Liishi drifted between tables toward the bar. She couldn’t see her contact from the front of the place but figured the tender would know who she was looking for. Trayburn knew everyone who wandered into his place.
The crowd at the bar applauded something taking place on the other side. That meant either Trayburn was running things or one of his better apprentices.
Liishi smiled as she slipped past onlookers and nestled against the cool steel bartop and watched the show.
Despite her tendency toward hating the quin in general, Trayburn was an exception. He was a showboat. Dressed in a bright red, wide collared jacket over a pale yellow vest and black, loose-fitting pants, he flipped bottles through the air in a casual juggle, rolled them across his shoulders, filling drinks all around. Whenever he made some sort of extravagant move, the audience cheered. He smiled affably, the performer milking the crowd, his teeth large and white against the background sable of his long-nosed face.
Liishi caught his eye, and he nodded surreptitiously, blowing his long blonde forelock from his face as he did so. With a flourish, he passed two bottles off to his assistant and backed away from her before moving down the bar, indicating Liishi to follow.
By the time Liishi wended her way down her side of the bar, Trayburn was flirting with a couple of heifers, both of whom were practically falling out of their loose-collared dresses.
Grinning, he waved them off, then turned to Liishi. “Tail’s twice as long it was last time I saw you, baby girl,” he whickered, his voice sonorous and mellow, the kind of voice she could listen to for hours. “What brings you to this part of the galaxy?”
Liishi shrugged, picked a handful of nuts, freeze-dried berries, and twists of exotic grass from the bar and quietly munched them. “Business, as always, Threes.” She suppressed the reflex to gag on the herbivorous fare as Trayburn chuckled.
“Still can’t get the meat-eater out of you, huh?”
She shook her head. “I love the flavor but hate the food,” she said. “You see my contact here? Supposed to be a Noz, captains his own ship.”
Trayburn handed her a glass of sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon. “Yeah, he came in earlier with a Bov. They at the back table.” He indicated the far corner of the room with a tilt of his head then waved off her attempt to pay for her drink. “No. You got me off Hess Rock. I still owe you.”
Liishi grinned. “You, me, and about fifty miners,” she replied. “All in a day’s work.” She drained the glass and set it back on the counter. “Thanks, Threes. I’ll sit and chat after I’m done.” And she sauntered off in the direction that Trayburn had pointed her.
The press of the crowd hid her suppressed shiver. She hadn’t thought of Hess Rock in months and hated that Trayburn had brought it up. The asteroid mine had nearly been her grave and not a place she cared to revisit.