the small office they came into the workshop proper, where the smell of oil and stale gasoline hung heavy in the air. It was like the smell of home to Quinn, she'd been interested in mechanics ever since she was a child, and the thought of her own workshop was enough to drive her giddy.
"Obviously these are the tools you were referring to," Commented Landon, who picked up a wrench off a nearby trolley and dropped it back, satisfied it was real. There were workbenches, trolleys, massive tool boxes, and every manner of accessory one would need in a fully outfitted mechanics shop. A lot of it looked exceptionally old, Quinn thought she'd look into replacing a good portion of the tools when she had the time and the desire. Clay was beaming at Landon comment, and made a sweeping motion with his hands.
"It's all available with the sale of course, liquidation prices you won't be able to beat!" The prospect was dubious and Landon looked unphased. Quinn could take em or leave em really. They moved on from the shop proper to the back lot where a number of rusting husks sat dormant and decaying. Fenced off by a seven-foot-high chainlink, woven through with plastic to prevent passerby's a look-see, the lot was fairly large and looked like it could house a small fleet of vehicles. The cement, however, left much to be desired, cracked and sprouting weeds throughout, Quinn didn't even care to think about the cost of re-doing it all. Chances were high that this wasn't even really a permanent place.
"Those chassis come with the sale, I'd rather not be bothered to move em, and the gate is brand new," He pointed to a section of the fencing that was clearly a massive double-doored gate, able to fit at least two full-sized SUVs through it at once, albeit tightly. It was sealed shut with a wrapping of a heavy chain, bound together with a brand-new Abloy lock, and covered in the same plastic weave that surrounded the rest of the property. Satisfied with the tour so far, they returned to the inside of the shop and left through a fire-door on the west side of the building. It exited to the alley that the fenced yard out back led to, and right next to it was another fire door, this time with a lock on the outside which he opened with a key from his chain.
"This is the rear fire escape for the second floor. Got an office space up there and a two bedroom apartment, these stairs," He opened the door and started inside, the darkness enveloping them and illuminated by a single fluorescent bulb at the top of the narrow, and steep stairwell. "Lead into the back of the office. Awkward, I know, but the office was used by the owner before so he never saw an issue. There's also a door we'll leave through that goes back out to the front, right next to the entrance to the shop,"
The office seemed small but was at least cleaned out and smelled decent. The carpeting was newer, the walls coated with a fresh layer of paint, and the lighting more natural, mostly coming in from the one picture window on the wall. There were two other doors leading into the room, other than the fire exit. One had no handle and looked to lead into the apartment on the same floor. The other had a fog glass window and exited out into a very small hallway. It was actually more like a mudroom for all intents and purposes, three doors including the one to the office with another being the exit out front and the last being the apartment itself. It was here they went next.
And boy were Landon and Clay not bullshiting about the reno. It was like walking into a totally different building, the drywall was freshly done and coated in flawless cream paint. From the door the came into a hallway with a closet to their left and a full-length mirror to their right. From there it opened up into the left, which seemed to be the living room, adorned as it was by another massive picture window that overlooked the front of the building, and the right which was a kitchen and dining room. With an open concept, the apartment flowed beautifully from one room to the next and was a mixture of gorgeous hardwood (in the dining room) linoleum (in the kitchen) and plush carpeting (in the living room and bedrooms).
It came complete with two full bathrooms, one just off from the kitchen in the hall that led to the bedrooms, and another as an en-suite as part of the master bedroom. One look at the rooms and Quinn was sold, literally. Landon agreed to do the paperwork that day, and Clay was so happy with the sale that he couldn't hide his smile. She agreed to take the tools and everything off him and bought the property outright under the condition that he hire a local security company to install cameras and a security system ASAP. When they separated a little bit after leaving the apartment, he told Quinn and Landon he was off to do just that, so the two stood silently just outside the shop and watched him go.
"I think this deserves a toast," Said Landon, his eyes all sorts of shades of devilish glee. "Care to join me?" But Quinn had other intentions, a sister and niece who needed to hear the good news and a building to move into by the end of the week.
"I'll pass," She paused and turned to look at him, disappointment barely a flicker in the iris of his eyes. "This time. You're going to handle the sale, yes? Can you get me the keys as soon as you get them?" He nodded and removed his phone from his pocket. "I want to move in like, tomorrow if we can. And I need some access to the money, any ideas?" Landon held all of their liquid assets now, a precaution the girls had taken to prevent it from being stolen as they squatted in the hellhole motel they'd rented in the South Side.
"I'll set you up with a business line of credit, should work for anything you need, just know that anything you buy that isn't for the business can't be deducted off your taxes," She was all ears and her mind was already a dozen steps ahead of him. First on the list: A new car for the ladies.
Arrival in Chicago by Greyhound bus safely
Rental of a greasy motel room in the South Side of the city, will deduct costs
Landon Piscitelli as an NPC Lawyer, level 3 preferred, well connected with Chicago underworld, one of the top defence attorneys in Chicago, will deduct retainer of $100,000
New sets of paperwork for Izzi, Gwen, and Quinn, all exceptionally high counterfeit pieces
The purchase of the Auto Body & Mechanic shop in the North Side of town made through Landon and Clay so as not to look suspicious (Clay is 'leasing to own' the property and Landon is handling all of the paperwork)
The rest of the million dollars from the Rizzo robbery to be in the hands of Landon, who intends to feed it into the business and use to cover expenses on the business's line of credit, as well as the lease itself
Clay Schmidt as an NPC Real Estate developer