"Of all the…" he began. "Look, I can help you but you have to keep me out of it. Kelham and I have an…understanding. I don't bust him for petty bullshit and he 'buys tickets to the policeman's ball' from me. I really need to sell those tickets. I got kids to get through school," he said.
I rolled my eyes and Garrus made a disgusted noise. Not only was Bailey overly impressed by me, a ghost with a shadow title, but he was crooked as well. I supposed the important thing was that we get Kelham into a position where we could quickly extract the name of his target. Bailey's little foibles could make him more pliable. I had a feeling we'd need that leverage before the day was out.
Bailey agreed to have his men pick Kelham up and let us use a room at the security office. He made the call and made himself scarce. I was tempted to rat him out anyway. So far the only humans I had gotten to know in C-Sec were corrupt. That sort of thing pissed me off, especially when so few of us were accepted onto the force in the first place.
Here I was, saving the galaxy and supposedly being an example of the best of the human race, and these guys were demonstrating what sleaze we were. My already bad mood soured even more. Seeing my scowl, Garrus pointed out that there were plenty of crooked Turians in C-Sec, as well. I wasn't sure if I should be glad that such weak will was universal or depressed that no species was safe from the lure of money and power. The officers arrived and distracted me from my disillusionment.
As we headed for the interrogation room, Thane asked how we should handle Mr. Kelham. "You ask reasonable questions and I'll be the bad guy," I said. "It's what I do, it's who I am."
He stopped me gently. "You are not," he said, as he ran a finger down my cheek. Then he stepped back and was all business. "You would be more convincing than I would, however."
I found myself blinking uncomfortably at that man far too often. I was touched that he would think of my concerns in the middle of such a horrible day but had that been merely a friendly gesture? I didn't have time to dwell on it as the door closed behind us and Kelham glared our way. Like so much else, it would have to wait.
Having shown myself yet again to be wonderful enough to beat a defenseless man unconscious, I emerged from the interrogation room with Thane and updated Garrus. A local politician with an anti-human platform had made some powerful enemies and was slated to go down to Kolyat's slug. Now all we had to do was find him and his would-be assassin.
One of the C-Sec officers knew precisely where we should look. It seemed that our quarry, Joram Talid, had held a rally that day and was still pressing the flesh in the same district. On the way we discussed our options. Thane and Garrus were both familiar with the area and the catwalk system that would provide us cover and good oversight. We split up and watched the man and his Krogan bodyguard. Talid spouted typical politician hooey and shook hands, working his way through the district. He stopped near a shop and the Krogan went in, exchanging words with the clerk and accepting something. "Nice," said Thane. "He has his bodyguard do the intimidating and take the payoff. He retains total deniability." Great, more sleaze, I thought. At least it wouldn't be so bad if one of us had to shoot him.
None of us could spot Kolyat. Thane tried circling in front of Talid and searching there but with no luck. I wondered if I should be impressed with the boy's skills or if he simply wasn't there. The set-up was perfect for an assassination attempt but we had no way of knowing whether Talid's daily life presented an even easier opportunity. Finally, the man approached his own apartment. It was too late to get inside ahead of him. Garrus and I were rushing to join Thane when Kolyat stepped out of a passing group and shot the bodyguard.
Everyone froze except Thane, who flung himself at Kolyat in a vain attempt to stop him from dragging the politician backward through his own front door. Quickly as my friend could move there simply wasn't time for him to cross the distance before the door slid shut. Garrus and I flew across the floor as Thane worked feverishly to hack the locks. All three of us were holding our breaths, waiting for the gunshot that would signal our failure. We'd been acting as trained assassins rather than inexperienced youths. How Kolyat had expected to escape from this situation I couldn't guess but he'd certainly had the element of surprise.
Security flew into the courtyard from all directions as the three of us tumbled into the politician's apartment. We stopped dead when we saw Kolyat holding a gun to the head of a kneeling Talid. All three of us had our pistols out and the panicked look on the boy's face made me fear that he'd fire accidentally before anyone could even speak. I experienced the longest moment I'd had since I'd watched Sovereign bits come at me through the windows of the council chambers two incredibly short years earlier.
"Kolyat", Thane said quietly, breaking the paralysis. Kolyat's head whipped around to stare at him and recognition dawned on his face as he identified his father. His response quickly dashed any hopes that Thane's presence would stop him.
"What the hell are you doing here?" he screamed, shaking the politician like a rag doll. "What, you're jealous that I'm doing this job instead of you?"
My heart sank as I lined up a shot. It wouldn't be the first time I'd taken someone out to protect the one determined to murder him. Thane held his gun loosely, not aiming at anyone. The anguish on his face matched Kolyat's and both made me want to fix this fiasco. I didn't believe there could be a happy ending any more but I was willing to keep trying for father and son.
Garrus was keeping C-Sec out of the room as best he could, explaining the situation in the least inflammatory way possible. For all his outlaw ways he could still work the system when he needed to. I shifted to the left, making sure that a shot passing through Talid's head wouldn't hit Kolyat without .
"They'll have snipers outside," Thane said. "You cannot hope to live if you kill this man."
"Why would you care?" Kolyat shot back. "You weren't there while I was alive, you weren't there when my mother died, why should you be here now?"
"I do not have much time left," Thane said wretchedly. "I am trying to make up for my mistakes. They killed her to get to me; it was my fault. After her body was given to the deep I went to find them...the trigger men, the ringleaders. I hurt them. Eventually I killed them. When I went back to see you, you were...older. I should have stayed with you."
"I guess it's too bad for me you waited so long, huh?" The boy was just short of sobbing as he spoke.
"I've taken many bad things out of the world, Kolyat. You were the only good thing I ever added to it."
Sergeant Bailey arrived and shooed his officers out of the apartment. To my surprise, I saw tears in his eyes. He must have heard much of the exchange. "This is no conversation to have in public," he said. He brought the whole crew back to the C-Sec offices, tucking Talid into a room to "calm down" with a glass of water and a cardboard-flavored snack. He apologetically installed Kolyat and Thane into the interrogation room where they could have some privacy. At least someone had cleaned up the blood from the last time we'd used it.
"I have to book the kid," Bailey said to me. "I know you stopped him from fulfilling the contract but plenty of people saw him take out that Krogan. And then there are the murdered mercs that your Drell just confessed to killing. I have to deal with that, too."
"The hell you do," I said. I explained to him exactly what I would do with the information I had about his corruption and how he could avoid losing his job and joining those he'd arrested in jail. I gave him the name of the shop where the Krogan had extorted money from the clerk and suggested that this crime could be used to explain away the bodyguard's death. I also reminded him that there was no proof that Thane had been involved in any crime at the Citadel, just that he'd killed someone somewhere.
He agreed to accept my version of events and to keep Kolyat as far outside of the usual system as possible. We spent the rest of the time Thane was talking to his son exchanging sullen glances. As we left, Bailey explained to Thane that Kolyat would be put on a sort of unofficial probation and that the rest of us were free to leave. I caught Thane's surprised look and I signaled to him that explanations would have to wait. We collected Garrus from sharing stories with some old acquaintances and headed back to the Normandy.